So there I was, floating in space, thousands of mobile suits surrounding me. My allies were either dead or had abandoned the battle. I was the only one left. With my last ounce of strength, I knew there was but one thing left to do: mash the square button a lot! I’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game before, and I was never into Gundam when I was younger, so my first real foray into both being a combined effort was a bit of a sensory overload that left me with some mixed feelings on each property, and my thoughts as such are more on my initial impressions as opposed to a comparison to the source material and past entries.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn takes the traditional “kill thousands of enemies” hack and slash gameplay of Dynasty Warriors and sprays it with a Gundam coat of paint. Surprisingly, it doesn’t feel like a forced or awkward merging of the two worlds, and the en masse battles feel right at home when it’s retro-futuristic robots in space. The Dynasty Warriors formula is often cited from outsiders (including myself) as being repetitive and uninspired, just a button mashing hack and slash game that never changes. I can’t really say that my feelings on it are completely changed now, but I do understand some of the depth and complexity it can hold a little more. However, even on normal difficulty the game was way too easy, and it didn’t ever feel like spending the time to upgrade my mobile suits or give skills to my pilots really mattered for getting through a level. It may be worth boosting the difficulty just to give yourself a reason to explore the intricacies of the game.
With relatively little depth to the gameplay, the game left it up to the narrative to keep me entertained, and fortunately, the Gundam story managed to draw my attention a little bit. Gundam Reborn explores six of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, all the way through SEED Destiny. While retelling an entire series’ worth of story in a eight or so missions per series didn’t lend well to really knowing the ins and outs of what was going on, it did sufficiently pique my interest in the Gundam series as a whole. It seems that Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn may offer more value to those who are fans of Gundam and know the back story, but even those unfamiliar can get enough of the story to have fun with the game and feel a purpose during each mission, and it may just ignite a desire to get into the Gundam universe a little bit more.
Unfortunately you’ll need to do a lot of reading to find out what’s going on though, as Gundam Reborn does not feature an English language track for its localization. In researching to find that previous Dynasty Warriors: Gundam games did feature English voice-overs, this feels like a bit of a lazy move for this go around. It’s not that I am completely against foreign language and reading subtitles during story scenes, but the lack of English voices during missions causes problems with reading while fighting and having no idea what is going on. Wait, why do I suddenly need to go over to this corner of the map? Who is this person in the giant mech trying to kill me? So now one of my friends is dead? When did that happen? It felt like I was missing too much.
The other thing that kept my attention riveted (and still is) has to be the ungodly amount of things to unlock. There are cards that can be unlocked by specific criteria which give you certain rewards. My gamer ADD (attention deficit disorder) has me frantically trying to collect every unlockable, and I’m always excited to see which cards I managed to nab when I get to the mission results screen. There are reportedly over 120 mobile suits that can be obtained and a large number of pilots to choose from. Outside of the main storyline, there are alternate levels and modes that continue to provide content to the collectible savvy player. The gameplay always remains the same button mashing, robot destroying madness, but each new card earned somehow makes the experience feel fresh.
Graphically, the game doesn’t look too bad for a last-gen game. Story scenes were a mixture of images from the anime, new images, and 3D cutscenes (during Gundam fight sequences). I was impressed with the number of enemies that they could throw on the screen at once with no noticeable dips in performance. Of course, the enemy AI wasn’t all that complex, so essentially they are proving that they can put a whole lot of cannon fodder on your screen at once, which can be extremely satisfying to cut down as you watch the kill counter on the bottom of the screen increase rapidly.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn feels like it could do with some fresh mechanics, and maybe a jump to next gen could offer the capabilities needed to improve it. As it stands, repetitive combat and a condensed story told in all subtitles for the Americans that are Japanese illiterate mildly hurt what was otherwise a pretty fun game full of unlockables and the ability to basically be an unstoppable robot death machine, which is really what’s at the core of every gamer’s heart right? And as monotonous as I found the gameplay to be, I always found myself justifying a reason to go back in for just one more fight, and isn’t that the true gauge of just how good a game is?
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