Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo
It's been fifty years since Earth's population began living in orbiting space colonies and, while this move to alleviate the ballooning population has been a success, some unforeseen side effects have occurred. As these colonies traveled farther and farther from Earth, some started developing their own societies and identities. One of the more powerful colonial groups called Side Three actually seceded from the Earth Federation and launched an independence war.
After only one month of fighting, both sides lost over half of their populations and people became horrified at the carnage and loss of life. It's been over eight months now and there is a virtual stalemate as each side is licking their wounds and trying to turn the tide on this gruesome war.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo is a mech simulator based on the Gundam TV series. Throughout this game, you'll see original dialogue, as the cut-scenes are actual Japanese animation, letting you battle with the legendary Gundam RX-78-2. What this game does deliver is a solid storyline that closely follows the Gundam TV series. Unfortunately, there are also certain parts of the game that fall plenty short of spectacular and even become down right frustrating.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Once the game is started, you'll see the intro and have your first glance at the benefits of games using DVDs. Instead of a seeing a skit that was quickly thrown together with poor graphics, now actual movie footage can be used creating a more inclusive gaming experience. One thing that will excite fans of the TV series is how clips from the show are used during the cut-scenes and intro. This helps create an exciting plot, giving greater significance to the battle you'll be fighting and more background to the story.
So now you've watched the intro, next and for every mission following, you'll see a clip that reveals more of the story and then get a quick briefing on your mission. This is where you can check out your allies and select the weapons for the Gundam. Once your Gundam is armed and you're primed for battle, you will begin the first mission... and the frustration.
After starting your first mission, you'll immediately notice is how awkward the Gundam is to control -- it seems incredibly stiff and is maddening to maneuver. The thing is poorly done and just doesn't react in a manner that is fluid. When trying to describe exactly what the problem is, it breaks down into several issues. For instance, movement is done using the directional pad, which seems innocent enough at first, but if you attempt to consistently move at an angle, you'll see the problem. It requires you to hit two pads at the same time, which is much more cumbersome than using the analog stick and less accurate. Both analog sticks, however, already have a function as they control the camera position and view and generally become useless when you're trying to battle other units. Another issue that quickly becomes notable is attempting to engage an enemy. Here, you'll enjoy spending most of your effort working to position the Gundam where it will hopefully cause some damage. This, again, quickly becomes irritating especially when using the light saber, as it requires better placement then the guns. I wish I could stop there, but speaking of guns, you'd better not attempt to fire it without a lock, as aiming it is impossible. When you do have a lock however, make sure your enemy is stationary because when a target is locked and fired upon, it won't account for the enemies velocity and you'll miss every time.
If you can get past the directional pad as the only way to move and the analog sticks only being used for the camera angles, the rest of the controls function acceptably. By double tapping the directional pad one way, the Gundam's boosters will propel you in that direction, the select button changes from running to walking, the square button attacks, the circle guards, triangle switches weapons, and the x is the thruster.
With all the issues regarding the controls, you would hope the interface would make up some of the difference and help improve the general gameplay. Unfortunately, the story there is similar to the controls only not as severe. What you'll find is a general interface that is fairly useful. There is a compass at the top, an altimeter on the left side along with a thruster gauge to show when your thrusters have been on too long. At the bottom, there is a radar that functions well, helping to locate enemies and allies, and a life meter showing how much damage the Gundam has taken. In addition, the lower right corner shows information about what weapons are available and how much ammo is left along with how much damage your allies have taken.
So what's the problem? Well, for one, there is also a communication window in the upper left screen that is supposed to help during a battle by giving relevant information and guidance. The main issue here is hearing and understanding it is extremely difficult, and trying to grasp what is being said in the middle of a battle can become an exercise in futility. They needed to make the voice clearer or remove the function completely. Another issue is during battling, as there is no way to know how much damage your enemy has taken. This becomes problematic when you've already taken some damage and are preparing to engage an enemy. Is he close to being destroyed where a quick direct attack will take him out or should you use artillery from a distance and weaken him that way?
Overall, what you have is generally poor gameplay but the great storyline does create a desire to see what happens next. It even counters some of the gameplay issues and keeps the game from being a huge failure. Although this is almost always a negative point, since the missions are extremely easy and you can't increase the difficulty, you'll find getting to the next cut-scene generally trouble-free as that's where this game shines anyway.
If you need eye-popping graphics to keep your attention, you may be disappointed as this is a far cry from some of the newer games to be released for the PlayStation 2. Although they are slightly better than average, what you'll find are some decent effects and some that could have been significantly better. For instance, when a Gundam is destroyed, there is a massive explosion that is impressive, but when a building is destroyed, it basically falls straight to the ground like an elevator moving from one floor to the next. There could also have been more detail in inanimate objects like bridges and building but on the flip side, when something blows up, the smoke and dust look fairly accurate. When looking at the graphics as a whole, it seems they focused in on some areas and neglected others.
Beside the person who attempts to communicate with you during battle, the audio holds its own. You'll hear whistling of bombs dropping from planes, the heavy footsteps of the Gundam, guns firing, and various other sound effects that help immerse in the game.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo is an instance where the publisher is trying to sell a license more than a solid game. The surprising thing is they did a decent job and, if you are a fan of the series, you will probably enjoy this game and overlook the gaping holes in gameplay. If, however, this is your first introduction to the Gundam series and a solid game is more your goal, you'll find the gameplay frustrating and the average graphics and sound disappointing.