Mecha in Gaming: The Virgola / Setsuko Ohara

Not In An Anime Near You

The Virgola is a fictional machine designed as a video game original for the crossover mecha game Super Robot Taisen Z (Super Robot Wars Z). By “original,” we mean that it does not appear in any anime. So far, this includes Original Generations anime seasons 1 and 2.

The Setting

The Virgola is first presented as a series of three prototypes being flight tested to gather data for eventual adoption as the Earth Federation’s next generation mass-produced humanoid weapons system.

SRW Z is not only a cross-over of mecha, but of dimensions. Consequently, this Earth Federation is merely the one in which Mobile Suit Gundam Z: A New Translation (i.e. the three-part movie version) takes place. During an AEUG attack on a lunar base, the only force deploying fast enough to respond is Glory Star, the test pilot group responsible for testing the Virgola units. However, time and space bend and warp, and the members of Glory Star are warped into another world… where finally, a “Dimension Bomb” (from the sci fi series Orguss) leads to a strange new world mixing many worlds at once…

The Virgola

Full Height: 19.8m

Full Weight: (Reference) 51.4 metric tons for Unit 1

Power Supply: Minovsky Reactor + “Sphere”

Armor Composition: Unknown

Mechanical Designer: Mika Akitaka

Mysteriously, the Virgola itself was as astonishingly general purpose machine. Amuro Ray calls it a “Shoe-Fitter” in that it will suit the style of any pilot at any skill level, while providing a high level of offensive power through the use of its primary weapon, the Gunnery Carver (above, right side).

In the original test machines, the three Gunnery Carvers were used for firing high velocity slugs (“Straight Turret”), blunt physical attacks, and three entirely distinct modes of special attack unique to each unit: a “Jack Carver” (a giant jackknife), a “Barley Scythe” functioning as a beam weapon that reaps the harvest, and a “Ray Straight Turret” beam attack capable of straight line mass destruction. In addition, each unit carried a “Ray Pistol,” a hand-held beam weapon used only for rapid fire assault purposes or as an emergency weapon.

This reinforced the Virgola offensively, but was of no assistance defensively. While enjoying broadly high specifications, the Virgola was not equipped with either a shield or a sword for use in close combat, and its armor was not especially resistant to enemy attack. As such, the Virgola units could be one-shotted by a powerful enough attack…

Glory Star

Stepping back from the setting, Glory Star’s concept was mixing military trappings with a college sports team. As such, the uniforms look like dress uniforms (we never see any representations of spacesuits for any member, though we should not take this as meaning they don’t exist but rather as a style decision by the developers). Numerous battle phrases are like cheer phrases motivating the team on to victory. Pride, in particular, is a theme. For that matter, the name just begs these comparisons.

Go, Glory Star! Go! – Denzel Hammer

The members are Denzel Hammer, a veteran squad leader and instructor with a gift for gunnery, originally piloting Unit 1; Toby Watson, a usually happy-go-lucky pilot whose attitude screams “jock” but with a hard, serious edge in the midst of battle, specializing in melee with Unit 2’s Barley Scythe; and Setsuko Ohara, a relative greenhorn whose lunar base sortie was her first actual combat. While having an extra affinity for gunnery, her future is wide open, and she is one of the most player-customizable pilots in Super Robot Wars gaming history.

Left to Right: Toby, Setsuko, Denzel

Tragedy and Awakening

Just before the Dimension Bomb sends a number of worlds smashing together and fusing into one strange Earth, the mysterious Asakim Dowen appears and murders Denzel, who had swapped machines with Setsuko due to damage to her Unit 3 (which the veteran could handle better than she could).

Following a time when she was blown into Paradigm City (of “The Big O“), Setsuko recovers her own (quite bitter) memories and travels across the world, searching for Toby. At the end of her journey, she finds Toby – in pursuit of Asakim. Joining together, they fail to deal a decisive blow – apparently something Toby has failed at a number of times while on Asakim’s tail. Together, the two pledge to continue Glory Star, no longer as paid members of a formal military, but helping those who strive to put the world right (which by now has long included the AEUG people, since the Titans are, well, jerks!).

