Macross Newsletter #35
By Graham Parkes 02/23/01

MACROSS M3 QUICK REVIEW

Pictures of the Game Box and Instructions can be seen by clicking here

Opening Stills & Voice-over
The game starts up with showing a series of still pictures with a female voice-over explaining the background story. Unfortunately, as my Japanese is limited to about 10 words I really have no idea what is being said. Anyway, the still pictures basically show a planet (Earth?) followed by a picture of a Megaroad class ship of which Max and Milia are onboard. Then scenes of a pitched battle above a planet are shown.

 

Opening Movie
Next the opening movie starts. The movie is a mix of cel animation for the characters and CG animation for the Valkyrie combat .The movie starts by showing Max playing pool with Moaramia Jifon and Milia taking part in a motorcycle race aboard the Megaroad. Suddenly they both receive calls to report to duty. Milia's call is received on the heads-up display on her motorbike helmet while Max receives his call on his combination wristwatch/pager. Milia and Max drive to the Valkyrie hanger and are launched from the Megaroad in a fantastic display of precision flying and destroy the approaching Zentradi pods in a short and one side space battle. Next the movie switches to show the three main characters battling Insectoid type Bio-Weapons on a desert planet (New Nile?) that has many buildings in the style of ancient Egypt. Some of the Bio-Weapons are quite similar to the large Plasma spitting bugs in the movie Starship Troopers.

 

Opening Song
The opening songs plays while the opening movie is running.....Duh! The song is sung in English and is called 'Bring it On'. The singer's name is Brian Peck. Anybody heard of him? In my opinion it is quite a catchy tune and you will probably find yourself singing along with it. I know I did. The ending track is called 'Never Ending World', but I haven't heard this yet. The CD sound track for M3 is supposed to be released on 21st Feb 2001. It contains the opening and ending songs as well as the background music. The catalog number is VCI-60690 and it retails for 1,500.

 

Controls
The controls for M3 are quite simple and are-
a.. Analog stick = directional control
b.. D-Pad Up = Transform to Fighter Mode
c.. D-Pad Left & Right = Transform to Battroid Mode.
d.. D-Pad Down = Transform to Gerwalk Mode.
e.. A Button = Gunpod / Missiles.
f.. Right Shoulder = Search (Battroid Mode only).
g.. Left Shoulder = Boost (all 3 Modes)
h.. Combination of X,Y & A Buttons = Special Moves

 

Control Dislikes
There is one major thing I don't like about the controls. That is that the gunpod and missiles are controlled by the same button. This means that you cannot fire your gun pod and attempt to get a missile lock on at the same time. This is completely different from VF-X2 and MPEG (Macross Plus game Edition) where the gun and missiles are two separate buttons. To fire the gunpod in M3 you do a quick tap on the button to fire a short burst. If you want to fire a longer burst then you have to rapidly tap the B button.

To obtain a missile lock it is necessary to hold down the B button so that the green octagon that surrounds your Valkyrie will change color from green to red. If you then manoeuvre your Valkyrie so that an enemy is inside the red octagon for one to two seconds a white square will show up around the enemy signifying that you have obtained a lock on. To fire your missiles all you have to do is release the B button and your missiles will launch.

 

Boost & Search
The left and right shoulder buttons control the Boost and Search functions. The boost function is available for all three modes whereas the Search function is only available in Battroid mode.

Pressing boost (left shoulder button) has the following effects:-
a.. In Fighter mode, your wings will sweep back and you will fly faster. Once you release the Boost button or run out of Boost power you return to the default flying speed.
b.. In Battroid mode pressing Boost will cause you to fly up in the air. Once you release the Boost button or run out of Boost power you will sink back to the ground.
c.. In Gerwalk mode pressing Boost will cause you to fly up in the air. Once you release the Boost button or run out of Boost power or run out of Boost power you will sink back to the ground.

The search mode in M3 is activated by pressing the right shoulder button and is only available in Battroid mode unlike in Shoeisha's MPGE where it can be used in all three modes. Pressing the Search button will automatically turn your Battroid towards the nearest enemy allowing you to get very quick lock-ons.

