Apr 102009
 

The Shadow Chronicles. Harmony Gold’s (or Whoremoney Gold for the Macross Purist faction) fourth attempt at continuing the Robotech franchise, the second to see the light of day and the first to rewrite the continuity. Much like its predecessor, Robotech II: The Sentinels, it was supposed to reinvigorate the franchise, only to stall it. Again.

It’s been nearly three years since its release and I’ve seen neither hide nor hair about any substantive news coming out of HG about the future of Robotech, or a continuation of the Shadow Chronicles aside from the three books we’ve looked at throughout the week. Unless you’ve been drinking the HG Kool-Aid, this doesn’t count the wildly expensive, famously fragile, poorly QC’ed Toynami Masterpiece Collection toys with the super awesome box (why yes, I do own a few) that they’re selling at their site. (starting at $59.99 and up for Alphas! Beta fighters that link to the Alphas for $149.99, and they’re the only game in town for the Beta! Cyclone toys for low, low price of $199.99 plus shipping! What recession!?)

I’ve seen the Shadow Chronicles, it’s heavily based on Genesis Climber Mospeada, which I absolutely adore. That being said here’s my complete, total and all encompassing review of the film: meh.

This unenthusiastic response carries over to the RPG based on the same. It’s a dull, boring and standard Palladium RPG book. All of my complaints from the previous two reviews still remain. This book really should have been up my alley seeing I’m a huge Mospeada/New Generation fan. It didn’t and it should have, that is how much of a failure that this book is; it failed to get me excited about new models of cyclones, the mecha that got me on a motorcycle!

Contents:
The rules are in this book, and as I wrote in the Macross review, Palladium rules haven’t changed in twenty years. Bobthejanitor over at Reddit was right, they do think that we’re still 14 years old. It’s broke and it really needs fixed. People have been telling this to Siembieda for years, which has fallen on deaf ears.

The Shadow Chronicles movie really doesn’t do much in the way of explaining the state of the Robotech universe, something which this book does, how much of it is canon though remains to be seen. This is the big problem with farmed out Robotech media, HG has a big rubber stamp that they use on anything they think will make them money regardless of what it is. I’m pretty sure that Lucasfilm pioneered this business model, the problem here is that George Lucas has a wildly popular, well loved product while HG has a semi-obscure, cobbled together show that has international legal baggage and has had several false starts in the past. In buying a product like this, a person would like to be assured that a maximum amount of the information inside is accurate and canon. If you buy this book, grab a grain of salt.

Example: It is my understanding that The Sentinels has been wiped out of Robotech continuity. There are several references to that confederation of aliens in the Shadow Chronicles RPG book. Did it happen or didn’t it? I got to know!

I may be splitting hairs here, and I know that yes, you can add them in your campaign, canon or no, but this is supposed to be an approved product, so does the continuity of the book to line up with the official continuity? I don’t know and the official Robotech site does little to answer the question. I would like to know and don’t believe that it is that too much to ask for an answer.

Mecha:
Alphas and Betas, (the second generation of veritech fighters) are back, stats again have been changed for no apparent reason.

There is a new Bioroid, the combat frame formerly exclusive to the army of the Robotech Masters is featured in the book that looks like the love child of a Red Leader Bioroid and a Zentraedi battle pod. I kind of like it to be honest, but it’s not enough to get my motor running.

Cyclones. Cyclones, cyclones, cylones. Motorcycles that convert to power armor. These do get my motor running, make me want to head out on the highway to look for some adventure, or whatever comes my way. The Shadow Chronicles has a whole storm season filled with them, all variations on the original three models. There is precedent for this from the original Invid Invasion book and the TV series with the three variations of the Battler Cyclone. The one that caught my interest though wasn’t the Super Cyclone (false advertising) but the medic version of the VR-041 Saber. Instead of a compliment of missiles in the chest it has medical supplies, which is strange because THERE IS NO COMBAT MEDIC CHARACTER CLASS TO CORRESPOND WITH THE MECHA. But more on that later. The explanation that the on board sabers are used as a make shift jaws of life does make sense though.

The Super Cyclone is also a letdown. It has a rail gun that succeeds only in looking intimidating and does about the same damage as most standard Cyclone weapons systems, and its armor is comparable to all the other Cyclones. The only thing super about it is the name. Don’t get me started on the scout version of the cyclone which is described as faster, a larger consumer of fuel and less armored than its counterparts, but it isn’t.

Mysteriously absent is the Shadow Dancer Cyclone from the console game, Robotech: Invasion from a few years back. How did this not make it? Maybe it will show up in the upcoming New Generation/reprint cash grab sourcebook for the New Generation.

