Voltron: Defender of the Universe Review
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Available For: PlayStation, XBox
Reviewed On: Xbox

These days, thanks to multimedia franchises like Pokemon and Dragonball Z, most kids have some knowledge of Japanese animation, and they wield terms like anime easily. Back in the mid-1980s, we had no idea what anime was, but we knew what it looked like, thanks to a handful of titles that had been translated into English for U.S. broadcast—titles like Robotech, Star Blazers, and Voltron: Defender of the Universe.

As it had been adapted from two separate anime series into a single U.S. series, there were actually two Voltrons, but the most recognizable comes from the Japanese series Beast King GoLion, which featured a group of five young adults who piloted giant mechanical lions that could combine to form the titular robot warrior. It’s this incarnation that forms THQ and Behaviour Interactive’s new downloadable game Voltron: Defender of the Universe, and while it’s a bit slight in gameplay, it’s appropriately heavy on nostalgia.

As a top-down, twin-stick shooter, there’s not much new going on under the hood here, but it all works. Up to five players can join in simultaneously—either locally or online—each controlling one of the Voltron lions. Left stick handles movement, right stick controls the main cannon, and several buttons are assigned to melee and special attacks. Levels vary between ground- and space-based movement, but both play pretty much the same. As with most of these types of games, the screen tends to fill up with enemies pretty quickly, so any chance to play with a group will make things both a bit easier and more enjoyable.

The short campaign is divided into four episodes, with four stages apiece, and the final stage of each episode includes the moment every old-school Voltron fan waits for—when a massive evil Robeast shows up and the lions combine to form Voltron. Of course, five people all wanting to control one character presents a problem, so gameplay shifts to a turn-based, quick-time event format, with each player getting to participate. It looks pretty cool, but it does get repetitive quickly.

Thankfully, Behaviour Interactive knows who they created this game for, making liberal use of cutscenes taken directly from the 1980s cartoons. The hardcore fan will even recognize specific events and character details from the series. They even retained the cartoon’s opening narration, done by the voice of Optimus Prime himself and all-around ‘80s cartoon VIP, Peter Cullen. That, combined with some pretty decent graphics and a nicely remastered version of the cartoon music, make for a nice reminiscence of Saturday morning cartoon madness.

Even at reasonably low price point for a full game, there’s still not that much game here, and the replay value is questionable at best. Action gamers looking for a trigger-finger fix will likely be disappointed—but, for 30-somethings with fond memories of a giant Japanese robot with lion jaws for hands and feet swinging a Blazing Sword, there’s at least the thrill of finally having a Voltron game to enjoy.

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