The West is finally getting its first console Gundam Vs. game in over a decade. Gundam is a pretty huge deal in Japan. The franchise has spawned plenty of different shows, movies, books, radio dramas, and of course video games. Vs. is easily one of the most popular fighters in Japanese arcades. It breaks away from a lot of traditional conventions, and that’s part of what makes it interesting. I too am a really big fan of Bandai’s 2v2 arena fighter. Full Boost on the PS3 will probably always be my most recommended import game, but now that we’re getting a local console release, I thought it would be better to give a quick rundown on what to expect out of the upcoming Gundam Versus.
One of the most important things in any crossover fighter is how many characters you can play as, and the Gundam franchise has a lot to pick from. Both Full Boost and the arcade exclusive Maxi Boost had impressive rosters that Bandai continued to support with monthly updates and patches. Versus’ roster seems much weaker than that by comparison. There’s a lot here for international fans though. Representation from series that aired overseas is pretty high. Gundam Wing, SEED, and 00 control pretty sizable sections of the roster, but it has come at the cost of diversity. G Gundam, Destiny, AGE, and After War Gundam X are all lacking a rep unit.
There’s a pretty good chance a lot of the missing or underrepresented series will get their share added through DLC. Full Boost had its lifetime expanded by a good year or so thanks to consistent updates and balance changes when it introduced new units, and Maxi Boost is still going strong too. I’m not really keen on seeing franchises held hostage behind a pay wall, but maybe Bandai will surprise me. The last portable Vs. on the Vita had a lot of units added to it for free, so maybe that will carry into this game.
Gameplay and Game Modes
The Vs. games have had the same base formula for a while now: 2-on-2 arena fighting with a focus on spacing and knowing how to confirm from a poke into a combo. Versus is very fast-paced, but pretty easy to get into. It’s a 4-button fighter, where you shoot, slash, and boost your way around a map while avoiding and blocking enemy fire. It’s a game with a low skill-entry point and a higher ceiling. I’ve had people who have never touched a fighter before pick up and get the basics of past Vs. games pretty quickly.
The big gameplay gimmick for Versus is supports. Some games have made use of them in the past, but not quite the same way this game does. Your support isn’t tied to your unit, so you can change them around at unit select. It’s pretty cool, but the rest of the support mechanic feels kinda lame. There’s at least 100 supports, and a lot of them feel the same, but expecting a ridiculous amount of variety might be hoping for too much. The other big problem is that you have to unlock supports by grinding out with different playable units to get them.
There are 4 main game modes for Versus: Survival, Trial, Free Battle, and Online. Survival is exactly what it sounds like. You try to hold your own against waves of computer controlled enemies and build up points. You can use these points to upgrade the offensive and defensive options of your mech. There’s 3 levels to it 15, 30, and 50 waves. 50 waves is kind of overkill, and can take a while to finish. 15 has become my go-to mode for messing around and learning new units though.
Trial mode is the “arcade” mode option. You play through a bunch of stages, each with a different objective. Some stages are normal matches, some have you trying to take down a specific target, and some are huge boss battles that completely flip how you have to approach things. Both Trial and Survival let you play online with a friend, which is honestly one of the biggest selling points here for me.
Free mode and Online might as well be paired together. The only true difference between them is playing with people locally or playing with people over the internet. There’s not much special about Free mode, but the online has a lot to talk about. Full Boost has some pretty terrible online, and required you to have a Japanese account to play. It was laggy (at least from the South-East United States it was), and in general I found myself not using it much. Versus has a much better online experience. It was pretty lag-free for the couple of hours I spent online, and the matchmaking was alright. Online is the best place to grind for support unlocks, since it gives you a lot more in-game currency for playing than you would get from any of the offline modes.
At the time of this writing the Ranked update had yet to go through, but I imagine it will be more of the same. Hopefully you can grind it with either a buddy or a random for those who don’t have friends that play.
Overall, I think Gundam Versus is a pretty solid entry in the series, and worth a pickup if you like the franchise. It’s coming in with a few questionable decisions behind, like its roster, but it’s a solid game nonetheless. I would rather have seen a console port of Maxi Boost, but Bandai wants to keep the console and arcade line of titles separate from each other. If you have even a passing interest in Versus, I would say give it a shot when it releases at the end of September.