Nostalgia is a funny thing. Sometimes, what we remember fondly from our youth turns out to not be as enjoyable as we get older. It can cloud our perceptions, and we hope that new things based on cherished memories will hold true to those old feelings, and possibly even expand upon them, validating our love for that thing gone by.
Voltron: Defender of the Universe does nothing to help our nostalgia.
Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Released: November 29, 2011 (PSN) / November 30, 2011 (XBLA)
MSRP: $9.99 / 800 Microsoft Points
At its very core, Voltron should be a cool game; take the five robotic lions, blow shit up, shout ‘I’ll form the head!’, and beat up a boss with a giant robot made of said lions. The nostalgia is fueled right from the start with scenes from the TV series peppering the intros to each level. It’s hard to say this, but the show doesn’t hold up. However, there is the fleeting feeling that because of the inclusion of the clips, the game would hold true to the series. This is a foolish response.
When you’re actually dropped into gameplay, you take control of one of the five lions, each described as having their own advantages, but in actuality, all of them play identically. The game boils down to a twin-stick shooter with the lions while airships, tanks, mechs, and soldiers all appear and attack your craft. The imediate annoyance is that the soldiers are so very small, making detection a nuisance and causing your lion minimal damage until you locate the miniscule foe shooting pellets at you.
Beyond this quibble, the gameplay itself is just so very bland. What should be an exciting cacophony of bullets hailing down and circle strafing while avoiding damage is instead just slow, plodding shooting and enemy fire that never seems as intense at it hopes to be. With the aircraft at least, there’s a cool pounce move you can perform to take them out of the air, and finding shards in the environment will aid in a powered-up attack, but for the most part, all you really need to do is aim with the right stick while moving with the left…repeatedly. You standard attack will take everything out with ease, and the game just isn’t exciting as a result.
So, what about Voltron itself? Turning into the giant mech should be the high point of the game, yes? Well, considering you only turn into the titular character four times in the entire game (three chapters with four stages each, culminating in a boss battle with Voltron, plus a finale) you don’t see him much more than in cut scenes.
And as for the transformation? Yeah, you’ll watch the show for that too, occasionally flicking the left stick in a direction to combine the lions into the Voltron mech. When it’s time to actually battle, the game reduces the encounter to a turn-based affair, with an attack wheel where you select a move, then wait for a meter to fill à la Hot Shots Golf, and finally perform a quick-time event to deflect your enemy’s return attack.
While the game allows for multiplayer on the same console as well as online, it doesn’t add much fun to the situation. The levels are still the same “shoot everything until it’s over” methodology, and when in Voltron form, players trade off between who times the attack, and who lines up a reticule to determine the effectiveness of the attack.
To say that Voltron: Defender of the Universe is a disappointment is an understatement. What should be blistering action is yawn-inducing and seems more like a chore used to get to the mech sequences, which only serve to disappoint MORE by the sheer mediocrity of them. I’d rather watch the series on Netflix.