I LOVE the Sega Dreamcast. It's one of my favorite consoles. It's got a brilliant design, supremely comfortable controller, support for VGA output, and the underdog sales performance to which I'm so attracted. In the past couple months, thanks to Colin, I've also grown to love Gundam. I'm still dipping my toes into the franchise - I've only seen the old movie trilogy about the One Year War - but I'm hooked, man. So when I saw that Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes was on the Dreamcast? Oh, yes please!
Folks had told me that Rise from the Ashes was a game perfectly tailored to the Dreamcast controller, so I was eager to try it. So many games make poor use of the Dreamcast's controller, so I was curious to see this supposedly specifically tailored utilization. The game, at its core, is a mobile suit simulation action game where you pilot a mobile suit from a first person perspective in the cockpit. At first, the controls felt extremely awkward - you use the D pad to move and the control stick to turn the mobile suit's head - but after a couple missions when I started to get a feel for it, it really does work perfectly with the Dreamcast's controller. The head movement never quit feeling a bit awkward for me, but I also didn't really use that function outside of the scoped zoom (with which you can only move the mobile suit's head, not the suit itself).
The game, despite the controls specifically designed for the Dreamast's controller, does feel rather sluggish in a lot of ways. You can dash in a certain direction by double tapping the D pad, but you can't shoot while dashing, and when not dashing, movement feels pretty slow. Given that you're piloting a gigantic robot, though, that makes a certain amount of sense (although the agility with which Amuro pilots Gundam makes me with for that kind of speed in the game). The game's story is okay, but it's not nearly as exciting or interesting as the actual anime. You play as White Dingo, a Federation mobile suit squad fighting Zeon in Australia. The characters are likable enough, but they're not particularly memorable in my opinion. You foil some Zeon plot and drive them from Australia with a few little hints here and there to the amazing exploits of Amuro and the White Base crew dropped on occasion in incidental dialogue.
The game looks and plays fantastic. The models for the actual people look really rough and rudimentary, but you don't see actual humans particularly often, and the mobile suit models and animations look fantastic. For a game from 1999, it really looks superb. The audio isn't much to write home about - the music is so-so, and the voice acting is pretty sub-par - but in additional to the visuals, the game has some rock solid gameplay to help balance that out. It's got a very arcade feel all the way down to the "Continue?" screen with the 10 second countdown when you get a game over. It's also a pretty short game - while this excludes cutscenes, retries, and loading times, my recorded game time to complete the nine levels was about an hour and fifteen minutes, and even with retries and cut scenes and such, I'd say it probably took me no more than three or four hours, making it the perfect length game for random replays when the mood strikes.
Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes is not a game with a great narrative or cast of voice actors (although there are a couple of exceptions to that), but it is a game is great visuals and truly exceptional simulation gameplay. This is about as close as I've seen to the feel of actually piloting a mobile suit short of the Xbox's gigantic Steel Battalion controller. The controls will feel awkward and alien at first, but once you put in enough time to figure them out, they feel fantastic, my only complaint being the somewhat awkward use of the control stick to move just the mobile suit's head. If you have a Dreamcast, this is a game worth owning, and if you're a Gundam fan, this is a game you MUST own.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.