['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column by Ollie Barder which covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This week's column covers the effect of the animated series Ideon on the future of gaming.]

ideon_waveleader1.jpgIt's safe to say that ninjas are suitably potent. In the aeon old conflict with their natural adversaries, the eyepatch wearing pirates, ninjas have a distinct advantage due to their ability to channel real ultimate power. However, much like with mecha, you have two sides to ultimate power; real and super.

To commemorate my final entry into the Roboto-chan pantheon, I feel it necessary to cover the arbiter of super ultimate power and its effect on gaming as a whole. For those who are concerned about my imminent departure, fear ye not! Similar to the super robot shows from the 70's, I have sourced a plucky replacement with hot blooded fists of justice. He will pilot the column with equal skill and insight (think Hot Rod rather Ultra Magnus in terms of competence). Naturally, as of the column's next edition he shall light our darkest hour.

Anyway, on with my final contribution to the column...

ideon_full1.jpgShortly after Tomino helmed the original Gundam series, he ventured into somewhat uncharted territory. It's safe to say that he had, and still has, a certain disdain for super robots. He originally directed the first Raideen, only to leave half way through due to a disenchantment with the whole super robot ethos. Gundam was realistic reaction to that.

Gundam was a turning point for mecha but that wasn't enough for Tomino. Instead, he merged the newly formed real robot genre with a force of epically super proportions. The series was called Ideon and its influence can still be felt quarter of a century later.

For all intents and purposes, Ideon was a real robot show. It had a very clearly defined set of physical rules. Machines took damage, people died. It was very much a continuation of what Gundam started. With one major difference; the eponymous mecha Ideon was very much a super robot.

Admittedly, it's super qualities were hidden from view to begin with. The gattai and henkei sequences weren't crazy and the Ideon did take damage. However, the Ideon was the arbiter of a terrifying source of power and over the course of the story it became clear that this power was equitable to that of a God.

The Ideon had multiple weapons, one of which were a pair of beam swords that emanated from the hands. They had various levels of strength but the one that people remember is that of their ability to cut a planet in half. What's more, the swords were one of the weaker weapons at the Ideon's disposal. The simply dreadful Wave Leader Cannon could destroy sections of a galactic arm quite easily. The Ideon wasn't your normal super.

What made series so special was the contrast between the realistic stance of the show's background and the deified nature of the Ideon itself. It grounded the truly horrifying omnipotence of the signature mecha and amplified the sense that you were in the grasp of something that was considerably larger than meagre the confines of the television.

Despite all of Ideon's incredibly destructive weapons, it's final act in the film Be Invoked, which brought the narrative to a distinctive close, was to essentially re-boot the universe. You can't really top that.

ideon_alpha3_1.jpgWhich brings me onto Ideon's significance in terms of gaming. If we approach a game as a rule set with an objective, how do you impart a functional allegory of Ideon's awesome magnifence? Naturally, many have tried and obviously fallen short.

Two Super Robot Wars games attempted the feat of mapping Ideon to a game. The first, F Final on the Saturn, approached its power with a deferred reverance. It was incredibly difficult to unlock the power of Ide without either losing all of your units or seeing the destruction of the Ideon itself. Like in the anime, the Ideon responds to the destruction of its allies or if it sustains substantial damage. So getting the unfettered wrath of the mecha at your disposable was a Herculean task (only exacerbated by the stringent tactics required on the part of the player).

The second attempt was more recent, Alpha 3 offered the Ideon but instead took another approach; give the player as much power as possible. Utilising the Ideon's menu of weapons was a fairly simple affair compared to that of F Final, stringent tactics weren't present for starters and gaining access to the Ide required far fewer of your allies to dive onto their swords.

Still, neither game really encapsulated the sense of potency. Considering that both games offered an insane map based attack, it still can't really approach the annihilation of the universe.

This brings me onto my final point; mecha games are the attempted embodiment of the anime that inspired their existence. When something like Ideon exists as a conceptual benchmark, how do you approach that in design terms? Can it even be really done?

Personally, I'm glad that impossible inspiration such as this exists. It forces games creators to chase after an elusive and difficult objective, something that has defined the mecha genre of gaming throughout the years and one I hope will continue to do so for many more to come.

[Ollie Barder is a freelance journalist who's written for The Guardian, appeared on BBC Radio 4 and contributed to Japanese mecha artbooks. He lives at home with an ever growing collection of Japanese die-cast robot toys and a very understanding wife.]