What is there not to like about giant robots? Having oversized mechanical humanoids fight amongst each other is a child’s fantasy and the Gundam universe incorporates this in spades. Watching the anime of the Gundam series or playing with the toys is one thing, but how does the game fair with its popular cousins?
After accepting a lengthy miniaturised legal document that takes a good 20 seconds to scroll from top to bottom (if you don’t read it), an FMV trailer depicting a couple Gundams battling it out and breaking through buildings introduces the action and gives the impression that Gundam Versus is going to be a fun, and fast game.
From the main menu you’re bombarded with a whole host of playable game modes and options, which can be quite overwhelming at first. Get ready to choose from Ultimate Battle, Trial Battle, Free Battle, Ranked Match, Casual Match, Player Match, and Tutorial! Not only does it make the screen look full and messy, but these modes aren’t exactly what they claim to be.
Ultimate Battle pits you in a ring against an ever-increasing difficulty wave of enemies. Each wave consists of different Gundams from different series, and your aim is to destroy them while keeping your health high enough to reach the final round – all dependent on the skill level you chose beforehand. Essentially this is a survival mode and in many other games, it’s also called Trial Mode.
This is where things get confusing because Trial Battle is nothing of the sort. Here Trial Battle plays out more like a campaign where there are 10 routes to choose from, each with mini-missions that have objectives. Granted, the battles play out like a survival mode but there are only a few rounds compared to Ultimate Battle.
Free Battle Mode is your typical fighting game setup where you can have 1v1, 1v2, 1v3, or 2v2 against the computer. You can choose any Gundam, its Striker (extra weapon), and a special gear that can either make you destroy most Gundams in a single hit (Blaze), or have an advantage with faster movement (Lightning).
When it comes to the online modes you can’t join Ranked until you reach the rank of REGULAR, which you get via playing casual or player matches. Finding an online match in Player Match mode is quite difficult as there’s no “just find me a match” option, you must put in specifics – so if you’re in a region where there aren’t many players, then the mode is rather useless. Thankfully Casual Match mode allows you to choose 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3 and finding a match is a breeze in 1v1. When choosing 2v2 or 3v3 then it’s a rarity to find a game – even when the search option was set to worldwide.
As Gundam Versus is essentially an online game that plays like a fighting game, having a player base is a must, and as of writing this, it’s difficult to get to the Ranked matches if there isn’t a player base beforehand. When you do eventually get a match then you’re generally entering into an entire world of hurt. The players that play this game will typically be in Japan and they have had this game for a while, so expect to be annihilated quickly.
This isn’t an issue relating only to Gundam Versus, but it’s an issue with fighting games themselves. They have an elitist player base that is difficult to enter once established, and they tend to get established relatively quickly. The way this game plays feels like that of Zone of the Enders, but far less fluid and more clunky and mechanical. This leads to newcomers finding it hard to pull off moves against the season pros.
Once going through the tutorials (which is a must) and playing a few Ultimate Battles and Trial Battles, then playing online becomes considerably easier and much more fast-paced. However to progress anywhere in the Ranked Matches you will need to unlock the myriad of Strikers available for your Gundams, and there’s a plethora of them!
If there’s one thing this game has it’s the lore, Gundams, and Strikers available to the players. In fact, there’s so many to choose from that it makes other fighting games pale in comparison, even King of Fighters with its frequent 50+ roster list. There are 106 Gundams available to choose from ranging from the entire Gundam Universe, including the Barbatos Lupus from the latest Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans and the Gundam Wing Zero from Gundam Wing Endless Waltz. Most of the characters are also present donning their respective Gundam Mobile Suits.
To unlock these Strikers you need to play the game to earn in-game currency, and with the currency you purchase the rewards that are available once you reach a set level with your frequently used Gundam. Each Gundam has their own unique set of unlocks so you will need to play with all of the Gundams and reach their top experience level before you can unlock everything in the game. With there being so many Gundams it will take an eternity to get through.
Thankfully the Strikers are unlocked at a very low level (level 2 or 3) so you can earn them much faster than the custom titles and emblems. You can also unlock various navigators and pilots from their respective series too owing to the ability to mix and match Gundams, Strikers, and Pilots alike. The wealth of options can be overwhelming but it’s a nice welcome to a fighting game. If there are certain customisations that you play well with, then you can save these loadouts for quick access before any battle begins, be it online or local.
Taking these two-legged robotic beasts into the arenas is complicated enough, but once you start to fight you need to understand how the controls work. If you went through the tutorials (despite confusing at times) then you should be fine, but learning the intricacies of fast-paced combat is difficult to master. What’s also confusing is the interface. You’re given the loadout of your Gundam to the right, your health number in the bottom left, and the boost/super mode bars to the bottom. There is also a map at the top right and the enemy’s health bars at the top left.
Why you have a number for your health – whereas everything is using bars – is inconsistent enough, but when the interface takes up at least a third of the screen, then it can make seeing the peripheral area difficult; it’s as if you’re fighting with tunnel vision.
What does help is targeting. You automatically face the opponent that’s targeted which makes having the map almost redundant. A quick tap of the change target button and you’re already facing them. Your coordinator takes up the biggest space of all and appears frequently on the screen directly under the map, and it blocks the view so much that it detracts from the combat.
All of the weapons at hand have a limited number of uses, but they do recharge over time, but it’s a roll of the die on knowing which weapon is assigned to which button. Until you play the game for several hours, it’s potluck remembering which button does what. As square, L2, R2, L1, and R1 are your loadout buttons with the triangle being used solely for melee, you have to press them to remember what they’re assigned to, thus wasting your ammo. Having a simple controller button by the weapons would make this instantly accessible to new and veteran players alike
These inconsistencies plague the game starting from the tutorials and all the way into the arena. It’s a shame because the actual battles against veteran players is a lot of fast and frantic fun, even the trials can be fun, but the interfaces, odd menu system, and confusing control scheme makes it hard to enjoy the game even more and can be quite frustrating at times, especially when it comes to playing online.
If you are joining the Gundam Universe for the first time and are unsure what all of these Gundam series are, then you can head to the Media Select screen and scroll through the entire catalogue, each with their story summaries and years in which they were set. It will help you understand how it all interconnects. What would have been nice is to have character profiles, Mobile Suit Gundam profiles, and other similar information in the game to help understand the universe even more.
It’s a refreshing change to see a fighting game that utilises the 3D arena to the fullest. Having a plethora of customisable Gundams makes the battles refreshing, new, and fun every time. Unfortunately, the game feels too robotic and stiff compared to most fighting games where they feel fluid, and it’s certainly not newbie friendly. Adding a messy inconsistent graphical interface makes for an unpleasant experience.