'Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn' Review: PS3 Digital Download Dishes Out The Finest Robot On Robot Action; Fans Of Both Franchises Will Find Something To Love
In video games, there is something satisfying about looking down at a mass of enemies, weapon at the ready, and then annihilating them. The Dynasty Warriors franchise has filled that need for the past 17 years. The sheer number of enemy combatants that have been laid to rest throughout that time is unfathomable. So much life wasted and yet, so much fun to be had. Dynasty Warriors has changed little since its beginning, perhaps because they may have gotten it right the first time.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn is the fourth title in the Dynasty Warriors Gundam series. The game was previously released in Japan in late 2013 and is just now available as a digital download for the PS3. It transports the DW mechanic out of the Three Kingdoms era and puts it firmly in the future and as such, opens up a world of gameplay possibilities.
There are two things you notice first when you fire up Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn: one, nobody is speaking in English; and two, there are a lot of Mobile Suits and Pilots to select from. On the first, this is the first of the series to get a North American release without an English dub. This never takes away from the game and can be directly attributed to the second thing: the breadth of this game is astonishing. The total number of suits sits at roughly 120, with more available as Day One DLC. Each and every Pilot not only has his or her own unique moves and combinations, but has combinations with every other Pilot. One could lose more hours than anticipated in creating the perfect Pilot/Gundam/Partner combination.
My exposure to the Gundam series, one of the most iconic anime and manga series ever, was and is slight. My awareness extends to pretty much 'giant space robots with swords'. The game culls from several of the Mobile Suit Gundam series, such as Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Zeta Gundam, First Gundam and others and splices in cut scenes from them. There are at least two canon time-lines in the Gundam universe, both of which are featured here. Non-fans may have a hard time keeping up with the patched together cutscenes.
There are two game modes. The first, Original mode, which puts players into the shoes of one of many characters throughout the series as you reenact the iconic moments and battles and storylines throughout the game. The second is the ultimate mode, which is some sort of twisted time traveling zoo wherein heroes from across all different times and eras are joined together to bring Gundam glory to all. The Original game mode has more story to it, but the Ultimate mode is more fun. The selection of characters and Gundams is greater and, divorced from the need to retell a story, the game-makers can play jazz and focus on the level design and gameplay. The Pilot/Gundam mix and match elements are great, even if they are not strictly speaking 'canon'. Casual players won't care for it.
The game holds your hand the best it can, helping to explain how things work. In fact, it may coddle you to the point of smothering. The instructions are over-explained and not always translated into English well, so if it's been a while since you've played a Gundam game, it can be daunting trying to understand the need to collect fields and defeat certain enemies within a set amount of time. I spent the first several hours button mashing to great success. The out-of-battle plans and upgrades aren't explained too well. The upgrade plans for each Gundam model seems to drop less out of skill and more out of complete randomness. Certain extremely difficult battles may yield several Class E type plans, while an easy breeze through netted could net a pretty bitchin arm upgrade for reasons that defy explanation.
Anyone who has played a Dynasty Warriors game will be familiar with the mechanics: your character faces wave after wave of enemies while trying to secure fields and complete objectives. That is unchanged here. It should feel like you're coming home, only home has gotten a serious upgrade. The use of the Y-axis space, wherein you can move your Gundam up and down to better angle yourself and gain additional attacks, is welcome.
The gameplay is never boring. Certainly, the levels are repetitive; hack/slash, hack/slash, but there is a reason there are so many Dynasty Warriors games: they're really, really fun. The replay value, adjusting the difficulty on a mission, playing through as this or that Gundam, should be quite high. A little customization can go a long way.
The series has returned to a more traditional visual style. Previous versions of Dynasty Warriors Gundam were cel-shaded affairs, which allowed for a greater number of enemies in each stage. There is still a staggering amount of robots to cut through here, so one can only imagine what it was like before. The effects are solid, neither overwhelmingly fantastic nor sloppy. The more realistic visuals work just fine within the context of the deathly serious military anime.
The game comes in at a hefty $39.99, expensive for a digital download but given the sheer amount of elements available in the game, perhaps even a discount. For an additional $29.99, you can purchase all of the DLC which adds a host of severely overpowered Gundams to the roster. If you like your games broken and one sided, the DLC is for you. The whole value isn't worth the $70 for a casual Dynasty Warriors and Gundam fan like myself. Individual Gundams and pilots can be bought for less, and the packs are meant for the die-hard fans who really want to see this or that iteration represented in the game.
The bottom line on Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn is right there in the title. If you like either Dynasty Warriors or Mobile Suit Gundam, well, this is the game for you. The action is easy to learn (hit button repeatedly) but also allows for a bit of nuance and customization, something I appreciate greatly in titles. It helps keep the gameplay fresh. The story would only be engaging to the Gundam faithful, but the gameplay will be enough to keep even casual players coming back again and again.
At the end of the day, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn still giant robots beating up on other giant robots with giant swords, and who among us cannot enjoy that?
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn was reviewed from a PS3 code provided by the publisher. The game is now available in the PSN store for $39.99.