Ogresuit Gundam: It’s Coming

I’ve actually found someone interested in playtesting this. Later this month or next (depending on how the posting schedule pans out; more on this later), I’ll have some basic rules ups with everything needed to mess around with some mobile suit battles. It will include stats for Zakus, Doms, Gundams, Guncannons, Guntanks and rules for MS vs MS and MS vs non-MS combat resolution.  If things work out in playtesting, I’ll be expanding the number of mobile suits I will be writing stats for (adding Goufs, GMs, Groundtype Gundams, and Gelgoogs), and also try to include some rules for handling landships (for those wanting to recreate the battle between Ramba Ral and the White Base, maybe even including some scenario recommendations), basically making Ogre a 3 rather than 2 tiered game.

Space ships may be more of an issue, because for some weird reason (probably related to pressure or something) space battleships in the Gundam universe are WAY more fragile than landships.  But still, I’m stoked that one person interested in this project has said they have a copy of Holy War to try out space battles with.

I probably won’t write up a formal ruleset for the conversion, but will certainly have enough written up that players can adapt it as they see fit, eventually compiling my notes into a single post or document.  I know I’m kinda half-assed on my game design follow through (I’m going to finish Broadswords & Battlefields one day!), but something playable is already written up and you WILL see it soon!

I’m mostly writing this post because I want to share this awesome UC Hardgraph art.

Ogresuit gundam

Huge Things Coming Soon

I’m about 2000 words into a post in which I expand on my ideas for Ogre-Suit Gundam.  It includes sample stats for 2 Zeon and 3 Federation Mobile Suits as well as a few suggestions on how to adapt Ogre’s engine to accommodate battles with giant robots.  Now, I need to finish the second half in which I propose how the SPI engine could be adapted for operations level war gaming.

As such, my Fortress Europa post is being bumped to next week.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. Military Sci-Fi at its Finest!

I’m a pretty big fan of Universal Century Mobile Suit Gundam stuff. For the longest time, though, I’d put off reading Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, in no small part because of the outrageous price ($30-ish, 3 times the normal price of most manga) of the hard-bound, partially colored, full gloss collections. Plus, I sort of assumed it to JUST be a retelling of Mobile Suit Gundam. In a way I was right, but in so many ways I was TOTALLY WRONG!

Awhile back I snagged the first four volumes from the library, and they are AMAZING!

The Origin is done entirely by the original series character designer, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, and he uses the opportunity to tell a far more mature and compelling version of the One Year War. Though the story and themes are primarily the same, Yasuhiko strips away the cartoonish trappings of the 1979 series, taking it even further than Tomino did* with the compilation movies in which he’d sought to remove a lot of the sillier elements. Some might cry foul, but Yasuhiko succeeds in polishing off the last of the super robot elements which Gundam was so important for having begun to erode. What we’re left with is an incredibly gripping hardcore military sci-fi story that just happens to involve giant robots. Minor characters get more time to make the White Base crew seem more filled out and less understaffed. Additional Guntanks and Guncannons in its mobile suit arsenal makes the White Base feel a lot more like a functional combat unit than just Amuro and two mooks who sometimes get assists. This also means that we lose a lot more characters that we meet; with the exception of Job John (a VERY minor named character from the original series who did survive) I fully expect all of the other named Federation Mobile Suit pilots on White Base to die. While this could’ve taken away from Ryu’s big-heroic-sacrifice death, it ends up making it more meaningful as he’s the senior most pilot who, already severely injured, has to come to the aid of other pilots, some of whom were already kia.

The biggest change to the story, however, is that Yasuhiko opted not to use the batshit crazy semi-canonical route that White Base followed from its landing in North America to the Earth Federation HQ in Brazil. Instead he manages to fit the entire original earth arc narrative into a far more sensible direct route.

The White Base’s Journey to Jaburo in Mobile Suit GundamJourney to Jaburo Anime1. The White Base lands deep in Zeon Territory, somewhere in the American Southwest, later proposed to be near the Grand Canyon. Attacked by Garma’s North American Zeon forces.

