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Gundam Series Reviews Part 1

After all the talk between Austin and Vinny about Gundams, I decided it was time to dive head first into this fandom and watch basically every single Gundam related product that I could. I was curious how someone today would feel about the franchise and its various entries coming in completely cold. After researching a bit how to go about doing this, I decided that I would work my way through the series based on when it was released, starting with the earliest. This way I wouldn't have to worry about not picking up on references to past entries, which it seems like this franchise quite enjoys doing. Up till this point I have made it through Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket. I have skipped Gundam ZZ because it was hard for me to actually find a way to watch it, and because it is supposedly very bad. Anyways on with my thoughts on the first few franchise entries!


Mobile Suit Gundam 0079: 5/10 gundams

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The series that started it all. I found it interesting to learn that this show initially did horrible ratings wise, leading to it being cancelled part way through and ending up with less episodes then the creators had expected. Here we follow Amuro, a sort of bratty child as he gets shoved into participating in The One Year War against the wonderfully German Principality of Zeon. He's joined by a cute but kind of obnoxious spherical robot, a nagging female friend Fraw Bow who claims to care about Amuro yet consistently questions his manhood when he is unwilling to continue being a CHILD SOLIDER, The 'new to leadership' Captain Bright who really enjoys hitting people, and a myriad of other crew members that make up the White Base. These characters are all decently interesting and most get at least a couple of episodes to really flesh themselves out.

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But the real stars of the show are actually the villains. Characters like Ramba Ral, all of the Zabi clan except for Gihren, and obviously Char Aznable himself all seem to be far more complex characters, and help to make the show more than your standard Saturday morning cartoon(anime). There were times I really was rooting for Zeon, simply because they had the more interesting and more fleshed out characters.

But now, why did I give the series that started that sweet Gundam magic such a middling score? Well for starters this series definitely suffers with age. The animation is quite poor, and battle scenes are sometimes legitimately hard to even follow what's going on because of this. The music was OK at setting mood, but often repetitive and nothing that stood out as really helping to get out the emotions of the characters. This series also suffers from horrible pacing issues. Things start out well enough, with just enough time for it be believable how these civilians got caught up in the war without making things too slow/boring. But then there are like literally twenty episodes before anything resembling a "main plot" really starts moving again. You have some interesting stuff with Char and Garma but that's pretty much it. The ending has the opposite problem, likely a result of the series having to end before being ready, leading to important characters like Lalah feeling like she barely had an impact.

I also had some serious problems with the whole AMURO YOU NEED TO MAN UP AND FIGHT LIKE A GOOD CHILD SOLIDER, this didn't seem like it was played to make us think about how this was a complete tragedy, instead it was played as this is what a good citizen (and man) does is rises to the occasion. That might just be a "it's nearly forty years since then and our views as a society on this issue may have changed" thing though.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: 6/10 Gundams and 10/10 Quattro Bajeenas

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Here we move from a sometimes obnoxious protagonist to an extremely obnoxious protagonist. Where as Amuro for better or worse felt like he had legitimate growing up time in the original series, (especially evident when he reappears in this series), Kamille feels like he never gets that. He spends the entire series up until the last ten episodes doing whatever he wants and being pretty whiny, and then in the last ten episodes he just suddenly becomes mature apropos of nothing. This is made worse when other characters start acting like how he did early in the series, and it seems like there's no self reflection for Kamille as a character, instead he chides their behavior even though he was doing the same thing a dozen episodes ago. Suffice to say I'm not a huge Kamille fan.

Now I've heard lots of people say this is their favorite Gundam or say that it's one of the best and honestly I am baffled by that. there are parts of this show that seem truly abysmal. The trick of "Oh No! I love someone but I'm their my enemy!" is done multiple times in this series and is always done poorly. You never get the time you need to see a true attachment form to make this trick effective. (For a great and heartbreaking example of this may I now point you towards 0080 War in the Pocket). Scirocco is kind of a poor antagonist who was almost cool, I think they just needed to lean more towards either super intelligent manipulator or 'this dude's got mind control abilities', but teetering between the two was ineffective. Also once again, kids get slapped around SO MUCH.

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Yet at the same time this show has some great moments and great characters. Almost all of the old White Base characters coming back in some way and seeing how time has changed them is really excellent, (you got to love Quattro Bajeena AKA Char Aznable wears some sunglasses). His relationship with Haman and her inclusion as a political entity is so good but also so underutilized, she should have been introduced way earlier. Scenes with Char, Haman, and/or Mineva Zabi were all fantastic. New mobile suits were all very cool. Animation is significantly approved and battles are more interesting to watch now.