Of course, they also pledge to avenge Denzel (a.k.a. “Chief”).

Instead, Asakim lures the two away from the main force (which by default becomes named “Zeuth”) and even though reinforcements appear on both sides, Asakim fakes his own defeat only to turn around and wreck both remaining Virgolas, slaying Toby and instilling fear and terror into Setsuko with a physical beating in the flesh, until a “savior” named Raven arrives to save Setsuko… for now.

And so, Setsuko is alone.

Setsuko Ohara

Setsuko is young, well-meaning, very earnest and sincere… and is left with deep emotional scars after Toby’s death, which came a short while after Setsuko had finally shared her budding romantic feelings for him. He was fond of Setsuko as well, in a way that wasn’t quite as, well, teacher-student as with Denzel before his own death.

Virgola Unit 1, having already incorporated the remnants of Unit 3’s Gunnery Carver, was now infused with Toby’s Barley Scythe and his combat data. This Virgola Kai (Improved Virogla) could accommodate a 20% increase in pilot skill from Setsuko before maxing out. Thus, the onus was on her to break through the “wall” as she followed the half of Zeuth that allied itself with PLANT (in the Seed Destiny plot), which was then allied with the Diana Counter (from Turn A Gundam), which proved to be only one Moonrace (lunar dwellers) faction, and the Super Robot forces with less of a problem with military methods of operation and devoted to fighting alien threats.

Thus, there would be no lack of hard, bitter fighting for Setsuko. Slowly, she improved, but when it was time to test her spirit against Asakim and his succubus-like minion Xine, Setsuko broke down, her spirit still filled with fear. Yet mysteriously, Toby Watson – not dead?… – appeared to save her from being finished off by Xine, before disappearing again to pursue the enemy.

Finally, she answered the call to face her personal demons alone, and while Raven returned to support her against an assault in force by Xine (using AI-controlled machines to back her up), the entire Zeuth detachment showed up to provide support. Knowing she was not alone, Setsuko found new reserves of strength and Xine was once again driven off.

While stopped at a base belonging to Chimera, Raven’s force (part of their “enemy” the Earth Federation, but secretly aiding Zeuth and claiming to be dedicated to improving the world), a truly mad (as well as ugly) scientist belonging to Chimera offers to overhaul the Virgola. Setsuko ignores entreaties to turn the skirt-chasing geezer’s offer down and wants to become stronger however she can.

The resulting Virgola Glory was, externally, simply fitted with a wing system that allowed non-transforming flight in an atmosphere and overall improved agility. Armed with this unit, Setsuko once again answered a call to do battle with her personal demons, this time from “Toby.” But mysteries remained.

As the scientist explained to Zeuth’s members, such as Amuro and other interested pilots with high technical aptitudes, the Virgola in and of itself was nothing special… but the Gunnery Carver was, with parts that were “black boxed” and could not be externally analyzed. Furthermore, and this was the big mystery, the Virgola was over-specced to the point of being able to handle 200% of its own internal reactor’s power output.

What was the mystery of the Gunnery Carver? How could its secrets be accessed? Perhaps by something that could not be compelled by science, such as reacting to a human emotion? Love, perhaps? This was dismissed at the time, but in short order, these questions would be partially answered… in the worst possible way.

The Valkyrie of Sadness

Setsuko after Toby’s death. “For today only… let me cry…”

While the Virgola’s maneuverability had been greatly improved, the heartened Setsuko underwent a breakdown in the Gunnery Carver, rendering it inoperable. Forced to rely on the Ray Pistol, Setsuko engaged the mysterious black crow machines that seemed to work with Asakim everywhere, along with a mysterious ally of Asakim, Rand the Wandering Mechanic, and his construction machine colored, giant wrench using, super robot style Gunleon.

