For more detailed info, see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Super_Robot_Wars_video_games#Tactical_role-playing_games
Super Robot Wars has been around for a while (1991 to be exact), starting out as a Game Boy game, it took the concept of strategy rpgs and mixed it with robot anime. The easiest comparison is think Fire Emblem but with mechs and heavy on visual novel storytelling between strategy maps. Now probably 25 years later, the series has come a long way after something like 20+ games and spinoffs.
Outside of one attempt at an ofifical English release with the gameboy advanced Super Robot Wars Original Generations,, and a fan-translation of the PS1 Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden & GBA SRW J, this series has been left in Japan.
Since the PS2 days, the animations and sprites in the SRW series have become extremely impressive, and these games have never been available to English speakers.
Now on August 5, 2016, modern day Super Robot Wars, with the best visuals that the franchise has seen to date is coming out in an English language Asia version on PS4. The game is Super Robot Wars OGs The Moon Dwellers. This means no, you can't just go to your local game store and buy it, but you can import it from online game shops and you will have a 100% fully English version of Super Robot Wars OGs The Moon Dwellers.
Now a heads up is important that Super Robot Wars is split into two franchises. One is the licensed SRW games that feature anime/manga/game franchises as the characters like Namco x Capcom/Project x Zone.
The other is the Original Generations (OGs) series that has collected all of the original characters and plotlines created for those licensed games and put them all together in a game storyline/universe that is 100% Namco/Bandai owned.
Let's just say they've come a long way:
The game coming out next week in English is an OGs game. That means no Gurren Lagann, no Gundam, no Full Metal Panic, no Giant Robo, etc...; but don't worry that stuff is coming out in English in 2017 with Super Robot Wars Voyager. Still, as a long time player of the SRW series, I can tell you right now that the OG stuff isn't a detriment. The original mechs cover about every type of mech you want, Gundam-likes, Gaogaigar-likes, Mazinger-likes and being original and not tied down to having to keep any licensed anime authenticity frees up the designers to go crazy and do whatever they want when designing the mechs and moves. Plus the original cast is pretty great and likeable and the plotlines tend to be as interesting as licensed anime plots.
Also it's worth mentioning that the OGs games have way better sprites and animations in motion (especially with bosses) than the licensed games because there's fewer characters to animate (licensed games can have 100+ characters in your party; which you deploy about 20 per stage; OG games are more like 40 characters in your party, also about 1/2 the amount of bosses). This is readily apparent from videos rather than screenshots so:
Latest licensed SRW game (Z3 Tengoku-hen):
Latest OG SRW game (OGs Moon Dwellers)
Ok, I think that's enough of an intro to SRW background. Now let's get to the primer on how SRW are played:
This is what Super Robot Wars is and how to play it
PLEASE NOTE THE SCREENS USED AS EXAMPLES ARE FROM VARIOUS SRW GAMES, NOT OGs MOON DWELLERS. But for the most part this is universal across SRW games and the visual cues will help make it easier to explain.
The flow of a SRW game is this:
Back to Intermission and repeat
(credit to Shonengamz.com)
This is where you upgrade and set up your team for the next battle.
Characters - Characters gain PP every kill in battle. You can use PP in the intermission to buy permanent skills for characters such as HIT & AWAY (allows character to move after an attack, useful for ranged attacks and then moving closer) or SUPPORT ATTACK (allows them to do an additional support attack when another unit attacks the enemy while standing next to them). An important one is MORALE LIMIT BREAK. I'll explain why below:
Morale/Ki is a stat that starts at 100, everytime a unit attacks/is attacked/kills a unit/or someone on the player team kills a unit, the morale goes up 1 or 2. Many moves are locked behind Morale requirements in battle. So an attack that's really powerful may need 130 Morale before you can do it. This is how the game balances itself. At the start of a stage your good moves are locked away, but as you kill enemies and fight your morale increases and you get access to your better moves. Morale also effects all your stats, so every point higher in morale, the stronger/faster/better you are. Morale caps at 150, but the Morale Limit Break let's you go to 170, which means an extra 20 morale points modifying every stat of the unit giving more damage, better dodge rates, etc..
Ok, back to Skills. You can also spend PP (usually when you're done buying all the useful skills you want for a character and have PP left) on individual stats. 10 PP increases any stat + 1. Personally once I get all my useful skills I look at whether the character's robot's best attack is a physical or ranged attack and pump all my PP into buffing that stat to increase my min-max damage on their best attacks.
Robots - First of all before getting into any of the details, the most important thing to know in EVERY SRW GAME and it's not bad knowing for mecha knowledge as well is all robots are divided into either REAL robots or SUPER robots. Real robots are supposed to be robots within the realm of possibility and rules of the scientific universe that maybe 200 years from now we could build something like that. Old-school Gundam fits into this, as does stuff like Macross. Real Robots are usually smaller in size, use actual bullets and ammo, and are quick. Real Robots are fragile and will die easily, but they can dodge most attacks and because their weapons are ammo based instead of magical energy based (EN), they can hang out in front and fight a ton of enemies dodging and striking back thinning out of the waves.