Using either the Boost or Search function drains your Boost/Search power very quickly, but it also does recharge fairly quickly. The Boost/Search limit bar is located on the right hand side of the screen.

 

Special Moves
Pressing various combinations of the X, Y and A buttons will allow you to perform special moves similar to the DSS moves in MPGE. However, you cannot perform an unlimited number of these special movies as each move costs a certain number of action points of which you have a finite amount. Each time you perform a special movie a small cut scene depicting the move is shown and the action point bar which is located in the bottom left corner of the screen will decrease.

The special moves in M3 are much more effective than in MPGE and can destroy a large number of enemy if used at the best time. As the time limits in M3 is quite tight, is wise to save them until you need them the most.

 

Valkyrie Handling
The Valkyries in M3 handle very well in Fighter mode. In fact Fighter mode control is the best of any Macross game so far. I am on stage # 8 at the moment and so far there have been two stages that involve flying through winding canyons. The fighters fly so smoothly that it is easy to negotiate the canyons without hitting the walls even once. As those of you that have played VF-X2 will know it is virtually impossible to fly through the canyon in the Snow White stage in VF-X2 without scraping the canyon walls several times! However even though the fighters fly very well, this is not a fighter friendly game due to the strict time limits, but more about that later.

In aerial combat I don't like the way the Battroid handles. Unless you use the Search function the Battroid turns very slowly. Also it seems much harder to dodge missiles than say in VF-X2 as it seems very difficult to change altitude quickly. In ground combat the Battroid can run quite fast, but unless you use the Search function turning is again very slow.

I also find Gerwalk mode difficult to control in aerial combat. Unfortunately, there is no reverse thrust function which would have been a great help. In ground combat the Gerwalk is fairly effect, but the Boost power drains very quickly severely limiting the amount of time you can hover in the air.

 

Weapons
The weapons in M3 are very powerful and a short gunpod burst or a single missile hit will destroy most enemies in the stages where you are fighting multiple against opponents. However, this is not always true and on those stages where you battle only a single enemy (stage # 2 fighting a VF-4 and stage # 5 fighting Moaramia Jifon's Variable Glaug) it is necessary to hit the enemy many times to destroy them.

Gunpod ammunition in the game is unlimited so are the amount of missiles carried.

However, there is a limit on the number of missiles you can fire each time. In the top left corner of the screen the number of missiles you can fire at one time are shown as green missile icons. Each time you fire a missile, or missiles the display will change from green to black and you cannot fire any more missiles until the ones you have already fired have detonated. The VF-1 can fire a maximum of 2 missiles, the VF-4 & VF-3000 3 missiles and the VF-5000 4 missiles. I don't know about the other mecha yet as I don't have access to them yet. Each time you fire your missiles the green missiles

So far I have found it quite difficult to shoot down enemy missiles with the gunpod. Perhaps this will improve with the addition of more plug-ins?

 

Time Limits
Now on to the part that nearly everybody is going to hate. Every stage in M3 has a time limit and when you first start playing you will probably find these limits very tight. As it is very easy to destroy most enemies in M3 I guess the designers of the game added the time limits so that the game would not be too easy.

However, the time limits make it very difficult to use the Fighter mode effectively in the aerial battle stages. Although the Fighter mode handles very well (as I have already mentioned above), it simply takes too long to manoeuvre for a lock on and you will soon run out of time if you stay in fighter mode. Thus for the aerial battle stages I have found it much easier to stick to Battroid mode and use the search function to track the enemy and destroy them. This is a shame as I've always Preferred playing previous Macross games (VF-X2 and MPGE) in Fighter mode.

Conversely, for the two stages where you have to fly through canyons and attack ground targets (stages # 3 & 8) it is much quicker to use fighter mode as traveling through the canyons in Battroid or Gerwalk would be just to slow and you would again run out of time.

Hopefully someone will come out with a cheat code for unlimited time soon.

 

Free Missions
After you have completed a stage, it becomes available in the Free Mission option and can be replayed again and again. However, the time limit is still there.

 

BGM & SFX
The BGM and SFX during the missions are quite good. If you don't like it the option screen includes volume controls for both the BGM and the sound effects.