Even though the Virgola dealt with the crows entirely adequately with only the Ray Pistol, the Gunleon and its pilot, Rand, had great reserves of strength, and enormous power. The Virgola was nearly destroyed in a single blow. On the verge of death, Toby once again emerged to knock back the Gunleon. Finally, both turned to face the Gunleon together…

…and “Toby” shot Setsuko’s machine in the back.

The mysterious powers at Asakim’s command allowed him to temporarily borrow the illusion of Toby, down to his voice and tiny mannerisms, to fool Setsuko… and to truly crush her spirit once and for all, for that was the path that rested between him and his objective.

And so, “it” happened.

The Sphere

The central part of the Gunnery Carver was a second power source, but what called to it was not love, but sadness – true, soul-crushing sadness. Setsuko had found the depth of despair, and now, the Sphere awoke.

The Gunnery Carver lost its false shell and took on its true form, the Nautilus Carver, a weapon that seemed to pulse with its own life force, with a “barrel” that resembled a nautical creature.

Doing great damage to Asakim’s machine with her new power, the emotionally shattered Setsuko learned to turn her despair against her enemy, and strike hard.

Forgive the horrid resolution; it was hard to find a pic. – J

Setsuko would continue to pilot what would now be known as the Virgola Glory until the end of the game, though it later underwent a later evolution as the further betrayal of Raven – secretly one of Asakim’s comrades – further sent Setsuko into the depths of despair, beginning a process of transformation of her body. First, loss of taste; then, temporary blindness… but her sight returned, and she was able to continue fighting until the conclusion.

The Virgola Glory

Aside from the wings, the Virgola Glory gains special weapons from the Nautilus Carver:

– A straight line MAP weapon (that is, affecting a bunch of squares in a row) with two “ammunition” shots. That is, once clearing the relatively low morale requirements, she can fire the MAP weapon twice and not suffer any depletion of her machine’s “Energy” reserves, but will then be unable to fire the weapon until resupply or, more likely, until the stage ends, you go through intermission, and sortie for the next battle.

– A “Nautilus Carver” Attack that combines the blunt strike, Barley Scythe, and Jack Carver style attacks into a single high powered attack that will penetrate any “barrier”.

– An improved Ray Straight Turret style attack that has the best and most satisfying attack animations on Setsuko’s side. It’s long ranged, it hits hard, and it leaves stardust behind. It is called, “The Glory Star“! I consider it completely worthy of the name.

Character & Mecha In Game Terms

As mentioned earlier, Setsuko is one of the most customizable characters in SRW history.

In actual gaming terms, she receives all of the “pilot points” (which can be used to purchase skills or raise parameters of pilots) that Denzel and Toby received until the moment of their deaths. Thus, she truly does inherit the spirit of Glory Star. How you use that advantage is up to you.

For fully half the game, Setsuko is, put bluntly, a below average pilot in an above average machine. In particular, her “Skill” rating – which governs critical hits, how easily others critical or use special skills against you, etc. – is low. She is adequate, and handles her weapons well, but she is nothing special.

After her personal awakening, she gains a bonus to all of her parameters across the board. This still doesn’t make her an Amuro Ray, but it’s a start.

Remember, her main characteristic is that she gets a huge load of Pilot Points earlier than other people. She can use whatever high end skills you prefer to purchase with all this at a much earlier stage than others. Later, she just piles on, because, well, the MAP weapon combined with her The Glory Star attack and a high overall attack ability means she’s wiping stuff out left and right, earning more Pilot Points in the process.

Personal Quirks

Setsuko’s default tendencies are as follows:

  • Heavy support attacker. Her “native” Support Attack skill rises to level 4, meaning she can follow up one unit’s attack with her own up to four times in a row, provided she is adjacent and not ineligible for some reason (can’t support an air attacker from the ground). This is her only true “starting” skill.
  • Unlocked: SP Regen. This means, once she awakens, she is one of the precious few characters in the game to restore ten “Seishin Points” (often called Spirit Points, at any rate, what’s used for in-battle power-ups that are unique to every pilot) at the start of every Player Phase (player turn). This is a huge help over the course of a long battle…
  • Platoon Leader Bonus: +10% Damage With All Shooting Attacks. This is just gravy, but still, it comes up. This means The Glory Star, the MAP weapon, and the bread and butter Straight Turret attacks will get a +10% to damage until the end of the game.

