A Super Robot Wars Primer
The worlds of Super Robot Wars can be a bit confusing for a newcomer. In the article below Neo Roanoke gives a brief overview of the Super Robot Wars games and how the different timelines are related.
The first SRW game was made for the Game Boy in 1990. It really doesn’t feature a story, nor does it have characters. The robots themselves are directly controlled by the player and made to do battle with each other, ultimately facing a villain from one of the Mazinger movies. This is not considered to be a part of SRW "cannon," and other than starting the franchise is otherwise generally forgotten, even among fans. It has never been remade.
The first timeline is the classic timeline, which covers all of the NES/SNES games (these were later remade on the PSX). The rough storyline for these games is that knowing about alien threats, the Divine Crusaders launch an uprising to unite the world and create a single fighting force capable of taking these threats on (this is the series from which the Valsion originates). When this fails, the Divine Crusader’s plans are entrusted to the Londo Bell (from Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, but with the supers thrown in), and the alien inspectors show up. Notable originals from this timeline include the Cybaster, Valsion, Valsioune, Granzon, Gespenst, Grungust, and Huckebein, as well as the other masoukishin units and all Inspectors/Guess units. Games included in this timeline include Super Robot Wars 2 (NES, 1991), Super Robot Wars 3 (SNES, 1993), Super Robot Wars EX (1994) and Super Robot Wars 4 (SNES, 1995), and finally Super Robot Wars Gaiden (SNES, 1996). In 1995 Super Robot Wars 2 was remade on the game boy as Super Robot Wars 2 G. In 1996, Super Robot wars 4 was remade on the PSX, under the name Super Robot Wars 4 Scramble. Using the system from SRW4, SRW 2, 3, and EX were all remade and included in Super Robot Wars Complete Box (PSX, 1999), as well as being sold individually. In 1998, a whole new alternate telling of SRW 4 was made and branded Super Robot Wars F (PSX, 1998), which had a direct sequel (in reality it’s a single game packaged across two separate disks), Super Robot Wars F-Final (PSX, 1999).
The second major timeline is the Alpha timeline, which was launched for the PSX. The story for this timeline revolves around the SRX team and their interaction with the alien Aerogators/Ze Balmary Empire, although two of the games feature related side plots (including an alternate future featuring an Earth devastated by the ramifications of this war, and a conflict with a relic from earlier conflicts with the aliens from a time before recorded history). Major originals include the SRX team, all upgraded Huckebiens/Grungusts (including the KoRyuOh and the RyoKoOh, the Wildfalcon, Wildwurger, Dygenguar, Ausenseiter, and DaiRaiOh, the Altalion project, the AS Soleares, all aerogator mechs, as well as mechs from the Garden of Baral and the Ancestors. The Classic timeline has the most games, but the Alpha timeline is considered the best fleshed out. Games including in this series are Super Robot Wars Alpha (PSX, 2000), Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden (PSX, 2001), Super Robot Wars Alpha 2 (PS2, 2003), and Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 (PS2, 2006). While it’s not usually included in this timeline, Shin Super Robot Wars (PSX, 1996) features some of the same characters and concepts, notably the SRX team and the Aerogators.
The third major timeline and the one most often forgotten is the Compact timeline, mostly released on the Wonderswan. While these do not have a single overarching plotline, the characters and events that happen in each game are carried over to the next, and each of the games in this series is a direct sequel to the previous one. Major originals from this timeline include the AltEisen, Weissritter, all Einst, and all Shura Gods. Games in this series include Super Robot Wars Compact, (Wonderswan, 1999), Super Robot Wars Compact 2, which was released across three parts (Wonderswan, 2000-2001), and Super Robot Wars Compact 3 (Wonderswan Color, 2003). In 2001, Super Robot Wars Compact was remade for the Wonderswan Color. In 2003, all three parts of Super Robot Wars Compact 2 were remade on the PS2 and dubbed Super Robot Wars Impact. In 2004, Super Robot Wars MX was made as a spiritual sequal to Impact, although it does not feature a continuing story. MX was ported to the PSP in 2005, and SRW Advance was remade for the PSP earlier this year.
