Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
While it may feel like we see a fair number of Gundam-related video games in the West, the fact of the matter is that we really only get a fraction of what Japan actually outputs. It is even more rare that we actually get a good Gundam game over here, so in that regard, Gundam Versus is a release that?s worth celebrating. The series has been around for quite a while, but this marks the first Western release for the Versus series, and it?s a pretty good starting point for fans that have been oblivious to the existence of this franchise up until now.
So what is Gundam Versus? The easy answer to that question is that this is a 3D arena fighting game. You?ll select one Mobile Suit from an absolutely humongous list that spans decades of Gundam anime releases, featuring a whole host of fan favorite units. From there you?ll have a more limited list of Operators (think pilots), and Strikers (limited, auto-controlled assist units). Despite the large number of available Gundam, they all tend to control differently, with unique attacks and properties that set them apart from one another. I wouldn?t go so far as to say they?re balanced, I think that?s virtually impossible with a roster this large, but for the most part the units at least feel viable, whether you?re facing off against the A.I. or other player-controlled units online.
To go along with the unique feel of the 90 plus unit list, I think all of the Gundam available in Gundam Versus look pretty great too. They animate well, have a fair amount of detail packed in, and some of their attack animations are culled directly from their respective television series. Enough so that even a casual fan like myself can appreciate the amount of work that went into re-creating the various Mobile Suits present here. The same attention to detail does seem to be lacking when it comes to the different environments you?ll battle it out in, but the Gundam are clearly meant to be the focus, and that shows here.
Gundam Versus also feels great to play, the act of actually piloting a Gundam, dodging enemy fire, and reciprocating in kind, is really engaging. The controls are fairly basic with multiple attack buttons for ranged and melee attacks, along with some limited boost and flight functionality for survivability. Some units can also defend against attacks, and every unit has a boost/super mode that it can deploy once the corresponding on-screen bar has been filled. Attacks come with different timings and cooldowns, and melee attacks can be further enhanced when combined with directional inputs. It?s not hard to lay waste to other Gundam units, but perfecting how you do so while mitigating damage will take some practice.
The in-game tutorial is lacking in this regard. You?re taught the basics, but against nothing more than a training dummy. Knowing when to attack and dodge, or how to string together an effective combo, is something that you?ll need to learn outside of the confines of what Gundam Versus offers. It isn?t hard to find that material on the internet, but it would be nice if a little more effort was given to showing new players the ropes within the confines of the actual game.
While Gundam Versus does feature some single-player content, most notably the survival wave based Ultimate Battle mode, you?ll likely be spending most of your time online against other pilots. There?s a few different versus modes available, including Player and Ranked. There are also lobbies where up to 16 players can congregate and pair off into teams. Gundam Versus as a whole is both a co-op and competitive experience. Every mode will pair you with another Gundam (either A.I. or player controlled), making this an ideal game to play with a friend. Unfortunately, you?ll have to play with that friend online, as local co-op isn?t an option.
Online play works fairly well, but like most games is entirely dependent on the location of other participants. I?d find both heavy lag and zero lag with random match-ups, and outside of lobby play, your overall quality of connection will be pretty random. That said, there are a decent number of people playing the game online, and I had little to no trouble either finding active lobbies to join, or random people to play within Player and Ranked modes.
I think you?ll still need a pre-existing enjoyment of Mobile Suit Gundam going into Gundam Versus to really, really enjoy it, but the framework is definitely here for a unique fighting game. There are so many Mobile Suits to pick from, and a fair amount of unlockable content, so you can easily spend dozens of hours playing. And, thankfully, the online community is present to support those hours of playing, which is certainly a plus. I?d definitely suggest checking it out, whether you?re a fan of Gundam specifically, or giant robot anime in general. There?s a lot of fun to be had with Gundam Versus.