Continuity Bootstrapping with Super Robot Wars OG

What is Super Robot Wars?

Put simply, it’s a series of video games featuring characters from many different Japanese animated series about giant robots.  Someone probably thought “Wouldn’t it be cool if Mazinger Z teamed up with the RX-78 Gundam?”, and with a bit of negotiation and programming by Banpresto, that experience was provided in video game form.

One problem with creating a crossover continuity like this is negotiating with all the rights holders.  I suspect it becomes easier as it goes along; if you’re a right holder confronted with the opportunity to have your character appear in a video game, it’s more comforting to know that it’s the fifth video game in the series and features a dozen other properties along with yours.  Not only that, sometimes one company holds the rights to many different properties (see Tatsunko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars).  Still: Negotiating rights is non-trival.  While I don’t know for certain, I suspect that the difficulty of negotiation is the reason that very few Super Robot Wars games have been translated and released outside of Japan.  (Wikipedia says this as well, but there’s no citation!)

Generating Originals in the Original Generation

Over the years a number of Super Robot Wars games have been released, featuring characters from many different animated series. But along with all of those characters, Banpresto created a number of original characters to help “glue” the various continuities together.  For example, 2nd Super Robot Wars for the Nintendo Famicom featured “the Cybuster piloted by Masaki Andoh“.  These characters are referred to as, of course, “Banpresto Originals”.

Since Banpresto has been associated with Bandai since 1989 and wholly owned by Namco Bandai since 2006, the Super Robot Wars games also feature guest appearances by Namco characters, such as KOS-MOS (from Xenosaga) in Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier.

In 2002, Banpresto released Super Robot Wars: Original Generation for the Game Boy Advance.  This game featured only Banpresto Originals, characters created (and thus wholly owned by) Banpresto.  This game was also the first Super Robot Wars title translated and released in North America; in fact, all three Super Robot Wars games available in North America are “Original Generation” games.  (They were retitled as “Super Robot Taisen”, though.)

In my view, Banpresto has pulled off something rather slick here.  They’ve created what might be considered “fanfic” characters to hang around in their crossover stories…and when enough characters were available, they were all pulled together into a new continuity independent of any of the original properties.  While many people probably bought the Super Robot Wars games because they were fans of the giant robot series, Banpresto took that opportunity to build a reputation, a reputation that says Super Robot Wars games feature solid gameplay.  Then they were able to leverage that reputation in order to sell games whose IP they fully owned.

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