As one of the biggest and most famous sci-fi Anime franchises in Japan, it’s inevitable that Mobile Suit Gundam receive plenty of video-game adaptations seeking to cash in on its popularity.
What IS surprising though, is the number of good licensed games based off it. In fact, I dare say the quality of games based off the series is much higher than usual. As a mecha series, action games and tactical RPGs are obvious choices for game adaptations. After all the obvious choices have filled up though, someone had a brilliant idea: What if we took the Gundam universe, and made a Grand Scale Strategy game with the players controlling one of the leaders of each faction?
And thus Gihren’s Greed was born.
As a faction leader, rather than just a commander of a squadron or division, players are expected to handle more aspects than just one-off tactical battles. For example, they are expected to correctly invest resources into appropriate war technology, keep up morale of troops, set appropriate war tax on civilians while keeping them happy, control and maintain a supply line to the theater of war and so on.
As they say: “Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.”
All things considered, Gihren’s Greed (sometimes translated as Gihren’s Ambition) probably won’t be winning any points for originality: it plays very similarly to old school hex-based wargames by companies such as Avalon Hill.
(For the more mainstream audience reading this, maybe think of something like Risk instead.)
But I suppose it’s a really huge ballsy move to take a genre that generally only concerned itself with detailed simulation of real life events, that of the World Wars, and attempt to reskin it using the details of a fictional universe instead.
Where WW2 enthusiasts would salivate over the exact stats and specific minutiae of German or Allied tanks such as Panzers and the fantasy of recreating scenario such as the Battle of the Bulge, Gihren’s Greed does the same to series mecha and its depiction of the fictional “One Year War” with events such as the battle of A Baoa Qu.
I think this has surpassed some kind of geek threshold and barreled straight into super duper ultra nerdy levels of geekdom.
The original Gihren’s Greed for the Sega Saturn covers the conflict of the OYW and most of game’s mechanics are based around it. If you have no idea what it’s about, here’s an extremely quick summary:
World War 2 IN SPACE with mecha. The Earth Federation Space Force (EFSF) are the Allied Nations in this analogy, while the Principality of Zeon is Nazi Germany.
The game is named after Gundam’s main antagonist, Gihren’s Zabi, who was basically SPACE Hitler, down to the part where he gives really good speeches. A rather strange choice, but I suppose wargames have always favored the “German” faction.
What I think really defines Gihren’s Greed as a strategy game is its emphasis on the advancement of technology in war. IMO, one of the biggest factor for victory in GG is how well you handle integrating your newly developed Mechas, while slowly phrasing out obsolete units.
You can’t do it too fast, because it costs money and time and you don’t want to leave yourself too defenseless. On the other hand, if you’re still using tech from 5 generations ago, you might as well be sending your soldiers off in metal coffins. Unlike the equivalent wars in real life, conflicts in the Gundam universe go from basic planes and tanks, to powerful and yet still terrain-bound walkers, and eventually to giant flying death machines with lasers that can wipe out entire squadrons in one blow.
Much has been said about adding narrative to videogames. Most do it through use of “movie”-like techniques. But I think GG’s greatest narrative comes from how it uses technological development as a narrative tool.
Take the rather traditional Earth Federation design: The Earth Federation starts the game with only conventional planes/tanks against mechas, the result of which should be apparent to anyone who ever watched any mecha anime ever, and struggle to hold off the starting blitz.
However, once the Gundam is developed, the tables are turned. The rise of a “hero” turns the tide and leads them to victory, though the real reason for victory is probably how the EFSF maintains its pressure with a string of solid upgrades which eventually leads them to victory over the “evil” Zeon… until the sequel.
Like I said, a rather standard narrative approach for the “good guy” faction. Therefore I find the Zeon’s tech narrative to be much more fascinating.
The Zeon start the game with technological superiority, but vastly inferior resources. Their early game is a desperate push for position before the Gundam is invented. Zeon proceeds with their own research, but they never really quite catch up to the EFSF’s level, and as time goes on, the technology gap just increases over time. This leads to the questionable decision to spend resources on researching and developing “miracle weapons” that will turn the tide of the war.
The results are flashy, but impractical tools hard to utilize for practical purposes… and yet, it’s a gamble they’re forced to take because a conventional approach had become impossible by then.
It’s amazing how close the developers got to portraying what did happen to Germany’s war tech in World War II. And sort of like reading Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “Superiority” as applied to a videogame.
Unlike most Gundam themed games or Mecha in general, in Gihren’s Greed, the game asks you not to fetishize the flashy superweapon, but respect the mountains of grunts that give their lives to bring you victory.
Future games would bring other Gundam series and their scenarios in the fold and thus mechanics would be invented to simulate such developments. For example, Zeta and ZZ Gundam were added in the next game.
Whereas the OYW was a pretty simple one on one fight with 2 factions, Zeta Gundam’s scenario which ends with a 3 Faction showdown required something extra. Enter a diplomacy system, where the players have to learn how to juggle it in order to prevent a 2-pronged attack.
But fans of the classic scenario shouldn’t feel left out, because even in 2 faction-only scenarios, many “minor” factions such as civilian colonies or arms manufacturers are also subject to diplomatic efforts. For example, give enough resources to Anaheim Electronics, and they might even give you some blueprints for units that might otherwise only be available to other factions.
Gihren’s Greed has a ridiculous amount of detail put into it, utilizing rarely seen characters from sources such as licensed novels and manga. A huge portion of its appeal is the possibility of exploring “What If” scenarios.
What if Rambal Ral had gotten the upgrades that he wanted which was originally denied due to political shenanigans? What if Char and Amuro had teamed up in the CCA movie instead? What happened if you played Gihren as a Lawful, Benevolent ruler instead of a tyrant? What if (Character X) hadn’t died at (Event Y)? The games explore it in great detail with alternate paths you can take based off your actions at key events.
In a certain sense, that is the game’s biggest strength and weakness. Your enjoyment of the game is proportional to how much knowledge you already have of the base material. It makes no effort in trying to ease new players into it, and thus remains a niche game, enjoyed greatly, but only by few.
Still, as a game that could only exist because its base material is a massive marketing juggernaut that almost everything else has already been tried. It’s an interesting little gem.
A special mention to the game’s soundtrack, which sadly seems unavailable for commercial purchase anywhere. Whereas most Gundam licensed games tends to use tracks from the Anime itself, this game decides to go with the approach of simply composing all-new tracks itself.
Due to the nature of the series where entries make experimental changes and features are added or dropped on a whim all the time, it is hard to recommend a single game to start with. Therefore I will just create a short comparison to the most 2 recent games that have been released.
Threat of Axis V: 2nd latest game. Most content, including Z and ZZ era scenarios. The least risky option if you’re on the fence on whether you’ll like the series.
Shin Gihren’s Greed: Most recent game. Reduced scope of the game down to only OYW and Char’s Counterattack scenario, along with supporting mechanics such as a reduced diplomacy scope, but goes into those two eras in greater detail (including Gundam Unicorn into the CCA scenario).
Much more streamlined and accessible to newcomers, although it’s still dense. Feels most like a branch off the original Sega Saturn version. Has a new feature where you play as an officer rather than a leader (in a feature probably inspired by Romance of the Three Kingdoms) but unfortunately it’s rather undeveloped though very helpful for learning the game. Predatory DLC practices such as locking Z/ZZ characters as on-disc DLC caused this version to be unpopular, but there’s always the option of not buying them.
Wiki: Extremely undeveloped, but the menu translation pictures are nice.