The last major Gundam title released in the West was 2007’s Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire. There’s a good reason for that, too — it was hot garbage and damaged untold amounts of goodwill. Almost a decade later, Namco Bandai is taking a chance on the perennial anime fave again. Unfortunately, they’re not localizing Gundam Breaker 3, which would have been the better choice.
Nope, we’re getting the Vita-exclusive Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS-Force,which, for my money, is one of the worst games you can get for the system. That isn’t to say that it’s one of the worst games I’ve ever played or anything that dire. Just that the Vita has such a solid library at this point that there’s practically no reason to spend your hard-earned money on this.
Even if you’re a diehard Gundam fan, there’s surprisingly little here in Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS-Force for you. The basic premise of the game is that you, unnamed male figure, are being guided through a series of virtual worlds. Your guides are two pink-haired anime tropes, and the worlds are digital recreations of major franchise locations. You’ll get involved in defining skirmishes, change the course of history, and mix timelines.
It’s pretty much Dragon Ball Xenoverse, but with Gundams instead of Saiyans.
If only Extreme VS-Force’s gameplay were nearly as interesting as that game’s. Instead, it is a very uncomfortable hybrid of strategy game and button-masher. Players control the Gundams of their choice in varying fights. Some missions have you plugging away at your enemy’s resistance bar, while others have you protecting your base. In most fights, you’ll find yourself having to both pilot whatever Mobile Suit you choose and plan out your team’s movements.
In theory, this sounds like a fun idea. Managing a fleet of mechs while getting to experience things from the cockpit is pretty novel. Unfortunately, the idea is ultimately all that’s fun about it. Controlling your Gundam unit, regardless of which one you pick, is a chore. Movement is imprecise and floaty, the melee combat’s clunky, and the ranged combat is uncontrollable outside of a weak auto-aim. Meanwhile, the units you command end up being dumb as posts, unable to invade bases half the time and ultimately messing up on any given level.
This translates to a lot of scrambling around and hoping something happens. Will your partner AI cooperate? Will that shot hit? Will that beam saber slash connect? You desperately click around on the map, mashing the “fire” button and trying to find the least offensive camera angle. In other words, the gameplay in Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS-Force is an unfun trainwreck of botched ideas and broken promises. No amount of fan service can turn playing this into anything resembling a good time. I really couldn’t care less about having Amuro Ray and Heero Yuy on the same team if I can barely control their battles.
Extreme VS-Force’s awkward blend of Dynasty Warriors style progression and “generic anime arena game” isn’t helped by the visuals. This is an ugly game, especially knowing what the Vita is capable of. Animations are laughably stiff, edges are jagged, and environments are dull browns. Nothing captures the stark military drama of the older Gundam series, nor the bombastic combat of later ones. When your visuals manage to make multi-story robots killing each other boring, you’ve messed up.
Ultimately, that’s what Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS-Force is — a bloody mess-up. It has no idea what it wants to be, and fails at every possible turn. The only kind thing I can say, really, is that it isn’t outright broken. But for forty bucks, “not broken” isn’t exactly high praise, especially when the Vita library is full of actual good anime tie-ins.
If you want a good MS Gundam experience, import Gundam Breaker 3 or bust out an old copy of Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise From the Ashes. Heck, dig into Gundam Wing: Endless Duel. Whatever you do, don’t spend money or time on this colossal failure.