I’m a big fan of fighting games. You could even say I am a fighting game nerd.
It just so happens, that I’m also a big fan of giant robots that stomp around and blast the heck out of each other.
Yeah, I’m a giant robot nerd too, what of it?
To be fair, deep down there is a giant robot nerd in each of us, right?
Who doesn’t love to see mechs as tall as buildings flying about with beam sabres, laser rifles and missile pods akimbo?
When I found out that Bandai Namco was releasing Gundam Versus, a multiplayer arena fighting game featuring giant freaking robots, I just had to give it a shot.
I mean, fighting games and epic giant robot space battled combined? How can you go wrong?
Pleased to mech your acquaintance
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Gundam Versus is the latest in the series of arena-based mech combat games. Players pilot giant robots known as Gundam (or Mobile Suits) in epic team battles against other human or AI opponents.
Your standard Gundam Versus match involves two teams of two Mobile Suits battling it out in a 3D arena. Combat focuses on fast movement, clever use of long-range weaponry, and hard-hitting melee attacks. Every time a Mobile Suit is destroyed, that team loses points. The first team to run out of points loses the match and gets to see their poor Gundam get blown to bits.
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Before the battle starts Gundam Versus offers an almost overwhelming range of Mobile Suits for players to choose from; over 90 in total. Each Suit has its own unique moves and traits. On top of this players can choose an extra Mobile Suit to act as a “Striker” assist, letting players cover for their chosen Gundam’s weak points with a bit of extra support on the battlefield.
Once the player has chosen a Mobile Suit and a Striker to assist them, they can choose what kind of Burst Gear they can utilize in battle. The Burst Gear is a temporary power-up that can enhance a Mobile Suit’s abilities greatly and gives players access to a devastating one-off super move for when you want to bet it all on one shot.
Finally, once ALL those choices have been made, it’s time for action.
It’s time to suit up
It’s clear that Gundam Versus is a game made by Gundam fans, for Gundam fans.
The game draws reference from so many points in the iconic mecha anime’s 37-year history. It even features Mobile Suits that first appeared in the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam series. Then there are Suits from the most recent Gundam series, Iron-Blooded Orphans. It’s impressive to see so much of Gundam’s history on display and seeing old and new Gundam fighting side by side will be sure to give diehard fans chills.
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Visually the game looks polished and runs smoothly, but the models and environments lack detail. There is no sense of scale to reinforce the fact that you are in fact piloting a giant freaking robot. While the visual simplicity is most likely a deliberate design choice for the sake of competitive play, it would have been nice to have seen the game make full use of the PS4’s processing power and go all out on the detail.
The sound effects are great too with many of the effects feeling like they were taken right from the show. Laser blasts are loud and the metal clang of a Gundam getting kicked in the head is solid and satisfying.
The game is also fully voiced in Japanese but no subtitles are provided for the pilot dialogue. This is a shame because during a battle the pilots tend to talk an awful lot. It does add to the mecha-anime feel of the game, but without context to what is being said, the dialogue all just fades into background noise after a while.
The soundtrack is also authentic with many songs taken from a variety of Gundam series OSTs. While the selection is great for fans, some control over what battle songs are played would be appreciated. It’s a nice nod to feature the original Mobile Suit Gundam theme, when the jolly 70’s anime-era singing kicks in mid-battle it can really throw you off.
The Mobile Suit makes the man
Given the Versus series’ arcade roots, the controls of Gundam Versus are simple and easy to grasp. Most manoeuvres and attacks can be activated with either one or two buttons, so you’ll be boosting around and blasting CPU enemies in your Mobile Suit in no time.
One issue with the game is that while there are three tutorials to teach you the basics of movement and combat, after that you are on your own to figure out the rest. The game’s arcade mode eases you into getting a feel the mechanics, but after that, you are left with the sense that there’s a level of complexity to Gundam Versus that the game is just not telling you.
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After finding a series of community-made guides online I learned that there was a lot to the HUD, the combat and the movement that the game didn’t tell me. Without this information, I would be at a definite disadvantage going up against real players online.
The fact that the game leaves these important details out and doesn’t even offer a proper training mode is disappointing, and will only make things harder for new players taking their first steps into the world of Gundam Versus.
In space, everyone can hear you boost
Without a campaign of any kind, offline players can sharpen their skills with an arcade mode and survival mode. The arcade mode is pretty robust offering a range of different combat scenarios with escalating difficulties. The scenarios have a variety of different enemies to battle with, and a few boss battles against giant ships and mecha offer a fun change of pace.
Alongside arcade is a survival mode where offline players can really test themselves fighting off wave after wave of enemies. While it does offer a fun multiplayer boss-rush mode as well it is pretty stock standard as far as survival modes go.
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For completionists, Gundam Versus offers some extra longevity with every Mobile Suit in the game able to be unlocked as a “Striker” assist. While it may be frustrating for players who don’t want to have to grind to try out a new striker, it does encourage players to spend some different Mobile Suits, and with over 90 to choose from you’re going to have your hands full.
Gun-dam this is one mobile suit!
Online is where Gundam Versus expects you to be spending most of your time either in Ranked or Casual matches.
This is where I was hoping to spend most of my time with the game too, but unfortunately for me, I could not find any players within my region to play against. Every time I searched for local ranked or casual battles I would find myself stuck in matchmaking indefinitely.
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Expanding my search criteria to a worldwide search (the only other search criteria offered) did give me better luck in finding matches, however, these matches were plagued by lag with frequent pauses and disconnections. While the game does offer a decent replay mode to watch your past matches, it is sadly a moot point if you are unable to find any online matches in the first place.
Ironically while waiting for the game to find you a match you are given a training dummy to practice your moves on, meaning that there actually is some kind of a training mode in the game, you just have to be stuck in matchmaking limbo to access it.
Mobile suits, boost up and blast out!
Gundam Versus is, without doubt, a fun game to play, and the love for the Gundam franchise shines through every part of it. The massive variety of Mobile Suits is wonderful to browse through and test-drive, and the combat is responsive, deep, and fun to learn. Gundam Versus has left me eager to play more and itching to improve and test my skills against other Gundam pilots.
However, with no proper training mode and the inability to find opponents online, new players will find themselves stuck with only the offline modes and will miss out on what should be a big part of the experience.
If you are a fan of Gundam or giant robot action in general, Gundam Versus will keep you entertained for a while, but if you prefer a multiplayer experience that can keep you engaged long after the arcade mode have been completed, you may find that this game comes up a bit short.
Gundam Versus was reviewed on PS4 using a retail copy purchased by the reviewer.
Game Title: Gundam Versus
Game Description: Wreak havoc with your favourite Gundam in this fast and furious team-based arena fighter.
Massive range of Gundams to pilot - 9/10
Lots of offline replayability - 8/10
Disappointing online matchmaking - 4/10