On the other hand SUPER robots are big cartoony robots that run on the power of LOVE and FURY and GETTER RAYS or some other type of magic. They are the robots where if a character is in a pinch and put everything into it they can magically spawn new abilities and super weapons out of thin air and they can throw moons at people or stuff like that. Supers are slow and strong. They're going to get hit, but they can tank it, they're not going to be able to hit anything that moves quickly because of how slow they are so you're going to need to use buffing stuff on their hit rates, but when it comes to fighting bosses, super robots are going to do crazy damage and smash through anything.
Now Robots have a couple ways to upgrade. One way is to spend money you get every map on upgrading either the weapon stat (increases all attack damage) or stats like HP/Armor/Dodge Rate. The stats are capped at 10 and are essential as if you're at the end the game with weapon level of 1 you're unit is going to be useless and unable to make a dent on enemies. Weapon stat upgrade is essential for all the units that will be your main party. Make sure to upgrade that as you go. Super robots should get some armor/hp upgrading to tank better, while Real robots should get some money spent on increasing their dodge/hit rates so they don't get hit. If a real robot gets hit it usually dies in 1-2 fights, so you want to make your real robots not get hit.
The other way to upgrade robots is by equipping items. As you go through the game enemies will drop items and in the intermission you can equip them. Some increase armor a bunch, some increase movement spaces on map, some give better accuracy, other start the units with higher morale. Each unit has 1-3 equip slots for items, so use them. Also there are potion type items that restore HP/EN/Bullets/SP. These are one-use per map so feel free to use them as they'll still be there next map.
Other - In the intermission you can see how many units you can deploy next map and arrange your units into the team you want to deploy. Like I said, in SRW you get from 40-100+ characters/mechs and you can use like 10-20 each map, so a big part of SRW is building the team you want.
Note there are very specific and rare units that can heal HP and/or heal EN. It's always good to have at least one of these units deployed each map in case you run out of EN and can't attack.
This is where the story is. There's LOTS of talking in SRW. Probably 50% of the time every map will be reading the visual novel parts. Some people find SRW a very boring game because of this. The story stuff is decent to sometime real good and mysterious. There's always filler though, both in story and maps as these days SRW has budget problems and uses filler to keep up the game lengths. You can skip these sections or anything in the game by pressing R1+start or speed through them by pressing R1+O
Usually at some point in the VN part a siren will go off signaling something is attacking and it's time to start the battle.
(the OGs games use 3d maps that are still grid based, but couldn't find a good picture, so this is what the licensed game maps look like these days)
Battles are divided into player turns & enemy turns. On player turns, you move all your units and attack whoever you you want or heal and then you end turn when you're done. Then the enemy takes its turn and moves and attacks. When the enemy attacks, your units can counter/defend/evade. Evade basically doubles their normally dodge percentage and Defend buffs their defense by a lot.
Movement is grid based. Each unit can move certain amount of squares. Their movement can be buffed through items or SP skills that give extra movement for the turn. I'll talk about SP skills in a minute. Terrain effects movement and also buffs/debuffs attacks. It's not like Fire Emblem where a wall can be in your way so you have to move around it. Instead you either need a flying unit who can fly over it, or a ground unit will have to take the slow FE way and move around. Generally you want all your units to fly as much as possible since terrain doesn't block your way at all. The downside to flying is you don't get any of the ground buffs, such as if you're grounded and standing in a forest you'll get an extra +15% to evade or something close to that.
Now let me go into all of the HP/MP type systems in the games:
HP - This is your life, you run out you die. There's no permanent death but you do have to pay a repair cost at the end of the map that comes out of the money you've earned which can suck, so try not to lose units.
EN - This is your energy. Any attacks that don't use bullets (bullet attacks will have like 6/6 attacks and each time you attack it uses one until you're at 0/6 and then can't use the attack until you get refueled or use a cartridge item that refuels bullets) use EN. Some attacks use very little EN like 5 EN. Some attacks actually do use 0 EN which are very basic low damage attacks. Big attacks can use lots of EN like 60-80 EN each attack. Also some units have auto-defenses like shields that negate damage to 0 if the damage otherwise would be less than a certain # and those cost 5-10 EN each time they're activated. You refuel EN by standing next to EN refueling units and they use their turn to refuel EN. There's also a rare SP skill that refuels EN.
SP - SP is a big deal. It stands for Seishin Points (aka Spirit Points). It's your sort of "magic". From the battle menu where you can move each of your units, you can also use their magic/seishin each round. Using magic does not end a units turn, but you cannot use a units SP/magic after they've done their turn, it has to be before. When you click Spirit/Seishin, you'll get a list of their SP skills, each character gets more as they level up. The SP skills costs a certain amount of SP. In OGs everyone starts at whatever their max SP (this increases as they level) and when you use an SP skill it uses those points. Once you're out of SP that's it for the map outside of a rare SP skill that restores some SP to a character, or an item that replenishes SP once per map on that character. Some SRW games have SP regen skills where you gain back 5-10 SP per turn.