2. Somehow, the White Base ends up the ruins of New York, fighting Char & the NA Zeons. Garma killed in battle.

3. The White Base’s Quantum journey to Asia.

4. The homogeneous wasteland geography makes the first part of the Ramba Ral arc difficult to place, but it’s generally assumed to be mainland China near the Taklamakan Desert.

5. Isle of Kukurus Doan; while this episode was not nearly as terrible as people have said it was (Time Be Still was much worse), it does make fuck-all sense having White Base back in the Pacific at this point, at least based on the episode’s production number. If placed before the Ramba Ral arc, it would resolve the quantum journey issue.

6. Battles explicitly set in or near the Taklamakan Desert (retroactive continuity), though easily could have taken place across Afghanistan and Persia on the White Base’s trek toward Europe.

7. The Odessa Offensive is one of the few places (along with the battle of New York, the refit in Belfast and Jaburo being in the Amazon basin somewhere in Brazil) that has an explicit tie to a real world location. It is, however, a large regional operation.  White Base’s exact location in all of this is unclear other than that they are behind enemy lines and in an arid region somewhere near the Black Sea.

8. The White Base encounters the Black Tri-Star somewhere in the forests of central Europe. This is held to either take place in the Ardennes or the Black Forest in Germany.

9. Following the Odessa Offensive, the White Base is given refit in Belfast, Ireland.

10. The White Base crosses the Atlantic Ocean, pursued by Zeon marines led by Char.

11. White Base finally arrives at Earth Federation Supreme HQ Jaburo in Brazil. After the Zeon’s all out assault on Jaburo is repulsed, the White Base returns to space, where it is involved in combat operations near Side 6, and Space Fortresses Solomon and A Baoa Qu.

The White Base’s Journey to Jaburo in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin

Journey to Jaburo Manga

1. White Base lands explicitly in the American Southwest in Arizona and spend some time following the Colorado River Valley. They fight Garma’s North American Zeon forces, though the geography is much more concrete.

2. Since one of the few things that was explicit about the location of Garma’s HQ in the original was that it was based in California, North American Zeon Command is placed in partially ruined L.A.; Zeon leadership staff occupy the hoity-toity parts while partisans hide in the ruins. The White Base receives orders to coordinate with the partisans in an effort to break Zeon’s North American command structure. Hence the Battle of New York is moved to L.A. The results are more or less the same, however instead of a brief arc about Icelina wanting revenge, we get to see the Zeon military police put a bullet in her father’s head.  (He was changed from mayor of New York to mayor of L.A.; he’s still a supporter of the anti-Zeon partisans).

3. Rather than take a crazy route circumnavigating the globe to get to Earth Federation HQ, White Base heads directly toward South America, fighting their way towards…

4. Neutral space in Lima Peru. The Ramba Ral arc is moved to the South American highlands, though some may have also taken place in the Mexican desert. It should be noted that in this telling, Lima essentially replaces Belfast, moving up White Base’s refit to before the Tri-Star arc. The Miharu subplot is replaced with Hayato beating the hell out of some Zeons in the street with his Judo skills (which are more relevant in the manga than they were in the Anime).

5. The battle with the Black Tri-Star is moved to near Cuzco. White Base therefore does not take part in the Odessa Offensive for geographic reasons; M’Quve is demoted from his arc-villain status and replaced with rather enjoyable new character General Garcia.

6. White Base arrives at Jaburo in time to assist in the defense of Federation HQ against an all out assault launched by General Garcia. He tries to use an Adzam underground and it goes about as well as you’d expect.

As you can see, the route taken in The Origin is significantly shorter and, despite losing/moving the iconic fights at Odessa and the forests of Germany, makes a hell of a lot more sense.

