Gundam 00: Gundam Meisters on Playstation 2 Review

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  • Format: PlayStation 2
  • Genre: Action, Hack & Slash
  • Developer: Yuze
  • Publisher: Bandai
  • Region: Japan (Import)
  • Price: £37.90 from Play-Asia

Being greeted with the Brilliant Green‘s ‘Ash like snow’ theme tune and the Gundam 00’s anime introduction gets the blood pumping as I review this Playstation 2 videogame. Only available in Japan (with no news of any form of localisation just yet) it features a bright and fluid 3D engine developed by Yuze and features all the original voice acting cast from the anime and music. It also covers the entire first season of the anime, with Season 2 currently being aired right now.

You control a Gundam of your choice in a free roaming 3D world with the ability to lock on and transform at will to re-live the anime in your own living room. The main menu is in English however the rest of the submenus are in Japanese with a bit of flair. You get a choice of jumping straight into the Mission mode where the bulk of the one player game is. A Meister Mode which is like a challenge mode to see how you rank amongst others in Score Attack and other unlockable games. There is also a Gallery, Tutorial and Options screen for you to browse through along with a Versus mode for up to 2 players.

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Images courtisy of Famitsu

In between menu transitions you are treated to a small clip in the background of the Gundam you chose doing some moves and when choosing your options various members of the cast comment upon your choices, with Lockon Stratos joking with you asking if you think you’re good enough by picking the hardest difficulty, which is a nice touch. All of the menus and music as well is lifted directly from the series of which fans will get to appreciate greatly as it adds to the immersion into what should be a Gundam videogame.

In the Tutorial mode and when you start the Missions mode you can pick between Setsuna (Exia), Lockon Stratos (Dynames), Alleuliah (Kyrios) and Tieria (Virtue). I chose Setsuna for his Exia and was greeted by the ever attractive commander, Sumeragi Lee Noriega and the other female staff. She debriefs you about the tutorial so I start from the basics, starting with the controls.

The Left analogue stick controls your Gundam’s motion while the L1 and L2 alters your Z-Axis accordingly. X activates your boost, Triangle a shield and Square to attack. R1 activates the Lock-On system so you can target individual enemies while R2 releases the Lock-On. Circle activates a system called 00 Mode which allows you to chain melee attacks together, useful when surrounded by enemies. You have to press the circle button and 12 directional arrows appear. Red indicates an enemy while a Green allows you to move your Gundam closer to one. The trick here is to use the analogue stick or D-Pad to hit as many Red arrows as possible as fast as you can to form Chains. The longer the chain, the more enemies you can dispatch at a time and no doubt increase your bonus points. As soon as you get a certain number of chains an interactive cut-scene is activated called Action Movie (AM).  A short clip of your Gundam is then displayed getting ready for battle and a timing bar is displayed. By timing a button press to hit a moving bar you gain additional hits upon the enemy.

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Images courtisy of Famitsu

The HUD (Heads Up display) shows you the usual energy bar on the bottom left and the Gundam’s Solar Furnace energy on the bottom right, of which only gets used when you concentrate particles in preparation to attack, boost or to defend yourself by activating the shield. This Solar Furnace energy though gets replenished rapidly once given time and overuse will result in it overheating, increasing the time it takes to recover. The top left gives you a radar for enemies and the top right indicates the amount of enemies you must defeat.

After the controls have been established basic manoeuvres such as learning to Lock-On, attacking, strafing and boosting get taught along with the Chain system as described above. Once you have cleared all the tutorials you are then free to dive into the main game itself!

The game’s dialogue is presented in a manner that the cast characters gets shown along with the text below, all with varying degrees of animation to show joy, stress, anger and more. You get to appreciate the character designs more during these scenes, even though Tieria has a fond liking of wearing a pink cardigan. For all missions you also get to choose your backup Partner and this is where some strategy comes into play. All Gundams have strengths and weaknesses and different statistics. Also it would be foolish to send in a Gundam that is low on energy too for the next round. Due to my lack of Japanese though I found myself picking a Partner at random to simply boost their statistics however at later levels you simply cannot do this.

