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Game of the Week-Points for Presentation

Hello all! Last week’s game was an insane driving game that should not have worked—but it did, awesomely.

Today brings us to a licensed game; something I don’t do too often because most of them kind of suck. Is this Gundam game an exception? Well...

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo is an oldie, having hit the PS2 back in 2001. Following the original, inaugural Mobile Suit Gundam anime series, Journey to Jaburo takes place in Universal Century 0079 and casts you as Amuro Ray, pilot of the RX-78 Gundam Mobile Suit (giant robot, essentially), as he fights in the One Year War on the side of the Earth Federation against the Principality of Zeon and their ace Mobile Suit pilot, Char Aznable, who’s nicknamed “The Red Comet,” and...

Ahem. That summary best describes actually playing this game; see, I’m a big Gundam fan, with the original series, to me, taking a very close second to Gundam Wing (see my old username above). The best part about playing Journey to Jaburo is how closely it follows the source material. That’s the worst part about it too; it doesn’t communicate its story well to those unfamiliar with the vast majority of the story bits I shared one paragraph ago. Those of you who are fans, though...we’ll get to that in a bit.

Journey plays...ok. It was clunky then and it’s clunky now. Maybe that’s intentional, to a point, because you’re controlling giant robots, and they’re not supposed to be acrobats. Nevertheless, it’s stiff to control, like most games from 2001.

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You’ve got jump-jets, though!

It’s a standard third-person-shooter indicative of its era; generally, you lock on to things and shoot. Occasionally, you’ll have to mix things up by getting in close with your Beam Sword. Aside from your usual Beam Rifle, you’ve got head mounted machine guns that are hilariously ineffective, and there’s rudimentary ally management. From a pure gameplay standpoint, there’s not a huge amount of content, but there’s enough to get by, especially when you count the extra missions you unlock after the main camapaign. These missions let you play as enemy mobile suits and help pad the game’s overall length.

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I mentioned earlier how this game’s quality would differ for fans of Gundam. Average-to-kinda-fun game that it is, it’s the presentation that sells it. Journey is filled with animated cutscenes from the original series; in fact, they’re newly animated, and they look a bit sharper than the original series. There’s a good amount of scenes, and they bookend the chapters (missions) of the game. And they’re voiced by the English voice actors of the series, which was airing on Cartoon Network at the time of this game’s North American release.

There’s a surprising amount of chatter during missions as well, which helps flesh out the characters and story a bit—though, as I mentioned, it’s still pretty thin if you’re not familiar with it already. And the music throughout the game is lifted from the anime series as well.

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The game’s models still look good—they’re supposed to look that simple, though.

Journey to Jaburo got me thinking about how a game’s presentation can elevate it to greater heights. Taken by itself, Journey is a thoroughly average game (side note: why is it so difficult to make a great anime-based game?), but it’s presented lovingly, and dripping with fan service (the good kind). This particular game might be almost exclusively for Gundam fans, but it doesn’t feel quite as...lazy as other games based on licenses. For those who are into Gundam, at least, here’s a game that lets you live through the series, which is all we wanna do when playing a game based on an anime, really.

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And it’s because of that presentation, because of that devotion to the source material, that a game like Journey to Jaburo can become something more than the sum of its parts. Which is not to say that Journey is the best thing in the world—it’s not. But it’s memorable because it’s presented well. A common statement is “gameplay is all that matters.” It isn’t, though; gameplay might be the most important thing, in the end, but it’s not the only thing in your game. A game is a complete package, and it’s not really fair to judge something like Journey to Jaburo on its less-than-stellar gameplay alone, when the presentation of the game—the cutscenes, music, voice acting—all contribute to make it one of the best Gundam games out there. Which, sadly for the franchise, still isn’t saying much, but hell, I’ll take it.

Thanks for reading my stuff! Leave comments and suggest games to cover! Tweet at me! And find more of my stuff (and the stuff of more talented people) at Current Digital (like my very late review of Undertale)

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Next week-I’ve realized I own a bizarrely large amount of Tom Clancy games, so I’ll write about one of them. This one stars Richter from Total Recall.

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