SD Gundam Battle Alliance Review
I love Gundam. A cornerstone series that has been king to many Japanese mediums for over 40 years. From the mech anime’s humble beginnings in Mobile Suit Gundam, to the plethora of iterations the franchise has had in Zeta, ZZ, After War and so many more, its endless potential has clasped onto the undying otaku throughout its rich history. I was actually introduced to the Gundam series by coinciding mech-science fiction Japanese exclusive gaming adaption to Macross. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have been clued into Gundam and its spectacular story. While Macross’ origins were completely focused on the aesthetical value of a sci-fi, Gundam primarily delivered messages of hope through political values and war against evil. Gundam had been a cultural phenomenon throughout Japan, eventually gaining global notoriety in the late 80’s to early 90’s.
Personally speaking, prior gaming adaptations have been somewhat lukewarm on overall premise and gameplay. Whereas SD Gundam has come out the gate strong, with over-the-top, high-octane action that never stops. An interesting campaign, a unique yet integral look with its chibi-style protagonists and insanely gorgeous environments. I was actually somewhat confounded by how beautiful the game was, unexpectedly taken back by insanely smooth physics and fantastic “Monster Hunter” inspired encounters that will leave the Gundam fans grinning from ear to ear. While it’s not perfect in every way, this is the perfect Gundam experience for fans that have wanted more depth out of an adaption to the franchise. A cross between a beat ’em-up, Japanese Role-Playing title, and definitively a hack ‘n slash.
All for One...
So what does SD Gundam Battle Alliance add to the existing lore of Gundam overall? Well, nothing. But that’s not the title’s intention; its mission statement is to introduce fans unfamiliar to Gundam with a detailed yet streamlined experience into Gundam’s deep narrative, that takes place right at the beginning. It’s an origins story that adapts event that take place during Gundam’s early days, with notable characters appearing in the title. The title itself represents the aesthetic developers were achieving, but could be a little confusing to read at first given its shorthand terminology in “Super Deformed” Gundam, not to be confused with Super Defender Gundam. An old school demonstration in level structure helps compliment each level’s objective with a slew of addictive encounters that ultimately lead to a boss battle at the end, and they’re all fun to experience.
The gameplay loop itself is basic, but escalates further as you progress with deceptively easy battles at the forefront while many of its bigger encounters tend to reign in a little more malice near its end game. A variety of mechs carry integral weaponry that showcase the way your “nobody” character can demonstrate their string of combos. To keep the lore of the entire campaign narrow, you portray yourself – essentially a character with no consequences to actual Gundam lore surrounding you, while the entire story plays out. It can be somewhat jarring given I’ve actually watched the original series, and while certain throwaway pieces are missing, key moments to the franchise are all included to give the player an idea of what Gundam is all about. However, the great thing about streamlining the title this way, is including suits across multiple generations of Gundam, allowing you to customise your hero anyway you like.
The narrative doesn’t necessarily lock you into one specific generation of Gundam, allowing you to understand more of its pre-determined history. Flashbacks are sprinkled in to give players an idea of certain unrecalled events that have taken place within Gundam, but can be hard to follow if you have no idea who some of these characters are. But it’s enough to bring you a coherent campaign, and excite those that are new to the series regardless. While story elements will be a retelling of events, the campaign is actually set within the G-Universe, and alternate to Gundam’s timeline which has events misconstrued to the point where it’s up to our protagonist to keep events in order. The intention here is to revisit Gundam’s greatest events and keep order to them without change; a cool concept for those that love the idea of time travel or history manipulating itself without cognition.
A majority of the dialogue within the game comes from cutscenes with characters Juno, Sakura and their tiny robot Haro. They will for the most part be your guide throughout the adventure, while feeding you tips during battle. There are multiple dialogue outputs that you can choose, but don’t significantly impact the storyline that much. Objectives are explained prior to entering a mission, some simply tasking you to destroy an enemy base or defending your own. Collectables are scattered across each map, and can also be obtained through encounters, for which you can you unlock new kits for your suits and pilots to stabilise and balance their stats such as HP, Melee, Ranged attacks, Beam Cut Rate, Boost and Physical Cut Rate. These are attributed to XP gained, where you can Max your character to Level 15.
One for All…
✔️ A fantastic hack and slash style, JRPG.
✔️ Aesthetically appealing. It may not be everyone’s cuppa, but is certainly stunning.
✔️ Pays homage to Gundam lore with faithful narrative.
❌ Chibi style can deter fans, given a large portion of the battle being empty.
❌ Can be a little grindy.
Role-playing elements are light but are imperative to your experience. Buffs and other abilities are carried through inventory and can be applied before or during battle. Classes come in form of different character representation from the mainline series. Online multiplayer can be a ton of fun, with friends joining the party to have quick encounters that ultimately feel like training towards the main campaign. Enemies are sparse across each map, and usually form in droves for more combustible battles. Swarms are usually the lighter of antagonists and can be easily chained out with a few combos.
The stamina meter acts as a breaker for combo chains, giving some limitation to the player without letting you simply spam your way through each swarm. This holds off some monotony and essentially helps the player gauge and flesh out their next attack. It’s refreshing to see a stamina meter used in a correct manner, without actually bottlenecking the experience. Secondary weapons will pack a bigger punch, but will be on cool down after usage. Special attacks can be stacked and saved for later battles, and have longest cool down in the game so it’s best to save those for the boss battle in early maps.
In-battle UI can be a little overwhelming, with meters and gauges splashed across the screen, not to mention avatars randomly popping in while aiding your player. A small indicator is placed at the top right hand corner of the screen to show off where your character and surrounding enemies within the area are facing. The main menu navigation is much more tame and simpler to get around, while the upgrade system does have a cleaner, diverse way of aiding the player in noting their individual stats. I do think that the in-battle screen could definitely use a clean-up, with small meters for home console platforms, and leave the bigger gauges for handheld systems like the Nintendo Switch, or at least give the player the option to have a smaller font. It’s a little too crowded and will avert your eyes from the battle in some cases.
Graphically, the game looks stunning with gorgeous detail within each map. While it’s not a AAA title, it does its job in representing Gundam’s universe quite well. The Chibi style character design is to give an appeal to the casual, with hope that it entices all ages to give this one a go. Vocal performances from current cast members of the modern era Gundam series are heard, however there is no localisation planned for English translation meaning there is only Japanese voice over with subtitled text. This can be an issue if a concurrent battle is ongoing and it’s mandatory to look at what a pilot may be instructing you. Another downside to the title is its soundtrack, mainly consisting of your run of the mill, generic electronica or rock with similar tempo across the board. I do think the title would benefit from something orchestral, but I digress.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance is a sleeper hit. A surprising release that I believe could be one of the better JRPG’s out this year. Its fantastical charm in revisiting and renewing Gundam interest through rapid and expeditious pacing, great action in a simplistic yet somehow complex control scheme, giving you ultimate control in how to defeat hoards of enemies, and traversing across some of the most diverse and gorgeous maps I’ve seen in a Chibi style action-adventure in quite some time. There’s love put into this game, and it shows right from initiation to credits, and without a doubt will have the devout praising this title for many years to come. I for one as a Gundam fanboy absolutely adore what both Artdink and Alvion have produced; the ultimate love letter to Gundam, and its alluring story and acclaim in being one of the greatest otaku outings in its ever evolving history.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance Review
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