There’s only two things I know about Mobile Suit Gundam: the models are really hard to build, and one of them is called Grandpa, I think. Gundan just didn’t grab me when I was kid like so many of my peers. Transformers that can’t transform? That’s going to be a hard pass. I see now how naive I was thanks to SD Gundam Battle Alliance, a game I never expected would creep into my 2022 most anticipated list. I hope the Gundam community will accept my sincerest apologies.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance is not easily summarized. By way of genre it’s an action RPG that combines hack-and-slash combat with crunchy, stat-heavy character progression. It’s also a character collector that reimagines 25 generations of MSG in an adorable chibi art style, which admittedly is what drew me to the game despite having no little prior knowledge of the franchise (just those two things). Narratively, Battle Alliance is a retelling of every major storyline from the entirety of Gundam’s history – though the details have been changed in disastrous, time-breaking ways.
Battle Alliance takes place in the G: Universe, a dimension where all the big moments from Gundam’s past are happening again, but for some reason, are happening all wrong. Characters are appearing where they shouldn’t be, outcomes are changing dramatically, and history is being rewritten before your very eyes. Throughout each mission in Battle Alliance, your job is to intervene in these “Breaks” and resolve whatever deviation is occurring – typically by fighting other Gundams.
While the history of Gundam and the significance of these events is entirely lost on me, the concept isn’t hard to understand. For a simpleton like me, Battle Alliance is basically just Loki, the Disney+ series. G: Universe is the Time Variance Authority, and your job as a TVA agent is to protect the Sacred Timeline by visiting Nexus Events and correcting them. I wish I could appreciate how important all of these moments must be with the rest of the Gundamheads (mechaheads?) but I’m still able to follow along well enough. My point is don’t let your Gundam knowledge or lack thereof stop you, and also Marvel has definitely ruined my brain.
There’s a lot to learn about Battle Alliance’s progression systems and combat mechanics when you first start the game, which is initially daunting, but once you get into the rhythm of running missions it isn’t hard to get a hhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z_96JoDqLYandle on things. While each Gundam has a wide variety of combat abilities, it’s not nearly as combo focused as action games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. Instead, the skill curve is all about managing cooldowns, taking attacks of opportunity, and whittling down your opponents’ stagger meters until you can go in for the kill. Each Gundam has a light and heavy attack with variant attacks when you hold the button down, a ranged attack, two weapons, an ultimate ability, a block, a dodge, and a dash. Each of the three classes has a unique playstyle, while each individual Gundam has an entirely unique loadout that are all suited for different kinds of missions. It’s not yet known how many Gundams there are to collect and upgrade, but by the end of the demo I had nine totally different suits to play with.
The missions only take a few minutes to complete and are meant to be replayed with different Gundams in order to level them up and collect upgrade materials. You can play with two friends or bring AI companions, and each pilot has their own progression path, similar to Palicos and Palamutes in Monster Hunter. In between missions you have an opportunity to spend upgrade points and follow story developments, but it does a good job of keeping things brief so you can get back to the action faster. I had a great time experimenting with different Gundams to learn their strengths and weaknesses and I am highly motivated to collect the entire roster. If they’re not already selling figurines of these little guys in blind boxes, they need to start immediately.
I only ran into a couple of issues in the demo. When there aren’t any enemies to lock onto, the camera doesn’t try to follow you around, and there’s no option in the settings to change it either. I found the camera to be pretty cumbersome overall, especially during hectic battles where my enemy and I were dashing around each other quickly. During missions where you’re battling in a city, the camera sometimes gets pinned between you and a tall building if you get too close to it, making it impossible to see what's going on in front of you.
Battle Alliance also doesn’t have any English VO, which normally wouldn’t be an issue for me, except that a lot of the story development happens through dialogue during missions. While I’m dancing around the battlefield trying to avoid lasers and pounce on vulnerable enemies, it's pretty much impossible to read the subtitles flashy across the bottom of the screen. I have a hard enough time following the plot as a Gundam noob, but missing all of the dialogue during fights makes it even harder.
The demo is out today on PS4 and PS5, and I highly encourage you to check it out if you’re a fan of co-op action games like Earth Defense Force, Monster Hunter, or Warframe. It’s refreshing to see a character collector that isn’t free-to-play or mobile for once because it means I actually have an opportunity to earn all of the characters. I’m looking forward to grinding and leveling the old fashioned way, i.e. by playing the game a lot. Maybe after that I’ll finally figure out how to build a Gunpla. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
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