The Gundam Saga and the Dynasty Warriors series are two long standing series that have both enjoyed significant success. Now these two series have combined forces in Dynasty Warriors Gundam to create an all new game. Does the combination provide something that is new and fresh, or have these cash cows been milked dry?
To say that the catalog of Gundam games so far is mediocre would be generous. Frankly, the vast majority of previous Gundam games have simply been attempts to cash in on the popularity of the various Gundam series, and the review scores show it. This game takes a fairly novel approach by combining several of the Gundam time lines into one game, and at points have them cross over. Unfortunately, this only gives the smallest sample of these series. Considering the vast amount of characters to draw from, the meager offering that DW Gundam features is disappointing. Adding to the disappointment is the fact that not all characters have their own stages in official mode, and in original mode several characters share each stage progression, seriously damaging the game’s replay value.
The Dynasty Warriors influence on the title can be seen immediately. Each stage more or less consists of the player piloting a mobile suit against hordes of enemy troops as well as enemy characters which act like bosses. Players will frequently end levels having felled between four and five hundred enemies. Other influences from the Dynasty Warriors games include the concept of bases, or as they’re called in DW Gundam, fields. These are preset areas of enemy strength where the player must clear out a set number of enemy forces in order to gain control over. Gaining control over these fields is what the vast majority of the gameplay consists of.
Old fashioned hack and slash combat is the basis of DW Gundam. Players have two attack buttons that can be used to create varying combos. There is also a boost function that allows players to perform a dash, which has its own unique combo associated with it. There is also a devastating special attack that players can perform. These special attacks are limited, and can only be used after filling a meter by dealing or taking damage. The combat simply lacks any real complexity and boils down to button mashing.
The single player aspect of DW Gundam consists of two different types of campaigns. The first is Official mode which puts the player in a part of the official canon of a Gundam series and lets them play out a battle. The other aspect is Original mode in which the player are tasked to investigate a mysterious planet that has appeared and is on a collision course with Earth. Don’t worry about the lame story, it doesn’t really matter and is simply a pretense for mashing together characters from several different Gundam time lines. Either way, neither mode is terribly compelling and it all boils down to more generic levels for the player to slog through.
DW Gundam’s visuals are no more impressive than the gameplay. The mobile suits look nice, and accurate to their animated counterparts, but they’re by no means impressive. The number of enemies displayed on screen is rather high, but no more than Dead Rising and with much less character detail. The decidedly mediocre character models look nice against the exceptionally bland environments. The lack of detail is actually quite amazing. It’s especially harsh considering the quality of other recently released titles.
One of the nice things about DW Gundam is that many of the voice actors from the original series voiced their characters in the game. That being said, the quality of the voice acting in general is decent, but nothing to write home about. The voice acting can get quite annoying at times however, when characters begin to repeat the same lines multiple times in the same battle. The soundtrack to the game consists mostly of your standard fare of video game music and doesn’t stand out at all. The aural aspects of DW Gundam are slightly more impressive than the rest of the game, but that isn’t saying much.
The level of difficulty is one of the major downsides of DW Gundam. The normal enemies in this game are simply too easy. While the basic enemies in a hack and slash game aren’t supposed to be terribly challenging or dangerous, they are supposed to pose at least some threat. This is not the case in DW Gundam, where the only chance the player has of taking any significant damage is from the boss characters. The boss characters create another point of discrepancy in the difficulty, as a select few of the bosses are vastly more difficult than the others. This can get very frustrating as there’s no real way to tell which boss fights will be the really tough ones.
Keeping on the subject of bosses means examining the fights with them. These largely lack any strategy and more often than not end up in wild flailing between the tow characters. Normal attacks do so little damage against boss characters that the player is almost forced to continually look for easier enemies to charge their special attack meter while fighting the bosses. There’s really no sense of accomplishment in defeating a boss as it simply feels like the player has managed to mash his X button faster than the computer did. This is only added to by the fact that on several stages you’ll have to fight the same boss character multiple times. This isn’t a kind of RPG-esque fighting one boss that has multiple forms, the boss actually loses and leaves the stage only to return later to fight you again and again.
The camera is also a point of contention in DW Gundam. When in the middle of a group of enemies, and especially after performing a special attack, the camera can get turned around in an awkward position that is very unfavorable to the player. This is only exacerbated during boss fights as it’s easy for a boss to get the upper hand when the camera is positioned poorly. Players can move the camera with the right analog stick, but in the midst of combat where mashing the attack buttons is necessary, the right analog stick is virtually unavailable. Players can also shift the camera to the direction their character is looking by pressing the block button. This helps, but it isn’t enough to help you keep up with bosses in the midst of a crowd. A lock on button is desperately needed, and considering that the left trigger isn’t even used it would have fit in perfectly.
There are both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes in DW Gundam. Co-op simply lets two players play through the single player levels with a partner. There are 3 different competitive multiplayer types, Normal, Warriors, and a Shotdown Contest. In the normal mode, players simply select a pilot and square off. Warriors is similar to a normal match although customization and player power ups are tossed into the mix. The shotdown contest puts the players in opposing fields and continually drops enemies in. Players must destroy the enemies, and the first player to have 50 live enemies in their field loses. While these seem like great additions to the game, there is no online support for any aspect of the multiplayer. This renders the vast majority of multiplayer useless unless you’re enough of a salesman to convince someone to play this with you.
Dynasty Warriors Gundam simply isn’t a game that is worth your time. This kind of fare might have been passable once, but considering the fall lineup for the 360, this game simply doesn’t have the chops to compete on Microsoft’s console. The game’s massive faults and desperately mediocre gameplay ensures that only the most rabid of Gundam fans will enjoy this game. Much like its predecessors, Dynasty Warriors Gundam simply seeks to cash in on a popular franchise and it shows.
Final Score: 4 out of 10 - Poor (How do we rate games?)