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Name in Japanese: 機動戦士ガンダム 戦場の絆 (Kidou Senshi GANDAMU Senjou no Kizuna)
Of interest to: Residents, Tourists
Coolness: Extremely cool!
Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Genre: FPS (First-Person Shooter), Mecha (Giant Robots)
Cost: ¥500 per game, ¥300 per card

Gundam Kizuna PodsIf you've visited a big arcade within the past year, you will have almost certainly seen this game at least once. Comprising of a minimum of four individual "PODs" and one or more "Pilot Terminals", it certainly takes up a lot of space and makes its presence well known. You might have peered inside, seen the domed projection screen which fills your vision, and thought to yourself, "this looks incredible but I'd never be able to work out how to play it". Well, in actual fact this game is nowhere near as complex as it looks and is actually very fun to play with friends! And yes, it is quite expensive, but playing this game is an experience which must be tried at least once.

In essence, Gundam Kizuna is a first-person shooter. You take control of a giant robot ("Mobile Suit", in Gundam terminology) of your choosing, and try to gain victory for your team by destroying enemy Mobile Suits or the opponent's base. This is a team game and as such it requires co-operation between team members. Because of this, a microphone headset is usually provided inside each POD. Otherwise, there are jacks for inserting your own. Voice chat only works between PODs located inside the same arcade. When you start a game, you are automatically teamed up with players in your own arcade, or from around the country. If no other games are available, the computer will play the part of both teammate and enemy.

It's not a very hard game to pick up, especially if you are familiar with tank-style controls, and the main challenge will be devising up strategies for outwitting the enemy players.

Things To Know

Requirements: In order to play, you must first purchase a Pilot Card. This card stores all your personal data, and you can't play without one. You must also not be claustrophobic or get motion sick too easily. The domed screen can be overwhelming.

Costs: A new Pilot Card is ¥300, and is required to play. Every game is ¥500 yen, and consists of two rounds of 250 seconds each. Some arcades operate a point card system, where you get one free game every 20 played.

Availability: Anyone can play. At the arcade, you may need to sign a reservation sheet indicating your player name and how many people you will play with. Some arcades may give precedence to groups of 2, 4 or 8 over single players or odd-numbered groups in order to guarantee match-ups. A list of arcades with this game is available on the official website.

Trivia: The Gundam franchise is huge in Japan, and this game is extremely popular at any time of day. Maps are rotated usually on a 3-day schedule, meaning that all players in the country always play on the same map. Map schedules are available on the official website.

How To Play It

A nice player's manual is usually available from the cardboard advertising sign placed somewhere near the Pilot's Terminal, and should give a good idea of the basic controls through its simple diagrams. However, not everything is immediately obvious (with it all being written in Japanese, of course).

The Basics

gundamkizuna_pilotterminal.jpgAt the arcade, you will have to get to grips with two pieces of equipment: the PODs and the Pilot Terminals. The Pilot Terminals are free-standing touch-screens with a monitor overhead showing previous games. You can use Pilot Terminals to buy new Pilot Cards and to check your data.

The PODs are the individual cubicles that you actually play in. They can only seat one, and most arcades won't let a friend observe from inside the POD either. The PODs are fitted with a dual-lever and dual-pedal control system, a 180º projection screen, surround sound, and a headset jack. The seat is adjustable and should be able to fit most tall people. The lights outside the POD give you its current status. A green "In Operation" sign means it's currently being used; don't open the door or disturb the player inside. Two long light strips will be either blue or red indicating the player's faction. Blue is EFSF, Red is Zeon. If the strips are purple, it means the POD is free for use. If the strips are flashing your faction's colour, it means you can join a game about to start in your arcade by inserting your card right away. A countdown inside the POD shows you how long you have to insert your card if you wish to join that game.

Typically, a game session will progress like this: first, you decide who you will play with. You can either play with people present in the arcade (good for practicing your Japanese!), or you can choose to play alone. There will usually be an attendant or at least a reservation sheet. Write down your player name and how many people your party consists of. When it's your turn, enter an empty POD (one with the green "In Operation" sign off and with purple stripes), sit down and adjust your seat (there's a handle underneath the seat on the right hand side). Insert your Pilot Card and your money and wait for matchmaking to finish. Select your Mobile Suit, then play the game. Once both rounds are over, take your card from the slot, leave the POD, and insert your card into a Pilot Terminal. This will update your statistics and present you with upgrades, if you gained any during your games.

