Alright, I have a confession to make. Despite Gundam existing for over 40 years, I’ve never actually experienced anything from this franchise before writing my review. This gives SD Gundam Battle Alliance an excellent opportunity to introduce a total Gundam newbie into an extensive franchise. Let’s hope this newest entry can successfully condense content pulled from over 4 decades of potential history.
Welcome to “G” Universe
Let’s be honest, giant robots going up against other big robots will always be cool, no matter what age we may be.
Initially, an unknown pilot is warped into the ‘G:Universe’, a simulated world that stores every important battle in the Gundan mythos. Their ally Juno Astarte is also along for the ride. After a few battles, the duo also gets introduced to Sakura Slash. This humanoid AI explains what Time Breaks are. Apparently, Mobile Suits (MS) are being displaced throughout different universes and timelines. It’s up to the player to take control of the unknown pilot, and stop this time and space hopping.
Yeah. Not exactly an original way to tell your sci-fi action story. It does create a situation where many big cool looking mecha can duke it out together though. And I think that’s the important thing here.
The goal is to plough through battalions of opposing MS (and other beings) with a 3 person team consisting of a mixture of 3 roles. All-rounder, Sharpshooter, or Infighter. So, a balanced build, a long range specialist, or a close combat pro. The first mecha is player controlled, with the rest being piloted by an NPC pilot. