Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Review
Developer: Koei (Team Omega Force)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Reviewed on Xbox 360
All the important characters from the various Gundam shows (along with their mobile suits) make appearances in this Dynasty Warriors-style game that has single pilots defeating thousands of enemy troops while playing out the plots that made Gundam popular.
There have been a lot of "Friday the 13th" movies – but not nearly as many as there have been Dynasty Warriors games, that tactical combat franchise in which great historical warriors hack and slash their way through literally thousands of foes to dominate the battlefield. Then there's the Gundam universe – Gundam fans have enjoyed nearly three decades and around half a dozen animated series that featured Gundam characters fighting in humanoid war machines known as "mobile suits." That's a cult hit with hordes of dedicated fans, on par with the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films.
Like the 2003 film "Freddy vs. Jason" that combined two cult slasher franchises from the '80s, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam combines the style and play of the Dynasty Warriors series with the lore and characters of the extensive Gundam universe. And like "Freddy vs. Jason," it's a game that all die-hard fans of either property have to play while the rest of the world will simply stare on in blank confusion.
As in the Dynasty Warriors games, players will cruise around the battlefield, eliminating hundreds of enemies to claim fields and strategic points, culminating in battles against enemy officers and heroes that require the execution of clever combos or supreme button-mashing skills. The difference is that this time, the player is operating a mobile suit, and battling with missiles, lasers and beam swords rather than axes and cold steel.
As Dynasty Warriors fans know, the average fodder that fills the field isn't a challenge. It helps to be able mow through a legion of ordinary troops faster than the next guy in a mobile suit, but they won't pose a challenge. The real difficulty is in taking on other heroes with combination attacks and special abilities that rival your own. Much of the game is spent in these types of spectacular duels, although in traditional Gundam style, you'll often have to take down a rival mobile suit multiple times in a single mission. And that doesn't even include the times that you'll face a foe and then her clone.
The main play modes of Dynasty Warriors: Gundam are the Official Mode and the Original Mode. Official Mode has you taking on the role of a character from one of the six Gundam series, and following that character's story in a series of battles. Complete some tales and more are unlocked, along with other mobile suits, skills and equipment options. The official mode is more like the traditional Dyansty Warriors games with dynamic battlefields that ebb and flow as the player seizes territory. While there are a lot of maps and stories to follow, the characters' lives are intertwined, so you can expect to play a lot of battles from both sides, repeating large sequences of play with only minor differences.
The Official Mode is the bread and butter for Gundam fans, while the Original Mode is a chance for Dynasty Warriors fanatics to try out the familiar game with a new mythos. However, while Dynasty Warriors: Gundam is more accessible than typical Dynasty Warriors games, if you've never tried one out, it's still not going to bring many new gamers into the DW fold.
As in all such games, the button mashing is repetitive to the point of pain, and the play quickly devolves into a feeling of "Been there, done that." Like the "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" films, you've seen the formula. Either it works for you or you'll be done with the game in an hour or two. The game's longevity comes from unlocking more characters, more mobile suits and experiencing more cut-scenes – not from varied, new content.
It doesn't help that, despite being on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the visuals for Dynasty Warriors: Gundam feel very last generation. The mobile suits themselves look fine, but the maps, surroundings and invisible obstacles would be perfectly comfortable on the Xbox or PlayStation 2. That shouldn't bother Dynasty Warriors fans, but newcomers and Gundam fanatics will be disappointed. It means the dialog has to carry the day, or you must enjoy hacking enemy heroes until the day is won. It is fun to see the flash of mobile suits leaping, spinning and spraying energy onto dozens of enemies, but the game only has lasting power if you are a devotee of either of the franchises that have be synthesized into one game.