Gundam Versus Review

If reviewing a 2D fighting game is kind of tricky, then reviewing a fighting-game-adjacent game that requires 2v2 play is super tricky. And for a series that's super obscure, as well as unique, in the States? Woo boy.

But that doesn't mean I'm not gonna try. So, Gundam Versus, before we get into all the nitty gritty, is a 2v2 competitive action game, for lack of a better way of phrasing it. You and a comrade go up against a pair of foes, shooting and slashing and generally trying to overcome them. The game has some single-player content, but like most competitive games, is really laser-focused in on its multiplayer gameplay. All this is worth knowing going in, before we even get into the review proper.

I should also probably give you a quick rundown on the Gundam franchise, if you're not familiar. Gundam is a franchise stretching across anime, manga, videogames, some live-action content and at least two massive real-scale statues, all focused on giant robots. A lot of the overall content is focused on one universe, the Universal Century timeline, but a fair few of the shows over the years have been set in their own universes. The big rule of thumb is that while regular mecha, or mobile suits, are around, the titular Gundam units are particularly powerful and often unique entities.

There's, of course the Gundam Vs game series to look at. This specific title, Gundam Versus, is a bit of a soft-reboot, a refinement and back-to-basics of the series, which started, at least for us in the States, way back on the PS2 with Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation Vs Zeon. The games have long had this back-and-forth between console(and handheld) iterations and arcade machines, but the ultimate central premise and gameplay loop has, largely, remained the same.

So let's look at that central premise and gameplay loop, while I've got your attention. The basic idea is pretty simple. You and your comrade each pick a mobile suit(Gundam or otherwise) from a loooonnng list, which can in this case be considered a character like a fighting game. Where it differs is that each mobile suit has a point cost; in Versus, these are 200, 300, 400 or 500, roughly correlating to how powerful, durable or versatile they are. When all players have chosen their suits, you get dropped into the arena, with a free spawn...and 1000 points on your team's meter.

Now you see the idea. When you die, you'll use up your mobile suit's cost in points and come back in. And when your points run out, you lose the match. This is where the game's balancing act comes in, before you even get into the round itself; a 200 point mech might be small, weak, or only have one tiny gimmick to its name, but you can get shot down nearly three times for every one of those 500 point monsters. With careful and skilled use of a cheap little thing, you can really destroy your opponent's entire plan and see them go from full to losing in a hurry.

So keeping with the idea that I'm probably going to be one of the few people you've heard talk about this game, I'm also going to lay down the actual gameplay loop. Because it's a lot different than, say, a Street Fighter game. You have few actual combos here, in the strict sense of the term, and few moves. At the baseline, a mobile suit will have somewhere between three and six-ish distinct moves, some of which can be chained together, in a mix of ranged and melee. Even the least ranged-capable of mobile suits have something, even if that something is just throwing a big rock. (They get a lot of milage out of that rock)

Your goal, then, is to chain these together, keeping a constant assault on your target...Who, it must be noted, you will be locked onto at all times. Your view is always centered on one of your two opponents in standard gameplay, with a "change target" button to flip which one you're looking at. This has a few key effects on your basic gameplay, too. While you have your classic 3D running around in any direction, your left and right won't go straight, but orbit around your target. I'm telling you this mostly because it always trips up rookies to the series.

And of course you've got all the movement options, boosts and bursts and stuff, and...Well, the thing is, all of that is outside of the realm of this review. You're going to want to go watch some videos, listen to some more experienced players tell you how to move around. The in-game tutorial will get you some of the basics, but it's honestly pretty basic, and doesn't teach you a lot of techniques. Which I'd knock the game for, but this is a problem basically across the entire industry, so it is what it is.

The important thing to know is how, when all of this comes together, you're ultimately in what I can only describe as a bipedal dogfight. The suits darting back and forth, in and out, clipping into melee range or slipping out for room to use their ranged options, always riding at the edge of risk, whether it's trying to desperately get some solid use out of a tiny little 200-pointer or just trying to survive as the big bad 500-point beast that everyone wants to take down...When it all comes together, even just against the CPU, it's fantastic. And in proper multiplayer combat with a friend? It's amazing.

Of course, no game is without its problems, and much as I really like Gundam Versus, it has a few. For a series whose home entries used to have quite a fair bit of single-player content, the relative lack in this entry has an extra sting to it. And the localization is a bit...Limited, for something with a retail release. A lot of incidental dialogue has no subtitles, so it's just a steady stream of stuff you have no hope of understanding unless you know Japanese. There's also the issue that the game is online-multiplayer-only, limiting options for things like LAN play or, even better, split-screen.

Also, there are no mobile suits from G Gundam. This may not matter to you, but it matters to me.

That said, the important thing here is really the core gameplay, which is really solid. It's a great return for a series that's been hiding in Japan for a long time, and for a diehard Gundam fan, absolutely worth it.

But what if you're not a diehard fan? Well, that's where it gets trickier. It's a full-priced game, heavily relying on its online multiplayer, while also being a bit obscure. So the thing is, if you're not into that level of risk, I get it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with leaning into the safe options, and getting your competitive gaming kick from something with a guaranteed audience.

On the other hand? There isn't much else like Gundam Versus on the market. Pretty much all the other big stompy robot competition games went dark. This isn't like I'm reviewing an obscure 2D fighter that basically plays like Street Fighter, or a new spin on the FPS genre that still ultimately feels a lot like Overwatch. No, Gundam Versus is wholly its own thing.

And that's really why I've got to give it the recommendation. Because while I get the concerns of buying into something that might fizzle...There's just nothing else like it. Find a Discord, trick your friends into buying in, do what you gotta do to keep the competition on this one alive. It's worth it.