Thursday, April 8, 2010

Chicks Dig Giant Robots Part 1

Well, I suppose I should bring us back to our regularly scheduled silliness. Let's see what we've got tonight.

What's this?

Could it be?

Is it true?

IT IS!!!

"J.K., we've noticed that you have a fondness for giant robots. What are some of your favorite robots, giant or otherwise?"

YES! I've been asked to talk about BIG GODDAMN ROBOTS! AWESOME! To the Googlewebs to find pictures!

Ahem...anyway, I've been a fan of robots in fiction pretty much my entire life, whether it was watching Mr. Data on Star Trek, or getting up on Saturdays to watch the Megazord kick the crap out of the Monster of the Week. As such, there are far too many robots (as I exceedingly loosely define the term) for me just to make this a top ten list. So, I'm going to be doing one post of my favorite BIG GODDAMN ROBOTS and then as a later post a list of ones that aren't as capable of trashing skyscrapers. Don't worry, I plan on doing something different in between them, so you won't get nerdy robot overload.

Oh, and for those of you readers who are saying, "Mecha don't count as robots because they're not self motivated," yeah, well, you stink funny. So there. They stay on the list.

So, in no particular order, ten of my favorite BIG GODDAMN ROBOTS!

1. Gundam Heavyarms/Gundam Heavyarms Custom from Gundam Wing and Gundam Wing Endless Waltz

So, Gundam Wing was the first Mobile Suit Gundam show to be aired in America, and it caught on among a particular group of my friends like wildfire. There were six main characters, each with their own particular main robot that got upgraded in some fashion throughout the season. Most of my friends fell into one of two camps.

1. "I wanna have the one that the main guy has which has the impractical BFG and the laser swords that makes people go crazy!"
2. "I wanna have the Grim Reaper looking one!"

And then there was little J.K.

"Ummm, hi. Y'know the one with the Gatling Gun attached to its shield, with the two more Gatling Guns in the chest, and all the missile launchers? Yeah. I'll take THAT one."

Maybe I'm weird, but if I'm going to be fighting against people in giant robots with guns, I'd like the ability to, I don't know, shoot them at range or something. But apparently I'm the only one that made sense to. Maybe they thought the idea of a giant robot whose gimmick was just having guns wasn't interesting enough.

Anyway, when the sequel movie Endless Waltz was made, they gave all the robots a massive facelift. Most of the main characters robots either were changed only cosmetically, or actually had weapons removed for the redesign. And in the case of my beloved Heavyarms? This meant adding an even MORE ridiculous amount of guns and missiles. Who picked the bad one now?

2. Mechagodzilla

There goes Tokyo...

So, depending on which set of movies you watch, Mechagodzilla is either a weapon created by aliens to take over Earth, or something created by humans using salvaged technology from the future (don't ask) to fight Godzilla. Y'know what? Doesn't matter. We don't care. Bring on the giant Tokyo smashing fight.

So, I grew up in a household that were fans of Godzilla, but for the longest time, of the ones we watched, it seemed like there wasn't someone who could give Godzilla a good fight. Then, when I was four or five, at a friend's birthday party, and we watched Godzilla versus Mechagodzilla. And it was the first time I ever saw Godzilla get his ass handed to him. Sure, the big guy eventually won, but damn, if it wasn't a good fight.

Since seeing that movie those many years ago, there are generally only two recurring monsters I expect to consistently give Godzilla a run for his money: King Ghidorah, and Mechagodzilla. For leaving such an impression on a small boy, Mechagodzilla makes the cut.

3. The PNT-** Panther from Battletech

This one is more a sentimental favorite than anything. Back in the mid-nineties, there were trading card games for everything; Star Trek, Star Wars, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, Middle Earth. But there was one a neighbor of mine was particularly fond of, despite it being a hard game to figure out the rules for. However, he had no one in the neighborhood to play it with him. Solution: Recruit neighbor by giving him a common card to start his collection. So this particular robot is how I was introduced to a Sci-Fi setting that soon became one of my favorites. But, aside from sentimental reasons, what makes this robot cool?

Well, it's one of two more or less trademark Light Mechs of the Draconis Combine (SAMURAI IN SPACE!). Unlike most light mechs, this one is kinda slow. And well armored. And armed with one of the heavier weapons in the original ruleset for the game. Wait, what?

That's right. This was a light mech that wasn't designed to scout or harass. It was designed to kick ass and take names. It gets overshadowed a bit as the technology of the Mechs advance, but it still remains a favorite of mine.

Fun fact: the other signature Light Mech of the Draconis Combine, the Jenner, is one of my brother's favorites.

Speaking of things my brother likes...

4. The Katana from One Must Fall 2097

So, growing up, for a long time our primary gaming platform was our PC. Somehow, we stumbled across the shareware version of this fighting game, One Must Fall 2097, and ended up buying the full version. The basic premise of the game was taking a variety of robots that were designed for noncombat roles (with one notable exception) and having a tournament with them.

So my brother and I got a lot of mileage out of this game. We would fight each other with the various characters and robots from story mode for hours on end, and then we'd take our characters from Tournament mode and wail on each other for a while.

Unfortunately for me, there were only two or three robots I was better at using than him: the game breaker that was actually designed for a combat role (I'm not sure why I was better with that one), one of the robots from the shareware version, and this guy.

So, as you can probably figure out, each robot in the game had some sort of gimmick. This one? Well, that's kinda straight forward: IT HAS BIG FREAKIN' BLADES FOR HANDS! Nothing fancy. But the blades weren't even my favorite move belonging to this robot. No, my favorite move was the fact that it could, from a jump, just stomp on the enemy robot's head. And if your timing was good, you could do this many, many times. Much to my brother's annoyance. Hey, bro, just be glad I'm not using the Nova or the Thorn this time...

