Gundam, brought to you by Gundam, the makers of Gundam.
The Gundam franchise has been going strong for over twenty years now and its popularity is still on the rise. As the forefather of giant robot madness, Gundam has etched a place in pop culture history. Today, you can go to your local import toy/video/anime shop and find a mech load of Gundam toys, models, videos, apparel, and of course games.
The track record for these Gundam games isn't as hot as everything else, though. In fact, most of the games have sucked. Unlike the awe inspiring Mobile Suits they are based on, the Gundam games have only inspired a sense of dread in any impartial gamer, but the fans have gobbled them up, making Gundam games quite the money making scheme.
When a copy of Bandai's latest Gundam title hit GR, a sense of hope filled my little mech-loving heart. I, for one, am tired of seeing all of these bad games tarnishing the name of my beloved anime series. Is one good game too much to ask? Apparently so.
I'm sad to say that Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo is just another half-hearted attempt at a game that only serves to push other Gundam products. It wouldn't be so bad if it came packed with a perfect grade model or something, but why should I pay full price for what amounts to a big Gundam advertisement? Oh, the horror.
Journey to Jaburo is a third-person action game (I use that word loosely) that sits players down into a common RX-78-2 Gundam. I'm still waiting for a good action game that lets me control a big RX-78 GP02A or maybe a Wing Zero Custom, but until then, I guess I'm stuck with this plain old RX-78-2. The missions include offensive, defensive and escort tasks, but it all comes down to just finding and blowing up all your enemies.
This seems like a grand idea on paper, but due to extremely poor control, it isn't really fun. Anyone who has ever caught a glimpse of Gundam in action knows that despite their extremely large size, the Mobile Suits are very agile. The suits in Journey to Jaburo are anything but. Slow and ungainly, these Suits are about as clumsy as they come. Just getting from point A to point B can be a problem as things like small hills and small buildings get in the way. Using thrusters at an angle is tough and firing while the boost is going cannot be done. Melee combat is a mess and enemies can easily evade your up-close and personal attacks.
You would think that the auto-targeting feature would help out a lot, but there's only more frustration to be found. For some reason the tracking is too slow and you'll almost always be firing behind any small airborne targets. I've never seen a giant robot with such bad aim.
To add insult to injury, there are only 9 short missions. You'll have no problems passing this game in a single evening of play.
In all fairness, there is a Tactics Battle mode which is unlocked upon completion of the game. You can pilot a few other suits as well as experience the Zeon side, but only three missions are available here. Not enough guys, not enough.
At least the Suits look cool. The RX is the best video game Gundam I've ever seen and the Zaku aren't too shabby, either. If only they could have fixed the textures in the backgrounds, everything would have looked awesome.
Journey to Jaburo's other saving grace is the animation clips straight from the TV series. This is by far the best thing about the game - both Gundam fans and newbies alike can enjoy the tons of cool clips from the show and other Gundam movies that are scattered throughout.
But again, there's a slight problem here. A good amount of these videos are actually just advertisements for the many Gundam home videos and other games! After watching just a few of these shameless (albeit neat) mini-movies, you can't help but get the feeling there's some subliminal message egging you to buy more Gundam stuff. Before you know it, there will be ads for the new Gundam DVD on the backs of the RX! I think I need some aspirin.
Once again, Gundam gamers are left with the wrong end of the beam saber. More bad control, less game and more advertisements turn Journey to Jaburo into yet another disappointment.