Robots are cool. It's just a fact. Fighting robots are even
cooler. So what would be more natural that a show featuring home
made robots knocking the electronic snot out of each other? It turns
out that there were several such shows on US cable stations over the last
couple of years. Robot Wars, Robotica, and Battlebots
were all similar shows that had competitions between amateur radio controlled
machines that would fight. These show have one other thing in common
besides their subject matter: they have all been cancelled. That's
why I was fairly surprised when AnimEigo, a producer known for their quality
anime and live action Japanese samurai releases, would start releasing
a series of robot battling DVDs. Did AnimEigo come up with a new
and exciting take on this fad that has seems to have passed? Unfortunately
Robot Assault is basically a series of fights between two home
made robots. There isn't any plot or structure to the show, just
robot fights. From the main menu the viewer can choose any of six
weight classes, and from there watch any of a series of battles.
There is a 'play all' option for each weight class, but there isn't one
for the entire DVD.
The problem with this disc is that it gets terribly monotonous after
a short time. Each battle is introduced by a text screen that gives
the names and a simple synopsis (often reveling the outcome of the battle)
and then the battle begins. There are very short interviews with
some of the designers, but these are only shown occasionally, not for every
battle. The fact that there is no frame, plot, or even a host, really
makes this hard to watch for long periods of time, and this disc runs over
2 hours in length. Maybe I would have enjoyed the disc a little bit
more if I understood the rules or the even the weight limits for the classes,
but no background is given at all.
Most of the robots are fairly evenly matched. While there are
several battles with clear winners, in many of them time just runs out.
That wouldn't be too bad, but for some inexplicable reason they don't announce
the winners. So in a lot of cases, you're not even sure who
won the round.
Programs like Junkyard Wars and American Chopper show
the viewer how people design and build their creations, and that is what
Robot Assault is missing. Without the background on the design and
getting to know the personalities of the builders viewers don't know who
to cheer for. They don't have any idea what the creator is trying
to do with his robot, or what the abilities and weapons of the machines
are. As it is, this just isn't a very interesting DVD.
The Dolby Digital mono soundtrack is a little weak. There isn't
any narration, so the only sounds are the robots crashing into each other.
The sounds are a little muffled, leading me to think that the arena was
mic'ed from the exterior. You could hear the comments of the audience,
and the sounds of the battles weren't as forceful as I was hoping.
The full frame image is adequate, though it had a home video quality
to it. The battles were filmed from behind a plexiglass shield and
that affected the quality a bit. There were many instances where
you could see a reflection off of the barrier. Aside from this, the
interviews with the robot builders were a little on the crude side.
It was obvious that these talks were filmed on digital video tape, and
they were not as clean as I would have liked. All the video suffered
from digital defects, with aliasing (especially bad on robots with spinning
weapons) and microblocking being the most prevalent.
There are a couple of extras included on this DVD. There is a
music video with electronic music playing over clips of robots battling.
There is a Greenwave Test, which shows a robot testing out the effectiveness
of its offensive weapon, and a minute long time-lapse of the arena being
This DVD is over two hours of machines attacking each other. Without
a host, color commentary, or even an announcement of who won the battle,
this DVD is really hard to watch. My youngest son enjoyed it more
than I did, but even he eventually got bored with the repetitive fights.
For die hard robot battle fans only. Skip it.