by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I’m incredibly bad at Gundam Versus. It’s not a franchise we’ve seen much of in the West though. I even had the chance to practice on the Vita with the previous Gundam Versus title, but I was still terrible! And that’s okay. Despite that, I love the game, I love the franchise. It’s incredibly authentic and accurate to the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. The gameplay relies on skill and not upgrades/stat boosts for which I’m grateful. I haven’t used a single Mobile Suit that was not enjoyable (though I’m willing to bet mass-produced like Guncannon, Ball, GM are probably considerably weaker than Zeta Gundam, Hyaku-Shiki, Sazabi, or Justice Gundam). Every suit isn’t “amazing”, but every suit looks/plays like it would in the show/manga it came from. That’s important. The idea behind Gundam Versus is pretty simple. It’s an Arena Battler/Fighting Game and doesn’t really have a story like say, Gundam Musou/Dynasty Warriors Gundam does. You pick your Mobile Suit, and if applicable, you pick a pilot (some suits have several pilot options as you level them up) and finally a backup/summon. You only start off with a few of those, but by leveling up your Mobile Suits you’ll increase your options for backup too. After all, why use a Ball for a backup when you can use Psycho Gundam?
The controls, for the most part, are very solid. The only complaint I have for controls is that to block you hit down then up on the D-Pad, and that’s cumbersome and incredibly frustrating to do while you’re being shot at. Other than that, the controls make sense, once you’ve done the Tutorial. Please, do the tutorial. Take the time, because this isn’t like any fighting game you’ve likely played before. One of the things I definitely appreciate though is the cast. I’ve heard some people throw actual temper tantrums for certain characters not being in. Am I bummed that Johnny Ridden’s not in the game? Of course, he’s awesome! But is that any reason to take a dump on a solid game? Again, the answer is no. But the game is fairly simple in essence. You have 1,000 points, and so does the other team/player (there is multiplayer).
When you shoot someone down, they can redeploy, but it takes whatever the cost of their Mobile Suit is. For example, one of my favorite Mobile Suits is the Sazabi, piloted by Char Aznable. It’s got a 500 cost, so I can deploy one more time if it’s a one-on-one. Or if I use the X2 Kai, it’s only got a cost of 300. You have hitpoints, and taking damage lowers that pool and when you hit 0, kaboom! Each Mobile Suit has a variety of ranged/close range attacks, and you can clearly see your ammunition on the screen. The UI’s pretty intuitive, I have to say. In most of the matches I played online, people were playing some pretty low-point Suits to redeploy more than just once and were incredibly skilled with them. Ranked and Casual matches were both very fun, and I never felt upset that I lost, because I knew they had as much/more skill than me.
The real game mode in my estimation is the Ranked/Casual Online modes, but I had way more fun playing the offline modes, Ultimate Battle/Trial Battle. I’m not very good at this, so playing modes where I can try new stuff without having to wait all that long for a match was pretty great. Plus Ultimate Battle’s “survive against wave after wave of Mobile Suits”, limited-time events, and the Arcade feel of Trial Battle definitely felt like I was getting the full Mobile Suit Gundam experience. Something worth noting is that this is an Arena Battler like I said before. In Ultimate Mode you play against 10, 30, 50 waves of Mobile Suits and with your partner, do your best to win. It’s simple, straightforward, and challenging. Trial Battle is again, an Arcade Mode. You have Easy, Normal, Hard, and Ultimate. Each Route has alternate routes to take, and each stage has its own difficulty/encounters to worry about. Since this game has 70+ pilots, I’m grateful you can set your favorite Mobile Suits on a list, and now you can pick much faster. The cast is gigantic, and there are options for any fan of any series of Mobile Suit Gundam. Sure there are people that were left out, but most of the major stars are waiting to be plucked up.
You can’t just spam your buttons and win. These are huge battlefields, all in notable locales from the franchise. Ducking behind buildings, sweeping from around mountains, it’s all about position, strategy, and location. And not wasting your shots. Your weapons do reload, but it takes quite a while, especially for the stronger weapons. 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 battles are fast, furious, and genuinely feel as intense as the Mobile Suit series these came from. Another thing I enjoy is that leveling the Mobile Suits does not make them stronger. There’s no way to enhance their stats, change their weapons, or get a statistical edge on someone other than probably playing a better Mobile Suit (and being more skilled than your opponent). Leveling a Mobile Suit gives you titles, banners, new pilots, things of that nature. The game all boils down to skill. In addition to the weapons/armaments of the mobile suits, you also have Lightning Gear/Blaze Gear, two power-up options, for either one giant power attack or a series of quick, lightning-fast attacks. They’re both solid, so pick whichever suits you. I do admittedly wish I could change the armaments of a Mobile Suit to something else they used, but I can see why that might be left out.
I Can See Them … I Can See The Enemy: 4/5
I genuinely love playing this game. Even if I weren’t a Gundam fan, I’d probably enjoy the incredible combat. If you love giant robot battles, lots of cool designs, characters and stages, this has something for you. No matter what Gundam era you’re a fan of (Universal Century, Fight Century, Beyond Colony, et cetera), no matter what actual series (Thunderbolt, Iron-Blooded Orphans, Zeta, Stardust Memories) this will have something for you. It’s challenging, rewards skill and not button-mashing madness, and is also very visually appealing to boot. However, there is something I’d like to address. Normally, I complain when a game drops tons of DLC immediately. These are all in the form of new Mobile Suits/Pilots, at 5 bucks a pop. There’s already a lot of them. But why am I not mad? Because this game already has over 90 playable Mobile Suits at launch! If there were a Gundam I desperately wanted to pilot that’s not on that list/is DLC, I’d honestly probably just get it. This isn’t a game that gave me six characters and launched three DLC characters month 1.
But there is already a host of playable suits I love. It’s something I’d certainly have to practice and hone my skills for if I wanted to be good at it. The controls are still something I struggle with a little, but that’s down to not being used to them, not playing another game with similar settings. If you love giant robots, big laser swords, and guns, and want to do battle in an environment that promotes skill? This is for you. There is even a Tier List, for fighting game enthusiasts, you can definitely find what people think are the strongest/weakest (Or you can click here). Is every Mobile Suit in the game “great”? Probably not. But can you use any Mobile Suit and make it your own? You sure can. I do feel it’s probably going to be a niche’ title, and a lot of the Mobile Suit names are going to look like gibberish to the uninitiated. But I hope it’s not. I hope it brings a resurgence of Mobile Suit popularity to the West. I need a PS4 Gundam Musou! But Gundam Versus does scratch that itch, and feels like an incredibly authentic experience. We are Gundam.