Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo Review
If history has taught us anything a big licensed anime game will never go over good in the US for one reason; the developer is too fixated on making the license look good, meanwhile completely forgetting about good, or even average, gameplay. There are two prime examples that stand out among the crappiest anime based videogames: Dragon Ball: Final Bout GT, Gundam Side Story (Dreamcast), Gundam: Battle Assault, and Gundam: The Battle Master. -Final Bout GT aside-, one must wonder why doesn't Bandai just give up and concentrate on something else, or if they prefer not to, at least develop a better Gundam game. With their PS2 Gundam title, all is the same as it was before: slow, tedious, and boring. What a coincidence huh? I mean who would've expected Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo to be such a bad game? I mean the first three were quite awful. Enough of the sarcasm, because by now Bandai needs to see that their efforts are not being appreciated. Such is the case with Mobile Suit Gundam. Bandai's first Playstation 2 game has already became possibly one of the worst, which just goes to show you a big name license won't work unless you take care of it and give it gameplay that will remain true to the anime.
Mobile Suit Gundam looks very dated; this isn't even a Dreamcast quality title. It seems like something that hasn't quite finished its cycle. The texture work is easily the worst in any Playstation 2 game. Everything is extremely low-res, the backgrounds flicker, and worst of all the ground looks like a huge pile of dog dung that your mech is walking over. Thankfully the game opens up with a promising action packed CG sequence, but after diving into the game you find the sequence to be quite contradictory. I'll explain later. Mech models are terrible as well; they don't even come close to games like Gun Griffon Blaze and Armored Core 2. These are painfully low-poly mechs that are just one step away from looking like PSX quality. Actually now that I look twice, the game looks barely better than a Playstation game. As I write this, I'm looking at Armored Core Project Phantasma and the visual different between Mobile Suit and AC are minimal. Both have block looking backgrounds objects (which is typical for a PSX game), both have low-polygon mechs, and both have almost the same texture quality. Some of you are probably going to go forth on and send me hate mail on why I suck and that Gundam is an awesome anime. Indeed it is! I like the anime, despite not being a fan; I don't hate it by any means. The problem lies with Bandai; they need to take a lot more time with their games. Aside from being a poor looking title, the frame rates are also inconsistent, and bog down to single digit numbers, which is extremely painful to look at.
You'd think the gameplay couldn't possibly be worse, right? Wrong! The gameplay is as bad as the graphics. Remember where I mentioned about the CG being contradictory to the game? The sequence shows a fast paced white mobile suit pulling off some pretty sweet moves, so as a first time visitor of the game you are led to believe that you are in for a great experience. But that's just it, you get your hopes up and *bam* your bubble is burst and you are mad. On top of the game being perhaps the most monotonous piece of software, Bandai has neglected to include a multi-player mode of any kind. Actually to justify this game being completely tedious, here's an example; I was playing one of the levels and I had accidentally left the game un-paused, to my surprise I came back and found out that the stage was completed. How, you ask? Simple, there are other characters on the battlefield, which help you out, so basically you can let the AI finish your quest for you; well in some cases. Journey to Jaburo is a slow game; the action has no rhythm and if you are looking for a mech title, check out Armored Core 2: Another Age or Gun Griffon Blaze. Just whatever you do, avert this disaster.
With lengthy anime clips throughout the game, you of course can expect to hear voice acting and lots of it. The voices are very excellent during the anime clips, and play out exactly like the anime it self. But they hit a downfall with the on battle voices. During a battle you will hear commanding voices transmitted into your mobile suit. While there's nothing wrong with the quality of speech, I believe the game suffers from some kind of bug that makes the speaker repeat a phrase nearly 15 times, and it happens quite frequently. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but whatever it is, it sure is annoying. The music is actually straight out of the anime, so I guess that's a plus. Overall the sound is probably the only thing the game's got going for it.
You thought the gameplay and graphics were bad? You haven't seen anything yet. The controls are quite possibly the worst game controls ever. Not only does the game have no analog support, but on top of that the controls are un-responsive to the worst extent. Making quick moves is an impossibility, and when you are going face to face with another mech, only luck can help you win the match, especially if you run out of long-range attacks. Everything screams out clumsiness and the controls are terrible. I have no idea what Bandai was thinking when they did this, but apparently it wasn't much. I don't know what else to say except I'm really speechless. This game is just that incredibly bad.
You know what's sadder then this game? Is that five years from now, when PS3 talk will begin surfacing, Mobile Suit Gundam will be such a rare find that copies will go for hundreds of dollars on auction sites such as eBay, and Dragon Ball Final Bout GT is a perfect example. It's hard to recommend this game to fans of the series, but chances are you all probably bought or will buy the game despite what I say, so here's a word from the wise to the casual gamer: stay the hell away from this game. I think the score grid really speaks for it self, and I have made my point clearly.
9/1/2001 Arnold Katayev