From Armored Core to Zone of the Enders to Steel Battalion to Front Mission, I thought we’d seen every possible type of robot combat game by now. However, GungHo has taught me how wrong I was this E3. Their new Nintendo Switch title, Volta-X, uniquely emphasizes the crews that control and maintain the giant robots. The result is fast-paced one-on-one competitive robot combat, but all conducted through menus and strategy. If you’re a little confused right now, I don’t blame you, because I’ve never seen a game like Volta-X—and that’s a good thing.
The look of Volta-X is inspired by quirky robot anime of the ‘60s and ‘70s, stuff of the pre-Gundam world. However, game director Fumiaki Shiraishi developed the core concept of the game out of a situation many of us faced as children: You buy a cool robot, and maybe you can transform it into some other cool thing. But if you really want to experience what it’s like to command the robot, how do you do that?
Volta-X attempts to answer that. In this game, a crew of three pilots one of a selection of giant robots. Each robot has a unique body structure that allows for different types of customizable weapons and support functions to be equipped.
Combat is calculated madness
However, the special ability of a robot’s given body part can only be activated when a crew member is physically present. That means you will be sending your crew scurrying across the robot to activate its powers or maybe even repair damaged body parts. And on top of all that, each selectable crew member has an affinity for melee attacks, ranged attacks, or repair respectively. So, for example, putting a melee crew person on a Drill weapon will increase its damage output. In any case, all abilities have cooldowns, so you can’t just mash one attack over and over mindlessly.
Battles are always fought one-on-one in real time, and though there will be single player options, there is a clear emphasis on online or two-Switch-local PvP. In order to win a battle, you must either destroy the enemy robot’s cockpit or knock out all of its crew. Crew can be knocked out by taking too much damage inside a particular body part being attacked. But unless you elect to equip Radar as a special ability, you can’t be positive where the enemy crew is. There are seemingly layers upon layers to consider with the combat.
In fact, the GungHo developers even teased robots that can transform into other robots. And during the demo, it was a regular occurrence to watch body parts burst into flames; fire is dangerous if not extinguished. All of this was a bunch of fun to behold.
You even get a base!
When not fighting in Volta-X, your crew members actually live inside a base that you get to manage. So there are base-building aspects, and crew members can research for robot upgrades in real time. Characters also have a happiness meter that can be filled by engaging in certain activities; a happier crew member unlocks upgrades faster.
Volta-X is a pleasant surprise
The more I think about Volta-X, the more impressed with it I am. In our brisk, 30-minute hands-off-and-hands-on demo, I had to absorb a lot of new information fast. And only in retrospect am I realizing how much opportunity for depth and strategy this game really offers. There are just so many different variables to juggle and experiment with here, and that’s wonderful. I can only hope the final release takes this wonderful premise and sticks the landing. For what it’s worth, I was surprised how intuitive the controls felt in spite of the game’s somewhat complex premise.
And what’s especially cool is that the core of this particular GungHo team is based in America, composed of six-to-seven people. It’s terrific to see GungHo fostering a spirit of trust and collaboration internationally, and it seems to be the right move.
Volta-X is a charming and awesomely unique title for Nintendo Switch, and I’m excited to see more of it. Stay tuned for more updates on this title.