SD Gundam Battle Alliance
The gameplay is solid in this game as it features a robust combo system that you would see in other action games like Devil May Cry, as the player is able to chain together several attacks using extra boost from the boost gauge and then is then able to launch them into the air and keep up the combo, since the player inflicts more damage when airborne against the enemies. This gives the player a variety of ways to inflict damage to the enemies, as even if the player runs out of the boost, it can be refilled with the Chain Breaker mechanic. Therefore, if the player is skilled enough, they can keep up the combo using melee attacks and using the sub weapons. Since the sub weapons are unique to each Mobile Suit then the combo lines for every Suit is also different, letting players explore the diverse ways each Suit controls and fight with their basic combo and the sub weapons can be used to further extend that airtime, juggling the enemy using Rocket Launchers or Funnels. This leads to players having multiple ways to use each Suit, so even if the player switches between multiple Suits, then they will not find two Suits that play identically thus helping this game feel fresher for way longer from a gameplay perspective as the player has so much choice once they have unlocked enough Mobile Suits throughout the game.
Mobile Suit control.
The game does an excellent job of making each Mobile Suit feel unique and distinct from each other as most Suits have a variety of weapons for them to use in addition to the three classes splitting up the different Suits even more, with Infighter, All-rounder, and Sharpshooter. Most Suits also play how they would compare to their respective source material such as Barbatos Lupus and Lupus Rex, incorporating their elbow guns on their model which is Anime accurate so there is great attention in detail. If the player wants to play a ranged Suit, then there is a variety of beam spam Suits that allow you to stay far away and function as a sniper while filling the screen with very colourful particle effects and being able to support your teammates. So, the game offers wide variety in playstyle since there is a Suit that will fit the playstyle of every player and most of the prominent Suits from each Anime are available so if you have a favourite Suit from the franchise then there is a good chance it will be playable.
The SD (Super Deformed) Gundam art style has been around since the mid 80’s and were a way of simplifying the designs for the various Mobile Suits so they could be reproduced and sold as cheaper toys in Gashapon machines, but since they were easily affordable, it led to it being a mainstay of the franchise and has at various times been more popular than traditional Gunpla. This art style has been recreated in this game perfectly since many of the Suits in this game look identical to their real world counterparts and are even enhanced due to real life weathering effects being added to the Suits, so they look much more realistic. Even though they look simpler with more exaggeration in their design to their much more complex normal looks, it helps add to the atmosphere since the game itself leans more into the comical route with its writing. So, if the player is a fan of the SD Gundam art style and universe then they will greatly enjoy this game due to it looking like their SD Gunpla are in the game and even the designs in game can be recreated using real life Gunpla so players can feel more invested in the game as they have a more personal connection with the Suits in game.
Due to being a Gundam game it was always guaranteed to have a great soundtrack, and this
happened with many instrumental versions of iconic songs from the history of Gundam. The player can even set up for any track from the game to play when they are using their special attack and the period shortly after, myself being biased I immediately set it to the instrumental version of Rage of Dust from the Iron-Blooded Orphans soundtrack, it is just a shame that not all the opening songs from the Anime are available but understandable since it would take a lot of copyright work involved. All the songs sound great though with little to no compression on my end and they are all good to listen to and even have various remixes so you don’t have to listen to the same version repeatedly. It is also very easy to switch up the songs, and you can re-enact the famous Gundam meme since Char’s theme (Gallant Char/Sassou-taru Char) is in the game in its full glory.
The voice acting in this is great and features many returning characters from their respective Anime, recording new dialogue in character. It is always fun when you discover a new combination of pilots and their dialogues. Even the main cast who do their best to carry the plot, have great voice acting and direction. The character of Sakura (who you meant early on in the story), feels like more of a stand-in for the fans rather than an in-universe character. She uses many of the memes and quotes that the fans use, even going so far as to sing the lyrics to the theme songs at times, which makes her and the rest of the cast, much more endearing. It actually makes up for the forgettable plot as I prefer it when they are just talking.
The game features levels that take direct inspiration from the Anime, as certain scenes are lifted directly, so it rewards the player who has seen most of the different Anime as most of them get at least a level with only a couple getting no representation at all. The environments of the game are also quite varied since it sees the player fighting in crowded city streets to the cold openness of space where you are fighting directly on the outside of the colonies floating in space with a great skybox of the carnage happening all the around the player while also seeing the stars in the background.
