It’s time to go nostalgic for this episode of Mecha Fridays as take a look at some of our favorite Gundam games to celebrate its 35th Anniversary.
Bandai Namco revealed that their Gundam franchise of video games is now 35 years old, which is not a surprise if you’ve been playing some of the older Gundam games during the 16-bit or maybe the 32-bit era of game consoles. Though some may assume that the first Gundam game was based on the OG Mobile Suit Gundam series, the first game was actually based on Mobile Suit Gundam Z called Hot Scramble for the Famicom in 1986. The Gundam games aren’t just limited to console games, in its three-decade of catalog, it has launched several arcade games and mobile games as well as re-releases of titles in a form of special editions or remasters. You can also check the massive library of games on their special site: https://ggame.jp/ggame35th/history/.
I’ve started playing Gundam games during the 16-bit years, but not from a gaming console, I’ve discovered an arcade game in a small shopping center in Manila when I was little as my mom brought me there while she was buying some supplies, that was in the early 90s and the PlayStation was about to be released at that time. The game was called SD Gundam: Psycho Salamander no Kyōi which I only know of the title just recently, but the gameplay was still the same as I remembered. It’s a sidescrolling game featuring the Universal Century mobile suits with the RX-78-2 as your go-to mobile suit. And since it’s titled SD Gundam, all of the units featured in the game are all in their super-deformed glory. I only played it for a short while yet it left me with a big impression of how cool Gundams were and my initial introduction to the franchise was from a die-cast toy by Clover, as you can see during those time there wasn’t any Gundam series being aired on local TV, heck even on Cable TV, but I remember seeing a random episode of Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket in one of the Japanese channels that were available in Sky Cable.
My interest in the Gundam franchise started to establish a few years later after owning a PlayStation console that my mom gave to me as a birthday gift, I managed to get a copy of Gundam: The Battle Master 2, which is the original Japanese version of Gundam: Battle Assault 2 for the West and enjoy some random bouts of mobile suits as I waited for new episodes of Gundam Wing that was being aired daily at a local channel. Then soon I’ve been playing other Gundam titles throughout the years, so as part of my celebration for the 35-year-old game franchise, I’ve listed some of the favorite game series, whether from older titles or the most recent that left me an impression about the Gundam franchise and something I would still continue to play.
One of the well-known game series under the Gundam franchises, it’s more of a Gunpla promotion as the game focuses on the mix and matching parts from different mobile suits from a long list of Gundam series. The combat gameplay leans more of being a hack ‘n slash that is easy for everyone to pick up and play and with some hint of loot gaming as you tend to gather parts from fallen enemies to continue in building your dream machine.
My very first exposure to the Gundam Breaker series was Gundam Breaker 2 for the PlayStation Vita (also available on the PlayStation 3) which does not have an English version until its sequel arrived a year later. The game has everything a Gundam fan or heck even Gunpla builders will appreciate, imagine having a ton of options to build your own custom mobile suit and even paint it in any way possible, you could even create custom units based on other mecha franchises if you are that super creative (I did create a Weltall from Xenogears and Tracer and Pharah inspired mobile suits from Overwatch).
But my favorite from the series is Gundam Breaker 3, the game plays faster and has tons of customization for your mobile suit, it even added a New Game+ kind of approach with the Master Grade parts that are stronger than your standard High Grade parts and makes your mobile suit larger.
The formula of mixing deep customization with a mindless hack ‘n slash still works and it made Gundam Breaker a guilty pleasure for me. It has already spanned different games based and right now it has a mobile game that is popular worldwide. Now the next question would be when will there be a proper sequel to the Gundam Breaker series (sorry, New Gundam Breaker doesn’t count as that game was a disappointment).
Everyone has probably wished for a Dynasty Warrior-like Gundam game before, and that’s what happened when Koei Tecmo and Bandai Namco teamed up to release Gundam Musou or Dynasty Warriors Gundam for the English version. The first game was released in 2007 for the PlayStation 2 and then on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as this is the period where Koei Tecmo started to do collaborations to create Musou games based on popular franchises (others include One Piece, Fist of the North Star, Fire Emblem and others).
Early games of the Gundam Musou series featured more realistic visuals then switched to cel-shaded visuals on later games to match the anime style aesthetics, and it also retains the Musou formula of plowing your way through waves of enemy units and raking up kills to a thousand in every mission. You get to play as some of the popular characters and mobile suits from different Gundam series, with some Gundam Musou titles letting you relive the key story moments from other Gundam series or in some cases having an original story that have characters from different series get involved to a single plot.
From the Musuo games that were released for the Gundam franchise, Gundam Reborn was my favorite thanks to the updated gameplay that makes the game experience a bit refreshing, though I still like the anime-style visuals from Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3. Basically, Gundam Musou is just your usual hack ‘n slash game that you’d play as a quick fix of gaming that you could do for an hour or two, but being a Gundam fan, this is more of a fan service as you can hack your way through waves of Zakus or GMs and something you still can enjoy as your gaming pastime or if you are looking for some mecha mayhem.
The Gundam Vs series is a major hit in Japan especially in the arcades, it started with Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon in 2001 which was developed by Capcom at that time. Its straightforward 2-vs-2 format was a hit to many arcade goers as well for its simplistic 4 button layout.
The early Gundam Vs games only have the Universal Century or Cosmic Era mobile suits but now the recent releases feature even other spinoff series including MSV and Build Fighters, and just like any fighting game, it usually gets some version upgrades that add new mobile suits and levels with some occasional balance fixes. The series eventually gets its share of console releases and that’s when I finally got a chance to experience it with a game called Gundam Vs. Gundam for the PlayStation Portable in 2008. The fun part with this series is you get to do a ton of dream matches against some of the fan-favorite mobile suits to see who could win, you can fight solo or have friends to join you and pit against with other players in local multiplayer. The recent titles now let you play split-screen or online against other players in your region (as long as the latency is tolerable).
The recent console release of Gundam Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON was my favorite thanks to the updated roster and still maintaining the mechanics from Extreme Vs. that I enjoy more than the console exclusive versions, though my pick would change in case Gundam Extreme Vs. 2 gets a console release in the future, but we’ll see. Gundam Vs games are the kind of game that you can hop in and hop out at any time if you are itching for some mech battles with your friends with its gameplay being accessible to anyone who is new to the game or even in fighting/arena games.
It’s a long milestone for Bandai Namco in reaching 35 years of releasing Gundam games to different platforms, and I’m looking forward to seeing what new titles they could surprise us. so how about you? What are your favorite Gundam games?