I keep getting better at tracking down Japanese Wonderswan Color games require little knowledge of the language. This time around I encountered SD Gundam: Operation U.C., a game that really surprised me. Not only is this game perfectly playable for English-speaking gamers, but it's also the best WonderSwan Color game I've experienced so far.
With so many Gundam games on Bandai's handheld, it's easy to overlook SD Gundam: Operation U.C. Most of them are dungeon crawlers or strategy games that are heavy on Japanese text, so they're practically unplayable for Western gamers. But SD Gundam: Operation U.C. is a totally different story. Yes, the game is in Japanese, but that's not a real problem. The option screen is short, so you can figure out by trial and error what is what. The in-game Japanese dialogues are mercifully short and can be skipped rapidly, so your only concern should be having a great time playing blowing stuff up.
SD Gundam: Operation U.C.is an awesome horizontal side-scrolling shoot-em-up with elements of old school street brawlers thrown in for good measure. You control a colorful mech-robot that has to shoot multiple waves of equally colorful enemies and some huge bosses. The control is tight enough and characters are large and look very good in a retro-sprite sort of way.
Your Gundam warrior is able to perform four different moves. He can shoot, use a laser sword (hit enemies at close range), shoot a larger bullet (hold shoot button) or use a special power that changes the color of the scenery that makes it look cool.
Some stages have you flying like a traditional shooter, while in others you walk on the ground pounding the stuffing out of anybody that gets close. The enemies also have energy bars like in a beat-em-up. Continues are fair: When you die you start at the same screen and not at the beginning of a stage. Well, unless you have run out of lives, then you have to start at the beginning of a level. But you won't run out of lives that quick. Of course they're some points that can be criticized: some scenery is repeated a little too often in multiple stages and the AI of enemies can feel a bit cheap. But the game is forgiving enough and so much fun to play; those points are easy to forgive.
It's worth nothing that SD Gundam: Operation U.C. is one of the few WonderSwan Color games with decent music and sound effects! This game doesn't sound like a bug is trapped your speakers, like too many other WonderSwan Color releases. Instead, the music really builds up the tension.
Overall, I'm very pleased with Gundam SD: Operation U.C. It's one of those games you never heard about that turns out to be a little gem. The graphics of this game are awesome and the gameplay, though simple, is addictive. Even the sound is pretty good, and this is the only WonderSwan Color game I can say that about so far. This game has replaced Rockman EXE as my one must-have WonderSwan Color title.