A straight port of the arcade game, Gundam vs Gundam for the PSP brings over the arcade experience to a handheld. Like any arcade game, this game starts off quickly, prompting the player to choose one of the 37 mechas (called mobile suits in the Gundam universe) available, four of which are exclusive to the PSP. These range from the original RX-78 to the new (at least at the time of the arcade game’s release) Gundam Exia. After that, the player is treated to a short CG sequence modeled after the show’s own opening with its opening music as well. That part should be a real treat for any Gundam fan.
The gameplay is simple. Players have access to a long ranged weapon, a melee weapon, and the ability to boost or “jump” around. All of these have a limited quantity monitored by meters on the lower right side of the screen. Of course, certain mobile suits won’t have a long ranged weapon or a melee weapon if they are not supposed to have one. For example, a Guntank won’t have a melee weapon because it’s strictly a long ranged mobile suit, so his “melee” weapon will be replaced by gun turrets. In addition, some mobile suits may have more than just a long ranged and melee weapon; they may also have one or more sub weapons at their disposals that can be activated in a variety of ways. Players can activate RX-78’s Gundam Hammer by pressing the melee weapon and boost buttons simultaneously or God Gundam’s God Finger by holding the long ranged weapon button until a gauge to the bottom right of the screen fills up. These different combinations of button presses and different usages weapons make Gundam vs Gundam like a fighting game – although all the characters control somewhat similarly, their gameplay is so different that each one will give the player a different experience.
Like a fighting game, the goal in Gundam vs Gundam is very simple – to deplete the opponent’s meter. Every mobile suit has a certain “cost.” This cost may be anywhere from 1000GP to 3000GP out of a total of 5000GP that any side may have. So if you pick a mobile suit that has a cost of 1000, you can theoretically die up to five times before you actually lose. While that may make the mobile suits that cost 1000 sound too powerful, they are anything but. There are reasons that certain suits cost 1000 and others 3000. For example, a Guncannon will cost 1000 whereas a Nu Gundam will cost 3000. Any Gundam fan will see this difference and understand why, but for those who don’t, here’s why: a mobile suit like the Guncannon is old and underpowered compared to the technologically advanced and powerful Nu Gundam. This reflects in the gameplay as well; the Guncannon has less ways to attack, moves slowly, has less health, and tends to die more as a result. In comparison, The Nu Gundam has several ways to deal damage to an opponent, can dodge attacks much more easily, and has more health, which leads to fewer deaths. The cost system is a great way to balance the game out so that players won’t always choose the overpowered Nu Gundam, but also give mobile suits like the Guncannon a chance when they want more prolonged matches. While it may take a Guncannon two lives to kill another Nu Gundam player, it will be worth it because in the end, he’ll have won the match as a whole.
In this game, Banpresto added a new feature: the G-Crossover attack. When a meter on the upper left corner of the screen is full (which is filled up as the player is damaged), players can activate this by pressing the CPU command button twice in succession when an ally is in play. When activated, a gigantic area will be highlighted, warning other players of the area that will be affected by the attack. Players on the team that activated this attack cannot be damaged, although they’d still be knocked down by the attack. Players have a small amount of time, usually enough, to escape from the area. If they fail to do so, they will eat up the damage, which is usually at least half of any mobile suit’s health. Banpresto did a great job adding this feature to the Gundam vs series without destroying the basic gameplay it had. While the threat of the damage is big, players have more than enough time to run away. If the opposing players decide to run away, that gives the team that activated the G-Crossover more opportunities to attack because the other team is focused on running away. At the same time, they must be careful to not let their own attacks hit them, because even though they do not take damage, they will lose positioning advantage and the opposing players will be at an advantage as they are getting back up. This attack gives the side that used it an advantage, but not so much that the attack’s power overshadows the player’s skill.
This game looks about the same as all the other games in the series. It seems as though Banpresto never made an effort to improve the graphics engine in this series of games; as I was playing through this game, I felt that everything looked exactly the same as the older games in the series. To their credit, the game still looks good – it’s not as though there’s anything particularly wrong with the graphics in this game, but it’s just disappointing to see that not much has improved in the eight years that the series has been out.
