The anime industry used to be dominated by the super robot genre and nowhere is it more prevalent than the 70's when every other show was about a giant robot the protector of all good and keeper of piece while fighting the great evil organization/alien/ lizardmen/ invaders/army. By putting the pilots inside the machine and glorifying it as something mystical or even godly, Go Nagai practically invented the genre. The idea about the cockpit being inside the robot [head] came to him after he worked on Mao Dante, the work that lead into the creation of the hugely successful Devilman and its spinoffs and sequels. Go Nagai himself was trying to do something completely different from Mazinger Z but just couldn't think of a way to make things work so Mazinger turned the way it is known today. Working with his partner, Ken Ishikawa, together they finally made the concept work, combining robots. Thus the Getter Robo was born.
Once again, another mecha sub genre born, the combining super robots. The concept is very simple, have three pilots fly three different machines that can combine into a big robot. The order also dictated what kind of robot they combined into so the order of assembly was important as well. There were basically three combinations, Getter 1, Getter 2, and Getter 3, each with a special tactical advantage like fighting underwater. This brought an interesting team dynamic as well making it as much about the people as it is about the robots and changed the anime genre landscape completely, until Gundam and later Macross and even farther down the line Evangelion will change and revolutionize the genre once again. Even the 90's anime were making affectionate parodies of the genre, like in Nadesico a real robot show with a show within a show, Gekiganger 3, a parody of the combing robot genre suspiciously similar to Getter Robo team. But some anime like GaoGaiGar and Gurren Lagann played it completely straight and glorified the genre and complete redefined what epic really means, but that's a story for another time.
Released for the original playstation Geppy-X is a love letter to this exact sub genre of combining giant super robots. The gameplay is a typical side scrolling shooter. The player can transform the robot into three different combinations with very little different between them besides how the robot looks and which weapons it has. Each of the three combinations has it's own 3 different weapons, lasers, machine gun, wind tornado and so on. Killing enemies builds a power bar and lets the player unleash a powerful attack. The gameplay doesn't have much of anything, that's not to say the game isn't fun but it's also quite generic and you'll find better side scrolling shooters than this one.
Presentation is a real winner and the sole reason for Geppy-X existence. The game has an animated 70's style opening which if you didn't better you would believe it was done in the 70's with lyrics and subtitles to get you sing along, that's how good the imitation is. Every level is like an episode from an actual show and in fact that's how levels are called, episodes. The structure is very formulaic with every episode starts with an opening then a short cutscene, then they show episode title, and then the game begins proper, then you get to a boss fight, and then they shows an eyecatch, and show a fake commercial. The commercials feel like a genuine advertisement with ads for Geppy-X toys, Geppy-X souse, Geppy-X manga, a promotion for Ashita no Joe parody anime and so on. Then back to another eyecatch, back to a cutscene and then back to the 2nd half of the game with an end level boss. After defeating the boss there's an episode ending cutscene, continuing to an animated ending with credits and song and end it with a next episode preview. There are also 3D prerendered cutscenes too but they completely feel out of place, it was just a shortcut for the developers not to make any more 2d animated cutscenes.
The game's audio is very awesome too. It's fully voiced during the cutscenes but what makes it a real winner is the glorious soundtrack. During the gameplay sections Geppy-X has some of the most awesome hotblooded 70's anime songs. Every single level has it's own song playing. Even every single half of each episode has its own different song playing. There are even two or three songs exclusive for the boss fights. It oozes with awesomeness and heroic passion, I just wish there was a soundtrack available somewhere out here.
The story plays straight with its tropes and cliches. If you watch a few classic mecha anime you'll notice quite a few similarities. Including the 3 cliche characters with one of them a generic hero, another the cool cold and mysterious, and a fat guy. The good guys have a base HQ laboratory where they apparently live with some professor and other researchers. Every episode the bad guys come and the good guys have to pilot their combining robot and defeat the anime to live another day. Yeah... it's as if Geppy-X was an unreleased show in the 70's and during the 90's someone found clips of the show and made a game out of it. Not that it's a bad thing, Geppy-X feels like a genuine 70's robot show.
With so much love and passion the developers poured into this project it is a shame they did not put as much love into the story. After a few episodes the initial excitement wears off and the cracks in the scenario become apparent. The cutscenes are so short the story is paper thin and completely fails to engage and connect with the player. it plays the cliche for the sake of cliche with absolutely no build up. In the anime they take time to develop the character to make as understand and care for him, the build up to the heroic sacrifice stirs emotions and becomes meaningful. In Geppy-X when one of the characters dies the game expects the player to feel sad but it just doesn't work, even a few episodes in we know this character for barely 2 minutes and now we're supposed to care and feel sad? The game is very easy so obviously the developers wanted the player to enjoy the story and presentation more than the game itself, however they did not put any effort to write a decent story. Even if the story was to be a one-to-one copy of Getter Robo or any of the other classic shows it would still succeed to elicit some kind of reaction from the player. However the game fails to elevate itself anything above just a fun little cute thing lacking any sort of depth to the source material it tries so hard to imitate.
It's hard to recommend Geppy-X to anyone but the most curious or the most hardcore 70's mecha fans. Check it out just for the curiosity's sake but don't expect to come back to it once the novelty wears off. A shame really because it's a perfect homage to the classics and had so much potential.