5. Gundam GP02A Physalis from Gundam 0083

So one thing about settings with giant robots is that most engineers will tell you that a giant, humanoid engine of destruction is grossly inefficient. It's a pain in the butt to get all the parts moving in the right way without it falling over. Plus, why do that when you can just missile something from who knows where?

Some settings handwave this by having the robots just have some sort of only half-understood mechanism keeping them balanced, and somehow making it so they can carry more weapons or armor.

Or, if you're the Original Gundam setting, you can have it so that there's some sort of energy source that seriously screws with radar and other long range methods of detection, so you need something mobile that can deliver a decent punch. Bye bye, ICBMs.

Of course, that begs the question, why don't they try to find a way around that sort of thing? Which brings us the GP02A from Gundam 0083. Looking at it, you probably notice that the thing is kinda...chunky. And that shield is awfully big. And it doesn't seem to have much in the way of visible weapons. Well, guess what: it's not there to fight other robots. Its primary weapon is a bazooka.

A bazooka that fires a nuclear warhead.

Let me reiterate.


What could be more ridiculous than THAT?

6. Megas XLR

This thing.

So, in the distant future, humanity is getting its butt kicked by evil alien empire. The humans steal super prototype robot, put their own customizations on it, and prepare to send the robot back in time to prevent evil alien empire from winning this much, yada yada.

Then things go awry.

The giant robot ends up damaged, going back to the twentieth century, and in the hands of a lazy, slacker gearhead who lives in his moms basement. He further repairs and customizes it. Including installing a sports car for a head.

To me, this always felt like the quintessential guy's show. Plots ranged from the main character fighting an alien solely because it was preventing him from getting a slushy, to babysitting his cousin while fighting the evil alien empire and blowing up the moon in the process. It was clever, and it didn't take itself too seriously.

Probably the greatest moment that captures the show's atmosphere, in one fight, the main character presses a button to fire a weapon. It doesn't have the intended effect. So it shows him pressing a button to fire a different weapon. The button just happens to be labeled, "Yes, this IS the Exact same button he pushed five seconds ago."

Sadly, the show was repeatedly rescheduled and only lasted two seasons. But it lives on in our memories, and possibly the Cartoon Network website.

7. Every Single Variant of the Zaku II ever.

So you've heard me mention previously, on the subject of Gundam, that it was one of the first robot settings in which the robots were mass produced weapons. The Zaku is pretty much the grandaddy of one massive family of giant robots in the Universal Century setting. Pretty much every mass produced robot used by the Federation of Zeon and its various successors is based on the Zaku II to some degree. But there's more to the Zaku II then being the most common robot in the original Gundam Setting.

They used the damn thing for EVERYTHING.

Need a robot that can go faster? Check! Need a robot for a member of the Royal Family? Which one, the Pretty One or the Freakishly Large One? Need a robot to go underwater? HERE YOU GO!

If there's a Zeon robot, I can almost guarantee you that at some point, there was a Zaku prototype of it at some point.

8. The RFL-** Rifleman from Battletech

So there's a certain set of Battletech Mechs that, shall we say, borrowed liberally from various anime mecha shows. They were first robots published for use in the game, and became greatly entwined with the mythos of the setting. It wasn't a huge deal that they were from other sources originally; they were originally given the rights to the images and the setting was originally planned to be a tabletop game for those shows. Sadly, there was a big snafu with the rights and these robots had to be redesigned.

The Rifleman is probably my favorite from that set. In game, it was originally designed to be in the back lines plinking away at aircraft, with the threat of other robots supremely unlikely. However, due to the massive amounts of destruction over three centuries of warfare, the Rifleman is forced to the front lines; not a place it is well suited. The things the original version is known for? Decent firepower and range for the time, a pretty high heat burden, and going down like a school girl in the face of weaponry. In fact, every novel goes out of its way to mention "paper thin rear armor." It's ugly, it's slow...and it captures the feel of that time period so well.

9. Mecha-Birdo from I Want to Be the Guy

Most of us remember that mini-boss Birdo from the Super Mario Brothers games: multicolored dinosaur thing that spits eggs and/or fireballs. You pick up objects, throw them at Birdo, and knock it out. Easy, right?

Well, the person who made I Want to Be the Guy decided that Birdo should get some revenge. If you make it that far. And if you haven't had a mental breakdown by this point of the game, you probably will sometime around here. Instead of Eggs, the MechaBirdo fires giant bombs. And lasers. And Shy Guys. You have to take it out with your little pea shooter gun. All of this over a bottomless pit.

Have a nice death.

10. Tequila Gundam from G Gundam

Remember how I said that Gundam was renowned for taking the giant robot genre, and making it a serious military thing, in which the robots are mass produced weapons of war rather than ridiculous, impractical one offs?

G Gundam throws all that out the window.

The premise of this show is that each country has a colony in space, and that every couple of years, each one builds a giant robot to send to Earth to fight. The country whose robot comes out on top gets to rule the rest for the time being. And how are these robots controlled? Well, each pilot puts on this skin tight suit that has the robot their in mimic their moves. That's right: they KUNG FU FIGHT! With all the over the top hamtastic action they can muster!

So, basically, we get Dragonball Z combined with Gundam. In fact, the main character even learns a Kamehameha-esque fireball.

So anyway, why did I pick that particular robot from this show? It's not even important to the plot.

Well, it's the Mexican robot. It looks like a Cactus. It has a sombrero full of machine guns. And it's called the TEQUILA GUNDAM. How can it NOT make the list?
So, these were some of my top giant robots. Next time, I'll probably be doing a little book review, and then I'll do some not so giant robots. But in the meantime, this is J. K. Lantern, signing off!

1 comment:

  1. What were the other country Gundams like? That sounds like a magnificent train wreck.