['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column by a mysterious individual who goes by the moniker of Kurokishi. The column covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This edition covers yet another Gundam tie-in but one that excels with its controls in a similar manner to that of the latest Metroid.]

sensen_cover1.jpgAfter the hellish release of Gundam Target in Sight, gamers (outside of Japan) still perceive Gundam tie-in games to be something wholly evil; a mechanical plague of functional mediocrity if you will. This ill-conceived point of view was covered in a previous column by my forbearer Ollie Barder, showing that there are a number of excellent Gundam games available.

Gundam MS Sensen 0079 was released for the Nintendo Wii and it has very quickly earned its place amongst the more accomplished Gundam games. Developed by Team White Dingo (who were also responsible for the Blue Destiny trilogy on the Saturn, Rise from the Ashes on the Dreamcast and Lost War Chronicles on the PlayStation 2) Sensen 0079 uses their signature first person approach to mobile suit control and like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the use of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk is superlative.

More after the jump...

A claustrophobic cockpit...

gundam_dc1.jpgTeam White Dingo’s previous Gundam games were covered in passing in a previous column but the interesting thing about their approach to emulating the experience of controlling a mobile suit is that they focus solely on what it must be like for a pilot sat in a claustrophobic cockpit. Both the Blue Destiny trilogy and Rise from the Ashes were very faithful to the design work featured in the host anime.

You had large girders surrounding your screens and that made you feel as though you were encased inside a large machine, rather than just looking at a TV. They dropped this in Lost War Chronicles and just offered a straight-laced full screen first person view and this is the same approach Sensen 0079 takes. Most probably because the original implementation was too effective in making you feel helplessly trapped when combat kicked off.

Gaiden Gundam

rgm-79-cockpit.jpgLike their previous games, the main campaign mode has you work as a grunt on the frontlines in underpowered hardware. This is always a more interesting approach because it allows more leeway for the developers and consequently the player when they actually get to choose how they approach a mission.

One of the trickier aspects of recreating the events of the original shows is that you’re tied into the events that occur. Thankfully, the game separates this out into an Ace Pilot mode which allows you to play as famous characters from the One Year War era, encompassing shows like the first TV series, 0080, 08th MS Team as well as cameos from the Blue Destiny characters.

Comparisons to Corruption are only really valid in terms of how you control your mobile suit. You point at the screen with the Wii Remote and lock-on to targets which you can then orbit. Similar to the Free Aim option in Corruption, Sensen 0079 offers identical functionality that allows you to lead your fire depending on how your target moves.

That is where the comparison ends, however - Corruption is a game based around a persistent environment which you have to explore and solve puzzles within. Sensen 0079, on the other hand, is much more action orientated and is based around distinct missions in fixed environments that you have to wipe clean with an array of weapons, both ranged and melee.

Again, unlike Corruption, you also have a large selection of mobile suits to choose from all with disparate functionality, rather than a singular protagonist with a very standardised ability set. Not that I mean to criticise Metroid, but where Corruption is resolutely an adventure game, Sensen 0079 earns its S Rank in regards to the "shooter" in FPS.

FPS = First Person...Swords?!?

sensen0079_1.jpgConsidering the dearth of FPS titles in the Wii's library and those scant few that do hold a candle to that genre are more often than not similar to stapling your head to your shoulder and encasing your elbow in concrete. On the whole, as a gaming experience, they fall a fair bit short.

Sensen 0079, despite its basic mission framework, is incredibly competent when it comes to speeding through the jungle and sniping highly nimble enemies with very potent beam weaponry. The difference here though is that once you're within range, melee combat becomes available. Melee combat that's gesture controlled via the Wii Remote.

sensen0079_2.jpgWeapons can be swiped horizontally and vertically, they can be used as a means of blocking enemy melee attacks if your unsheathe your weapon in time. Naturally, during a block you can also turn the tide by pushing back your opponent to the point you unleash several powerful swipes, which are normally able to kill most other mobile suits outright.

In regards to sniping, true to the original series mobile suits come equipped with a sniper scope. Unlike speeding through the air and relying on a keen eye and a steady hand in order to down enemies, the scope allows you to zoom in on targets from a great distance away but at the expense of remaining stationary. Accuracy is key though, because you are more than able to pick off limbs leaving your enemy aware of your location and able to close the distance (sans a limb or two). Ideally you want incapacitate an enemy by removing its primary ranged weapon, which it normally carries though there are some mobile suits that pack shoulder mounted artillery as standard. This is where squad tactics comes in.

Mobile Suit Minions

sensen0079_4.jpgFirst person cockpit views maybe Team White Dingo's signature approach to Gundam games but their true calling is their ability to give you wingmen that obey your commands. So, whilst sniping would leaving you naked in other FPS, here you have two plucky comrades that can be deployed in various positions around you. This means even if an limbless and decidedly irritable enemy bears down on you, they'll have to deal with your buddies first.

Compared to Rise from the Ashes, this ability to command your troops is pretty limited. Instead of specifying routes and the distance at which they engage the enemy or even guard you, they literally only offer basic preset positional options.

In all fairness though, the pacing in Sensen 0079 is far quicker and setting up complex routes through enemy territory for your fearless wingmen would detract from the visceral excitement of multiple high speed enemies striking poses as they tear you a new one.

Encounters in Retail Space

This is a worthwhile point to make, Sensen 0079 is not an easy game. It's not an unfair game mind you but there are many instances where you will have a tough time just surviving (this is especially true on the Ace Pilot mode as well, though that's probably more to be expected). That being said their older games weren't exactly a walk over either and certain spin-off gaming progeny, such as Zeonic Front, were actually fascistically difficult.

The controls do make a huge difference though and actually help you to realise that when you die it was actually your fault for being a gung-ho moron than anything the game did wrong (something Target in Sight suffered from due to its framerate woes, in that you couldn't see certain shots fired until they hit and killed you).

At present there aren't any plans to release this game outside of Japan, which is a shame considering that Bandai go out of their way to publish the rubbish Gundam games in the West (why they do this is beyond me). With any luck a modicum of sense will prevail and we'll get to see this game a bit more locally and that would only be a good thing.

[Kurokishi is a humble servant of the Drake forces and his interests include crushing inferior opponents, combing his mane of long silvery hair and dicking around with cheap voice synthesisers. When he's not raining down tyrannical firepower upon unsuspecting peasants in his Galava aura fighter he likes to take long moonlight walks and read books about cheese.]