You need to use SP skills/magic to survive win. Here are the most important ones (they might be named differently in the official english release):
1. Concentrate - This buffs your dodge/hit rate by 30% for the turn. Real robots often need this so that they don't get hit or to hit enemies.
2. Steel Wall - Reduces all incoming damage by 1/4th for a round. This is useful for supers that are going to tank, so they can withstand a bunch of hits.
3. 100% accuracy - Unit will hit with 100% accuracy for the round. Extremely important for big slow Super robots that miss everything otherwise. There is also a support SP skill when they run out of SP where another unit can give them 100% accuracy for the round. Sometimes it's worth bringing out support useless characters who have that skill just to help buff your super robots to be able to hit things.
4. Miracle - Unit will dodge the next attack. Can be useful, especially against bosses who do crazy damage. Likewise there's a skill where the unit will get hit but only take like 10 HP damage for the next attack and that's samely useful.
5. HOT BLOOD - You don't get this until the 2nd half of a SRW game and then slowly everyone gets it. It gives 2x damage for the next turn, incredibly important for taking down bosses that have huge HP pools. Likewise some games have SOUL instead which is 2.5x damage.
6. Acceleration - Buffs movement by ~2 extra move spaces for the turn. Very useful to move your units in the first round or two and get them close to the enemies.
(credit to Shonengamz.com)
Every map has victory conditions. Usually winning is "kill all the enemies" and losing is "your main ship is destroyed". Each map also has an optional SR (super robot) point. These conditions are challenging to get but satisfying if you can pull them off. Sometimes though they just make the maps unfun because they force you to play the map a very specific way to make the SR point challenge, which takes away from just being able to do what you want with the team you made and have fun. Sometimes I recommend them, sometimes I recommend avoiding them all. Depends on the game.
Also if you have 2/3rds of the total SR points in the game to that point, the game will switch into HARD mode and buff all the enemy stats and HPs. You can get back to normal by just missing a couple SR points and falling back below 2/3rds. Also if you die and fail a map you can instantly restart it and keep all the money/xp earned, but the chance to get the SR point becomes lost and you can't get it for that map.
which reminds me - SAVE EVERY TURN. Turns can be long, one mistake can mess up an entire map. You can save every turn. Make use of it.
Now in actual combat you pick an attack and fight the enemy. There are post-movement attacks (meaning you can move next to an enemy and hit them with it if they're in range), these have a P next to them. The ones without a P are ranged attacks that you can't move and do. This is why for units that have a lot of ranged attacks, HIT & AWAY skill is useful because you can attack and then afterwards move.
(credit to nicoblog.com)
Each attack has it's damage/power, range, weather it's post-attack or not, morale requirements and EN usage, plus any other unique info.
Typically a smart way to play SRW is to only use SP when you have to so that you can save it for the boss(es) of each stage (many stages don't have bosses). Also enemies can and do appear rounds into the map, so it's good to be prepared for surprises. Bosses require SP for the most part. They hit hard, have a ton of life, have MAP attacks which hit multiple units at once (many playable units have MAP attacks too). So you'll want to be able to pound on the boss while SP skill protected on the defense for the bosses counter attack and while using 2x or 2.5x damage SP skills with your strongest attacks. Therefore for normal grunt enemies, it's best to use quick real robot units that don't need SP to frontline or really heavy tanks with some accuracy that can take the damage no problem and counter-attack all the grunts to death. MAP attacks are also very useful to take out lots of grunts at a time.
Since you want to have your strongest attacks available and your units at their best for the bosses on stages, you'll want to take out the grunts and raise everyone's morale and then concentrate on the boss usually.
After you beat the map, you'll get the post-map story before your dropped back at the intermission screen to prep for the next stage.
And that's that! Phew, that was a long write up. Hope it helps some people who go out on a limb and pick up Moon Dwellers and next year's English language version Licensed SRW Voyager.
For what it's worth, if you do pick up Moon Dwellers, my review of it is that it's not the cream of the crop for the series, so if you don't like it I wouldn't necessarily write SRW off and would give V a chance next year. Moon Dwellers is a solid B, but it's a side-story/Gaiden smaller tale (usually there's about 5-10 subplots running per game with a big epic story. This game has basically 3ish in a shorter tale), the game has a few bad maps, it has some serious balance issues (IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST SRW GAME, STAY ON NORMAL, DO NOT GO TO HARD), but it's pretty fun and has some of the best 2d animation ever seen. I'm not against recommending it, but go in thinking it's an appetizer and maybe V will be the main dish. That being said SRW as a series has been having some budget/quality issues for years now, so V's probably going to have it's own issues too. It's not a series at its best, but if you like SRPGs & Robots & 2d spritework it's worth a play.
And here's some cool pictures just to make the thread look better:
And some OG Mazinger Super Robot fun: