Sending a robot into battle
Pokéball, go!

 This is how a bad translation looks.
A bad translation is a translation tat is bad.

   Despite the relatively young age of the videogame industry, it has seen more than its share of really weird games. Games so weird it amazes you to think how their entire development teams could have stayed in a state of mass delirium for the few months required to create them. A shining example of this bizarre phenomenon is Robotrek, published by none other than Enix. For whatever reason, someone at Enix decided it would be a good joke to develop a comedy RPG and then give it a translation that puts Daravon to shame rather than port Dragon Quest V and VI. But somehow, despite its freakish nature, or perhaps because of it, Robotrek managed to distinguish itself from the mass of mediocre RPGs and even become something memorable, while contributing a rather decent gameplay system.

   Robotrek uses the same encounter system seen in Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, except that the enemies are usually easier to dodge. Instead of the player character fighting, he sends out one of up to three robots to fight for him. The battle system itself is also somewhat similar to Lunar. Your robot can move around to a limited extent, though it's difficult to manipulate your movement strategically - most enemies can hit you from any point with at least one of their attacks, and it's usually impossible to get around them to attack from behind. Some strategy is introduced by the presence of a timer and item capsules in each battle. When the timer runs out, the capsules, which contain weapon level ups, cures, and occasionally booby-traps, disappear, and you also lose your chance for an experience bonus (which strangely enough is measured in megs of data).

The coolest part of this game is its intro.
Protect the world from midgets in black jumpsuits who commit traffic violations.

   The truly interesting part of the gameplay, however, occurs outside of battle. You play the role of an inventor, and your robot's strength in battle is directly related to your inventing skill. As you gain levels, you gain the ability to allocate larger amounts of "program points" to your robots' stats. You can decide to pump up their HP at the expense of other stats, hope that a high defense and attack power will outweigh low hit points and speed, or simply distribute points evenly for a well-rounded robot. You can also customize your robots for different tasks by making one lean towards attack and speed, and another towards defense and high hit points. Another interesting innovation is the ability to program special combos for each robot. With a little experimentation with different weapons and combos, you can discover some incredible attacks that will make your life a lot easier. Finally, you have the ability to build items and combine old ones to make new ones. Throughout the course of your travels, you'll find a series of books called The Inventor's Friend, which teach you techniques to build items, but you can't understand books with a number higher than your current level. However, a clever player will use the combination chart included with the game to produce high-powered items far before learning how to make the items directly.

Not-so-subtle advertising.

   Unfortunately, this creative, if somewhat quirky, gameplay is overshadowed by the bizarre and even quirkier plot and translation. You won't have to play far to get an idea of what to expect. The game opens with your dad blasting you out of bed with what sounds like a mortar. He leaves for his nearby laboratory, and your mom, who's actually an android, admonishes you to "go pay your respects to the Mayor." Afterwards you build your first robot with the help of the invention machine in your basement that looks a lot like a SNES controller and is inhabited by two gnomes who incessantly dance disco and blow kisses at you. Things quickly get exciting though, as the evil Hackers, apparently led by an enigmatic man in a crab suit, try to subvert your dad with the stirring speech "Evil is good. Evil is the job." Things only get weirder from here on in, as you eventually go back in time after a building you're in explodes, and are asked by aliens to help them save their home planet Choco from the evil Hacker space fortress. Also worth mentioning are the side quests, which involve helping a chicken rancher find his lost chicken, and ending a drought using your high-tech weather-changing umbrella. This is all accompanied by an equally bizarre soundtrack that oddly seems to perfectly complement the action.

 Pay your respects to the Mayor, foo.
You should pay your respects to the Mayor.

   Although it's true that Robotrek definitely isn't for everyone, it can grow on you if you give it the chance. After a while you just might learn to love its gloriously inane plot, revel in its horrid translation, and even turn the sound back on so you can enjoy its infernal carnival music. There's really no telling what might happen; in fact, you might even grow to love it. After all, the bizarre and the strange are a way of life... in the Robotrek zone.

Retrospective by Arpad Korossy, GIA.
Developer Quintet
Publisher Enix
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium Cartridge
Platform SNES
Release Date 1994
FAQ, manual
22 intro screenshots, 10 battle screenshots, 5 menu screenshots, 68 miscellaneous screenshots
Space station artwork, character artwork
21 manual scans, 2 poster scans, 3 US and Japanese box art scans