Gundam Versus is the latest installment in one of Japan’s most popular arcade titles, and it’s the first console version to be released overseas in almost 15 years. Traditional fighters such as Guilty Gear, Street Fighter, and The King of Fighters have been seeing comebacks over the last few years, but Versus does a lot to stand out from the crowd. It’s 2v2 arena style combat pits you and a buddy against another duo in an exciting scramble of barraging bullets and beam sword combat.
Gundam Versus is a game that’s built around the concepts of spacing and mobility. Everything from moving to blocking and attacking makes use of a boost meter. If you end up using all of your boost meter it sets you into a state of paralysis, and leaves you defenseless against your enemies. Smart players will quickly pick up how to manage their boost usage and how to maximize the various movement options they’re given. Versus is indeed a 3D fighter at heart, giving you the ability to move in multiple directions to avoid ranged attacks. And in order to really get the most out of your matches, you’ll need to take advantage of the space around you and the obstacles on a stage.
Ranged attacks are good for poking, but melee combat makes up how most mobile suits will finish off their enemies. You can’t just rush in headfirst though. Ranged attacks are mostly used to zone your opponent to where you want them, and then can be used to confirm into a melee attack. You also need to keep on eye on your partner, as its possible to land damage from slower ranged moves or melee setups when you can have someone else providing cover fire. Each suit has its own share of special melee and ranged options, so experimentation is important in finding something that fits your play style. Some suits capitalize only on melee options, while others are strictly ranged. There are even a few gimmick suits that can trap their opponents with movable turrets or floating weaponry.
Combat in Versus is fast and requires the player to always pay attention. You have to keep in mind that there are two people on each team while fighting, or else your assault can quickly go south. You’ll need to constantly swap back and forth in chaotic matches to keep an eye on both of your opponents to prevent yourself from getting cornered or teamed up on. In a tight spot, you’ll need to use your awakening, either Blaze Gear or Lightning Gear, to give your suit a slight increase in either power or speed and also restock your weapons. Using an awakening also gives you a one-time use of a super move, that also differs from suit to suit. A lot of these tend to be finishers and do lots of damage if they land.
There’s a lot to take in with Versus, and getting used to its movement can take a while for newcomers. Thankfully, the game is packed with plenty of different ways to play and practice with your favorite mobile suit. There’s trial mode, which is like an arcade mode. You make your way through various challenges such as typical 2v2 fights or scrambles against large bosses called mobile armors. Ultimate Battle is a survival mode, where you take on waves of enemies and earn points which you can spend to temporarily boost your suit.
Playing through any mode in the game will grant you GP, a currency used to unlock things. Your primary purchases will be striker units or assists. Each mobile suit has certain strikers tied to it, so you have to play with just about everyone if you want to unlock all the strikers. What’s great is that strikers can be used with any suit, so once you find one you like, you can mix and match it with other units. Strikers are also relatively cheap, so you shouldn’t have to grind up GP if you want to try and quickly collect them all.
Versus also has an online mode where you can play in casual or ranked matches. Ranked comes only in 2v2 or 4-man free-for-all, but casual and player room matches have a few more options. If you want to play 1-on-1 or 3-on-3 you can easily find a match casually. The stability of the online mode is pretty solid. I rarely had any lag in the 2-3 hours I spent jumping from player rooms into casual matches with friends and random players online.
This game is always more fun with a partner, and Namco has set it up so that you can invite a friend along for any of the online matchmaking modes as well as for trial and ultimate battle. It’s a shame the free play mode doesn’t allow for split screen, as there’s no real way to play the game locally without having multiple PlayStations, copies of the game, and monitors. Without all the extra electronics, free play just turns into a training space, and thankfully you can edit the match settings to create an endless fight or include non-attacking enemies. Local co-op was probably removed due to past console VS titles having frame rate issues with split screen, but it’s a missed feature nonetheless.
The only other glaring issue with the game comes in the form of the roster. It boasts over 90 mobile suits, but Versus is one of the first crossover titles to actively omit main Gundam series. Shows like Gundam X, SEED Destiny, G Gundam have zero reps, and Gundam 00 is missing its titular mech with there being no suits in from its second season. Chances are that Namco will introduce these later down the line as DLC, but it’s disappointing that some fan favorites have gone in favor of 9-10 units from other series.
Overall, Gundam Versus is a very solid game. The combat is fast-paced and it has a high level of polish to it. The skill floor is relatively low, and even the least dedicated of fighting game players can pick it up and get into Versus pretty easily. There is a higher meta-game to it for those seeking a competitive environment, and learning how to dodge, shoot, and create combos is essential to climbing ranks or really showing your skill. The colorful Gundam aesthetic looks great in HD, and I find it hard to not recommend the game to any casual or hardcore fan. Evan fans of other mech games should probably pick this one up. It has some issues in its roster and lacks a local multiplayer, but these minor quibbles shouldn’t detract too much from the overall experience.