Review: Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS-Force (PSV/PSTV)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
Title: Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS-Force
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.44 GB)
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS-Force is exclusive to PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Vita download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

It’s safe to say Gundam is pretty big in Japan. Sometimes quite literally. But this giant robot franchise has never fully caught on with the rest of the world. Sure, we get most of the anime but the games tend to stay in Japan with the exception of the Gundam Warriors series, which can bank on resonance with both Gundam and Koei’s myriad Warriors games.

For what it’s worth, I’m not a huge fan myself. I’ve seen a few Gundam shows, and I own a model kit of the Banshee from Gundam Unicorn, but I’ve never invested in the franchise whole heartedly. Still, I was interested in Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs-Force, if only because it does seem rare for Bandai to bring it over. Plus, giant robots are cool.

Gameplay:
Seeing as the Gundam franchise usually revolves around mobile suits (giant robots) of the same name waging war, Extreme Vs-Force naturally has the player as the pilot of one of these Gundam. This is a third person action game where the player must fight off enemy mobile suits. There are a few different modes through which this accomplished but the base gameplay is essentially the same between them.

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Games that have the player piloting giant robots dance a fine line in my opinion. On one hand, it’s hard to convey the size and scope of a mecha without some amount of “lumbering.” But on the other, some games seem to end up bogged down with a clunky and unwieldy robot that isn’t much fun to pilot.

Vs-Force straddles this line in a couple ways. The first is the variety of Gundam available to the player. Individual suits, in addition to having slightly different weapons and movesets, each feel a little different. Some are a lot faster and more agile, such as Master Asia’s Master Gundam, while others like Amaro’s Gundam slow things down more.

… firing lasers everywhere …
Second, there’s a major mechanic revolving around boosting. Mobile suits can all dash and, to a limited degree, fly but these actions are tied to a boost meter. Dashing or flying for more than a second or two will deplete the meter and it will take another second to recharge. This lets the suits be agile when needed without losing too much of the scale. Plus, the mechanic ends up being hugely important to master in order to do well in the game.

The combat took me some time to become accustomed to, but once I did I had fun with it. Zooming around as the different Gundam and firing lasers everywhere has a certain appeal. Plus I enjoyed jumping around through the different suits, with their different movesets and play styles.

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There are a few different modes in the game. One offers some short sets of missions to play through plus the ability to simply set up a four-Gundam versus match with specific settings. There’s also a multiplayer mode but the big meat and potatoes for single player content is the story mode.

The story itself is mostly just a means by which to shove the player into different Gundam battles from across multiple series. The main character is some unexplained entity who is tasked with furthering human evolution by ‘linking’ with important people during pivotal moments in the timeline. The main story mostly has the player jumping into the story events of various Gundam series starting with the One Year War.

In terms of narrative, the interconnecting stuff is serviceable but not all that engrossing. I imagine that someone who recognizes more of the battles being referenced might enjoy that aspect of it more, but for me it wasn’t much more than just a series of missions. Fortunately then, those missions are pretty varied.

… Allies never feel like much help …
The variety helps keep the pace up. Some missions might involve targeting a specific enemy or protecting an ally. On top of that they can vary in scope too. Some feature only the player and an ally against two enemies in a small arena.

Larger missions though, add bases to the maps. In these, each side can have up to three teams each of up to two mobile suits plus one large unit. The player has the ability to pause the action and direct their non-player teams to move to specific points or attack specific bases. Bases then periodically spawn minions for their allied team which move towards enemy bases and attack anything near them.

By far the worst part of the story mode is the AI. Allies never feel like much help, especially if the current mission objective requires some finesse. And enemies tend to feel tough not because they fight intelligently but because the game will often toss a lot of them at the player at once. It’s easy to take a laser to the back while focusing on a different enemy.

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Taking enemy bases, which is a common mission requirement, can be a chore. Allies never seem to attack them and it’s easy to get swarmed while targeting one. Even taking down the enemy units before focusing on a base doesn’t often work as the enemies will just respawn on that base. Missions that require protecting an ally are also annoying as ally units seemingly have the armor of a soda can.

Still, I enjoyed much of the story mode. Though there are individual annoyances, the missions are varied enough to keep things fresh. In the cases where I came across a particularly annoying or hard mission, I could spend currency to boost my side’s attack damage or defense during that mission. This was a godsend when I found myself stuck as I rarely failed a mission when I used them but they cost just enough to discourage me from using them every time by default.

Plus most missions last ten minutes or less, making the game ideal for a handheld system. There are also a lot of optional missions which can unlock extra Gundam to fight as. Additionally there’s some replay as each mission has side objectives that unlock Haro medals. So there’s no shortage of things to do, even just in the single player content.

… simple geometry and textures …
Visuals:
“Fine” is probably how I would describe the graphics in Gundam. Having only seen two vs two duels in pre-release footage, I was surprised when I found out that the game actually can handle a lot of mobile suits on screen at once.

With six on the ally team, six on the enemy, and a few minions puttering about, it’s possible to have quite a few at once. I didn’t notice any big performance issues when this happened either, which was nice.

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That said, the graphics themselves are pretty plain. The mobile suits look appreciable to their anime counterparts but they don’t have nearly as much detail. And most of the environments don’t amount to much with simple geometry and textures for the most part. Plus there’s no environment destruction, which is sad for a game with giant robots but not unexpected given the platform.

Audio:
As a relatively niche release, Bandai has decided not to add any English audio to the game so only the original Japanese is here. There isn’t a ton of voice work anyway.

Pilots have a line here and there for in-battle stuff and the occasional introduction line when an enemy shows up mid-battle. Sadly, there are no subtitles for most of these things. Only the two AI companion characters of the story have much dialogue outside of the battles.

For music, the game has a full complement of what I assume are songs from the various Gundam projects over the years. The game even lets the player go in and adjust the soundtrack, including substituting songs on the player’s memory card for in-game music.

The game runs on the Vita’s highest power setting so it can’t run concurrently with the system music player. Oddly, Bandai has not translated the track names for the in-game soundtrack though.

… a good breadth of content …
Online/Multiplayer:
The biggest disappointment, for me, is the lack of online multiplayer. Instead, Vs-Force only includes ad-hoc multiplayer. My testing of this format, then, is limited to simply loading it up on my Vita and PS TV and playing against myself.

Multiplayer is strictly two human players but both can have AI allies. There are three modes each with three maps. The first is a two vs two duel with each player being able to bring in one allied AI-controlled mobile suit.

The second and third modes let each player have up to five allies like in single player. Players can issue commands to their allied suits but unlike in single player, the game doesn’t pause while giving those commands. One of the modes tasks the players with capturing bases while the other has each player trying to destroy their opponent’s oversized commander.

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Conclusion:
Despite not being a very big Gundam nut, Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs-Force managed to appeal to me quite a bit. Sure, recognizing some of the characters is a plus but with the quick combat and varied unit playstyles, getting through the single player modes was an enjoyable venture. There are some occasional annoyances but the game makes up for it with a good breadth of content.

I probably don’t need to recommend this game to Gundam fans. For those who aren’t, I still think this gets a recommendation though. Especially for anyone looking for fun diversion on the Vita, where the game’s mission lengths make it perfect to pick up and play. This may not be quite the same thing as being in a giant robot, but at least it’ll fit in your pocket.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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