The other minor gripe I have is about the menus. While I wasn’t hoping for anything magnificient and mind blowing, I wasn’t hoping to see the assortment of colors that Gundam vs Gundam’s menus provided either. The tie dyed colors do not make this game age well and I honestly could not fathom why the developers choose these colors for the menus. It is a minor gripe, but everytime I play the game, I can’t help but feel that the developers simply ran out of creativity or bothered to care how the menus looked and decided to just slap some colors on the canvas instead.
Perhaps this is the part that any Gundam fan will like the most. For every series in this game, there’s the theme song to match. You can fight it out with anything from “Stand Up to the Victory” from Mobile Suit Victory Gundam to “Just Communication” from Mobile Suit Wing Gundam. Anybody who is a long time Gundam fan will appreciate this song list. In the previous games, they had always included at least one song from the series, such as “Invoke” and “Akatsuki no Kuruma” for Gundam Seed: Federation vs Z.A.F.T.; these songs always stood out from the regular background music available simply because they were the most memorable tracks that played during some of the most epic moments in their respective shows. Now, Gundam vs Gundam provides all the memorable tracks from all the series in this game. The only gripe about this is that the tracks featured may not be the track you would want. Perhaps you liked “Rhythm Emotion” more than “Just Communication,” or you didn’t like any of the tracks in Mobile Suit Wing Gundam at all and had rather they just included more Mobile Suit Victory Gundam tracks instead. But barring the gripes of individual Gundam fans, this was a great move on Banpresto’s part to include so many tracks from so many series.
This is where the game shines. In the arcade, there is nothing more fun than playing on a Gundam vs Gundam cabinet, and then having somebody join in on another arcade cabinet next to or across from your own. The PS2 versions of previous Gundam vs games in the past never captured this experience; instead, players were provided with a claustrophobic split screen mode. This always made the console versions feel lackluster. On the PSP, though, players no longer suffer from split screen syndrome. While not exactly like the arcade experience where the opponent may be a total stranger, it captures some of it by giving players their own screen and taking away the temptation to look at the other player’s side of the screen. This alone makes the PSP’s port of Gundam vs Gundam, and overall game at that, leaps and bounds above any console port of a Gundam vs game.
Lack of Mobile Suits
Out of every series here, most have only two mobile suits present, with a few having more due to PSP exclusive mobile suits. Much like the music selection in this game, it seems Banpresto tried to do their best to satisfy most of the audience, but still neglected a large amount of the Gundam fan base. Perhaps instead of Heavyarms, Gundam Wing fans would have wanted to see a Deathscythe or instead of the Gundam Mark II, fans would have wanted to see the Hyaku Shiki make an appearance. The list can go on and on, but the point is, the mobile suit roster does its best but still manages to disappoint. This is most likely due to the game’s restrictions; after including too many mobile suits, the game would either be too unbalanced or simply run out of space to fit mobile suits in. In the end, the lack of mobile suit selection is understandable, yet disappointing.
The biggest gripe about this game, despite the great gameplay and presentation, is the lack of any extras in this port. Past Gundam vs games have always included a mission mode that recounts the story of the series it’s based on, but this is missing in Gundam vs Gundam, sadly. The PSP is capable of including such missions –the PSP port of Gundam Seed: Federation vs Z.A.F.T. included a mission mode. The only fathomable reason that the developers did not include a mission mode is due to the lack of mobile suits. Without grunt suits like Leos from Gundam Wing or Gaza-Cs from Zeta Gundam, something like mission mode is practically impossible. Arcade mode, with only six different paths to choose from, does little to alleviate this problem.
This game is still great. As a straight arcade game to console port, it’s great. As a multiplayer game, it’s great. As the newest installment of the Gundam vs series, it’s great. The Gundam vs series has always been one of the most fun Gundam experiences fans can have in a video game, and this new iteration continues that tradition. The only things holding this game back are the music tracks and mobile suit selection, if the player is nitpicky enough to care about that more than the gameplay, and the lack of any real extras for the console port. But as an arcade to console port, this game does its job and provides players with a chance to play the arcade game at home or on the go.