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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Will it Flail? - SD Gundam Gaiden: Lacroan Heroes

This week's Will it Flail? is yet another Game Boy game I picked up at Electronics Boutique in years past... or was it on eBay? Eh, can't catalog where I get stuff and really shouldn't try. The game is 1990's SD Gundam Gaiden: Lacroan Heroes.

I figure most people know what all that means, but just in case...

Gundam is a giant-robot anime that began in 1979 and revolutionized that genre, being the first show to treat its giant robots like mass-produced weapons(mostly) instead of invincible super-robots. "SD" stands for Super Deformed, cute little cartoony mass-produced weapons who are only 2-3 heads tall. This subline of merchandise became so popular that Bandai started making side-story (Which is what "Gaiden" means) video games based in various worlds unrelated to the core Gundam franchise, of which this is one.I think that covers it...

If you already knew all that, and "Lacroa" sounds familiar to you, that's because this game features the prototype of the world of LaCroa/Lacroix that appears in SD Gundam Force. But since there was not yet any Gundam Wing for Zero the Winged Knight to be based on, our hero is Knight Gundam, recently seen in normal proportions in Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3.

The long text crawl at the beginning doesn't tell me much, except that there's a character called "Satan Gundam" ...I think he might be the villain. Call it a hunch. Man, the music is shrill and annoying!

Menus: Hit Select to get to the main menu. Simple stuff again, luckily.
1)Items (Sub-menu: Use, Pass, Discard, Equip) Like Dragon Quest, each character has their own inventory.
3)Order (Use to rearrange your party)
5)Rest (Not sure exactly when or how to use this)

Also, pressing Start will allow you to set your battle and field message speeds.

And here's the Battle Menu:
1)Attack 2)Magic
3)Item 4) Defend
5)Run 6) Threaten

"Threaten" lets you try to get lower-level monsters to run away without fighting. Only the party leader gets the bottom row of commands. You'll also notice it does the same multiple-enemy thing that Saga and Last Bible II do. It's easy to forget with my DSiXL exactly how tiny portable system screens used to be.

System: It's pretty much Dragon Quest with SD Gundams, a standard menu-driven JRPG of the period. It does at least have a B button dash feature, which speeds things up. One thing to remember: all party members start with equipment, but do not start with it equipped. So if you're getting mashed by the least little Goblin Zaku, that's why.

Speaking of which, this is one of those extremely old-school games where you can wander off into dangerous areas very easily. Like right outside of town, where the enemies will do approximately 1000% of your max HP's worth of damage to you. (Though maybe more when you figure in the exchange rate.) Where you're supposed to go at first- once you've gotten the key from Princess Frau, which you don't get until you recruit Guncannon at the bar, which you can't do until after you've talked to Frau once -is the staircase in the middle of town. There's some items in the one room, and the next one is full of warp gates which will take you to potentially not-fatal areas. Maybe. I like that sensation sometimes, where you have to run screaming out of an area shouting "I'm not supposed to be here!" but in this one you'll just end up loading the game, because stuff will kill you dead.

It's got some other bad old-school habits too, like not automatically retargeting your attacks when an intended target is killed. And resurrection is ludicrously expensive. Unfortunately, the main charm of this game, such as it is, is rendered moot in a Flailthrough: using Gundam characters and settings to make an RPG. If you don't know any katakana (or Gundam), it's not going to matter to you that the characters like Princess Frau are named after Gundam characters, or that the strongest attack magic in the game is named Solar Ray after a superweapon used near the end of the original Gundam series. It's just an extremely punishing, extremely confusing RPG.

FAQs: One and one only, but at least it's detailed. Possibly a little too detailed, as it amounts to a move-by-move instruction for getting through the game. But like I said, this game will kill you until you die from it, so that may be for the best.
Availability: It'll run you about ten to twelve bucks on eBay. In fact, those were the choices when I checked: one for ten, one for twelve. It's not worth it.
Don't Want to Flail?: Nobody has ever bothered with a fan translation, which is kind of a shame, if an understandable one.

Overall: Only for stalwart Gundam fans with a lot of patience and a working knowledge of Japanese. In other words, probably nobody who reads this site. If you've only played domestic games and come to the conclusion that most Gundam games are crap, this will probably not prove an exception to the rule.

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