You may have guessed by the fact that I’m trying to find and collect all of the PlayStation and PS2 Gundam games that I’m a really big fan of the franchise. From the original Gundam anime to each of the “sequel” series, the manga and even the soundtracks, I’m addicted to them all. But, I’m also a huge fan of RPG style games that offer more than just “go out and fight” (like games such as a Gundam: Federation vs Zeon tasks you with). That’s why, when I heard about a Japanese only Gameboy Advance Gundam game that adds in a few RPG elements, choices and plotlines, I was really excited to try it out.
Gundam SEED Advance, also known as Gundam SEED: Tomo to Kimi to Koko de (roughly translating to “Friends of the Battlefield” or “Together, Here With You”) seemed to offer a far more engrossing and immersive Gundam experience than other games related to the franchise. However, the fact that it was on the GBA did make me worry about how much depth could really be put into the game. So today, we’re going to take a look at it!
As Gundam SEED: Tomo to Kimi to Koko de is based upon the Gundam SEED anime specifically, the storyline itself was already laid out for the developers. Therefore, they had a good start to hit the ground running. However, they could have just left it at that, including the storyline as it was in the show and not adding anything else. I mean, that would have still been awesome, because the story for the show is amazing (bar a few potholes here and there)… But they didn’t.
Instead, they added in various additional little scenes that play out depending on your choices and where you go within the Archangel ship. Each of these scenes build upon those characters, giving you an even better understanding of how they are and how they see the world. Of course, being that the game was only released in Japan, you’ll need to either be able to read Japanese or find a translation patch or the script online.
The story plays out through dialogue scenes with scrolling text, akin to older RPGs like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. So, there’s a lot of reading involved. However, as a fan of RPG games, this was a huge plus for me, as it meant that the game could go into much more detail about the world and the people. It meant that Gundam SEED: Tomo to Kimi to Koko de had depth, rather than just being another action shooter.
There are also rather amusing scenes thrown in, with a good amount of comedy. For example, when you are tasked with searching the ship for some items, depending on your choices you end up finding some personal effects of your Commanding Officer…
The developers have managed to squeeze all the most important parts of the Gundam SEED show into the game, split into episodes just like the show, whilst also incorporating an incredible amount of additional content.
When it comes to the gameplay of Gundam SEED Advance, it is split into two different types; Battle and Exploration. The majority of the world building and dialogue between characters happens in Exploration mode, whilst the combat (obviously) happens in Battle mode.
When in Exploration mode, you can move around the Archangel battleship and interact with the crew. This leads to “quests” of sorts, as well as just general NPC dialogue. The different choices you made during the dialogue also determines who and what you can interact with at any one given time, meaning that the replay value of the game is really high for a GameBoy Advance game.
Moving around the ship involves navigating yourself, portrayed as a red dot, to the various different sections of a map overlay. This means that it is quick and easy to move around, but also means that the developers could fit more data onto the cartridge for everything else. Had they chosen to have a fully animated, sprite-based Archangel, the amount of memory it would take up on the cartridge would mean other parts of the game would be lost. By choosing to use a basic map system, the developers allowed for the additional content I mentioned previously.
In terms of Battle mode, it is also split into two parts; the Strategy menu before the battle, and then the battle itself.
The strategy menu initially has Murrue Ramius explaining the formation of the enemy, and which directions they will attack from. Following this information, you are then able to choose which version of the Gundam’s battle pack you want equipped and, later in the game, who you want as support for the battle. This adds a huge tactical element to the game, especially as the battles get more intense further into the game.
After you’ve made your selection, you’ll find yourself outside of the Archangel, now in the battle itself.
When in battle, the game switched to a different view point, having a top down view of the map with your Mobile Suit in the middle. A radar on the bottom right shows you the nearby enemy locations, and the GUI in the top left shows your health and energy. From here, you have to fly around and get close to the enemy. Then, by pressing A you shoot out a target lock-on system which, if it connects to an enemy, allows you to then press B to attack with you currently equipped weapon (each Mobile Suit variation has two weapons, which can be cycled through).
Attacks take the form of two cutscenes; the first shows you performing the attack, whilst the second shows whether the enemy gets hit, and if they do, how much damage they take. This is also the same for when an enemy attacks you, only in reverse. These cutscenes add a huge amount to the action of the game, as without them, the basic sprites would not allow for exciting combat animations.
All in all, the gameplay is pretty basic, but extremely entertaining, making the most of the GameBoy Advance to bring one of the more unique and engaging Gundam games out there.
As with the gameplay, the graphics of Gundam SEED: Tomo to Kimi to Koko de change wildly depending on whether you are in Exploration mode or Battle mode.
When in exploration mode, the background for the dialogue are well designed, feeling like they were taken straight out of the Gundam SEED show. On top of this, because Exploration mode is so heavily dialogue focused, it means that the developers could create very high quality sprites of the characters’ faces and torsos. This only helps to add to the level of immersion that the game already holds through the gameplay.
The user interface is clean, and easy on the eye, with important information always coloured red to draw your attention to it. The menus are easy to navigate (as long as you know what they are saying) and the transition between speaking characters and rooms is near seamless.
The graphics during the battle are a bit different, though. When moving around and looking for enemies, the Mobile Suit sprites aren’t the best looking that you’ll see. However, they are defined and unique enough that you’ll still be able to tell which Mobile Suit it is that you are piloting or fighting with. The biggest positive for Gundam SEED: Tomo to Kimi to Koko de’s graphics is when you go into the attack cutscenes.
The animation of each attack is very fluid, and when a Mobile Suit gets hit, it looks like it actually hurt.
Whilst the graphics during combat navigation aren’t amazing, they are still enjoyable, and the rest of the game’s graphics more than make up for it!
And That’s All Folks
In the end, Gundam SEED: Tomo to Kimi to Koko de is probably the closest I’ll get to play a full on Gundam RPG, but you know what? If that’s true, then I’m okay with that. Gundam SEED: Tomo to Kimi to Koko de is an amazing game that really does the franchise justice. From the impeccable yet easy to pick up gameplay to the additional story elements and lovingly recreated characters and Mobile Suits, the developers did a wonderful job.
Whilst it is a shame that the game only came out in Japan, the GameBoy Advance is region free, so you’ll still be able to play it if you can get your hands on it… And, honestly, if you’re a fan of Gundam in general, let alone Gundam SEED, then you really should do yourself a favour… Go online and buy this game. It’s on eBay (here) and retro game shops that import will likely have it too. You won’t regret it! (But you might want to buy the guide book as well, to make it easier to understand everything.)