Game Review: Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force (PS Vita)
29/07/2016 Leave a comment
It’s been several years since Bandai Namco Entertainment released a dedicated Mobile Suit Gundam game, that is if you exclude the immensely enjoyable Dynasty Warriors Gundam titles, and now the publisher is attempting to bring the franchise back to European shores with it’s PS Vita release of Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force. So is this a smart move? or should Bandai Namco Entertainment have published a different Gundam game to the west? Well lets take a look!
Mobile Suit Gundam is one of the longest running franchises to date, with the first anime series broadcast in 1979 and its first videogame adaptation released in 1986; and yet when it comes to the European market hardly any of them were ever brought over. Fortunately for us Anime Limited and Bandai Namco Entertainment are trying to change this fact as while Anime Limited are continuously trying to push out various generations of the Mobile Suit Gundam anime franchise, with Z Gundam due later this year, Bandai Namco Entertainment have brought us one of the newer instalments into the Mobile Suit Gundam gaming universe; namely Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force for the PS Vita.
Despite being the first ‘dedicated’ Gundam game in a long time to make it to the European shores Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force is actually the third iteration of the Mobile Suit Gundam VS series; a series which initially started in Japanese arcades as a 2-on-2 fighting game, similar to SEGA’s Virtua On franchise, before being ported to the PS3 in Japan. Does this mean Bandai Namco Entertainment chose the wrong Gundam game to bring out to Europe? No; instead it is the better variation of the three games and offers a simplistic action-packed entry into the Gundam universe.
Mobile Suit Gundam VS, and it’s updated sequel Mobile Suit Gundam VS FULL BOOST, were pretty much arcade games beefed up for the home console release – similar to how Tekken games feature additional game modes and online multiplayer – with Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Forces however it was designed as a home console game from the start and as such there is more variety to it. Of course if you prefer to experience that simple-minded 2-on-2 mecha action then this feature remains in the game with via its offline and online multiplayer modes; but we will get to that later.
So; what exactly is Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force? Truthfully it is an independent Mobile Suit Gundam game built-on the foundations of the entire franchise; all of which will be painfully explained in the informative, if not slightly boring, campaign mode. At its core the game features numerous mobile suits spanning the entire 37 year history of the Gundam franchise played out in various different match-types; some of which pay homage to the Dynasty Warriors styled combat while others remain true to the simplistic arcade gameplay that the Gundam VS series is known for.
This PS Vita release of Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force features a Campaign mode, known as Extreme Force, an offline versus and challenge mode, known as VS Extend, a local multiplayer option, known as Battle Force, and a database that provides information on the gundam universe as well as the ability to play music from the game. Truth be told it’s not a strong line-up of content; especially when you consider that it’s offline multiplayer only; but what it lacks in game mode variety it replaces with a wealth of historic content from the Gundam franchise – most of which we should all be familiar with by now.
For starters the campaign mode, otherwise known as Extreme Force, puts players into the role of a virtual character who, with the help of two AI assists known as Aire and Tereno, must create a database of the entire Gundam universe. How exactly is this done? By living out iconic moments from the anime series they are based on. To be fair it is a relatively ‘lax’ storyline – although the amount of dialogue it provides through its visual novel elements are overwhelming – but while the storyline dialogue will be quickly forgotten it is a nice way of replaying key moments from the Gundam franchise. Bizarrely enough however even though you must fight through battles seen within Mobile Suit Gundam, Z Gundam, ZZ Gundam and so forth you do not have to pick the character from that timeline; for instance as demonstrated in the gameplay video (which is also located at the bottom of this article) I could freely choose another unlocked mobile suit and play as that character. It’s an odd design choice but, from my perspective at least, it allows you to play moments from the Gundam franchise how you wish to play them; i.e. in your preferred mobile suit if unlocked rather than one designated by the game.
Of course; favourable Mobile Suits, such as Wing Gundam and Strike Gundam, will not be unlocked until you have completed that aspect of the campaign mode; but if you have updated the game to its recent version you will be awarded a variety of mobile suits – including Freedom Gundam and Tallgeese III – for you to use straight away. Be warned; even if you have Gundams unlocked you may not be able to use them in battle; as certain restrictions (such as Attack Power levels) will refrain you from using certain mobile suits in certain missions. In short the campaign mode will see you replay iconic moments from the entire Mobile Suit Gundam timeline except you are free to choose which mobile suits to use if they are unlocked. While the campaign will allow you replay key battles it won’t explain or demonstrate how or why these battles are taking place; so if you are unfamiliar with the story of Gundam then you may be at a loss as to what is happening.
