I've talked before about how one of the defining characteristics of American otaku is the prestige and the mystique afforded some pretty average stuff due to its relative scarcity before 2000 or so.
These days Modern Wapanese can walk into a store, or an import shop, or whatever, and they can walk out of there with a game about their favorite anime characters that's actually okay-to-great. It wasn't always like that. Anime games used to not come to America, and at any import shop simple action games based on anime characters (Dragon Ball games were notoriously awful) used to be the biggest sellers and the worst games. It's incredible what people bought for 80 bucks with a straight face! Ranma, anyone?
This week at my favorite store, I found a small pile of middling Playstation games about super robots and I figured I would get to the worst one first. This game came in immaculate condition, complete with manual, insert, and spine card, but somehow the jumbo PS1 case was cracked in half. After playing this game I think you'll understand!
Banpresto's Super Robot Shooting (seeing a Banpresto logo on a game aside from Super Robot Wars was like seeing the Acclaim logo on a game in the 90s: a seal of reverse quality) is a rail shooter along the lines of Star Fox, and it's complete trash. You can probably tell, but the 3D models used for the robots are lousy even by 1997 standards: they barely even animate, spending the majority of the game in one pose. Closeups in the launch cutscenes display just how little care was put into them. If you listen closely, you can hear some overworked 3D modeler mumbling "fuggit, they never see 'em from the front anyway".
You can choose from Mazinger Z, Shin Getter Robo, Nu Gundam, and a lot of other big shots, but everything is the same about all of these units except for their weapons. Some robots' weapons are entirely superior to others, some robots are total crap, and having played all of the robots I can say that there's really no reason not to just pick Combattler V every single time.
The other robots are supposed to serve as your wingmen, but you rarely see them and are never, ever helped by them. There's a level where they send you in alone, and that's supposed to mean something, but you've been running alone the entire game! Who cares? Nobody. Absolutely nobody who was making this game cared.
Each level is themed after one of the respective robots' shows, but there's no such thing are real level design here: the stages are straight lines that lazily toss enemies at the player (barely-animated, pre-rended 2D sprites) for about five minutes until a boss shows up. There's no particular amount of skill involved in playing: enemy fire is extremely difficult to see coming, what actually constitutes a hit is confusing, and you will take hits. The game knows this and provided you save all your bombs for the boss, the stage will end before you've taken enough damage to die from.
Between levels there are short, crappy CG movies of each individual robot posing. You can watch all the movies on Youtube and not have to play this awful videogame. But then, the movies aren't really worth watching either!
So there you have it: a bottom-of-the-barrel anime-licensed videogame from 1997. Keep in mind that Banpresto was (and to an extent remains) the crap mill of the day, so we're really looking at the very worst. Still, people bought this for 6800 yen (the equivalent of 70 bucks or so) and the unfortunate folks who imported this game paid even more. For the importer, the worst part was that now they had to rationalize their purchase! I'm sure people out there have fond memories of Super Robot Shooting, just as I used to know people who told me that Dragon Ball: Final Bout (which sold tons in Japan, of course) was an amazing game. Sometimes it really is best not to go back!