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Zeon: 1, Me: 0
by Evan Miller on Sat Mar 22, 2008 3:21 am
It's a good thing I'm a translator, because I would make a terrible Gundam pilot. I'm sure that if I ever got my hands on a giant robot, about 30 seconds would pass before I managed to step on someone's house or accidentally launch a missile at a passing car.

How do I know this? Because on Thursday, for the first time in my life, I tried piloting a Gundam. Well, not really, but if you go to any of the major game centers in Japan, you'll see what I mean.

The game is called "Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield" (Kidō Senshi Gundam - Senjō no Kizuna), and it can be found in most of the big video game centers in Japan's urban centers. The game requires a little dedication on your part to get to the fun stuff. Players have to buy a game card for 300 yen from a separate kiosk before playing. The card essentially serves as your "pilot's license" and also records all your player data. This kiosk is also where you decide if you'll be a Federation pilot or a Zeon pilot, what your onscreen name will be, and so forth.

After that, you head to the actual game machine to play your game. The machine itself is a giant pod that looks a lot like the Tilt-a-Whirl time machine from Explorers. This is also where you pay the game's hefty price tag: 500 yen for two games. Once you pay up, you slip into the seat, take a hold of the two control sticks, and you're ready to go. The psuedo-IMAX screen takes you through a bunch of options related to what kind of weapons you want to use, what kind of bells and whistles you want your robot to have, and before you know it, you're having a "meeting" with a bunch of faceless Gundam pilots that look like they need some strong coffee. Look at those battle-weary faces!

Since I was a first-time player, I really didn't have a choice with my robot's stuff. I had a basic gun, a sword, and the will to kick some Zeon ass. Before I knew it, I was taking to the battlefield, a huge court area with a bunch of buildings you can jump onto. The two joysticks operate the movement of your robot in a way that's very similar to how you move around in Katamari Damacy: you can go back, rotate, slide from side to side, and move the sticks in opposite directions to turn around. There's also a headset and mic you can use to talk to the players in other pods, but since I was at the arcade very early in the morning, I had no one to chat with (or taunt).

The battle did not go so well; I quickly found myself in the crossfire. Fortunately, the game also has two foot pedals that allow you to jump and get a speed boost (for a limited time), so I was able to jump on top of a building and avoid getting completely destroyed. If you do find yourself under fire, you can also use your sword to slash your opponent, which instantly knocks them down. Considering I was a much better swordsman than a marksman, I soon found myself rushing the enemy and attempting to lob off their head.

As you can see, the game rewarded me with a ranking appropriate for someone who thinks it is a good idea to run towards powerful robots that are using your robotic shell for target practice.

I'm not that depressed that I don't have a bright future in the field of mecha piloting, but oh well. Despite my wounded pride, there are scads of fanboys and fangirls out there who will make excellent Gundam pilots, and one day, their help could save our planet. In the meantime, if you have 800 yen and the urge to give it a shot, you can join them at your favorite Japanese game center.
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