The best way to play this game in my opinion, is to use the multiplayer system rather than tackling the game single player. You can use both online and local multiplayer so you can play with 2 friends easily, as you can set up your own private room with a 4-character long password, so there is less worry about random people joining, and you can set it to invite only. When going online, it is also very easy to jump into random missions using the quick match functions. This can be good if you don’t have a particular goal in mind and just want to waste some time, but a downside now is that since players are focusing on post-game missions where the Suits can now be levelled to 90, it means that you will most likely get kicked out of the rooms by the host. Performance is also extremely solid in multiplayer as during my time when using it I did not experience any lag, frame rate drops or disconnections. So, it is most stable than the other most popular Gundam game of Gundam Battle Operation 2 with its frequent disconnection.
Boss intro cinematics.
Many of the production value for this game goes into its art style, but more prominently the cinematics for the game, even outside the non-SD Gundam section cinematics e.g. The start of the game with full proportion Zaku 2 and GMs. The highlight of these cinematics is usually where guest characters will show up in the stage as either allies or enemies, for myself my favourites where whenever Master Asia broke in from G Gundam as he had the best cinematics due to all his different and dynamic camera angles with my favourite being when he appears in the Iron-Blooded Orphans sections standing atop the battle axe of a Graze. The cinematics even carry over the end of chapter bosses since most of them get dedicated opening cinematics that really help show off the size difference to the player with examples such as the Neo Zeong or Big Zam. It really helps the hype the player up for the boss fights as it harkens back to older games with large scale such as Shadow the Colossus and the game is at its best when it fully embraces the ridiculous hype of the Gundam franchise with bosses always gloating and lording over the player character.
Grinding for levels.
The game was balanced during most of the game, with the player being a similar or slightly
Under-levelled for each stage without grinding. Unfortunately this changed for the final chapter of the story where I felt extremely under-levelled as my Suits were dealing a lot less damage to bosses. Even standard enemies while at the same time I would constantly get one stun-locked to death by the bosses with no way to prevent it since they all easily break your guard meter with very little effort and the A.I teammates are even more useless as they will refuse to revive the player or even to try to have any kind of self-preservation built unto their coding. It got to such a point that I had to turn the difficulty down to easy, to finish the single player and then post-game grinded up to level 50 and then go back and beat the game on Normal difficulty. The game feels like it was designed with either heavy grinding in mind or to be played all through in multiplayer with 2 friends, as real players deal actual damage and are willing to revive the player if they die in combat.
Capital/Lack of refunding of capital.
The currency in this game is extremely stingy, as before the post-game, the highest level your Gundam can be is level 50 but the required amount to level up each Suit to that point is nearly 1.5 million capital to go from level 1 to 50 on a brand new Suit. The problem with this is that before the post-game, the most I got from an average late game mission is 150 thousand capital, this means that for each Suit the player wants to use then they will have to grind up at least 1.5 million capital. This means that the player will have to keep regrinding the same levels repeatedly just to level up 1 Suit at a time, and a poor move for players is that the capital you put into a Suit, cannot be refunded so I would recommend not levelling up the early game Suits and instead saving up for your favourite Suits that appear mid game onwards. As even when playing multiplayer, you can set up a room specifically for “Earning capital preferred” meaning the developers knew that most of a players playtime will be spent trying to scrounge up every piece of capital possible as otherwise they are restricted to at most 5 Suits during a normal playthrough. If the developers implemented that cap limit for Suits during development, then they should have increased the pay out of capital, because otherwise it limits players freedom and variety with using different Suits since all Suits will be unlocked at level 1 meaning that they are useless at the endgame or the post-game until the player has grinded enough capital again to level them back up to the same level as the players normally used Suits.
Normal enemies in this game have amounts of health that you would expect from mob enemies in an action game, so that the player can cut down several of them one after another. But the bosses in this game have some of the most bloated health bars that I have seen in an action game. Then during boss battles to deal the most damage to the bosses you must drain their stamina bar to then “Break” them and inflict good amount of damage for a short period of time, but the bosses rarely get flinched so if you are playing as an Infighter class then the boss is very likely to stay un-flinched by your melee attacks and then deal enough damage to one combo the player to death. This issue is worse when you have boss fights against the Mobile Armours in the game e.g. Neo Zeong do not even have bars to deplete for the extra damage after they are stunned, so the player is forced to wait for their teammates to draw aggro from the boss and then try to sneak in one combo and then retreat before they inflict enough damage to redraw aggro. This leads to boss fights quickly becoming tiresome since the player is forced to play as very passive role during those fights.
Poorly programmed A.I teammates.
The teammates in this game made single-player so much more difficult than it needed to be as when your Suit gets its health reduced to 0 then the player collapses to the ground and if you are out of medkits then you are forced to either restart the fight or wait for your teammate to revive you. Unfortunately, the teammates seem that they would rather die instead of reviving the player. I have had countless missions ruined by my teammates refusing to revive me, or if they were healing me but were interrupted by an enemy attack then they will not engage the minor enemy and get stuck in a reviving loop until they die rather than just killing the enemy. Luckily, the multiplayer is much better since you do not have to worry about the A.I teammates, since they are more of a liability in single-player than any kind of benefit to the player. As even the damage they deal is practically 0 since you can sit back and watch them for 5 minutes and they still will not have made even a small dent into the bosses health bar as instead it falls to the player to do most of the damage rather than simulate actual teamwork and tactics with your two A.I teammates.
The plot for this game is so forgettable, only really serving to get the player from point to point. While the writing for the characters and the banter between them is good, the overall plot is just not memorable at all. So, I would encourage players to not even try to pay attention since a lot of dialogue happens during the end of chapter boss fights but due to the onscreen intensity that if you do not know Japanese then all that dialogue and lore will escape the player since the player does not have enough time to both read the dialogue but also not die at the same time. This game is much more enjoyable when you just focus on the missions or just let players invent their own story since it would be more interesting than whatever we were given. This game was clearly inspired by Dragon Ball Xenoverse but did not realise that the Xenoverse games had a core story to keep players engaged.
Missions lack potential.
With the missions being slight remixes of iconic scenes from their respective Anime it is a shame that they didn’t really push the concept that far, since at most the levels are the same as their Anime counterparts but they either replace a character with one from a separate universe (As we see with the Gouf being replaced with the Barbatos from Iron-Blooded Orphans in the first mission) or just have another character randomly show up as a surprise boss. It would have been so much more engaging if we saw the environments being merged too so we could have to explore the crazy combinations of worlds like we just saw with Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but instead the levels are the same on all repeated playthroughs, so the environments get quite dull when the player keeps seeing them repeatedly when blueprint hunting for more Suits.
Mission subtitles/No dub.
While the game is fully voice-acted using Japanese audio, this becomes an issue when during normal gameplay it has English subtitles and during the chaos of the battle it is nearly impossible to follow the subtitles due to the fast-paced action and how easy it is to die if you are not paying attention during the fights. It is understandable that there isn’t an English dub since it would be very expensive to get a whole voice cast into the dub the lines as this game is extremely dialogue heavy, so it is a shame that its very easy to miss out on the great writing due to it being subtitled and the hard to look at the subtitles while also paying attention to the combat at the same time.
Lack of certain Suits.
While there is a great variety of Suits in the game, there is a noticeable number of missing Suits, with some even being referenced in spoken dialogue as even famous and fan favourite Suits from the franchise like the GP02 Physalis are missing from the game while its pilot Anavel Gato is in this game piloting his custom Gelgoog as a boss but doesn’t reappear later in the Stardust Memory levels even though the main character of the OVA who fights Gato does appear with the GP03 Stamen which later becomes a playable unit. Other later series also have a lack of representation such as Victory Gundam only have one Suit (Gundam AGE not having a single Suit until the new post launch DLC went live), while other series that were popular in the West such as Gundam Wing only receiving 2 Suits when it was the series that launched the franchise into the mainstream in the West so it feels like a missed opportunity due to it being the show that a lot of Western fans got into the series with and still holds a strong nostalgic pull for them. Even if they wanted to pad out the roster then they could have let the players use all the grunt Suits we see in every level (Ginn, Leo and Graze) since they all have complete movesets and fully modelled rigs, but instead only have them as basic enemies to populate the levels.
Early game powercreep.
Most game suits that you unlock early will be useless in the mid-late game even when they are fully upgraded to level 50. This is due to how low their natural defences are compared to later Suits, since they start with defences under 5% compared to late game Suits that have 20% defences before you put any equipment on them to boost their defences any higher. This leads to early game Suits being retired soon after they are unlocked due to how much more damage, they will take compared to endgame enemies, since they will take 4x as much damage compared to late game Suits and their natural HP values are lower too. So even if you unlock one of your favourite Suits early on then you most likely won’t be able to use it throughout the game without turning the difficulty down on rely heavily on your teammates and hope you don’t get killed before them as the player will be taking more damage than they will plus they are also not very likely to revive the player due to their poor A.I script.
The main way to unlock new Mobile Suits is to collect their respective blueprints, this is normally conducted by defeating certain bosses, finishing certain levels, or locked behind the Chaos missions. The main problem I had with this system is that mid to late game Suits normally have 3 different levels of blueprint that need to be collected, and for each of those level of blueprints each require multiple of each (With some Suits requiring as much as 6 copies of each level) so if the player is unlucky (Like I was on multiple occasions) then they will only receive one copy of each blueprint which then requires replaying that same level another 5 times, but this process will also have to be repeated for the other levels of blueprints needed. This leads to a lot of wasting time and feels like padding since you could be required to do the same 3 levels on repeat for several hours just to unlock a new Suit which will start at level 1 and require more grinding to get enough money to level it back up to compete with the rest of the players Suits at that point of the game.
No pause button.
While understandable for multiplayer, it is pretty egregious that opening the menu during gameplay does not pause the game as the levels can sometimes last over 20 minutes (I’m looking at you G Gundam levels) so if you have other priorities then you have to go the Switch’s menu to attempt to freeze the game so that the random enemies in a level don’t kill your Suit while your AFK (Away from Keyboard) since the A.I teammates cannot look after themselves let alone a player that isn’t there.
While it is normally decent, as a system I have had multiple instances where it would lock onto an enemy that wasn’t in my field of vision like behind me or will refuse to switch targets when the enemy is destroyed forcing the camera to linger on them until the body explodes and dissipates or sometimes when trying to switch to an enemy next to another enemy then it can sometimes skip your intended target and go to another enemy further away than the closest target to the player that was aimed for.
The camera can really struggle in this game especially in claustrophobic environments such as the densely packed cities where it will then get caught on every build and does not pass through the building making it exceedingly difficult to fight the enemies when you cannot even see them. Another problem with the camera is that it will not auto-rotate when boosting, so if you boost around a corner or just left or right then the camera will not rotate with the player leading to the player having to awkwardly rotate the camera while boosting using the right thumb stick in a way that is poorly designed for the players hands.
Chain Breaker system faults.
A minor problem I had was with the Chain Breaker system during fights, as normally when it is activated you are supposed to get your full booster gauge refilled for the player so the player can keep doing their combos or evasive maneuverers. But 50% of the time when I activated the system my booster gauge remained nearly drained even though the animation played with the onscreen prompt saying it was successful, so I ran out of thrusters after the animation finished and the boost gauge was not refilled. I am not sure if this was a Switch exclusive issue as I have not seen other reports of this issue on the Switch from other players.
Particle effects overload.
A problem I found when engaging in melee combat is that the game has overdone it with the levels of particle effects in the game, this is due to when you try to melee combo the opponent then the screen is filled with explosions, sparks and smoke obscuring the players screen making it so that it is very easy to get hit in return when the player could not see the attack. The problem is not nearly as bad for the other classes since they normally fight at range but only happens when fighting in melee range. Bandai really needs to tone down the particle effects to make gameplay more tolerable as otherwise the action can be quite hard to see.
A fun at times action game that is unfortunately bogged down by the late game required grinding due to the excessively bloated Boss health bars and the crippling number of capital you need to fully upgrade your Mobile Suits to level 50 before the end of the game. This game could be a great action game as it has all the necessary components there, it just feels like the game was bloated for the sake of extending the players playtime as in its current state it feels like a Gundam themed version of the Dragon Ball Xenoverse series and a watered-down version of Dynasty Warriors: Gundam from the PS3.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
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