Tech Romancer is in essence Shoji Kawamori's (famed mechanical designer of Macross) interactive tribute to the giant robot genre in anime. As Brad already mentioned, each of the 10 different selectable characters/robots represents different sub themes that have become all too familiar in the Japanese anime culture. Each storyline may play out a bevy of clichés, but it's done with such love and attention that you can appreciate the effort regardless. It's also funny to note Capcom left 100 percent of the original Japanese vocal dialogue intact with only English subtitles to translate. It's a nod to the current anime-chic style currently sweeping the nation, where as in the past game companies did their best to mask the anime roots of titles (anyone remember Street Combat a.k.a. Ranma ½ on the SNES?).
As for my comments about the actual gameplay, I must say that I really didn't know what to expect. Tech Romancer slipped in under my radar amidst all the recent rash of titles to come out of Capcom. Though I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, especially since I didn't find the game immediately agreeable. Anyone who starts the game out for the first time is sure to be blown away by all the power bars, icons and flashing indicators on the screen. I was surprised that they even had room left to show all the action! I was a bit overwhelmed at first, but after skimming over the instruction manual and prolonged play, all the on-screen indicators began to make sense and I really started to enjoy the game.
In terms of the way the Tech Romancer plays, I'd describe the experience more like a cross between Power Stone and Virtual On. The game feels much less like a typical 2D fighting game in that characters are able to move freely around the 3D environment without any use of a side-step button. The heavy use of items and weapons also almost seem to mirror Power Stone's frantic mad dashes for the goods. The final results are well balanced in that there are a healthy amount of counters, guard breakers, items and special attacks to even the playing field for players of all different skill levels and techniques. The story arcs, VMU mini-games and two-player competitive action also keep things fairly interesting and extend the play-life of the title considerably.
My only gripe with Tech Romancer was that all the big explosions and pyrotechnic special effects are used so gratuitously that it gets to be a little too loud and excessive at times. I know that the game is supposed to mirror the outrageous exploits of its animated counterparts, but there's also something to be said for being subtle and graceful—two things that Tech Romancer certainly is not. It's not something that really bothered me to a great degree. I just wouldn't go so far as to describe Tech Romancer as a finely crafted piece of software and that kept the game from getting a higher artistic rating from me as well. Still, the game is extremely fun, well worth the effort and any hardcore otaku anime fanboys reading this review should add another point to my review.