Fans of the Gundam franchise have had a whole assortment of games available to them over the years, but the latest one to emerge is a unique one, in the premise that it pays homage to the model-kit (more known as Gunpla) base of products.
Currently only available as a demo in the JP PSN store, yours truly spent a good deal of time playing the available stages, and I can safely say that this iteration gives you a LOT more to do than other Gundam games.
The first thing to note about this game is that it focuses more on customization, which should be a nice perk to those who enjoyed the likes of Armored Core.
Since it is based on the model kits, one can expect that the character lineup on this game would be VERY extensive. In the demo, the most current parts we have acquired are from the Gundam Seed series, but more recent ones like Gundam Unicorn have been confirmed for the final release.
The tutorial starts you off with a very basic unit: the RGM-79 GM from the first Mobile Suit Gundam series.
Control-wise, if you’ve played a Gundam game before, you should have little difficulty in jumping in the cockpit in this. The left analog controls movement, right analog is for the camera, while the Square button takes care of your attacks. Dashing and jumps/double jumps are with the X button, and the R triggers + face buttons handle special attacks/item usage. The lack of a proper lock-on system is a tad cumbersome (which can make you frantic when multiple enemies are trying to take out your arms. Or legs. Or head. Yes, it will happen).
The tutorial teaches you these and an important element of the game: each Gundam has four areas that can be knocked off or destroyed. Get hit in the head hard enough and it will be knocked clean off, which will cost you your navigation and targeting. Losing an arm can cost you your shield or your weapon, and losing the legs will totally immobilize you, which basically means you’re a sitting duck until the unit is destroyed.
If done on the enemies, though, it will yield your prizes: you will get the chance to get their parts for your own, which can be used afterwards for customization.
After the tutorial, you will get your first view of the game’s main hub: the VR hangar. This is where your missions are (the globe in the middle) and where you can tinker with your Gundam (by walking up to it).
Walking up to your Gundam and choosing Customize will present you with the parts you got earlier. And in true Gunpla fashion, you will hear a clicking sound as you access each part you got, just like cutting the plastic parts before building it.
The parts are classified in to their respective categories for model kits: 1/144 scale for the smaller units and 1/100 for the medium-sized units. You can only combine parts from the same scale, and the all-important weight restriction rules apply. Also, some parts will require you to be on a specific “Ace Level” before you can use them (which you can grind by killing enemies and getting more parts).
After you’ve mixed and matched the parts and weapons to your liking, you also have color, camo and shading options available to you, if you so choose.
After creating your dream Gundam, you can jump in on the other stages available. Difficulty-wise, the demo is very forgiving, but it will still shock you at some points because the stages have some bosses that range from double to quadruple your size (I could swear that one of them is a Jumbo Grade RX-78 Gundam, which is . . .big).
It really shows that this is a multiplayer-aimed game because aside from the “defeat all enemies to proceed to next area” stages, the only other one is a base defense-type stage, which is set in a table full of Gunpla boxes and equipment (which pretty much reminds you that you’re controlling a model kit). Since it is a demo, we might be able to see more modes/objectives with the full version.
The soundtrack is very upbeat especially the VR hangar theme, but if you’re looking for the themes to the numerous series, sadly they aren’t here.
Now on to graphics. Yes, looking at your creations will be a joy in itself, battling or not. The frame rate is fairly smooth and the animation is detailed. And of course, a pretty minimalistic HUD makes sure you focus on the action and little else.
All of these combined, Gundam fans who are looking to build their dream unit and duke it out with friends will be in for a blast. The customization and the frantic gameplay will surely be with you for a long time to come. Build it, break it, repeat and have fun!