Macross Ace Frontier is in a no-lose situation. The lucky thing. If it sucks as a Macross game, well, it’s a Macross game. They have a history of sucking. If it sucks as a PSP game, well, it’s a PSP game. They (mostly) have a history of sucking. What’s so surprising given both of those expectations, then, is the fact that having played the game at TGS, it’s not sucking. On either count. It’s strange to pick up a PSP and not just play a PSP game, but enjoy it. It’s been a while. But enjoy Macross Ace Frontier I did, finding the game to be one of the smoothest, most responsive and action-packed PSP games I’ve seen in a long time. Most PSP game are sluggish. This isn’t. Your veritech pitches and rolls quickly and smoothly, with a consistently high frame rate untroubled by the enemies and missile trails flying around you.

Controls are of course a little tricky – made trickier by having three separate schemes for each transformation mode – but if I can get the hang of them in a 15-minute presentation without knowing any Japanese, they can’t be too hard. Those worried about input, know that the PSP’s awful analogue controls are used for toggling stuff, not for movement, which is handled surprisingly well by the d-pad. As a Macross game, this is the best one since Super Dimensional Fortress on the PS2. I couldn’t really make out things like music (too loud) or plot (it was in Japanese), but it certainly looks the part, and the battles are fast enough to pay their respects to the franchise. Letting off a salvo of swirly missiles before transforming into robot mode and blasting with your rifle – the kind of little touch that’ll make all the difference to a Macross fanboy – is both easy and really, really satisfying.

One thing to note, though, before you think of importing this: it’s heavy on Japanese text. As an example, you don’t just jump in and start shooting; missions are precluded by a “hangar” mode, where you need to go through a ton of menus and screens configuring your payload, craft, etc. Sure, you could hope and pray for a Western release, but with that looking unlikely your time would be better spent brushing up on your kanji.