Compared to the original series which was sort of constantly hovering right between "OK" and "Good", Zeta has moments that are all the way in "Totally Terrible" and others that are way up in "Gundam Great". I wanted to like this one more than I did.

Char's Counterattack: 3/10 Gundams and 0/10 Quattro Bajeenas

I'll try to make this one short. YES FINALLY THE EPIC CONCLUSION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHAR AND AMURO. Wait, what, we get very little explanation as to the change from Char in Zeta to now? Wait they hardly get any screen time at all? Who's the main character?

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In a series with often not great female characters (So far((Emma was good))) Quess really takes the Gundam cake. She just kind of whines and flirts with everyone. Doesn't really have any goal except getting laid? It really befuddles me why we needed this character at all, why couldn't we just have Amuro as our protaginist? If they did it just to have more of the "oh no! I'm fighting someone I love!" thing again then once again they completely failed.

Also we spend no time at all mourning the deaths of Char and Amuro (the film just ends), but we do spend time mourning some character that no one could possibly care about? That all seemed weird. Anyways the final scene of the movie is the only one really worth watching and even then it's a pretty disappointing conclusion. Animation looked good though! So you know. There's that.

0080 War in the Pocket: 9/10 Gundams and 10/10 tears

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Just when I was losing hope, thinking "man this franchise is not all that. Sure it's ok, but this must be mostly nostalgia for most people" Then I watched War in the Pocket. I'm pretty sure I remember Austin saying this and Unicorn were his favorites, and boy was he at least right about this one. Finally a Gundam that is antiwar without also on the side glorifying it. Finally a show that gets the "people we love on different sides of the war" thing right. Already I have arrived at a deconstruction of the entire Gundam franchise and I've only just started.

Al is the right way to do a child in war protagonist. Yes he's immature and does things throughout the show that make me want to scream, but with him it comes across as genuine childlike behavior. I think this is due in part to the excellent dynamic between him and Bernie, who compliment each other so well and yet have so many similarities. The show makes use of action so sparingly that anytime it's happening it feels like it means so much more, rather than the "battle every episode" formula of some of the earlier series. The pacing is completely on point and feels just right at six episodes.

And the ending. OH GOD THE ENDING. Every part of it made me want to cry. I feel like this series achieved everything Zeta wanted to in six episodes. Where Zeta ends up nearly killing all of its cast to be the "dark mature robot show", War in the Pocket shows that its not about quantity but quality. I'm still thinking about this shows ending days later, it had such an impact on me.

It has some neat ties to earlier shows which is nice, and I like the perspective it provides to some events in the original series. The animation is fine. The music is a little weird, though I kind of dug it. Though sometimes the music doesn't seem to fit the mood of the moment. The simple musical theme is really good though.

So many great moments. I cannot recommend this show enough, whether you are a Gundam fan or not.

That's all for now! I'd be interested to know some other people's experiences with these series! Try not to spoil future series for me though! See you sometime in the future with part 2, which will contain reviews for Stardust Memory, F91, Victory Gundam, and G Gundam.


Inspiration and Video Games

So I'm going to warn all of you right now, I'm writing this immediately after experiencing this, so my emotions may still be biasing how I write this.

All this month in college I'm taking a "J-term" class for the theatre department that's all about taking a book and adapting it to a play. I've done theatre all my life and I've really been enjoying the class. However today as it's the last day of the week, we had a special guest come to our class, a play-write. Now he's not the most famous in the world but he's published a few things and is an alumni of my college. He started by answering a bunch of our questions about how he got into a theatre and his process, etc. As he talked I really liked the guy and agreed with him on just about everything he was saying.

That is until he started to talk about inspiration. He was telling us about how he gets inspiration and what some of the best ways we can get inspired are. He ends this by going on a short unexpected rant. He says "And guys, make sure you put down the video games and all that nonsense, it only distracts you from the creative process." He ends it by making the joke "I mean come on, it's not like anybody ever got inspired by Halo 4". To this, some people laughed, others looked angry, and the rest indifferent.

I just sat there thinking to myself "You're wrong", "you are so wrong". I wanted to interrupt him and tell him the list of games that have inspired me throughout my short lifetime, all sorts of games and stories I'm sure he never bothered to listen about because they were "dumb games". I realize that this ignorance to games has been around for a long time now, and the argument of "are games art?" is long played out. But still I was sitting there seething, and yet I said nothing. I just let him continue on thinking something that I knew was wrong.

