Biomotor Unitron (Switch) Review

SNK dropped another bombshell on the Switch eShop, this time in the form of Biomotor Unitron, a cult favorite on the Neogeo Pocket Color (NGPC).  Personally, I think it is fantastic that this forgotten RPG has received new life and made easily accessible thanks to the dedicated work of Code Mystics once again.  Also, this is a stand-out NGPC title in comparison to the previously released wealth of fighting games but retains the same quality emulation features: rewind, border options, zooming, buttons can be remapped, and high res instruction manual scans are included.

Biomotor Unitron is basically the closest players will get to a Pokemon-ish style RPG on the system. Instead of leveling up and collecting pocket monsters, players collect and upgrade parts for mechs (Unitrons). Originally, Unitrons were created to save the planet from an evil force but now are used for sport-like tournaments. There isn’t much narrative outside of the well-produced opening cutscene but the monotonous, but still engrossing, grinding gameplay is the star of the show. 

It just wouldn’t be a proper JRPG if you weren’t forced to navigate deep dungeons, fighting a random battle every few steps. The player will venture through a handful of randomly generated dungeons, giving the game a hint of rogue-like properties, to level up your mech. Once you think you are at a high enough level, you can then take part in a tournament to earn the “master of masters” title.  There are also different starting characters, each with unique stats, to provide extra replay incentive. 

When venturing through dungeons, the player will earn money/items which can be spent to upgrade/build mech parts. There is a lot here and upgrading each section of the robot will enhance certain stats. Upgrading the arms, for example, in improve attack strength. There are numerous ways to spend that hard earned cash and this is where the meat of the gameplay loop takes place. In addition to gaining access to a hidden ruin stage, townsfolk increase as you gain levels. This is an interesting mechanic because the hub area becomes a little more detailed as you progress.

Visually, the battle segments are a little stark in comparison to the rest of the game as the plain white background doesn’t really do the presentation any favors but that doesn’t mean it is without quality. The opening story scene, for example, is extraordinary and the soundtrack is pleasant throughout. Granted, it can get a bit repetitive with longer play sessions but that can happen with any RPG during a grind session. For better or worse, the original translation is still intact but the occasional goofy line or name can actually create a small chuckle in an otherwise more serious title.

Outside of the emulation features mentioned above, there is one feature that is lacking from this Switch release – you cannot trade parts with other players. This feature was originally made available by connecting two NGPC consoles together with a link cable, and honestly it was probably very rarely used upon original release, but not having it included here is slightly baffling as the emulation developers included multiplayer features and connectivity in previous NPGC ports on Switch.  But to be fair, even if this feature was made available in this Switch release, it probably wouldn’t be used very much, if at all, just like in the original game so it really isn’t a big deal. Just thought I is worthy of a mention for those longtime fans.

Biomotor Unitron is a slower-paced RPG by today’s standards. It hasn’t age poorly bur rather has an approach that is more of an acquired taste. It is just a different type of experience that probably played better in the late 90s but fans will undoubtedly appreciate.

The Neogeo Pocket Color didn’t have many US-released RPGs so pickings are slim. Therefore, Biomotor Unitron deserves recognition by default. However, seeing this obscure role playing title receive new life on the Switch provides a glimmer of hope that perhaps one day the Japan-only release of Biomotor Unitron 2 will be outfitted with an English translation. That, or hopefully the European (English) version of Faselei can also get a re-release. The mother of all hopes and dreams would be an English translation of the NGPC version of Ogre Battle. Yes, that would be so awesome but my prediction is SNK will release Pocket Tennis Color as their next (or one of the next) NGPC Switch releases.

SCORE: 7.5/10

Also Try: Card Fighters’ Clash

Better Than: Buying a copy on eBay

Wait For It: Evolution: Eternal Dungeon (the NGPC game ported to Switch)

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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