I cannot recommend Mobile Suite Gundam: The Origin enough.  Even for non-anime fans of Mil-SF.  I mean, I love MSG, but I will admit that there are so many cringe inducing moments as well as slow spots and bad episodes that keep me from making an unreserved recommendation to someone who doesn’t already like Gundam or giant robots.  That is not the case with The Origin, however.  There’s really nothing I would qualify my recommendation for this with.  If you like Mil-SF, you will at least appreciate if not love this retelling of the most significant military sci-fi tales of the 20th century.

Anyway, it’s inspired me to revisit my ideas for OGRE-suit Gundam…  Coming soon…

*:Another reason why I was hesitant was that I was worried it might be like Tomino’s novelizations, which were pretty terrible.

Z – Zeta Gundam (but not actually)

Born in Shadow suggested that I make Zeta Gundam my post for Z. The problem is, there’s nothing I could say that Born in Shadow hasn’t already said better.

Except for a warning to those who want to check it out. Don’t get the US DVD release: it’s got a garbage translation, it doesn’t have Neil Sedaka’s awesome theme music, and the names, which had been fairly standard in the fan community and in video games for 20 years, get all mucked up. They couldn’t get the original US dub VAs back, either, but whether or not that’s a bad thing is debatable. Also, despite this being the best Giant Robot Anime Ever Made in the history of forever and there will never be another Giant Robot Anime to ever come close to being as awesome as Zeta Gundam (with maybe the exception of Gurren Lagann), you should be warned that it ends on a cliff-hanger, with the story picked up right where it was left off by its sequel ZZ Gundam, which was absolutely terrible. “Surely it can’t be that bad, I mean, it’s the sequel to Zeta Gundam!” You’re wrong. Whatever is the worst you can imagine, it’s worse. The characters who didn’t die in Zeta Gundam get relegated to second class comic relief characters, and the characters who did die get replaced by a team of Power Rangers. The first major villain pilots a garbage mech made of garbage. It only goes downhill from there.

If you can accept the catharsis of an open ending and are content to deduce the events occuring between Zeta Gundam and Char’s Counter Attack for yourself (it’s not hard) you will be much better off.  Don’t let ZZ being terrible discourage you!

Anyway, my real A-to-Z post for “Z” will be up later today!

P – Paptimus Scirocco & the PMX-003 “The O”

There were several villains at the head of several factions in Zeta Gundam, but one of the most impressive was the dashing Paptimus Scirocco. While the Jupiter Fleet was a relatively small faction during the Gryps War and the conflict for supremacy over the Earthsphere and Space, they had a number of huge advantages which made them a deciding factor in the outcome of the various arcs that came together at the end of Zeta.

"Ladies, have I mentioned I will let you use my experimental prototype mobile armors?"

“Ladies, have I mentioned I will let you use my experimental prototype mobile armors?”

The Jupiter Fleet had been absent, on their mission to mine Jupiter gas, during the One Year War. They arrived back in Earth orbit at a time in which their strength would be sufficient to act as “kingmaker” among the battered warring factions. Scirocco uses this to pull a major coup and and become the defacto head of the Titans. Most importantly, Scirocco was a brilliant mech designer who developed ultra-high-powered custom Mobile Suits optimized for use in Jupiter’s gravity well. Needless to say, these mech are big and fast and monstrous. The PMX-000 Messala, the PMX-001 Pallas Athena, and the PMX-002 Bolinoak Sammahn were all forces to be reckoned with, but were eventually handed down to the various female pilots Scirocco had seduced to his cause. Why? Because he had The O.

"Why Hello There!"

“Why Hello There!”

The O was big and bulky looking, but the thing was fast, tough, and fought like a damn Asura with its quad beam sabres.

The O had a fusion reactor with 1840 kW output, 1.57G max thrust, 4 0.39 MW beam sabers, and a 2.6 MW rapid recharge beam rifle. It was equipped with an advanced psychommu bio-feedback control system.

Spoiler: even though the hero is able to beat this thing, it manages to fry his brain and turn him into an invalid in the process.

