Robotech is an American animated television series from the 80s. Yes, I said American even though the animation was Japanese. The US TV syndication market prefers (or at least did in the 80s) series of at least 65 episodes in length. The provides a minimum run before repeats of 13 weeks if broadcast Monday through Friday. To meet this requirement Harmony Gold combined the animation of three anime series, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA (interesting side note, originally the third part was to have been the other Super Dimension series, Super Dimension Century Orguss) with a new story covering three wars pitting Earth against alien invaders over Protoculture a combined energy and spiritual source. This gave them 85 episodes and the ability to sell in the syndicated TV market.
The original Robotech was a modest hit and saw a variety of spin-off media including toys, model kits (actually, Revell was selling these prior to the series), comic adaptations (by the now defunct Comico), a RPG by Palladium (that saw the first use of MDC), and a series of novelizations. The novelizations were written by Brian Daley (author of the Han Solo adventures novels) and James Luceno (also a Star Wars universe writer) under the pen name Jack McKinney. Macross was the subject of six books and the other two series three each. Later they would write novels of the never finished squeal series, a wrap up novel, and four connective novels. At this point the novels are no longer Robotech cannon with the 2006 movie Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles.
The three New Generation novels, covering The Third Robotech War, are Invid Invasion, Metamorphosis, and Symphony of Light which are now availible as a single volume omnibus. At the end of The Second Robotech War the Earth’s population is tiny given it has been less than 20 years after the First Robotech War ended with Earth’s population under 100,000. Also, the fighting of the two wars has devastated Earth’s surface. Less than a year after the Second War Ended the Third War begins with the invasion of the Invid, an insect like race. They rapidly take over and enslave some of humanity while the rest hides in remote places with a few rebels fighting to regain control.
The actual action of the series begins with the second attempt to retake Earth. The sole survivor, a space fighter pilot named Scott Bernard, crashes in South America begins to work his way towards the Reflex Point near the Great Lakes region of the US that is the center of the Invid host. He collects around him a band of freedom fighters and adventurers including a rock start, a mechanic, an orphan girl, a biker, a survivalist, and two Invid who have taken human form. Among their interesting gear are high tech armor and motorcycles that can withstand the fire of military weapons. As they work their way north they perform rock concerts, explore ruined cities, fight Invid, and generally cause trouble. As they reach the Reflex Point another attempt is make to retake Earth and the war ends.
I think someone approaching Rifts would do well to watch the New Generation (it is the last 25 episodes of the original series) or read one of its adaptations. I’m personally partial to the novels and as this is Appendix N they are what I have linked. Robotech Earth in the Invid period is the closest media to Rifts I know. Earth is overrun by foreign monsters and a nearly wiped out humanity fights for its existence while also collaborating with the invaders. The resistance has ultra high tech weaponry as do the invaders who also have some psychic powers. The only things really missing are magic and multiple sources of invaders. The group is also pretty much thrown together and freelance like many RPG parties.
The big reason, however, I like this series for Rifts inspiration over other alien invasion or after the apocalypse fiction is the strong separation of combat and non-combat action. This is a hallmark of mecha oriented anime and I think it is crucial to understanding Rifts especially MDC versus SDC combat. As I remarked in my first rules post MDC came from the Robotech RPG where it works fairly well but many people think it is broken in Rifts. I used to think that way but my thinking is evolving but a variety of items, including the series at question, are changing that. One of the conventions of mecha anime is rivals fight as equals. Mecha combat occurs in mecha and personal combat at the personal level. Rarely does the villain try to kill the hero by smushing him with his mecha or blasting him with missiles or laser canon. The MDC complaint in Rifts comes down to claiming the existence of MDC weapons means humans can never leave their armor. The counter by the author of Rifts in several books and many fans is that reduces the game to just tactical combat. However, if we model Rifts on something like a mecha series the counter makes sense.
What better first model than a mecha series which also became an MDC using RPG from Palladium featuring a ruined Earth when humanity on the edge fights monsters from beyond with power armor.