In my mind interactive media is will be the most important medium in the coming years. The idea of interacting with something instead of just having it play out in front of you creates a whole different kind of experience. I would have assumed that as someone in the theatre he would have understood this. In theatre you are always interacting with the piece, which allows the actors and the designers and the directors to become a very piece of the art. In my mind it is the same with games, and this creates all new avenue for inspiration. What would inspire a child learning about Egyptian history more: Reading about it as a piece of history, or being able to virtually pretend they are a part of that society, playing a peasant worker, merchant, slave master, all the way up to the Pharaoh himself. I certainly know which one I would pick. There are already so many innovative new ways people are using interactive media, surely even adults must be recognizing the importance.

And yet I sit here still angry. Why? What am I angry about? Is it that there are still hundreds of thousands of ignorant people who think that this medium is still nothing but a child's toy? Or is that even though I could list off ten games right now that prove this man wrong, I remain silent out of some social pressure or fear? I honestly do not know. What I do know is that this is not the first time something like this has happened to me. I don't know, I'm just... angry.

I suppose if anyone is has read all this and wants to make me feel any better, leave a comment saying a game that you think is inspirational and how it inspired you. I'm so tired of this. I just want to move past this.


Becoming a Let's player

Let me start by saying this blog is not meant to be a guide for people to follow to become a let's player, I mereley wanted to share my first few experiences.

A little more then a week ago, I made the decision. I was going to be a let's player for PC games. I had watched countless let's plays before and decided that I wanted to make one of my own. With my love of both video games and acting, I thought that this would be great fun to do. For those of you that don't know, a let's play is sort of similar to the endurance run's here at GB except generally it is done with one player. They play a game and make (usually humorous) comments along the way.

Well my journey began with trying to find the right equipment to use. A great place to go to for information on this sort of this is Voltron Army, a website essentially dedicated to let's plays. From there I learned I would need a recording device, a mic, and an encoding/editing device. For the recording device, I played around for a long time trying to find something good I could use that was free. The free ones were by no means bad, simply each had something I didn't like about them. They may have left a watermark on the videos, or not allow for audio. In the end I wound up buying the standard, FRAPS, as it was the best choice overall. Next I headed over to best buy and found a pretty nice headset and mic that is a little simialr to an Xbox live mic, but of much higher quality. Finally for Encoding I decided to buy the AVS video converter as again it was far superior to anything that was free. In the end, the total cost ended up being something along the lines of $100. Putting out quality video isn't cheap.

Next I needed a format to post my videos so I created a new username on youtube called JTtheletsplayer. Creative I know. With this ready to go I decided to test out everything and made a 12 minuite video from Oblivion in which I just messed around with this Argonian. It was great fun to produce. Afterwords I posted this on youtube and then on the Voltron Army Forums so that it could get a little traffic. This video can be found here:

Immediatley after this I began my first true let's play. I wanted to do a game I knew I would enjoy, so I chose Dragon Age Origins. I cranked out a couple videos of that first and pretty quickly got three subscribers who all gave good feedback. My mic was a little to loud in the first six videos. After that though I was able to correct the mistake and the volume is much better. They also told me it would be a good idea to put the video into widescreen form so the screen could be larger. All these were great positive feedback.

And there's the thing. It feels so great every time someone posts a single comment. I'm not even sure why, maybe it's because I'm new. But everytime someone posts a comment on my videos, even if it's criticism, I smile. I now appreciate just how hard it is to be a new let's player, or youtuber in general.

I will continue to upload videos in this series as I'm already up to episode 10 and post about one or two videos a day. If you would like to join in on the series (which I would love) and provide any feedback you can, you can find me at Thanks for reading :)