In terms of combat then Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force is pretty simplistic as you are able to walk, dodge (using boost), lock-on, attack, shoot and perform special (trademark) attacks using the buttons on your PS Vita. As far as I can tell no touchscreen options are needed or used and as a result the game is fully compatible with the Playstation TV (which is of course a nice option to have). By using the left analog stick players can move the mobile suit meanwhile the right analog stick will control the camera; in order to attack the square (beam rifle) and triangle (beam sword) buttons are used while circle is used to lock-on. If you wish to boost dodge then all you need to do is press the X button while moving the analog stick and pressing X on its own will result in a boosting into the air. It’s simple, effective and straight forward but oddly enough the on-screen instructions before battle make it anything but easy.
Of course the gameplay mechanics don’t just end there; as certain missions types will introduce new gameplay controls. For instance the first mission within the campaign mode, as well as the Versus mode, will simply see 2-on-2 matches taking place however certain missions will see the gameplay type change. For starters the objective of the player will be to capture a selection of areas on a large open map while defending his base from the onslaught of enemy mobile suits. It’s not on the grand scale of Dynasty Warriors Gundam, whereby hordes of mobile suits will be surrounding you, but you may face up to six mobile suits at any one time – each of which will want a piece of you. That’s not all either; as by pressing Force Command button you can choose where you want AI opponents to attack and, once enough force points have been acquired, you can activate special abilities and attacks. While this new gameplay elements are nice it does add a new layer of confusion; especially when it comes to capturing locations as while you are presented with a Mini-Map it does not list out a clear map of the area and as such in order to see how to get to a particular location your will need to vist the Force Command option. This for me was frustrating as it disrupted the flow of battle; but it’s a relatively small complaint as most maps can be easily navigated.
It’s this variety in gameplay that makes Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force stand out from the rest of the gundam franchise; sure enough past games have offered a more definitive or stand-a-lone story but after a handful of missions they felt repetitive and bleack. With this game however we not only have the relatively fast-paced nature of the game but we also have variety in gameplay types and objectives; but of course on the downside there isn’t much of a story to be had as it quickly becomes overshadowed by the missions. For a Gundam fan such as myself the campaign mode is everything I liked; a simple straight forward look back at the Gundam franchise with a unique story explaining why you are relaying events from the past.
Of course if you do not wish to partake in the campaign mode then the inclusion of VS Extend, which features the Arcade style 2-on-2 gameplay with all Mobile Suits unlocked by default and Challenge Events, can be found. Those looking for a challenge, such as completing a mission with a restrictive amount of health or respawns, will find it here and while they offer short-bursts of found I found that the campaign mode offered more enjoyment if you wish to rekindle your joy for the franchise. Alongside these modes of course we have the Database, which gradually fills up the more you progress through the game and allows you to look back at information on characters, mobile suits and soundtracks (which are oddly enough presented in Japanese rather than English), and the local multiplayer mode of the game. The inclusion of multiplayer is great; but the fact that it is adhoc (local multiplayer only) is a bit of a disappointment; especially when you consider the previous Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS titles featured a working online multiplayer mode and that the 2-on-2 arcade nature of the game is best played with other players rather than AI opponents.
In short Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force is a great way to become familiar with the ‘true nature’ of the Mobile Suit Gundam universe without sitting through twenty-minute hack and slash fights and thanks to the recent update, which is applied exclusively to this english variation of the game, we also gain access to a wider range of mobile suits than the inital Japanese launch of the game. It’s simplistic, short-bursts of Gundam fun and while some levels may proove to be a challenge it is a great addition to the PS Vita. This game is obviously designed for fans in mind; but saying that anyone with a slight interest in the Gundam universe will be able to pick-up and enjoy what this game offers.
Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Foce is now available exclusively as a digital download for the PS Vita from the Playstation Network Store. Alternatively a ‘physical’ version of the game with English text/subtitles is available from Play-Asia.