Many English speaking Gundam fans felt brutally disregarded by Bandai Namco when the publisher released the PS4 and PS Vita title Gundam Breaker 3 exclusively in Japan earlier this year. To make matters worse, importers and fans in Japan confirmed that Gundam Breaker 3 was one of the strongest releases the series had seen. Making one of the better series entries exclusive to Japan could have been seen as a bad omen for the series’ presence internationally.
Some might say that there was no love lost, since in truth the Dynasty Warriors: Gundam games have been the only Gundam games we’ve seen released outside of Japan in nearly ten years. Thankfully though we haven’t quite see the last English Gundam video game release. The newest entry is Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS-Force, a PS Vita exclusive spin-off of the bigger Extreme Vs. series. Does it make for a worthy consolation for missing Gundam Breaker 3?
In the beginning of the game, players are brought up to speed by a cutesy pair of anime assistants. Within the games’ story, recent breakthroughs in technology have granted you the ability to dive into various points in history. The general missions are hinged upon this mechanic and the campaign will see players take control of dozens of familiar vehicles and pilots.
The characters have unique banter but there wasn’t much provided in the way of story in most of the missions. Players are largely expected to know the cast and events coming into the game and although there’s a data base mode in which you can unlock tons of back story and character profiles, you may wind up feeling just along for the ride if you’re not among the fully initiated. The missions themselves can have varying objectives but are ultimately quite similar.
Sometimes the capture of multiple or all points is the objective, or sometimes it’s defeating a certain unit or reaching a certain location. I didn’t feel that the different objectives ever really mandated different tactics though. There are lots of playable characters and some manage to feel pretty distinct, despite similar control styles. I struggled quite a bit with the controls in this game. Players fly or jump around and battle with ranged or melee weapons in sizable environments.
Although I cycled through characters often, I felt the control was stiff and limiting. Racing around wasn’t difficult and flight was easy after a while, but the combat remained an absolute drag. The melee attacks are clunky and quite slow — I was never able to execute any sort of combo or actual string of attacks lasting more than two or three hits. Close range battles consisted of awkward thrusts and jerks. The camera can be pretty uncooperative in areas with ceilings and an overzealous targeting mechanic makes being surrounded by enemies absolutely hectic.
The gun blasts are pretty slow as well and the combined elements make the combat feel like a mess rather than a smooth, satisfying experience. You can use GP to enhance certain parameters of characters but cannot customize them much otherwise, a shocking fact considering how big of a component character customization is in other games in the series. The enemies themselves have power in numbers and will gradually beat back your force unless you capture various spawn points.
Most enemies can be defeated in two or three slow, clunky, well timed blows but there are some boss appearances from time to time that make things more problematic. The graphics aren’t particularly impressive, but there is some nice artwork in the character portraits and to be seen in the gallery. Strangely, despite having several playable characters and different missions to take them on, the lack of depth and excitement from the gameplay itself makes the game feel repetitive very quickly and never all that rewarding or engaging.
Outside of the standard campaign you can also partake in free battle. Here you can set teams and battle with various characters free from mission restrictions, which would be appealing if only the combat itself wasn’t such a chore. Multiplayer is strangely limited to ad hoc, undoubtedly dooming many gamers to a totally single player experience.
One thing that I have to commend the game for is the amount of content it has. There are lots of missions that become increasingly difficult and several playable characters, as well as tons of things to unlock.
The events returned to in the campaign mode are sure to take fans back to when they first experienced them, however many years ago. The game retains the original Japanese voice track, which is a welcomed inclusion and the two characters that assist in the diving have some surprisingly interesting dialogue between themselves.
Ultimately though, it doesn’t amount to enough to elevate Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS-Force from being a terribly boring and poorly executed action game hashed out exclusively for series aficionados. I can only imagine how disappointing it must be for international series fans to go from getting years of Japan only releases to getting this.
There is definitely some value here for those who would recognize all of the characters and events, but even that elite will have to navigate the gameplay, which for all its playable characters is about as deep as a puddle and just slightly more fun.