My one BIG problem with Catherine

         So let me start this off by saying that I liked Catherine.  I would probably give it 4 stars if I was reviewing it, and would reccomend it to anyone who was interested in either the block puzzles or the crazy story.  However I do have a fairly large problem with the game.  No, its not the puzzles (which I actually found myself enjoying more and more as the game went on).  No, its not the story, which while not Atlus's best is still interesting and has plenty of crazy twists.  Instead my problem is with the two main female characters, Katherine and Catherine.  Let me explain  
         Basically as I'm sure most who are reading this already know, Catherine's a story about the main character Vincents infidelity and affair with a strange girl named Catherine.  As the story plays out over the course of the week, you will basically fall into 3 parts of every day.  The first part will be the cutscenes where the story mostly unravels (and basically the only time you ever get to see the two girls, more on that later) the second part is where vincent is at the bar talking to his friends and the side characters and replying to texts.  The third and final part is the nightmare section where you will do the block puzzles and answer (sometimes) tough moral questions.  Now as the story goes on you have to start making a choice where you either be chaotic about life and have an affair with Catherine or be lawful about life and stay with your girlfriend Katherine.  But herein lies my problem.  I've played the game twice now (once the good lovers, and second the true affair ending), neither time did I once care about either of the characters Katherine or Catherine.  Why?  Because they are almost NEVER developed as characters! 
        The only time you ever see Katherine or Catherine is durring the initial cutscenes, except for a couple of times you can see Catherine after everyone else goes home.  And even then the only real conversation that takes place is Catherine flirting and Vincent being akward.  Anyways so durring these cutscenes every day you never once have a real conversation with either of them.  All of the cutscenes with Catherine mostly consist of her waking up next to Vincent and kind of flirting with him, and vincent saying that he doesn't remember anything and that he shouldn't have done this.  Katherine who's been your girlfriend for five years, only has scenes in which she is asking if something is wrong with vince, or trying to pressure him into marriage.  So basically both serve to further Vincents personal delema, which is good, but never develop them as characters.  Essentially the two of them are plot points, used to move the story along. 
       Let me use a different game made by atlus as an example of when the did this right, a game I'm sure most of GB is familiar with.  Persona 4.  Now in this game you can "date" any of the four female characters.  As you social link with them, their own personal story develops and you begin to care for them.  Would you have ever cared about Chie if you didn't know she loves steak and can kick a tank?  And Rise is a fairly good character to relate to Catherine.  Both are flirty and attractive, but thats the full description for Catherine.  Rise is later developed into a character dealing with stardom and begins to have multiple personality issues, which makes her interesting.  These are characters develped over time, which makes you care about them. 
      And the thing is, is that its not like they didn't have character development in the game.  Vincent depending on how you play him can really develop as a charcter and can become a totally different person from what he started.  Vincents friends are all developed with there varying personalities and own personal problems.  Even the sheep you repeatedly meet in your dreams become characters that have there own issues, and you soon care about them!  I mean I thought Erica was a more intersting girl then either of the two female leads!  I wish there was ending where you could have an affair with her!  If steps had been taken to have REAL conversations with either of the girls, then the game as a whole could have been 10 times better in my opinion. 
      Let me reiterate that I LIKED Catherine.  It was my most anticipated game of the summer, and is probably still gonna be my favorite.  I just feel like... this was a little rushed so they didn't  have time to put in as much as they should.  But what are your thoughts and feelings on this?

Too much combat

       This is my first blog so I appologize if its a little shaky however this is something that I've been wanting to talk about for quite some time.  The next time you go to a gaming store, play a little game that I played recently.  Go left to right through the games and see how many games you can get in a row that have no combat in it.  My record is two.  Now don't get the wrong idea, I have no problem with combat in games.  In fact many times its the most enjoyable part of a game.  Some genere's fit it perfectly, a fighter like Mortal Combat or any one of the numerous FPS are based pretty much solely around combat.  This is not problem. 
        My problem is that there is so few games that don't have combat in it.  Now if you get rid of any party games and focus primarily on single player games, there's almost no games that exclude combat.  Even a platformer like Mario has enemies that you must find a way to either destroy or get around.  Now I understand why this is the case, after all the point of any story as that there must be a conflict and the easiest way in an interactive setting to do that is to have an enemy that you must in some way destroy.  In most RPG's you must first fight hundereds of animals and minions so that you can one day be strong enough to face your final foe.  Again I must reiterate that Its not that I don't want these games, its that I want more variety in HOW I can solve a problem. 
         Lets take a vauguely recent game: Fallout: New Vegas.  Now this is a game that continued in fallout tradition to make your character the way you wanted, and to pick your own strenghts and weaknesses.  You could put points into guns, melee, sneaking, medicine, speech, and more.  One of the coolest parts of this game for me was SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS when after I sided with the NCR I could (if I had high enough speech) essentially talk down the last boss of the game, ending in there surrender and you never having to fight him.  That was so cool to me, because it was so different.  The bad part of this game for me is that you can't ignore some form of combat training, because eventually you WILL have to fight to move the plot forward, and to me that takes out half the point of having that system in the first place.  I've never played the original deus ex but I believe in that game you can pretty much avoid combat the whole game if I choose to? (please correct me if I'm wrong) 
        So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I want games to be able to apporach situations in ways other then just combat.  And don't get me wrong I know some games already do so, it's just that after years upon years of beating enemies with a swoard and a gun, I wish for more unique ways to solve conflicts.