Clashing of beam sabers. Beam cannons firing from all sides. Your piloting skills and reflexes will be put to the test with Gundam Versus, a fighting game from Bandai Namco, exclusive on the PlayStation 4 system. Yes it’s a fighting game – but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Gundam Versus puts any Gundam fans’ fantasy to life with a roster of over 100 mobile suits spanning the entire Gundam multiverse. As a big fan of several spin-off anime series of the Gundam multiverse, it’s such a treat to see my favorite suits duke it out to see which suit is the best of the best among the entire multiverse.
The premise is simple, pick a mobile suit, and engage in a fast-paced mech vs mech battle, may it be against AI, or other players online. While played in 3rd person, it plays like a fighting game akin to recent titles like For Honor, and requires dedication and time to master each of the suits available in the game. Each suit plays differently – suits like the Wing Gundam Zero from Gundam Wing is a balanced, high mobility suit, that performs well in both long range and close combat, while suits like the latest Barbatos Lupus from Iron Blooded Orphans emphasizes melee with powerful and deadly strikes. With an expansive roster, there’s a fit for almost any play style.
But beneath its simplicity is a steep learning curve and technical complexity. Movement is aided with your suit’s boosters so you can charge in, boost sideways, or even downwards while airborne, so you can quickly flank and attack your enemies with a perfect combo. However, you need to be conscious about your use of your boost as it can quickly run out and leave you vulnerable. Thankfully, it recharges quickly so you can get back to the fight fast.
Certain attacks can be charged for more powerful attacks, and as the battle progresses, a Burst meter fills up for you to unleash swift combos, more powerful attacks, and a signature Burst attack.
What makes this further complicated is actually its huge roster of playable suits, with each having its unique arsenal and play style. This gives the game a very steep learning curve if you intend to master all of the suits in the game.
With a such an expansive roster, you’d wonder how the developers have managed to balance the system. This is thanks to the cost system, where powerful mobile suits cost more to use than standard or less advanced mobile suits. In a battle, this cost is deducted from the total team HP. Thus, playing powerful suits is a high risk, high reward play, while less advanced suits require players to out-pilot their enemies using pure skill. It’s an impressive balancing act which makes the game actually fun to play.
Unfortunately, it’s not without its downsides. Fighting-centric G Gundam is nowhere to be found surprisingly, and a lot of my favorite suits like the Strike Freedom, Infinite Justice, OO Raiser and the custom series from Gundam Wing Endless Waltz aren’t included. However, this is understandable as these are mostly overpowered suits, and could probably ruin the entire balance of the game.
There’s a big lack of single player content here as there is no story mode or campaign mode to speak of. Your choice of single player content is limited to the the Ultimate Battle Mode, a wave based survival mode; Trial Battle, a mode where you progress by completing missions; Free Battle where you can fight against an AI, perfect for practicing. The rest are multi-player modes, including Casual Match, where you’re pitted with random online players on 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 sessions, and Player Match where you can create lobbies other players can join in to, with your preferred match settings. Ranked Match will test your mettle for your to rank up, however it will require you first to make it to a specific rank through casual matches. As for the multiplayer matches themselves, 3 weeks in to the game, I’ve been experiencing less lag and issues with the matches, but there’s still the occasional stops that occur whenever there’s someone with slow connection in the match as it tries to equalize the connectivity. Would have preferred how Tekken 7 handles it, where you can see the connectivity rating of each player first before starting the match so you’ll get a bit of assurance on the experience.
My main gripe though is its reward system. It’s usefulness ends when you unlock strikers, i.e. the support units for your suits. The rest of the unlocks are actually just titles and banners which aren’t exactly rewarding. I would have preferred cosmetic suit customization unlocks, or even other unlockable playable suits. To add insult to injury, several suits are behind a pay wall and can only be played when you buy them as DLC.
The graphics could do a little more work too. I can’t help but feel like I’m looking at plastic suits in low quality environments. While the sky boxes are beautiful especially in space settings, environments are poorly crafted. Textures are pixelated and destruction effects are unimpressive. Gundams and Mobile Suits are supposed to be powerful war machines, and they certainly don’t feel that way visually in this game.
However, they make this up with a decent amount of fan service. The roster alone is fan service in itself, but where this game’s fan service shines is the soundtrack that spans the entire Gundam multiverse. These tracks work great as background music for your battles, and it just puts you a lot more in the zone when piloting your Gundam or MS. Sad I don’t see Just Communication from Gundam Wing though, but man, listening to Raise Your Flag from Iron Blooded Orphans takes the cake as the best BGM for me anytime. Invoke from Gundam Seed is such an earworm too! But is this enough to offset the numerous flaws of the game? No.
Overall, Gundam Versus has tons of potential. The game is fun and the roster is really extensive, and you can expect hours upon hours invested in this game mastering it, and honing your skills as a Gundam pilot. However as it is now though, it simply is an arcade game with online multiplayer, that looks and feels dated. It’s rough and needs more polishing, but once polished, it’s any Gundam fan’s dream come true. Model the suits better and make them feel more powerful. Make explosions more flashy and devastating. Make them look and feel beyond just plastic models, but badass giant robots. Give me unlockables that make sense to keep me coming back. Maximize the hardware to pull this off, and we’re talking.