Generally speaking, it’s not often that licensed video games are seen as deserving critical scrutiny in their own right. Why should they be? If they’re not already the object of nostalgic fervor, then it’s easy to dismiss them as the failed products of much larger forces like merchandising and transmedia strategies which are themselves worthy of serious critical analysis. And at first glance, SD Gundam: Operation U.C. seems to fit that bill. Released on the WonderSwan Color in late 2002 (right around the time Gundam SEED first started airing), the Gundam franchise had already seen nine television series, eighteen movies, countless games, OVAs, and every other form of merchandising. This isn’t even considering the bevy of fan produced material since the series’ 1979 inception. In light of all this information (along with the first half of the game’s title being SD Gundam), Operation U.C. looks more like a minor embodiment of the success the Gundam franchise had garnered by this point than it does an artistic endeavor in its own right.
The Mega Man series has always held an ambivalent stance when it comes to social issues. I’m not saying the games cover these issues poorly, or that their views aren’t worth defending. In fact, that’s been one of the series’ strengths, whether you see it in the original’s positive view on a technological future or the X games’ commentary on political extremism. Their weaknesses lie in how little the games openly emphasize those views. Maybe it’s because they pursue other desires relating to the sci-fi genre, or maybe it’s because, being flagship platformers from a fairly large video game developer, those games never had a desire to cover these issues in the first place. Whatever the reason may be, I’d be interested in seeing a Mega Man game that looks at these issues in greater depth.
Note: the avoid confusion, Rockman and Forte refers to the game I’m reviewing, where Mega Man and Bass refer to the characters the player controls in it.
Last week, I wrote about Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, an unfocused game without any conflict or direction. So it’s eerie that I find myself writing about Rockman & Forte: Mirai kara no Chousensha, the mechanical equivalent of Re:coded. Just like that game’s trivial story, Rockman & Forte is a hollow recreation of the better games to precede it. Its world is barren and devoid of life, and while the game has the power to change, it never seems to realize that it does.
When I think of arcades, the first image that comes to mind is games designed to suck quarters out of player pockets. Most games did this by focusing on challenge above all else: the idea was that by making play sessions shorter (and thus worth less money), players would be willing to spend more money to play. While these games also had to be enjoyable (why else would anyone play them?), joy wasn’t as important in the face of challenge.
Dicing Knight Period is a very intelligent game. Now I don’t mean that in the sense that the game has some profound, overlooked narrative to dig into, or an intricate set of mechanics to play around with. In fact, it’s nothing more than a humble action game released toward the end of the WonderSwan’s life cycle.