Otaku Obsession: Gundam Side Story 0079 - Rise from the Ashes DC review

Originally posted to MAHQ.net on 7/11/06

For this edition of the column, I decided to go retro by covering an overlooked gem from the Dreamcast era: the 2000 game Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes. While most of the Gundam games released in the U.S. have been arcade action or fighting games, Rise was a tactical action game from a cockpit point of view. Like many other Gundam games, Rise was set during the One Year War. Instead of playing as Amuro Ray, you're Master Pierce Rayer, commander of the Federation's White Dingo mobile suit team in Australia. As fans of the anime know, Australia was ravaged by the Zeon colony drop during Operation British. Despite the damage caused to the continent nation, Zeon forces have occupied it to harvest its natural resources. The story picks up in November UC 0079, just as the Federation is beginning mass deployment of its mobile suits.

After an opening movie that summarizes the war up to now, you'll be taken to the Battle Information Control (BIC) system screen. Here you'll receive a mission briefing from your commander, as well as calls from your teammates that provide plot and character development. The BIC screen has several other options, including the Garage, where you'll choose your (and your teammates') mobile suits and armaments. At the start of the game, you can only choose the plain old RGM-79 GM or MSV's RGC-80 GM Cannon. Later, you'll be able to choose 0080's RX-77D Guncannon MP Type and RGM-79SP GM Sniper II. Your weapons are pretty standard issue: a machine gun or rocket launcher, vulcan guns, grenades and several shields (along with the occasional beam rifle). Once you're ready, it's off to the front lines with you. As previously mentioned, the game's perspective is within the cockpit, rather than the usual third-person view for Gundam games. As a mobile suit simulator, your controls will handle differently. The mobile suits move slowly, but you can dash and jump briefly with thrusters. You also have a BIC in-game, which gives you a map of the field. You can issue orders to your two wingmen or the Hover Truck. This will be very important as you scout areas and take on enemy forces.

Across the game's nine missions, you will have various mission objectives, ranging from search and destroy to search and rescue. Throughout all these missions, you'll have to use teamwork and some thinking to survive. In some missions, your actions will effect later parts of the game. Specifically: mission two, Alice Springs. During the course of the mission, you'll encounter a train. If you destroy it, you'll discover it was carrying a stolen Burstliner beam cannon from MS-X. What happens if you don't destroy it? In the game's final mission at the Hughenden HLV base, you'll face the Rhinoceros mobile armor. If you didn't destroy the train, the Rhinoceros will be equipped with the Burstliner. Some missions provide nods to the anime. In mission seven, you'll attack the Torrington Base (seen in Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory) to prevent Zeon forces from gaining access to the base's nuclear arsenal. Additionally, an HLV that escapes during the last mission is revealed to be the one that Anavel Gato uses to escape to space in 0083. Throughout the game, you'll also hear bits about Ashtaroth, a biological weapon that can destroy Earth's plant life.

Graphically, the game looks good for its time. In Japan, the game was released in 1999, so seven years later many of the graphics look blocky and lack detail. There's also a lot of fog, but it adds to the atmosphere because you never know what will jump out and attack you. Some of the environments look a bit bland, but it's to be expected since most of your missions are in the Australian Outback or ruined cities. Sound wise, the game has a decent soundtrack (some of which is later recycled for the U.S. version of Gundam SEED: Never Ending Tomorrow). The game is full of standard Gundam sound effects, which adds to the authenticity of the game. Mobile suit steps, machine gun fire and targeting sensors all sound as you'd expect. As far as the dialogue, the game features an excellent dub from the Animaze studio. You'll hear fan favorites David Lucas/Steven Jay Blum (Spike Spiegel), Wendee Lee (Faye Valentine) and Sparky Thornton (Anavel Gato). Their work also adds to the anime atmosphere, especially since all three of them have worked in Gundam dubs.

So how do all these elements add up? Very well, actually. Many Gundam games have reputations for being mediocre, but Rise goes far beyond that. By combining an interesting plot with a classic setting and innovative gameplay, it's an experience that can be enjoyed by fans and non-fans alike. If there's one thing I didn't like about this game, it's the length. At just nine missions (some of which are quite short), the game ends just when you're really getting into it. An extra four or five missions would've really made the length acceptable. Unfortunately, this game has been relegated to the used bins at game stores due to an awkward, poorly conceived release. When the game was released in early 2000, Gundam Wing had just started airing on Cartoon Network. There was considerable buzz about a Gundam game on the new Sega Dreamcast. Recent Gundam converts, however, were disappointed by what they saw. This game was set in the Universal Century and not the more familiar After Colony. On top of that, you never even control a Gundam in the game. Ideally, it would've been best to release the game in 2001 alongside the original series. However, the Dreamcast was already dead by then, so we're lucky the game was even released in the first place. If you want some classic OYW action in a mobile suit simulator, Rise is the game for you.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars