Bringing A Knife To A Gundam Fight
HIGH The sheer speed of combat once the obtuse controls are mastered
LOW Having to master obtuse controls in the first place
WTF Of all the Extreme VS games to localize, why choose the weakest one?
To be an English-speaking, gameplaying fan of Mobile Suit Gundam and its many, many attendant properties is to ride a never-ending rollercoaster of expectation and frustration. Bandai Namco’s inconsistent treatment of the brand has resulted in many a nerdy tear shed as game after game debuts in the East, only to find that most never cross the pond. It’s hard to blame Bandai Namco considering that the various anime have never done as well as hoped in the West, but their ambivalence has turned Gundam fans into thirsty people in a mecha desert.
Into this wasteland boosts Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS-Force, an installment in one of the most accomplished Gundam series that has never seen a proper English release. Descended from the popular Gundam Extreme VS arcade series, Extreme VS-Force packs an incredible amount of fanservice into this modern revival of a classic game. As titles like Brigador or Satellite Reign breathed new life into the templates pioneered by Desert Strike or Syndicate, Extreme VS-Force heralds a return of Virtual On‘s fast-paced, energetic gameplay.
Pushing past a throwaway plot about “exploring great historical moments throughout the multiverse” (read: playing out key scenarios from all the major Gundam anime) players take control of one of many, many mecha from the franchise and throw them into high-flying combat. Players can lock on, boost freely, and dodge in and out as they jockey for position in 3D space. A “Force Mode” acts as an extra strategic layer during missions—players coordinate with NPC-controlled teammates to kill off weak enemies, avoid or shut down other “hero” units, and conquer control point maps in a hybrid of Dynasty Warriors and MOBA gameplay. A free battle mode allows for both online and local multiplayer matches.
At its best, the game feels like a live dramatization of Gundam‘s most thrilling duels, where characters seem to be moving so quickly that the anime renders them as little more than clashing streaks of light. It takes some doing to get to that level, though, as the game’s approach to control is idiosyncratic and never fully comfortable on a standard controller. Players who tried Bandai Namco’s ill-fated free-to-play PC battler Rise of Incarnates (which was a clone of the Gundam Extreme VS games in the first place) will find themselves in familiar territory.
While the slightly awkward controls are more suited to the one-on-one jousting that characterizes the Gundam Extreme VS games in arcades, the mission design is disproportionately concentrated on Dynasty Warriors-style map control, and it isn’t a good fit for the same scheme. In this musou context, the lock-on controls are both overly-finicky and too loose to prioritize key targets over the hordes of grunts, and the combat mechanics are overkill for fighting cannon fodder.
These kinds of core design flaws would be more tolerable if Extreme VS-Force were merely one spin-off of several Extreme VS games, but as the ambassador for the entire franchise, it’s a potentially fatal undermining of any future prospects. One can’t help but wonder what possessed Bandai Namco to choose this game to localize, over all the others. Unfortunately, Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS-Force is what we got, and it’s the very definition of a missed opportunity. Thirsty mecha fans are still stuck in that same desert, and they’ll have to wait for something to quench their desires a while longer.
Disclosures: This game was developed and published by Bandai Namco Games. It is currently available on PS Vita and PlayStation TV. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on the PS Vita. Approximately 22 hours of play were devoted to the single-player and multiplayer modes, and the game was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game’s rating is E10+, and contains fantasy violence and mild language. The game features combat between armies of giant robots piloted by human characters. Though bloodless, the combat is usually portrayed as lethal for those involved. Online interactions are possible in multiplayer.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game features subtitles for most dialog, though combat “barks” are not subtitled.
Remappable Controls: The game contains remappable controls for the face and shoulder buttons and screen regions (on the PS Vita version).
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes in the game.
Today he continues to write for a living while trying to turn his fledgling knowledge of Japanese into a marketable skill. He is Managing Editor of Japanese culture site Japanator and is a Contributing Editor for Destructoid. He has written for The Escapist, The California Literary Review, Esquire Magazine, and proudly holds the badge as the premier apologist for Star Trek Online.