 

Plug-Ins
When selecting your Valkyrie for each mission you are given a choice of plug-ins which can be added to your craft to improve performance. Each Valkyrie has a limited plug in capacity- for example the VF-1 can only accept two plug-ins. I'm not sure what all of the plug-ins do yet, but it is stuff like improving your lock on time, increasing your boost power, increasing the number of missiles fired etc. Multiple plug-ins of the same type can be also selected.

 

Stages
M3 is divided into Episodes. Each episode consists of 2 or 3 stages. The game starts in the year 2014 when Max and Milia have been assigned to the ship 'Argenics' as the Dancing Skulls Squadron. Actually, 'Team' is probably a better description as I don't thin you can call 2 people a Squadron!

The first Episode of M3 is called 'Aerial Dance'.
a.. Stage # 1 of Aerial Dance has a nice cut sequence at the beginning showing how your Valkyrie is launched from the Argenics. This is one of these impossibly complicated launch sequence so beloved of Mecha anime and is great fun to watch. After being launched you have to destroy a large number of attacking VF-1 fighters (maybe there were some attacking Zentradi as well, but I can't remember).
b.. Stage # 2 you have to beat a single VF-4 in a very short time limit.
c.. Stage # 3 has you flying along a canyon taking out enemy missile launchers and floating mines.
d.. Stage # 4. Sorry, I can't remember what I did here (I'm writing this at work so I can't check).
e.. Stage # 5 has you fighting Moaramia Jifon in her Zentradi type variable Glaug. After you beat her, the cut scene shows a giant size Moaramia (at that time aged only 6 or 7) tied-up in the Argenics hanger while Max and Milia discuss what to do with her ( I guess). Moaramia is micronized and Max and Milia end up taking care of her like a daughter.
f.. Stage # 6 & 7 are atmospheric aerial combat stages that have you escorting a VF-5000 from the Planet Neo York(?) to the Argenics. In these stages you have to battle a huge number of Zentradi battlepods, Fighterpods and Glaugs.
g.. Stage # 8 is set in the year 2022 and has you flying along a canyon attacking enemy missile installations and trying to destroy beam generators which block the canyon with large horizontal energy beams. I have not completed this stage yet. This is the first Stage in which Moaramia Jifon can be selected as a character.

 

Between Mission Cut Scenes
Between missions there is a cut scene where Max and Milia and sometimes Moaramia are displayed on screen talking to each other in front of a still background. The speaking is both verbal and shown as Japanese subtitles at the bottom of the screen. The characters on screen are not fully animated. But pics of the characters in different postures and with different expressions are shown depending on what they are saying. The BGM that plays during these cut scenes is really awful!

 

Graphics
The graphics of M3 are pretty good, certainly much better than what the Playstation is capable of. Even with multiple enemies, missiles and explosions on screen I have not noticed any discernible slowdown.

However, the level of detail could be improved in some areas. This was really obvious to me the first time I used the VF-3000 and saw that there was absolutely no detail on the VF-3000's gunpod. It looked just like a big gray featureless salami!

 

Character Call Signs
a.. Max's call sign is Blue Skull.
b.. Milia's call sign is Crimson Skull
c.. Moaramia's call sign after she joins the Dancing Skulls is Purple Skull.

 

Internet Connection.
I have not tried the internet feature yet to download the extra mecha.

 

Oddities
When I was playing in Free Play mode the game twice auto paused itself in the middle of play. Pushing the start button cased play to resume. This never happened in the normal story mode, only in Free Play.

 

Conclusion
The time limit is annoying, but if there were no time limit the game would be too easy to complete. As it is the game is not that hard once you have mastered the controls and figured out the most efficient way to destroy the enemy in the quickest possible time. In my first 3 hour playing session yesterday I was able to get to stage # 8 without too much difficulty.

Does it feel like Macross? Heck yes, especially in the aerial battles when you are surrounded by fast movie enemy missiles and explosions.

Is it the perfect Macross game that we have all been waiting for? Unfortunately no, but it is a good game and certainly any Macross fan should consider adding it to his/her library.

Graham (graham@macrossworld.com)