Unitron bioengine has a mean name. We’ll forgive you for assuming it’s referring to an obscure power metal band or perhaps the title of a 1990s robot-based anime. In reality, Biomotor Unitron is a mech-building RPG released originally for the Neo Geo Pocket Color in 1999 – which is also pretty cool. But does this retro title, now available on the Nintendo Switch eShop, live up to the evocative image that its name conjures up?
In Biomotor Unitron, you assume the role of a Unitron Master. In other words, a pilot of a meteor-powered mechanical suit called Unitron. Unitron Masters from around the world gather in the city of Rhafiace to engage in Arena Battles to ultimately earn the rank of Master of Masters (yes, you read that right). A handful of characters add some color to the adventure and there’s a Big Bad to defeat, but this narrative is by no means one to hold back.
Although light on history, Biomotor Unitron is heavy on retro charm. The game appears on Switch with plenty of vibrancy when the more authentic Neo Geo Color screen filter is turned off. And while the soundtrack didn’t really wow us, it still filled us with warm, nostalgic feelings like only a catchy 8-bit soundtrack can.
Biomotor Unitron stands out from the direct competition it faced in 1999, namely pokemon red and blue and Monsters Warriors Dragons. Instead of collecting monsters to raise and fight, you gather resources to buy or grow better parts for your Unitron. Arms are at the forefront among these pieces as they function like your Unitron’s weapons, and there’s plenty to discover: mighty fists, magic hands, line guns, and more. To gather these resources, four dungeons filled with monsters to kill are open for exploration at any time.
While we’d like to excuse dungeons for their tedious simplicity, we really can’t. In 1999, they would have been just as bad. The random layouts only help a lot when the dungeons are just a simple maze full of chests to open. They have a little flavor as each is associated with an elemental affinity that can be harnessed by equipping certain weapons. A powerful fist arm with an affinity for fire, for example, makes quick work of Verdure Forest monsters.
Sadly, there’s little nuance here, though – equip an arm that has an advantage over the area you want to explore, and have it, at least until more difficult monsters spawn. But even then, once you know which of the eight affinities a monster belongs to, it’s just a matter of using that arm to attack until you win.
Random battles occur with Mushroom Men and Kraken at each stage. And while the Neo Geo Pocket Color games emulated on the Switch come with a handful of welcome features – such as skins for the Pocket Color itself (which we chose to play without), a wonderfully digital instruction manual authentic and a rewind feature – there’s no option to speed up these encounters, which is standard with many vintage RPG remasters and ports. We quickly got tired of random battles.
However, we never got tired of outfitting our Unitron. After diving into the dungeons for GP and materials, we were able to buy new parts and develop weapons in our workshop. Equipping different parts to modify a wide range of stats dramatically changed the look of our robot. At one time, our Unitron had dinosaur legs and massive axes for arms. Soon after, the treads made it look much more like a tank with a rapier for one arm and a huge sledgehammer for the other. This was by far the highlight of our ten hours with Biomotor Unitron.
With our Unitron pumped up, it was off to the arena to rank up. Each rank consists of a handful of one-on-one rounds against a Unitron master. There’s not a lot of depth here. Battles are all about choosing which arm to attack with, using an item, or charging to restore energy for attacks, but we found the most impactful metric for whether we’d win a round was whether we’d progressed enough in prior. If we got smoked by a Unitron with a massive tiger head for a body, we’d cringe a bit in one of the dungeons before returning to roll the competition with ease. Rinse, repeat.
Biomotor Unitron seems like a great mech-building RPG that draws inspiration from some of our favorite classic games, but in reality it’s a superficial curiosity with a fair share of charm to dive into for an afternoon or two and not much. more. The pieces are there – in fact, we’d like to see a Biomotor Unitron-like game made with modern sensibilities – but the motivation to push through the monotonous Random Battles to rank up in the Arena is entirely dependent on how much sprites you’re going to enjoy. lively and catchy retro melodies.