Part 2: Chapter 1 IntermissionHaha. You guys win. Here's how this is going to happen:
First I'm going to show both versions of chapters 3 and 4. Then the thread's going to pick one of those to be the primary line, and I'm going to show all three versions of 5-8, using the primary to lead into the center. Finally, the thread's going to choose which of the primary's two branches will bring it into the featured version of chapter 9, which is four different chapters that are identical except that the robots you get to use for it come from the above two choices. Finally I'll join up to both versions of chapters 10-12.
That was awful. I'll explain it better as it comes.
In the meantime, let's go over the upgrading.
This is the intermission screen. Note how it's conveniently divided into three columns.
The first column, Pilot, lets you see pilot data, train pilots to learn new skills by spending their PP, switch pilots around in compatible robots, and... well, the last option there is a new Z2 thing that won't be unlocked for a long time.
Unlike OG, mainline SRW games don't let you switch robots freely. Usually, it's only within a series - any UC Gundam character can pilot any UC Gundam mecha, the Wing boys can trade with each other, and so on. Right now it doesn't matter because not only do we have no switchable pilots, we only have one pilot and one robot.
The Robot column is very similar. It starts with options to see your robots and their stats, then throw money at them to make them kill better. The third option is where we'll see equippable parts start to show up. The last one involves robot-specific upgrade parts - again, those will come in much later, and there aren't that many in this game.
"Support" is probably a bad name - it just links you to the glossary/game search mechanics, game options, and save/load menus.
The bit at the bottom tells us what chapter we've finished, how many total turns this playthrough has taken, how many of those magical SR Points we have, and how filthy rich I am (we'll fix that, though). Later, when we have enough of an army to actually choose what robots join the fight, the number in the corner will show us how many free deploy slots are available in the next mission. But for now it's just Crowe blowing in the wind.
Our friend the Blaster has gotten a bit of a powerup; comparing it to that very first shot shows it's gained some energy, speed, and agility since Crowe stumbled into Traia's laboratory.
It's gained two new attachments for its Eagle, too. The melee Bayonet Spiker comes with shock rods and nets to kill the enemy's mobility, much like the Gundam's vulcans. The long-range Clutch Sniper is a powerful penetrating barrel that cuts through shields. (Ignore Barrier is apparently a weapon property that doesn't quite get an S emblem. ACP Faiz has another such property - it ignores damage reduction due to size difference.)
The melee version of the Blaster (I could have gone back and changed to it, actually, but it sounds like this one is favored so far anyway) has the same weapons. The differences are the Break and Spiker are a little more powerful than the Eagle and Sniper; the Spiker pierces barriers, and the Sniper doesn't; the melee attacks take less energy and the guns' ammo clips are smaller; and ACP Faiz is a melee attack with shorter range, the Post-Move property, and mostly the same long-ass animation.
So, upgrading robots:
I'm used to HP and EN in SRW games costing much less per pip than the equivalents in Armor or Evasion. In Z they're all on similar rails, with EN and Targetting costing a bit less than the others. I even had to show three ranks because they all start at 2000 for the first one.
Needless to say, getting a robot to 100% is incredibly expensive.
But it can be worth it - filling in all 50 boxes gets you a robot-specific bonus ability. The Blaster gets +1 movement, which puts it into the realm of "very fast" (as fast as a lot of robots with Accel cast), and on top of that, regenerates 10% of its max energy per turn.
On top of that, you can choose a second bonus from a universal list. These are things like an extra 10% to one of the robot's stats, extra movement, the Jamming Field trait, an S rank in any one terrain, free barriers (which normally drain your EN when they trigger), or extra range or critical for all the machine's weapons.
Can't decide? You can leave the menu, and the box will simply say "not selected" and wait patiently for you to choose the bonus whenever you want. Once you've picked it though, it's there to stay.
You've probably noticed how much I haven't talked about the bottom row. That's weapon damage, and it exists outside the normal scheme of percentages and custom bonuses. This is because it's really expensive. A single pip costs as much as or more than three of any of the others or one in each of the others. Also, it modifies all the unit's weapons at once - no individual upgrading, just a bonus to all your damage ratings.
Anyway, let's not blow a fortune quite yet. This will be plenty for now.
Next we turn to Pilot Training. Crowe has an awful lot of PP, slightly more than he'd normally earn in one playthrough. There are an awful lot of things to spend it on.
Here's the first one one: raising the pilot's stats, for the price of a flat 10 PP per stat point. The stats are Melee, Ranged, Skill (no wait, it's called Maneuverability in OG. Oops.), Defense, Evasion, and Accuracy. I'm going to suggest doing a few things to take advantage of Crowe's fair Man rating - okay, sorry, can't take that seriously - take advantage of Crowe's fair Skill rating, at which point putting points into it will become not a bad idea.
Skipping lightly over the long list of pilot skills for the moment, we come to Terrain Adaptability. This is fairly expensive and gets more expensive the more you want to do with it - raising a pilot's terrain rank from A to S costs 250 PP. The thing is, there are a few ways to raise a machine's rank, but this is the way to raise a pilot's - and if either outstrips the other, it's like wasted points. An S pilot in an A machine rounds down to A, and same for an A pilot in an S-class machine.
As for the skills I'm interested in for Crowe...
One of my favorites: Chain Actions. Once per turn, any pilot with this and over 120 Will can destroy an enemy and get another turn. I like getting this on all my attackers; it's not vital, exactly, but it does wonders for tempo, mobility, damage output, and it's fun to rip through an army. Since Crowe is a strong supporter, I can also use it to position him while keeping him awake for those two extra attacks per turn.
Attack Again isn't for everyone. If the attacker's Skill is at least 20 more than the target's, he gets to make a second attack before the action ends. This attack is treated kind of like an Offensive Support: it deals reduced damage, but in Crowe's case, it also benefits from Chain Attack and will critical to make up for it.
This is what I meant when I said we can take advantage of pumping Crowe's Skill. If it triggers, it pretty much lets him take out weak-to-mid enemies and even works on a few bosses.
With five slots potentially filled (although, to be honest, I'm not too attached to his Fortune), I've got some options. A few ranks in SP Up never hurt anyone, especially not a solo pilot like Crowe, but you get only 5 points to your pool for each rank, and the cost rises to the point where it costs 900 PP for 45 extra SP.
Break Will Limit is never a bad idea exactly; it gives pilots a not-insignificant boost at the endgame of most stages by letting their Will go up to 170 instead of 150. That said, there are better pilots to make use of it than Crowe, who has reasonable Will gains and no extra Will skills to ramp him up.
A sniper's best friend, Hit and Away. This skill lets you make an attack before moving, and then move after the attack instead of ending your turn. Crowe isn't a pure sniper, since the ranged Blaster can still cut something if it needs to (and use the Eagle Shot while charging), so he may benefit less from this than certain other shooters in the game.
A few honorable mentions:
A third rank in Offensive Support sets Crowe back 140 PP, but won't take up its own slot and lets him Support Attack three times per turn instead of twice.
Will, Morale, and the Will+ series are good if you have the room.
Ammo Save and/or Energy Save can extend Crowe's lifetime, but so can a resupply unit.
Counter would also use that Skill rating but I've always thought of it as a nice-to-have thing.
Thoughts on Skills? I can list all of them if necessary.