Licensed games largely tend to capitalise on a franchise’s popularity, launching to coincide with a currently popular TV show, movie, comic book series, or toy line. UFO Robot Grendizer (also known as Grandizer and Goldorak) stands out as an exception, based on an obscure late ‘70s anime that has never received a standalone gaming adaptation until now. This duty lies not with a Japanese studio but rather with French publisher Microids, where it joins their winter line-up alongside such familiar faces as The Smurfs and Tintin.
There is sound reasoning behind the French publisher handling a game based on a Japanese IP – France and Italy both ran the original anime on TV in the ‘70s, which became a surprise hit. France was so taken by the heroic antics of the titular titanic mech that La Poste even released a line of stamps. Today, it’s seen as a cult classic.
What we have here is a mission-based open-world hack ‘n slasher that appears to use Platinum’s Transformers Devastation as its blueprint, even borrowing the slow-mo effect that occurs when performing a perfect dodge. Grendizer attacks with a swift succession of punches, automatically leaping from one schlocky ‘70s sci-fi robotic adversary to the next, while forward rolling out of harm’s way. A handful of flashy special attacks are at your disposal, with more added to your arsenal by gathering resources and upgrading when back at the laboratory HQ – which is explored on foot, putting you in control of Grendizer’s pilot and protector of Earth, Daisuke Umon. After fleeing his home planet of Fleed, Daisuke and his family find themselves battling the alien Vega army and their surplus of UFOs and Saucer Beasts once more.
Eventually, Grendizer can throw boomerangs, launch their fists – which is essential for grabbing UFOs out of the air before satisfyingly slamming them to the ground – perform melee slashes, and suspend enemies in the air with an anti-gravity beam. Often, you’re required to alternate attacks to cause damage. And yes, all these manoeuvres are accompanied by Daisuke yelling their names out loud, in typical anime fashion. On that note, The Feast of the Wolves is clearly intended to mimic the look and feel of the anime, with purposely cheesy dialogue and hokey voice acting. It leans into this aspect heavily, really hamming it up. The music, too, has a very ‘70s feel with even a jazz number.
Attacking fills a gauge, which doesn’t just govern the use of special attacks, but healing too. Restoring health is slightly finicky – you’re required to hold ‘up’ on the d-pad for around five seconds, meaning it isn’t an action that can be performed in the heat of battle. Often, you’ll have to forward roll a few times to safety, heal, and then forward roll back into the battle. This significatly disrupts the flow of each fight, which is a shame as the combat system has clearly had a lot of work put into it, making each of Grendizer’s attacks feel useful in certain instances.
On a more positive note, it’s also evident that effort was put into making Grendizer feel like a titan. The screen shakes when they run, large distances can be covered effortlessly, and there are lots of size references within the environments, such as skyscrapers, ferris wheels, and sports stadiums that Grendizer towers over. The six, noticeably flat, open locations – which vary from grassy plains to dusty canyons, and even a rendition of Tokyo city – all have elements to make them feel alive too, including airplanes and hot air balloons passing overhead.
These locations are visited one after the other, each with a handful of simple objectives to complete before being transported to a small arena for a boss fight against one of the Vega army’s larger mechs. Every map has an escort mission to complete, with a variety of different vehicle types to escort, along with several key structures that must be protected. If you’ve played lots of open-world games that focus on destruction, you’ll soon notice the lack of originality when it comes to mission types. There are a few collectables to look out for though, including resource stashes and meditation spots. The map screen keeps a tally of completion for each location, and once the ending credits roll, you’re free to return and mop up collectables and partake in new mini battle arenas.
Pleasingly, The Feast of the Wolves mixes up things quite often. In addition to returning to the family ranch between stages, where you’ll need to seek and talk to certain characters to progress the story, two different space shooter-style segments feature periodically. One is a basic top-down vertical shoot’em up that sees you gathering power-ups and taking down UFO bosses, while the other is an on-rails space shooter similar to Star Fox. Neither is difficult, and both lack a scoring or ranking system – it doesn’t matter how many enemies are shot down, as long as you make it to the end unscathed. They’re fun diversions regardless, with the final on-rails shooter section being quite good looking. Visually, it’s pleasing to the eye elsewhere, with a penchant for pastel hues and soft sunsets.
Despite being based on a cult anime from the ‘70s, the difficulty level is mostly on-par with Microid’s other family friendly titles, with little to challenge older gamers. There are no elusive ‘S Ranks’ to chase – just a small increase in difficulty during boss battles, with one or two requiring a retry. The lax difficulty gives The Feast of the Wolves a slightly casual feel, and coupled with the short runtime of around 6 hours, it does feel a little underwhelming. There’s a passion for the source material on display – and the fact that every boss battle is unique is appreciated – but it also feels like the developers didn’t have a huge budget to work with, which is mostly evident by the fact that each location can be blitzed through in under an hour.
The Feast of the Wolves is constantly entertaining, never faltering at any point, but it’s only ever reasonably so, with nothing here that’ll stir your imagination or get your adrenaline pumping. Considering how long UFO Robot Grendizer fans have waited for a dedicated video game adaptation, it’s a shame that it’s never anything more than satisfactory.
Microids’ UFO Robot Grendizer is out now. Developed by Endroad. Switch version coming 2024.