The Controls

If you know how a tank is driven, you already have a good idea of how this game works. You have two levers, each one controlling a leg. Pushing both forwards moves you forwards, pulling both back makes you retreat. Pushing both to the left or right makes you strafe in that direction. To turn left, you have to push the right lever forward and the left lever backwards. Pulling the levers apart makes your Mobile Suit grapple your opponent. To turn right, do the opposite. Learning this basic movement is crucial, take the time to visualise what the levers do.

You also have two pedals. The left pedal enables you to jump, while the right pedal makes you dash. Both of these movements are limited by your Mobile Suit's boost gauge, on the bottom right of your screen. If you deplete it, it will take slightly longer for it to fill up, and you will not be able to jump or boost until it's full again.

On the two levers are two triggers and two buttons. First, the triggers. The left trigger operates your close-range weapon, usually a beam sabre. The right trigger operates your primary weapon, usually a beam rifle. Pulling both triggers fires your secondary weapon, usually a grenade. The button on the right lever is your lock-on button. Press it again to lose your lock-on. The button on the left lever changes the lock-on target. This is useful in a close-combat situation versus two or more enemies.

To the right of the main controls are three blue buttons. These can be used before the game to set various options, and during the game they bring up the text chat menu. Underneath the blue buttons is the Pilot Card slot, which will be glowing orange. To the right of the seat is the coin slot, which accepts both ¥100 and ¥500 coins. Above the coin slot are the microphone and headphone jacks, along with the headphone volume controls.

The First Game

First things first, you need to purchase a Pilot Card from the Pilot Terminal. Because creating a new card can take a few minutes, wait until nobody is using it, then touch the screen. Touch the "New Card" button on the screen. You will be presented with safety warnings. Touch the button on the left to continue. Touch the button on the next screen too. On the next screen, you will have to choose a faction. If you're a Gundam fan, you will already know all about the two factions. The only real difference between these factions is the actual models of Mobile Suits available. Check the official website to see which Mobile Suits you like the look of best. Please note however, that if you want to play with friends, you will all have to be on the same faction. Once you've selected your faction, enter your desired name. You can use Hiragana, Katakana and Roman letters. Once you're happy with the name (you can't change it later), touch the button on the bottom right. On the next screen, select your avatar and voice. Unfortunately, there isn't a great selection, and there are no female avatars/voices either. Touch the bottom button to continue. You will now be presented with your first Mobile Suit. You will be using this model for your first few games. Once you press the button on the bottom, you will be asked to insert ¥300 into the coin slot on the Pilot Terminal. Once you've done this, your card will be prepared and it will then pop out of the card slot.

The first game is always played on a special offline map, "Side 7". You will never face human opponents on this map, as it's meant to gradually ease you into the game. Because of this, you have to play your first game on your own. If your arcade uses a reservation sheet, write your pilot name in the next free slot, circling "初" as your faction. This tells other players that you are new and will not be playing with anyone else. After you complete your first game and insert your card into the Pilot Terminal, your rank will go up from "Civilian" to "Private" and you will be able to play with other people.

Playing The Game

Once the attendant announces your game (or your name is next on the reservation sheet), enter a free POD (the green "In Operation" light is off and the light strips are purple). Use the handle under the seat to adjust it and sit down. Insert your card into the flashing orange slot. The screen will display your name and avatar, followed by safety instructions. After a few seconds, you will have to insert your coins. The coin slot is to your right, you can either insert 5 ¥100 coins or a single ¥500 coin. The game will now spend about 40 seconds waiting for other players from your arcade to join in. If this is your very first game, or there are no other free PODs, you will not be able to play with anyone else and the game will skip this step. During this time you can put on your headset and chat to your fellow players. Remember, voice chat only works between players of the same faction playing the same game in the same arcade. If you do not wish to chat with your team-mates, unplug the microphone (but don't forget to plug it back in when you've finished).

The next step is matchmaking. The game will automatically find the best allies and opponents to pit you against. If you are playing your very first game, the game will skip this step as well. During this phase, the timer starts at 90 seconds and displays the day's map. Once all players have been found, the timer will jump to 10 seconds. If the game remains on this screen for the entire 90 seconds, then you will most likely be facing computer opponents. During this waiting period, you can also press the blue button to adjust the game's volume. Choose a suitable value so that you can still hear your team-mates over the headset.