There are a number of independent games, mostly on the Game Boy Advance, that do not feature a continuous storyline but can all be considered spiritual sequels to one another. These do not constitute a single timeline but can be considered small, one-off alternate universe series. Each of these games features a handful of originals, as well as a new (generally alien) enemy faction. Games in this quasi series include Super Robot Wars 64 (N64, 1999), Super Robot Wars A (Advance) (GBA, 2001), Super Robot Wars R (Reversal) (GBA, 2002), Super Robot Wars D (Destiny) (GBA, 2003), Super Robot Wars J (Judgment) (GBA, 2005), and Super Robot Wars W (Double) (DS, 2007), and finally Super Robot Wars GC (Gamecube, 2004), which was ported to the X-Box as Super Robot Wars XO in 2006.
The last timeline is the Original Timeline, which features exclusively the original units from the above timelines in a new storyline loosely based on the original stories features in previous games. New characters and units were created for these games, but the majority of the cast consists of previous originals given their own independent plot. The stories most focused on in this timeline so far include SRW2, SRW 3, SRW Alpha, SRW Alpha Gaiden, SRW Alpha 2, SRW Impact, SRW A, SRW Compact 3, and SRW R. The next game in the series promises to focus heavily on the story from SRW MX and Super Robot Wars EX, based on currently open plot threads. Games in this timeline include Super Robot Wars Original Generation (GBA, 2002, Released in the US in 2006), and Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2 (GBA, 2005, released in the US in 2006). both of these games were remade for the PS2 as Super Robot Wars Original Generations, in 2007. Later in 2007 a sequel was made to this game, Super Robot Wars Gaiden. Additionally, Super Robot Wars Original Generation- Never-ending Frontier is considered a part of this subfamily of series, although it takes place in a separate parallel universe within the larger OG universe and is actually a largely unrelated RPG.
There are also a number of SRW Spinoffs, such as the Another Century’s Episode series (PS2), SRW- Scramble Commander series (PS2), and the Real Robot Battle series (PSX, PS2). There is currently a new SRW game in development for the PS2 called Super Robot Wars Z, but very little is currently known about it.
Note that while each of these series represents a different "timeline" and chain of events, SRW is built on the principle that there are an infinite number of parallel universes within a single multiverse that includes all robot series ever created. As such, these sub-timelines are vaguely interconnected, and at least on character (Gilliam Jeager, pilot of the Gespenst) has traveled back and forth from these pocked universes, and all appearances of this character are in fact the same man, at different points in his life.
Some of the original characters are also originally from other games produced by Banpresto that were not considered SRW games, although these all have the common ground of being crossover games that feature Gundam ect. These games typically even feature other iconic characters such as Ultraman or Kamen Rider. If SRW games are like Marvel Vs DC, these games could be considered Marvel Vs. DC Vs. Star Wars. Some of these game series include Hero Senki (Hero War Chronicle), and Super Hero Sakusen (Super Hero Operation).
There have been three anime series produced for SRW to date. The first, "Masoukishin Cybaster" (1999), is a loose retelling of the Cybaster’s storyline. Many liberties were taken with the characters and designs, including killing off Masaki. This is generally disliked by SRW fans. The Second series was a short three episode OVA based on the Original Generation characters, called "Super Robot Wars Original Generation: The Animation" (2005). This takes place after the GBA version of Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2, and many of its events were incorporated into Super Robot Wars Original Generation Gaiden. Following this up, an animated TV series based on Super Robot Wars Original Generation was produced, under the title "Super Robot Wars Original Generation- Divine Wars" (2006). Both of the original generation titles were relatively faithful to their source, and were much better received by fans than the Cybaster animation. All of the Super Robot Wars TV series are available in America on DVD.