This month's binge is brought to you buy giant mecha, specifically in the form of the Gundam franchise. Unfortunately for me, America doesn't love Gundam. Which means that Gundam rarely comes out to play and, instead, stays home, all the way in Japan. There have been countless games, books, and movies/shows that have never hit US shores... and it's pretty depressing.
In case you've got the same affliction I've got now, I'm going to share how I scratch that Gundam-mania itch, in 5 relatively easy steps!
1. Watch the Original Series
Ah, Mobile Suit Gundam. Dated visuals, inconsistent plot, and sometimes terrible writing. Old school anime at its best. But wait, there's more! The original series, as it aired, was truly a mess. The creator realized that and, for your benefit, reconstructed the series into three, feature length films. The art doesn't take any leaps forward, but the plot is restructured and improved, and certain story elements are made clearer. If you're really jonesing for Gunam, but not interested in the dozens of meh quality episodes, these three movies are just for you!
2. Play MS Saga: A New DawnMS Saga is a PS2 game. It is a JRPG with traditional, turn-based JRPG elements. The kicker is that your team takes giant mechs from many of the Gundam series into battle.
The story is rubbish. The character designs are the worst, and further dragged down by painful voice acting, and the mobile suits follow the SD (Super Deformed) style. That being said, the gameplay is respectfully challenging, the diversity in enemies is perfect, and it features great customization and collectible options. Every time you acquire a new mobile suit, it feels like Christmas (or whatever holiday you choose, I suppose, but it has to include getting awesome shit). You've never been so happy to see a Gouf in your life! And, when you finally get to see the Gundam in action, it will give you butterflies.
The traditional gameplay is actually a solid example of how RPGs can be turn-based and still awesome, too -- you can have up to six party members at a time, three active and three that can be swapped in on a whim. It gives you a lot of options on how to approach combat.
|Customization example. Yes, you can also change part colors!|
Despite all the negatives I mention, I give this game an 8/10 on the Arbitrary Scale. If you can, I'd also recommend emulating it -- I was MUCH happier being able to A) save anywhere and B) speed up the game at certain points.
3. Search #Gunpla on InstagramAfter playing MS Saga, you'll think you've have seen a large variety of suits. Well, it's time to expand your mind. Bandai has been released Gunpla (Gundam Plastic Models), regardless if they match up with any ongoing show or not. What this means is that there are some truly awesome, never-before-seen models out there. And, since they're WAY too expensive a hobby for me to pursue, Instagram lets me enjoy the hard work of others (truly, the American Dream).
When I need a quick fix, Instagram and Gunpla are where it's at. Unfortunately, this remedy has led to some additional side effects, such as seeing if Gunpla models are really THAT expensive, and how difficult could it be, putting them together...
4. Play Mobile Suit Gundam: Zeonic FrontCrap, gotta distract myself from Gunpla. Alright, back to the PS2, which is the definitive console for Gundam in the US. Zeonic Front is a third-person strategy/action game. You're playing as a Zeon soldier during the ground-wars of the One Year War. Before each mission, you equip your troops (up to three squads) and set the paths your squads should take on the battle map. This leads to a lot of different strategic options, and it's an awesome, realistic feeling mech sim in that regards.
Of course, that's not to say it doesn't have issues. Controls are not intuitive or responsive, combat is quick and usually dirty, and there are especially difficult/cheap missions (I'm looking at you, mission #6!).
This game gets a 7/10 for me. I really do love it, but it can frustrate the shit outta me.
5. Watch an Alternative Gundam seriesThe Gundam series has several universes. The original follows the UC timelines and is comprised of the main titles "Mobile Suit Gundam," "Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam," and "Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ." There are related side stories (0083: Stardust Memories has some awesome art, and bridges the gap between the original series and Zeta), and follow up movies, but I recommend jumping off the UC timeline for a bit.
|Your Gundam Beat-'Em-Up Anime|
If you enjoy a lot of action with relatively limited story (which can be refreshing after Mobile Suit Gundam), watch "Mobile Fighter G Gundam." This series is all about fist-fighting mechs that participate in an overly dramatic martial arts tournament. This may sounds kind of stupid, but it's actually pretty awesome, and it features the most unique mobile suits in the franchise (mostly because they don't all go pew pew, bang bang). The cast isn't large, so you're less likely to get annoyed by them (I personally find all the main protagonists from the UC timeline really, really annoying).
If you're looking for a deeper, character driven story, watch the always-classic "Mobile Suit Gundam Wing." You're not sure if the Gundam are the good guys or the bad guys, or even friends or enemies, but it makes for an awesome ride. Probably one of my favorite story-oriented shows in the franchise, and the suits are all iconic (it's amazing when you start picking them up in MS Saga).
|Angst and Explosions, the Anime|
Alright, those are my five steps. You can expand the first point, as I'm doing, by watching all of the UC timeline in order. I don't necessarily recommend that, but you could. And there are other (mostly PS2) Gundam video games, but the most common entry in that vein lately has been Dynasty Warriors Gundam *sigh*. Let me know if you find anything else that helps you with your Gundam Mania, because I'm afraid mine might flare up again...