When the timer reaches 0, all the players will be displayed in order. You will see their name, avatar, rank, team and arcade. The number of players in each game will depend on the day's map. The smallest game type is 4 vs 4, the largest is 8 vs 8. Any combination between these is possible if the day's map is 8 vs 8, but there will always be an equal number of humans on both teams. Computer characters may be included to pad the teams out. You can tell if a player is a computer by looking at their arcade name. If it's "バンダイナムコ" (Bandai Namco), then they're controlled by the computer.

The "meeting" now begins. Select your Mobile Suit category first. Close-range Suits are at the top, Long-range and Snipers at the bottom. The Suits you have in each category are displayed on the right when you hover over them. To select a category, you can either use the blue buttons to the right of your controls, or use the controls themselves. If you do not have any Suits in a category, you will not be able to select it. If this is your very first game, select the default option. Now select your desired Mobile Suit by moving the left lever left or right. When choosing a mobile suit, it's important to consider two things. First is the type. There is no use in using a long-range Suit in a small map, and there is no real reason why there should be more than one Sniper per team. If in doubt, choose a Mid-range Suit. The next thing to consider is Cost. The more powerful a suit, the greater its Cost. Just like in a real war, your faction can only afford so many Mobile Suits. If you are killed, then your team will lose the Cost of your Suit. If your team's Cost bar is depleted during the game, you automatically lose. If you are new, it's best to use a "cheap" Suit so that you can make more mistakes.

Once you've chosen your Suit, choose its options. You can select the close-range, primary and secondary weapons, as well as defence or mobility modifications. Select an option by moving the left lever up or down (or using the blue buttons), and change it by moving the left lever left or right. Once you're happy with your set-up, press the blue button on the last option.

When all of your team members have finished selecting their Suits, the game will start. You will see a list of all players in the game (including those on the opposing faction), the map's name, and the map's rules. Once loading has finished, you will be launched from your aircraft carrier and straight into the map!

At the very start of the game, it's a good idea to stick together with your team-mates, following their lead and seeing what their play-style is like. It's never a good idea to charge forward and suddenly find yourself surrounded by the enemy! Use the mini-map in the top right of the screen to see where the enemies are. When you see an enemy, their name will be displayed above their head. If you are close enough to get a lock-on, your aiming reticule will change from blue to red. Press the lock-on button (on the right lever) to lock-on. You can fire your weapons at any time, and you can even hit enemies without being locked-on, but using this feature is a great help.

When you are close enough to use your close-range weapon, your aiming reticule will change from red to red with an orange circle around it. Pull your left trigger now and you will automatically rush up to your enemy and slash them with your close-range weapon. This will usually knock them to the floor. Whenever you or an enemy is knocked over, you lose any lock-on you may have had.

Look out for players who are sparking - their health is low. Although you do get bonus points for killing an enemy, players receive points according to how much damage the deal. You can check your score on the bottom left of your screen. If you are low on health, your health bar (bottom left) will be flashing red. To avoid being killed and reducing your team's Cost bar, you can retreat to your base and stop near it. You will automatically recharge health. Note that you can't recharge if you move or shoot, and you also can't recharge if your base was destroyed by the enemy. If this is your very first game, Side 7 does not have any bases, so you can't recharge.

When the time limit runs out (check the bottom right of your screen), the round will end and the round result is displayed. The team with the highest Cost bar level remaining wins. Each player's score will be displayed, along with number of kills and number of times killed. After this, your points are tallied and your grade is displayed. The highest is S, the lowest is E. The second round will now commence. As before, select your Mobile Suit and wait for the round to start.

At the end of the two rounds, your card will be ejected. As a courtesy to the next player, adjust the seat so it is all the way back, and replace the headphone on top of the coin slot or the hook, if there is one. Now leave the POD and head towards the Pilot Terminal. Insert your Pilot Card into the Terminal's slot and wait for it to read the data. Your points will be added together. Touch the bottom button to continue. At this point, you may be presented with new upgrades, weapons, Mobile Suits, ranks and/or titles. For the first three you have no choice but to accept by touching the button. For ranks and titles, you can choose whether or not to change them. If this was your very first game, you will also be asked to join a team. Pick the icon you like the best, as this will go onto your card and will be displayed next to your name in the game. If your friends play in the same arcade, look for their team in the list. You can always change teams later. Remember that teams are arcade-specific. The last question you will be asked is if you want to access the Pilot Terminal to check your data. Once you've finished checking your data, touch the red button in the top right of the screen to eject your card.

Coming Soon: Gundam Kizuna - Advanced Playguide!

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