If there’s one franchise that can be considered the epitome of Japanese pop culture, that franchise is Gundam. So famous and iconic that the government of Japan even allowed for a huge mecha statue to be placed in Tokyo’s ward of Odaiba.
I didn’t grow up with the series. Sure, Gundam Wing aired on Cartoon Network for a while, but I had the misfortune of always being present when an uninteresting episode was being aired. Nevertheless, I was actually looking forward to Gundam Versus. Giant robots, each one equipped with more weapons than a small country’s army, fighting each other to death? You don’t need to be a fan of the series to find this, at the very least, worthy of your curiosity. While I did enjoy the core principle of Gundam Versus, there were some issues which prevented the game from being much better than it is.
Playing Gundam Versus is a mixed bag. For every big positive, there’s also an annoying negative. But I’ll start with the positives in order to cheer up this review a little bit.
For starters, this game knocks it out of the park when it comes to its roster. The amount of playabale Gundams in this title is just, well, jaw-dropping. There are more than 90 playable mechs, from all seasons and all iterations of the Gundam franchise. The amount can even be a little bit overwhelming for people with little to no knowledge about the series, but I was glad to see a lot of playable characters from Gundam Wing available from the start. I mostly stuck with them, they were overpowered enough.
The combat system is also worthy of praise, even though, at the very beginning, I thought I was going to hate it. While the game is being installed, it basically throws you into a tutorial battle of sorts against an infinite number of enemies. This segment allowed me to learn the core principles of the gameplay. There’s no way to control the camera, as you’re always locked onto the nearest enemy. You have access to more than half a dozen attacks, each one assigned to a specific button. Once you get used to the lack of free camera movement, which was extremely weird in the beginning, you’ll notice the control style actually works pretty well, for the most part. And with all the positives out of the way, I’ll now talk about the negatives.
The graphics are hit-or-miss. They are colorful, the Gundams are well designed, and the framerate is, for the most part, constant at a high rate. The problem is that this game doesn’t look good enough for a PS4 title. As with a lot of anime-based games released for the PS4, Gundam Versus looks like a straight PS3 port, even though it’s a PS4 exclusive.
Regarding the sound design, there are points worth praising and points worth criticizing. The soundtrack is completely comprised of classic tunes from most of the Gundam seasons, a nice nod to the fans. There is a lot of voiced dialogue as well, and that’s the main problem. Nobody cared to translate them for us mere Western mortals. I’m not asking for an English dub, as I’m firmly in favor of watching a show or movie in its original language, but not even subtitles were provided, which meant I was listening to gibberish for most of the time. As a side note, I’d like to point out the overuse of the original Gundam theme throughout the entire game. The theme was initially played on an eternal loop during the tutorial segment (the segment lasted for more than 20 minutes without a doubt) and would constantly be played during a lot of the solo missions. Speaking of solo missions. . .
The game just doesn’t feature a lot of solo content. Besides a simplistic arcade mode of sorts, which can be beaten in a matter of minutes (some fights can be completed in less than 30 seconds), Gundam Versus is all about online play, and that’s another problem. Two, in fact.
The amount of online modes isn’t exactly big, as there are online 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3 fights. The other problem is regarding its netcode, which is problematic at best. While 1v1 and 2v2 worked fine for the most part, the connection issues during 3v3 were frequent and made fights nearly unplayable. At first I thought it was my internet, but soon enough I found out that’s happening with people from all around the world. That leaves Gundam Versus with very few playable modes, both in single player and multiplayer. That’s, without a doubt, it’s biggest issue. There was potential for a lot more, but all it did was leave us slightly disappointed.
There’s fun to be had with Gundam Versus. If you’re a fan of the franchise, then this game’s roster and general amount of fanservice is basically a gift from the heavens. Fans will probably overlook the bland amount of single player content and connection issues, but anyone else will just think this is a somewhat glitchy robot combat game with a nice roster of robots and a weird combat system. If you just want something to fill your void left by years of no new Virtual-On or MechAssault titles, then Gundam Versus can be an interesting pick. Just not at full price.