Thursday 14 October 2010

I can understand German as well as the maniac that invented it

Here at KiaSA, we’re big fans of giant stompy robots. In games, that is; real, actual, the-future-as-per-Terminator style killing machines hunting down and exterminating the last traces of humanity wouldn’t be on our Christmas card list even if they did exist. In-game giant stompy robots, though, two mechanical thumbs up.

I’m not particularly familiar with the Front Mission series of games due to their Japanese console origin, but the latest, Front Mission Evolved, is out on the PC, and I was somewhat tempted by the prospect of giant robot action until I read the Rock, Paper, Shotgun review, which says stuff like:

“You never feel like the wanzer is huge, just that everything else is small. You are a robot on a day out at the model village, with lots of pyrotechnics to make things exciting.”

On the plus side it’s given me an idea for a brilliant trip to Babbacombe Model Village if I can get hold of a Transformers fancy dress outfit and some fireworks. On the minus side it doesn’t sound like a particularly great game, though I might still keep half an eye out in case it’s in a bargain Steam sale or something. That paragraph also hints at perhaps a more fundamental flaw with the series.

The word “wanzer”.

Giant stompy robots have received various names in games; Battletech’s ‘Mechs may be the best known western example, there are the Hounds in Chromehounds, Earthsiege gets the “most tortured acronym” award for its “Humaniform-Emulation Roboticized Combat Unit with Leg-Articulated Navigation”, or HERCs. Apparently wanzer is a term for mecha derived from the German “Wanderpanzer”, or “walking tank”, and it’s just rubbish. Maybe it’s just a British thing, in the same way that solemn lines like “I could tell at once that you were a bender” cause outbreaks of giggling over here, but to me “wanzer” sounds like a combination of “wanker” and “wazzock”, not really the image you want for your giant armoured machine of death. I’m not sure how they managed to stuff up a faux-German derivation so badly, with German being a language eminently suited for intimidating militaristic terminology; Fliegerabwehrkanone (aircraft defence cannon), Sturzkampfflugzeug (diving fighting aircraft) and of course Panzerkampfwagen (armoured fighting carriage), for example, abbreviate to the equally dangerous sounding Flak, Stuka and Panzer. I’m not sure “Wanderpanzer” is even technically accurate, though my German stalled around GCSE level when asking whether someone would like a Bratwurst with or without mustard, before the syllabus got to to the correct designations for military robots. I suspect something like “Panzerkampfwandernfahrzeug” might be closer to the mark, but would invite any readers with a more detailed knowledge of either (i) German or (ii) giant stompy robots (ideally both) to leave a comment…

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