Today’s topic : Kikou Heidan J-Phoenix.
The J-Phoenix series was developed, produced and published by Takara, now Takara Tommy, except for the first J-Phoenix, called Kikou Heidan J-Phoenix(roughly translated as Mobile Trooper J-Phoenix) which was developed by Shoeisha. The first game came out in 2001 for the XBOX and the Playstation 2 and the later games for the Playstation 2 only.
Just from seeing the intro sees that this one is intent on going over the top, it’s intent on following a different route and show a new side to this kind of Mecha Simulation genre that From Software and Sandlot pioneered with their games. The first J-Phoenix and the J-Phoenix series to that extend are a strange entry to the super robot world, but let’s get over with the first. The first game came out roughly the same time as Armored Core 2 : Another Cage, the then newest Armored Core[it was originally set to be out during 2000 around the same time and compete with Armored Core 2] to compete with it but also bring something new to the table and that was the idea of building the player’s ideal, over-the-top-awesome “Super Robot“, the complete opposite of the Armored Core’s realistic and gritty “Real Robot“. First things first, the player takes control of…the main character…seriously, that’s the player, the main character. Can’t get more generic than that, but that’s the Armored Core way of doing things. The main character and gang fight for freedom against an evil empire and all that awesome jazz that resemble a standard mecha anime story with epic moments of pure robotic awesomeness and jawdropping instances of absurd mecha fighting in this rollercoster of Super Robot delight. The designs of the robots are also very nice as well ranging from original Takara designs to references to their own Takara toys and even some of Banpresto’s original mecha designs.*Hint-hint, main frames look like the Gespenst units from Super Robot Wars.*
The gameplay largelly resembles Armored Core, almost to the punch but makes sure to seperate it from the “Real Robot” air and thus changes to having extravagant designs of mecha, the statistics that re affected by the design, weapons that are almost impossible to be that strong, like a giant mop that fire death lasers[no seriously, it’s an awesome weapon to have] and other ludicrous arnaments as well as have an emphasis on getting faster even without dashing…yes…the robots can run and sprint in this game as well as fly. The game though has a really huge dissadvantage, like Armored Core 2 : no analog control…that can ruin the experience a bit.
At the same time, somewhere else…
A year after, an expansion came out named “Cobalt Shoutaihen” roughly translating to “Cobalt Unit chapter” bringing a new story[rather side story to the original], more characters, more parts and a bit of a more balanced gameplay.
Sequel in more ways than one.
One year after that came J-Phoenix 2, starring Bred Arrows, a hot blooded rookie pilot and his merry bunch of friends, Cleo and Bucks along with a slew of new characters in the sequel. Here, Bred and gang’s objective is to gather data for the completion of the ultimate robot…and things go south naturally, as it is a staple for Super Robot anime for something to go wrong to start the adventure.
While the game keeps the gameplay of the previous and expands upon it with more characters,maps, parts and combinations of them it also adds a great “struggle” system, a “finisher” / “ultimate” attack that is cinematic in nature featuring over-the-top animation and finally a proper lock-on system as well, distancing it further from the Armored Core formula.
It should be noted that the J-Phoenix also had an “almost” updated version of the first game for the XBOX named “Kikou Heidan J-Phoenix +” and another game called “J-Phoenix Burst Tactics” for the PS2 and came out months before Cobalt Shoutaihen but as I do not have said games, I can’t really comment on them. It also had a fanservice based OVA which, again, haven’t watched as it is hard to find both in dvd and download form.
The J-Phoenix series seems to have been a fairly niche series in Japan which might explain why it’s completely unknown over the western lands, even the gamefaqs boards are empty and in youtube…only copies of the [MAD] videos exist and those are from the niconico site.
In the long run Armored Core won the “war” between them, perhaps for the best, as with Armored Core 3 From Software upped the ante a lot for the series and it paid off. I still hope that this series will return someday as the mecha simulation genre could use more games in it, especially those that fall in the “Super Robot” genre are barely existent there.