Look out! Giant robots coming this way and they’ve got guns and swords! In one of the most redundant titles ever, Mobile Suit Gundam: Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam is the latest in the series of the Mobile Suit games from Bandai. This latest title is a cross between a fighting game and a shooter, though it’s more akin to a fighter than anything else. You get to play as one of dozens of various Gundams from the many series of the past 25 years, and you can choose your allegiance between A.E.U.G. and the Titans. Fans of the countless Mobile Suit sagas will more than likely love Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam, while those not familiar will have to decide whether it’s worth their time, and hopefully this review helps in that decision.While there are numerous Gundam stories, Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam, is really about neither of them. The game is basically about your Mobile Suits versus those of your opposition. Regardless of what game mode you choose, your goals are quite simple, destroy the attacking Gundams. It’s really more like a fighter, kind of like a giant Battle Bots than a shooter, though you do have guns and can attack from long distances. Attackers generally come at you and your teammate, two at a time and on occasion three at a time or more and it is your goal to either hold them off for a specific time period or destroy their forces. Goals are simple, and the matches usually last for about two minutes, so the action is pretty fast paced.
Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam does a good job of maintaining the series look, though that shouldn’t be confused with dated graphics. The robots are animated rather nicely considering there are so many of them, and the game has a cool look to it much like the anime itself. You can tell exactly which robots came from the original 1979 series and which are from the new series, the older ones just looking far less detailed than the newer ones, but all in all there is a huge selection of Gundams to choose from. The one unfortunate thing is that the areas are rather small and limited, and the backgrounds are pretty weak for a PlayStation 2 game, especially one with so few areas. Aside from the playing fields the visuals in the menus and bonus features seem to make up some of the slack.
Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam has a decent enough soundtrack that will please most fans. It’s also got some really good bonus stuff that can be purchased with points that you accumulate from playing the different game modes. The voice work is really good, but extremely limited to a few phrases per character. The sound effects could use some work; they could be louder to help make it sound like these huge robots the size of small buildings are actually coming to blows. Aside from some issues, Gundam does a good enough job, and likely a good majority of the time if you’re playing against a friend the only sounds to be heard will be those of trash talking anyway.
Gundam offers up a couple of different ways to play, the first being the aforementioned versus mode which you can play one-on-one or even a cooperative two-on-two versus the computer. This mode is the basic destroy the other guy mode. It would have been nice if they would have added in some cooperative modes for the arcade version which basically takes you through ten stages against various other Mobile Suits in space and on land. Again, nothing too complicated just straightforward action against the computer. The meat of the game actually comes from the Universal Century story mode, which can be best described as a quest mode. In essence you get taken through a timeline of the series with a lot of the various characters, you play missions as them and you can even alter the timeline by changing the outcome. For instance if in the series one of the characters died during a particular mission, if you can keep them alive you will get an alternate set of missions with that character to play through. It’s an interesting concept and probably a favorite feature for fans of the Gundam series as they have the opportunity to keep some of their favorite pilots alive. The missions are all more of the same, but you have the ability to upgrade the various Gundam fighters which allows you more ammunition, etc. It would work so much better if you at least got a little explanation and back story, perhaps a synopsis of what happened in each episode, so those new to the series could follow along more closely, but it’s not here, maybe they fully expect everyone playing this game to know every minute detail of the timeline, so they wouldn’t have to be bothered with furnishing details?
The controls seem to be the biggest limiting factor in this game. Not every button on the PS2 controller is used and yet some buttons are used more than once, so it just doesn’t make sense. Use of the dual joysticks may have been a little cooler, too. The biggest issue I found bothering Gundam is that they just move too slowly for my taste. For an action game they seem to move at about the same speed as a Volkswagen bus on the freeway. They could use some more mobility and speed to increase the action. Overall, Gundam takes a while to get into, but once you’re in there is a lot of game to cover especially in the Universal Century mode. It’s too bad that there aren’t more moves included in the game. More varied attacks and combinations would have made this a much more potent fighter.
If only there were more to the two player mode and more to the single player mode this game would be a certified hit. If you’re interested in this game chances are that you know something about the Gundam series, but if you’re new to it, don’t expect to learn any more about it than the title. While the Universal Century story mode does have the word story in the title, it doesn’t delve into it any more than this review tackles the principles of quantum physics. Quite frankly, if you’re interested in learning about the Gundam series this is not the place to start. A history lesson might have been good for the uninitiated, but alas maybe that’s asking for too much. Short clips from the anime would also have worked really well in between the stages of the Universal Century mode, to at least help you learn more about the timeline and more about what you’re ultimately playing for. So, while there’s replay value for days if not longer for fanatics of the series, what with all the videos, songs, Gundam models, and other galleries, there’s not enough game and replay value combined to draw in the non-fan, which is what ultimately ends up hurting Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam has all the right ingredients for a stellar title. It has a rich history to draw from, killer robots with swords and big guns and a huge list of selectable Mobile Suits to choose from, but somewhere along the way something went wrong, it’s like the recipe got lost and they tried to recreate it from memory and it didn’t come out right. A lot of things went wrong here that if corrected would make this a great game, but since it is what it is, it’s just mediocre at best and should be left to only the most ardent Gundam fans.
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