Monday, May 5, 2014

Classic Anime Mecha Go to War in Mobile Suit Gundam: MS Front 0079 Video Game




I still haven't invested in a new gaming console yet, but that hasn't kept me from enjoying the console I already have--the Nintendo Wii--by picking up exclusives that were released outside of the U.S. Today's post is my review of Mobile Suit Gundam: MS Front 0079, a title that was released only in Japan by Namco Bandai back in 2007.

As non-U.S. releases go, I was able to purchase MS Front for a decent price on eBay. It wasn’t prohibitively expensive like other foreign Wii titles such as Zangeki no Reginleiv or Ikenie no Yoru, so I decided to see what it was like. Even though I only have a passing familiarity with the expansive Gundam franchise, that didn't keep me from enjoying this game for hours on end. MS Front is one of the best games I've played about mecha (i.e., giant robots with human pilots); it's like opening a toy box full of big 'bots with which to play. Read on for my complete review.

Of course, getting a Japanese Wii game like MS Front to play on a North American Wii console requires some planning and patience. I downloaded the region-free Gecko OS application from the Homebrew Channel so that I could play the game without encountering region-specific coding problems. Since it was a Japan-exclusive release, MS Front only has a Japanese audio track and most of its instructions are in Japanese. Since I have no fluency in the spoken or written Japanese language, I had to do some trial-and-error exploration in order to figure out how to advance in the game and access certain features. (Hint: If a level ends prematurely because something blows up, that was the thing you were supposed to defend.) Fortunately, the controls are extremely intuitive, some of the menu features are in English, and the overall layout of the game is similar to most armed combat-oriented games, so it didn't take me long to get my money's worth out of MS Front.

(It also helped that I was able to find some useful cheat codes on Geckocodes.org to compensate for my inability to understand Japanese. Be careful, though: While the codes that give you infinite ammo and prevent your mecha from overheating are great to have, the hit point (HP) cheats have the unintentional side effect of making certain enemy vehicles invincible. Oops.)




The story campaign in MS Front follows the events in the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime series from 1979, albeit with a new set of characters created exclusively for the game. You play the campaign from both sides of the conflict--the Earth Federation Forces (EFF) and the Principality of Zeon--so you'll assume the controls of mecha from both armies throughout the course of the game. The further you advance in the story campaign, the more mecha and weapons types you unlock. Missions vary in their objectives, from attack to defense to search and rescue, and they take place in a wide selection of environments (e.g., a forest, a desert, an underground base, etc.).

You'll go in to many of the story missions with two computer-controlled squad members. You can select which mecha and weapons types you and your allies can bring into battle, although your choices are limited to the amount of points you can use to "buy" mecha and weapons for a particular mission. During the course of battle, you can switch your squad's formations between defensive and offensive configurations. You also have the option of going into story missions without one of both of the squad members if you choose to do so.




Each combat mission plays like a first-person shooter, and MS Front expertly utilizes Wii's motion controls to enhance the experience. The Wiimote aims and fires projectile weapons and controls the melee weapon, and the nunchuck controls the mecha's movements. Most of the enemy mecha drop their weapons when they are defeated, so you can pick them up and use them whenever your projectile weapon runs out of ammo. Some missions also include a supplies crate that will replenish your ammo and repair your mecha's damage; however, how much you use the supplies crate will subtract from your mission performance score, so you have to think strategically within the mission to minimize mecha damage and utilize enemy weapons in order to get the best score possible.

After you finish the story campaign, MS Front still has plenty more to offer. If you want to complete missions with the help of another player, you can select the Combination mode. You can engage in one-on-one mecha combat against another player or the computer in the Versus mode, and you can see how long you last against an onslaught of enemy mecha in the Survival mode. If you want more missions outside of the story campaign, you can select the Ace Pilot mode, which provides a sampling of key characters from across the Gundam franchise (in other words, Gundam's 'ace' pilots). When you select a character, you will play a series of missions that are modeled after that particular character's story within the Gundam universe. As with the story campaign, the Ace Pilot option features characters and mecha from both the EFF and Zeon.




To be sure, the missions in MS Front are simple in their objectives and the environments are basic in detail. Some of the environments have destructible elements such as buildings and trees, but they look bland in comparison to the more intricate environments in other video games. Nevertheless, wherever MS Front falls short in graphics and mission complexity, it more than makes up for it in smooth game play mechanics and an overabundance of character, mecha and weapon variety. Even if you aren't a Gundam fan but still enjoy other mecha-based titles such as Robotech and Pacific Rim, MS Front is a must-play title. In fact, it's practically criminal that such a great game wasn't released outside of Japan.

If you love mecha anime and own a Wii or Wii U, then Mobile Suit Gundam: MS Front 0079 is something you should add to your game library. Even if you cannot understand a single word of Japanese, don't let that intimidate you--MS Front is easy to use in its menu arrangements and control options, so don't let the language limitations hinder your 'bot bashing fun. Click here to see the complete list of Gundam characters and mecha that appear in MS Front.





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