In terms of presentation this game is top notch, even for a Playstation 2 game due to the strong art direction and production values to the soundtrack and voice acting. The 3D engine is suitably smooth with great detail and rendering for the Gundam’s themselves but the backgrounds are very plain with little texture mapping. However they are still recognisable from the anime series and often gives you enough room to re-enact the epic battles found in the series. You do have a limited amount of space to manoeuvre in though due to the aging hardware as when you decide to fly around the level to scope it out, you are greeted with a translucent red barrier preventing you to move further. More often than not though this will not hinder your from of attack but is a reminder that this is running on older hardware.

The camera angle as well for some can be very disjointed as it often switches too and fro from a 3rd Person perspective for long range attacks and then a dynamic close up mode for melee attacks. I haven’t found this system to be too much of a disturbance because in reality, this is an action game and a few button presses does the job. You could be critical and defend as soon as they attack to prepare a counter but I haven’t found myself having the need to much through the game other than on bosses. Which leads us to possibly the largest flaw in the game itself.

It is highly repetitive. Very rarely you will need to pay real attention to your Gundam’s elevated height and indeed with only two forms of offensive attack which is shooting from a distance and melee attacks up close, there is not a huge amount of variety depending on the Gundam you choose. You can actually get by most missions by taking out the target from a distance and simply strafing and boosting around if you wanted. Even worse though is the game lends itself to short bursts of gameplay where the use of the 00 Mode would quickly and efficiently get you past many missions.

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Images courtisy of Famitsu

Now I love the 00 Mode myself however, as soon as you master the 00 Mode, the game becomes rather stale and easy. Yes its very pretty to look at with flashy graphics and your Gundam pilot shouting and screaming with taunts but you can’t help but feel something extra should have been thrown in to mix up the gameplay more. Granted with Partner Attacks you have to do different button combinations or chains but it feels like its more about matching button presses than actual evasive and countering skills within the game itself. Those who have played the Naruto games will know what the button presses are like when performing a jitsu. It is the same here where you have to press a combination of the face buttons (Square, Circle, Triangle and X) to complete the chain and to perform the move. There are also times when you have to bash the button like in Track & Field to build up a gauge to increase its firepower. At first this was good but it quickly becomes repetitive and a chore to do.

Essentially the whole game becomes a loop of targeting an enemy, build a limited number of chains and then activating 00 Mode to get as many hits in as possible and move on to the next mission. In fact its essential that you get to grips with 00 Mode because the bosses usually have backup and you need to consistently get very high Chains or even Infinity to get past them. The game then depends near totally on the 00 Mode which is a crying shame. A nice bonus is that the higher the chain, the different type of partner attacks appear, however the reward itself doesn’t feel enough for the over-use and dependency of the system. The other negative thing about the highly dependant 00 Mode is the strain it puts on your eyes. To get high chains you must focus on the screen intently to pick up all the red arrows. The higher the chain, the less arrows appear, of which actually helps the decision making, but you also get less time to pick a direction. If you can imagine doing this quite a few times per mission, the amount of strain it causes isn’t fantastic on your eyes or head.

With this in mind, the game is best enjoyed in short bursts because in longer runs the gameplay flaws become ever more apparent. There is less skill really needed for the majority of missions to avoid, counter and block attacks which is a great shame, because in the anime itself you are not always transformed for close combat but a combination of flying, using evasive manoeuvres, using rear flares to dispose missiles fired at you and dodging debris in Space, all whilst being in a dogfight.

That lack of sense of being in a dogfight hurts because Gundam 00 becomes a one trick pony. The game is very much geared at the fans because without any prior knowledge of the series itself, the story isn’t told well enough as it could have been with cut-scenes and dialogue about the various nations and factions supporting and against the war. Instead just throws you into battle with some cut-scenes about the rival Gundam Pilots which ends up in just trash talk.

To summarise, its great in short bursts for fans of the series or those that enjoy Gundams and Mecha. However it is another opportunity missed yet again for such a large franchise and it doesn’t do enough to make it a classic.

Available from Play-Asia for £37.90 to buy now.

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