Another thing anyone wanting to use her might want to think about is, the Virgola is not inherently high defense, but Setsuko has a higher Defense stat than typical “real robot” pilots (i.e. Gundam series pilots). While any sane player is using special equipment to combat the Virgola’s defensive deficiencies – barriers, armor enhancements, maneuverability enhancements, plus my favorite, throwing money at the problem and upgrading – it’s not a complete package.

While I tend to prioritize skills that help me destroy the enemy faster and easier, at least early to mid game, giving Setsuko the skill that boosts defense, accuracy, and critical hit rates the closer your mecha’s HP get to 0 may not be a waste of time at all. Take the attitude that, in this game, you will get hit; it’s just a matter of time, and how bad the enemy wants it. And barriers aren’t foolproof; Tri attacks (squad team-ups) and weapons like the Nautilus Carver itself (though that’s yours…) will breach a barrier and go straight to HP damage.

But oh well. The bottom line is, early on, the extra pilot points are an offset for Setsuko being raw; later, there are few truly bad choices. You stock her up on whatever skills make sense for you. I’ve tried lots, such as giving her an S rating in Air and giving her a Minovsky Craft to boost the Virgola’s own rating to S, meaning it’s better than C, B, or A. That makes her take less hits too. Combined with the SP Regen and Seishin skills like Concentrate, you won’t be hit much like that, either.

And That’s A Wrap.

Some may wonder why I bothered to do this. Well, basically… I wanted to, and things flow a lot easier when I’m writing about something I personally like. That’s kind of why, even though the blog stats say Gundam 00 still brings people in, it’s hard to write about that because I was never a fanboy, just a viewer. Really loved the visuals, and the machines were pretty good, but I hated the humans ^^ Relatively speaking.

Setsuko, though, I like, on a gut level and many others. I like a lot of main character candidates, but this one is the antithesis of spouting taunts at the enemy and laughing at the opponent’s demise. (You know, like Asakim…) No, she’s doing this because she cares, and because she doesn’t want other people to have to go through the suffering she has.

More importantly, she becomes able to back it up – and in force, becoming a true Valkyrie avenging the souls of the dead, cutting a path through the battlefield, laying waste to those who deeply and richly deserve wasting.

By the way, Setsuko is a nice girl, fundamentally, and that’s not something you can teach. It runs deep. I find myself plenty willing to cheer her on.

By the way, Rand is the other potential main character, and their roles flip somewhat if you play him instead. He’s actually awesome. Rough around the edges to say the least, but even though he goes through his own challenges, he forces a more positive experience… and his machine is just a lot less likely to blow up than the Virgola. So there.

Nonetheless, Setsuko’s devastating in late games, and that’s how I like it. – J

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for Technorati.com and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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3 Responses to Mecha in Gaming: The Virgola / Setsuko Ohara

  1. kagesentai says:

    you forget the part that The Glory Star is (former) part of the Titans…

  2. Jeremiah Bourque says:

    If that is technically correct, I didn’t have that impression at all, and it became a very unimportant detail either way. It seemed like the team had been assigned to the Titans base to test the Virgola machines… but that the Titans pilots (the usual jerks like Jerid) did not in any way regard them as “part” of the Titans. When the characters discussed being “former” something, it was being former Federation soldiers, which at that stage in the Zeta Gundam plot would most certainly not have included all Federation forces (hence why the Titans are routinely referred to as “Jamitov’s private army” in SRW games in general.

    But again, if any technicalities are awry here, it’s because the game put little emphasis on it and didn’t, at any later part in the game, refer to that being the situation as such. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Fucking awesome dude. Thanks for this. I wonder if you made more of these for other characters too.

    Setsuko is one of my favorite original characters.

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