There’s also some sort of transforming car. It looks wonky and I don’t think anyone I play with could be convinced to use it.

There are two new Invid mecha descriptions as well. These were found in Robotech: Invasion if memory serves me correctly. It was a below average game and I traded it in with my old Xbox. I probably would have kept it if it played on my Xbox 360. (I also got tired of playing the same three guys on Live with it over and over. Shout out to: The Ragnarocker, Tarot8, and VAF-SF7)

One more thing: Where are the starships? For a game about traveling to strange new worlds, fighting in the vacuum of space, and the mentioned ship to ship battles, there sure is a lack of vessel description. Especially when the major plot point of the supposed new series is to find the SDF-3.

Character Class Variety:
There’s a pretty good amount classes to choose from and you can even play an Invid Prince/Princess or a Zentraedi. They’re all military and none of the civilian crap from the Macross sourcebook.

Now here is where I go on about something most people would think is relatively minor:

Palladium goes on about how great the medical cyclone is in its write up, but there is no combat medic character class. If you go through the classes, you will find that Kevin Siembieda seems to think that a military force will send out a fully trained medical doctor into battle to do surgery. Anybody who has ever seen an episode of M*A*S*H would know this to not be true. Doctors are to expensive and highly trained to do this that is why every modern army has an enlisted medical contingent. If they had done their research on the military like they had claimed to have done they would have known this. Yes, I do take this personally seeing as I was a Hospital Corpsman rated for combat with the Marines when I was in the Navy.

Art:
More lightboxed stuff, Kevin Long came back for a few illustrations, but they aren’t as impressive as his old work on the original Robotech books. The new mecha that is included doesn’t have the Robotech feel to them, and some of them such as the Condor look outright ridiculous; it’s listed as non-transformable, but compare it to the Alpha fighter, it has the same body type, it’s chest has the dual engines, like an alpha transformed into battloid mode and it has the same leg design. Is this errata, or does Palladium think that we are that stupid? I’m not even going to bother to take more pictures, because if you have the old books, there isn’t much to see.

Final Conclusion:
If you already have the original run of Robotech books, these new ones are not for you. Although you should get the Southern Cross sourcebook seeing as it’s superior to the original 1987 release by leaps and bounds. The Macross book is the worst of the bunch, avoid it. The Shadow Chronicles really doesn’t bring anything new to the table other than the new Robotech status quo and is more of a curiosity at its best.

For those of you that haven’t played it, I wouldn’t recommend it very highly. The system is broken and requires to much repair with house rules to work properly. I used to love the Palladium system as a teenager, but its age really shows now. Palladium is a starter system, best used by people who haven’t role played before. It’s my opinion that the system was designed with the sole purpose of using as many types of dice as possible and that player characters have access to entirely to many skills at level one. With house rules though, your mileage will vary.

Not Recommended for veteran players
Weakly Recommended to new players, and this recommendation is mostly out of nostalgia

[tags]Robotech, Palladium Books, The Shadow Chronicles, Macross, New Generation[/tags]

About Joe Smith

I’m patiently waiting for the future. I want to sail on the sea of stars, I want to get into a bar fight with a Cephelopod buddy fighting at my side. I want to believe in a good blaster by my side. I want to be just like Captain Harlock when I grow up. I might also be in the market for some rental time with Doc Brown’s DeLorean or any functional time machine, so if you can help me out, I’d appreciate it.

  3 Responses to “Robotech RPG Review Part 3: The Shadow Chronicles”

  1. Regarding the Kevin Long artwork: Long didn’t “come back” for a few illustrations. As Palladium owned all his art from the previous go-around with the RPG license, they just recycled it.

  2. 1- The civilian crap. Well, maybe to you Robotech is only about battles but you need civilians and how they react to war (Kyle, Minmei, Annie…)to see the true dept of Robotech spirit. There could be plenty of civilian PC fighting the Invid.
    2- The Condor, alas for you, it’s official now. It was official in MOSPEADA, and you could see some Condor still pics in Robotech too. Yes, it’s rather unsightly but it’s not Palladium’s creation.
    3- Maybe Robotech Invasion isn’t canon or isn’t canon yet (in the game, after all, the Shadow Fighters became invisble to the naked eye). The transformable Invid battloid was seen in Prelude to SC comics too so maybe they took it from there.

  3. The Sentinels do still exist (because we see references in the Prelude comics). What has been denounced is the McKinney interpretation/extension of the Sentinels story arc regarding the events that occur after the SDF-3 arrives at Tirol.

    The footage of Robotech II: The Sentinels is not strictly speaking canon, but it might as well be: nothing controversial happens there that isn’t intuitively obvious.

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