G – Gundam

There were a lot of things I could have gone with today for G, but I just had to go with Gundam. Despite all of its flaws, warts and blemishes, I’m a huge fan of Mobile Suit Gundam and the Universal Century setting.

Gundam was one of the first entries into the ‘real robot’ sub-genre of Giant Robots. This meant that rather than being made of magic and unicorns, the robots were basically giant multipurpose humanoid tanks used for construction and warfare. Of course much of the animation in the earliest series still reflected that of super robot shows (fully flexible joints, full human range of movement) because that’s what animators of the day had to draw on. The later UC OVAs tend to reflect the ‘real robot’ aspect of the mechs more accurately; these are big cumbersome machines that clod along while carrying giant machine guns and battleship grade beam cannons. In fact, the biggest mechanical advantages the original RX-78-2 Gundam had over the Zeon mainstay mechs were significantly thicker armor that could resist the Zaku’s 120mm machine gun shots and carried a beam rifle with the output equivalent to a small battle cruiser.

A good show is always defined by its villains. During the One Year War, we’re given the Principality(sometimes Duchy) of Zeon, a bizarre pastiche of outerspace Jewish Nazis. The Jewish aspect and its political connotations is often shoved under the rug. Prior to the standardization of the proper names, Zeon was more often than not Romanized as “Zion”. It’s not pronounced Zion the way that your typical American rube might pronounce it, but it is pronounced the way you’d pronounce it in Hebrew. So you have a space Zionist movement of space colonists who have declared an independent homeland for Spacenoids and screw everyone else. In Zum City, the capital, the Zabi family palace is fronted by two grand columns depicting the Iron Cross and the Rising Sun. So, wow. Zionist Space Nazis.

Yep, looks pretty Nazi to me!

Yep, looks pretty Nazi to me!

Much like the Nazis of WWII, Zeon’s major downfall was a combination of squibbling between generals that reflected the Wehrmacht, SS and Luftwaffe’s inability to effectively coordinate with one another and the expenditure of resources on flashy military prototypes rather than maximize the efficacy of mass production units. And they’re also bad dudes who aren’t afraid to commit some pretty heinous atrocities in the name of independence. Which again is why more recent releases of the older series have attempted to put distance between the series and the original connotations of Zion.*

This kinda got away from me here… Oh, right, real robots.

One  significance of Gundam, as opposed to a lot of other giant robot shows, was that ultimately the Hero’s actions contributed only in minor ways over the course of a fairly large war. White Base was almost never involved in any significant strategic operations throughout the One Year War until the Federation was already pressing its advantage in space against a retreating Zeon. The Gundam served as a distraction for Zeon to send its ace pilots and/or politically dissident commanders to chase after and keep them out of various intrigues.

There are a LOT of games out there that cover events in the One Year War. And a LOT of them are pretty bad, though all of them are lovely little snowflakes that hold special places in my heart. The best description I’ve ever read of Journey to Jaburo (or any game, really) was that it was like “pushing a Tiger II through the Ardennes with a toothpick”. One of the games that gets some pretty unfair slag, because it was Nintendo Hard, was Zeonic Front. Of all of the games I’ve played, though, nothing has better captured the feel of the Real Robot genre than Zeonic Front. I’ve heard it described as Rainbow 6 with Robots, but not having played Rainbow 6, I really couldn’t say. Though to be clunking along towards checkpoint Bravo only to be shot and blown to hell by that tank hiding behind a cluster of trees because you were looking for bigger threats with radar rather than checking infrared heat signatures? That’s the kind of giant robot stuff I’m talking about, and even in frustrating death, I feel strangely satisfied. Also: I wonder if I’m the only person who noticed that the one black pilot is the only guy who gets stuck piloting a Zaku I for the entire war?

*: It should be noted that no real or perceived antisemitism in Mobile Suit Gundam would prevent Neil Sedaka from composing the awesome opening songs for the much-better-than-the-first sequel, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam.