Mobile Suit Formula
Mention the words Dynasty and Warriors in the same sentence to any hardcore gamer and the immediate response is something along the lines of “Oh yeah, that series where one guy kills millions of guys with a weapon of some kind.” Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is simply the latest this long established formula. It gives people familiar with the series more of the same, just with that Bandai sheen of giant robots and beam sabers instead of fabled Chinese soldiers and period swords.
Penultimate Fan Service
The story of DWG3 is an obvious rationale to get various characters—and perhaps more importantly, mecha—from the numerous Gundam series all collected into one place to duke it out. A strange signal that somehow distorts the space/time continuum has sucked in the various Gundam heroes, villains and mecha that came out to investigate its origins for a Japanese take on The Secret War of Marvel fame with Crisis on Infinite Earths from DC. The end result is characters from various original Gundam “Universal Century” series now rubbing shoulders with characters from Gundam Wing and Gundam 00. None of this will make any sense to people not familiar with the Gundam franchise, which should be your first major clue as to whether this game is for you or not.
Esoteric—at least for non-Gundam fans—narrative aside, other elements of the presentation work very well. They work even better if you’re actually a fan of the franchise, with an eye for details of the various giant robots on display. DWG3 uses the cel-shading technique to good effect here, likely helped by the simple geometric shapes of the various giant robots. There’s also a lot of classic anime artwork to represent the various characters using the JRPG old school “talking heads dialog box” approach. Where the game stumbles in the visuals is the bland environments. Players will be broadly exposed to everything the game has to offer in the opening chapter, with forest, desert, urban and space environments and then be subjected to them again and again for the remainder of the game.
The audio side takes a similar approach, with a certain amount of Gundam Geek Cred to keep fans happy, that wears out its welcome with constant repetition. On the one hand, Koei has made the wise choice to include an English dub for people who can’t stand reading, while retaining the option to switch to the original Japanese voice track so purists can still enjoy Amuro Rey screaming “Gundam hasshin!” the way he’s supposed to. It’s also obvious that Bandai has had some eagle-eyed franchise/continuity people watching over the sound effects as everything from the after-burners to the distinctive sound of the Zeta Gundam’s XBR-M87A2 BOWA beam rifle are faithfully reproduced. Where things become disappointing is in the obvious lack of time for recording dialog. During combat, all the Gundam characters will shout things out in keeping with their character, but the repetition becomes excessive. The authenticity is there, but when Amuro Rey is shouting “This Nu Gundam isn’t for show!” for, literally, the 100th time, it’s definitely wandered in the area of Too Much Of A Good Thing.
The Mecha Grind
The shortest possible way to describe this game is… It’s Dynasty Warriors. That’s not very helpful for the uninitiated, but to those who are, it means one thing; running around with a single, heroic character, beating the crap out of thousands of enemy minions. The game is a hack and slash in the most basic sense of the genre. The timing, intricate combos and elaborate strategies of something like Devil May Cry aren’t on show here. Instead, simple combos send the chosen mecha of choice wading into the thick of dozens of enemies, killing them with just a few blows.
Basic gameplay sticks true to the Dynasty Warriors formula in that you wander a large map divided into smaller sections. Those sections are full of fodder mecha for your chosen giant robot, and as you obliterate the endlessly respawning waves of enemies, you eventually conquer areas and force a boss to appear at the enemy headquarters, who, upon defeat, signifies the end of the level. That’s it. Players will do this over and over again, with almost no variation except for environment. It’s a structure that Koei has religiously adhered to for years now, and aside from a few minor tweaks to gameplay, it remains unchanged here.
There’s a mild RPG element included in that completion of levels yields XP for levelling up pilot stats, and an in-game currency known simply as “G” that can be used for upgrading mecha. All of this means that you can cut through mecha fodder faster and take more damage, but it doesn’t help the relentless, mechanical, repetitiveness of the core gameplay. Players can also—in true Pokemon like fashion—collect “plans” for robots and eventually collect a vast and exotic assortment of mecha from all the Gundam franchises that appear in the game. As with previous Gundam games, Koei has tried sprucing it up with things like “Historical” missions, which are recreations of important moments from various Gundam shows, and “Memorial” or “Friendship” missions which offer different battle conditions and rewards, but even these missions stick to the same never-changing gameplay that Dynasty Warriors has become infamous for.
There are some changes, of course. Death no longer requires a complete restart of the level, and victory is now measured by a Battle Gauge that decreases on both sides dependent on named Enemy/Ally characters that are defeated and territories conquered. Single player also benefits from a new move called “Partner Strike” that allows players to use a special attack in tandem with a chosen partner for varying effects. There’s also a co-op mode now for up to four players to participate in online. All of these new additions are cheerfully absorbed into a massive game that will take dozens of hours to finish by demanding players to follow the Dynasty Warriors formula.
There is a very specific player that should go out and buy DWG3 without hesitation, and that is people that love both the Koei franchise, and have an Otaku-level understanding of the various Gundam anime series. Even Dynasty Warriors fans with no love for Gundam will probably feel a bit lost here as the game makes no effort to get the uninitiated up to speed on which characters are from what series and how they relate to each other. Gundam fans with no love of video games may appreciate the usual soap operatics of the various relationships, but be numbed by the merciless repetition that the Dynasty Warriors franchise demands of its players. And for everyone else who feels that Koei games make no attempt to vary the gameplay in their flagship franchise, they can walk straight past this game, secure in the knowledge that Koei—for better or worse—has done it again with Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3. This game isn’t broken, it is simply the same, stubbornly unchanging game franchise fans have been playing for years.