The Gundam Extreme Vs. series has enjoyed a 10-year-long history in Japanese arcades so far, consistently building on its cast of playable mobile suits and introducing new gameplay mechanics to keep the intense arcade action feeling fresh to this day. To celebrate such a momentous milestone, Bandai Namco revealed that a PlayStation 4 port of Mobile Suit Gundam Vs. Maxiboost ON wouldn’t just be hitting Japanese storefronts, but that it would also be released in the West the same day digitally via the PlayStation Store as well. As a fan of this series since I picked up my hacked PSP and dove straight into countless hours of Gundam Vs. Gundam Next Plus, I knew I had to get my hands on Maxiboost On and see how it compares to the previously released console exclusive, Gundam Versus.
At its core, Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs. Maxiboost On is a 2-on-2 arena fighter where the objective of each match is to destroy the opposing team’s mobile suits and deplete their force gauge to zero. The depth of the game’s mechanics begins immediately at character selection. Each of the 180+ character roster are assigned a different point value, varying in cost from 1500, all the way to 3000 points. With only 6000 points total in each team’s force gauge, players have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of picking higher cost mobile suits during team composition.
On the surface a team comprised of two 3k suits is a formidable threat due to them having the strongest tools in the game, but each member only needs to lose one life before they’re defeated, while a team of 2k’s gets a full extra life to utilize and stage a late game comeback. At the end of the day though, the true deciding factor in a match of Extreme Vs. isn’t in picking a strong mobile suit in the online tier lists, but the combination of teamwork and skill you have as a player to be able to control that unit and utilize its mix of ranged and melee based weaponry as effectively as possible alongside your partner.
Spanning across 36 titles and spinoffs, Maxiboost ON’s 180+ character roster of Gundams and mobile suits is truly astonishing. Of course it wouldn’t be a true Gundam Versus game without many fan favourites including, Strike Freedom, Wing Zero Custom, and the Unicorn Gundam making their appearance, but I also greatly appreciate the variety of lesser known mobile suits that get their chance to shine in the spotlight as well, such as the Penelope, Phantom Gundam, and even the hilariously animated Kapool. No matter which suit you choose to play as though, VSTG Project has done a fantastic job using the source material as their guide to developing each mobile suit’s moveset. A stellar example of this level of detail is with Exia from Gundam 00, which can execute a fast flip and slash attack recreated frame-by-frame from the show’s first opening.
Compared to the previously reviewed Gundam Versus, Maxiboost ON throws away many of that game’s newly introduced mechanics, including boost dive and striker assists, but for the better of the game’s integrity. These mechanics took away from the skill of the game and were poor balance choices once the community discovered which strikers to abuse and how boost dive actually operated as a get out of jail free card for poor player mobility. This design choice ultimately ruined the balance of Gundam Versus and made only the higher cost suits viable in play for their stronger boost meters, crippling the remainder of the cast.
The only returning mechanic of Gundam Versus is the EX Burst system, which has been reworked for Maxiboost ON. Bursts are essentially a player’s super meter that build up during a match when they either deal or receive damage. Once the bar is filled to a certain point players can burst and receive one of three effects depending on the one they chose for their suit. While fighting and shooting burst are pretty self explanatory on what they enhance, the new extend burst is a new defensive option available to players, allowing them to break out of an enemy’s combo midway through and increases the durability of their mobile suit temporarily until the burst runs out. Outside of these enhancements, players can also use the remainder of their draining burst meter to execute a flashy super attack that deals major damage to whatever suit caught in it.
One of the sour notes of living in rural Newfoundland is that the online component of fighting games rarely work for me due to many of them featuring delay-based netcode, and Maxiboost ON sadly falls under this category. Even with the best-wired connection money can buy in my area I can barely matchmake with anyone online and when I do, I will commonly encounter lag or a synchronization issue that outright cancels the game from happening. My only temporary solution is to instead play in player-made rooms and lobbies to get a fix of the action, but that just creates a poor experience for the players who I’m playing with. This only further emphasizes the point to me that fighting game developers should learn and properly implement rollback netcode in their games because playing other fighters such as Mortal Kombat 11, Skullgirls, and Killer Instinct are night and day experiences when compared to Maxiboost ON.
Thankfully, Maxiboost ON does contain some worthwhile single-player content to experience offline as well. The game comes standard with its arcade branch routes and free battle with CPUs ported over from the arcades, allowing you to face off against increasingly difficult teams of mobile suits as well as boss battles against huge mobile armors, including Big Zam and Psycho Gundam. However, the mode I’ve poured most of my time into is the new Maxiboost Missions mode.
In essence, this content feels like an enhanced arcade mode where players are tasked with completing a mix of different styled missions on their route to that area’s main boss. This can include taking out a certain target, scoring a certain amount of points within a time limit, or a time attack missions where you have to fulfill certain conditions or the mission fails. What makes this a better arcade experience from home is that players can also enhance their mobile suits with items they obtain from their battles along the way, further strengthening their suit’s durability, attacks, or even how long they stay in burst mode.
While Gundam Extreme Vs. is a simple game to pick up and play, with only a 4-button layout on an arcade stick, there is a huge skill ceiling for players to break through that the game doesn’t have any resources on to teach its players. Many of the games’ core mechanics are only glossed over in simple text frames and the more advanced techniques and maneuvers are never mentioned at all. I would have loved to see a challenge mode implemented that would give players practical tests on mobility options and the different cancel routes of some beginner-friendly suits to at least give them a good platform to build off of before they enter the online ranked arenas, but the game scrapes by with giving players the literal bare minimum information and just leaves them to learn by experience. For this reason, I recommend beginners check out online resources, including YouTubers MiNATO CH, TeamFOXGG and Skyslam_vs, who each have a great variety of guides and showcases on many of the mobile suits featured in the game.
Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs. Maxiboost ON is a fantastic arena fighter that is sure to not only grab Gundam fans who are already in love with the franchise, but arcade players who are looking for that next addictive fighting experience. While rural based players like myself will struggle with online connectivity, I hope that this game can still garner a new community of players and grow its tournament scene substantially now that the game finally features LAN support. Gundam games like Maxiboost ON deserve to succeed in the West, but Bandai Namco has to invest time in supporting these games properly with more community incentives instead of releasing them cold turkey.