There are a couple of little known facts about Bandai Namco’s recently released Gundam Breaker 3: the first is that it’s actually available with full English subtitles, with a caveat: it was released only in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, so you’ll have to go through importing or digital download from local PlayStation Stores.
The second element is that it won’t really put you in the midst of an epic struggle between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon (or their equivalents in any of the many Gundam series). As a matter of fact, you won’t be fighting with real mobile suits.
The Gundam Breaker series is about Gunpla, or better, their fictional sci-fi version that can actually be controlled and fight in tournaments. For those unfamiliar with the term, Gunpla are those extremely detailed plastic model kits by Bandai that decorate the shelves of many fans, especially in Japan.
The concept is basically Pokémon without most of the RPG elements (replaced by action battles), with the added ability to actually build and customize your pokémon after “catching” all the parts you need. It will also look a million times cooler and won’t make weird, whiny noises.
The story is quite simple, but it sinks its roots in a problem that’s quite common in contemporary Japan: many of the lovely traditional arcade streets (shotengai) are struggling under the competition of modern shopping malls, but the young Misa wants to save the local shops.
One day she meets the protagonist (IE: you), and is impressed by your skill in Gunpla battles. As most forceful anime heroines, she nabs you by the collar and drags you into her team sponsored by the local shotengai, with the objective of winning tournament after tournament and bringing the customers back.
The visuals of the game are hit and miss, pretty much literally, as they’re basically split in half: your Gunpla mobile suits look fantastic, very detailed and realistic thanks to Silicon Studio’s rendering engine Mizuchi, that gives materials and lighting a very realistic look and feel.
Keep in mind that they’re plastic model kits, so they will look like they’re made of plastic. It’s intended, and it looks great.
On the other hand, environments are definitely the miss. To use a charitable definition, I would say that they’re sub-par. To be fair, you could say that they are actually on par with many Japanese games, but that’s not exactly flattering.
Considering that the development team went as far as using new tech to make your mobile suits look great, it’s really a pity that they didn’t think to apply the same degree of effort and resources to the levels.
Effects and animation are adequate, and many of the special attacks are very satisfying to see and execute, with enormous beams and oversized swords crossing the screen.
Audio is an easy win, as Bandai Namco could pretty much just lift music and special effects from a gazillion of Gundam Series, rearrange them a bit, and create a soundtrack that feels both enjoyable and familiar.
Voice acting is strictly in Japanese, and if you like this kind of anime-inspired game, I’m pretty sure that’s a positive for you. As most Japanese audio tracks, the quality is top-notch, even thanks to the use of veteran actors including the voice of Kazuhira Miller from Metal Gear Solid V (who will give you an early taste of Persona 5, as he plays Yusuke Kitagawa in Atlus’s upcoming game as well) and many more.
Localization is a bit rough around the edges, with a degree of dissonance between voices and subtitles here and there, but it’s enough to understand what’s going on.
Gameplay can easily be divided between two main areas, battle and customization.
Battles can be fought following the story, or you can take part in challenges that will send wave after wave of murderous mobile suits after you, or you can even fight other players’ Gunplas in a form of asynchronous versus multiplayer (basically, they will be controlled by the AI).
All gameplay modes can be fought on your own or alongside three others in co-op (which quite a lot more fun), but there is no synchronous versus multiplayer at all, which is weird for a title that is based on fights between gunpla teams.
Fighting itself can be defined easy to learn and complex to master. Provided that your gunpla is good enough, you can pretty much survive any situation just by button mashing (at least on the default difficulty level, as you can unlock harder ones, up to the definitely challenging Newtype), but there is a lot more than can be done to increase your performance, including the timely use of additional weapons, defense systems and skills.
That said, the enemy AI is not exactly genius-level, so you won’t have to sweat too much in the average encounter, unless you’re going into battle with a seriously underpowered machine.
Despite the presence of a few different game modes that will send you to destroy energy cores or monoliths, gameplay tends to be a bit repetitive, based on very similar concepts through the whole game even if there are more imaginative moments like a level set in JRPG-like world.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like battles in Gundam Breaker 3 are not fun. They can definitely be, but the real selling point of the game isn’t the actual fighting, but the customization of your gunpla.
There is an enormous depth in how you can combine the parts you can collect in battle (simply by beating the crap out of enemies), to create your own unique gunpla. This isn’t limited to looks, but also to performance, skills and features.
You can select different melee weapons, guns, heads, bodies, arms, legs, backpacks and shields, but that’s only the beginning: on your basic mobile suit you can add “builder parts” like cannons, additional close combat weapons, Gatlings, antennas, horns, missile launchers, grenade launchers, shield bits, rocket anchors and many more.
Those parts aren’t just decorations. Some raise the stats of your Gunpla, while others actually add attacks, defense actions and more features. Many basic parts also come with perks and abilities of their own, including built-in weapons. For instance, the arms of a Gundam AGE-3 Fortress come with their own beam cannons mounted on the shoulders, and those are added to your arsenal in battle.
This allows you to tailor your mobile suit exactly to your needs. Want to make an extremely defensive build? No problem. A melee-oriented Zaku with more swords than Zoro from One Piece? Simple as pie. A full-armor Gundam with more cannons than a battleship is your thing? You can do that as well. There are really few limits to your imagination, and that’s fantastic.
There are even two different scales you can build your Gunpla in. You’ll start with the 1/144 HG (High Grade), and after you beat the game you’ll earn access to a whole new range of 1/100 MG (Master Grade), following the classification of real world model kits.
Add to that a very deep painting feature that allows you to select different colors, patterns and emblems for basically every area of your Gunpla, and you get the gist: this game is the wet dream of the Gunpla otaku. If you have ever dreamt of your ideal mobile suit, chances are that you can create it in Gundam Breaker 3.
Progression is as deep as customization. Every component can be leveled up separately by sacrificing parts you don’t need or adding plastic to it, and you can also play with rarity and abilities
Each part has a rarity color that goes in the usual order white -> green -> blue -> purple -> golden. Rare parts don’t have better stats as you could expect, but they have more ability slots. This means that you can merge unwanted parts into your best ones to affix more abilities to them up to their limit. If you love min-maxing, Gundam Breaker 3 will offer several tens of hours of bliss as you search for the best combinations to turn your Gunpla into the perfect machine of plastic devastation.
Ultimately, while Gundam Breaker 3 falls a bit short in the combat department, and more effort should have been put into the modeling and texturing of environments, the collecting and customization elements are among the best I ever saw in any game, turning Bandai Namco’s new title in a potentially extremely addictive experience.
If all you’re interested in is fighting, then there are better games on the market. Yet if your thing is building your own Gundam while influencing a myriad of different parameters and fishing into an extremely deep pool of components, perks and abilities, then you really can’t find a better option on the market.
They should have probably called it Gundam Builder, because it excels a lot more in the building than in the breaking.
Since the game isn’t available on the western market, the copy used for this article was kindly provided by Play-Asia. If you want to see more if the game, you can find tons of screenshots here and a video below.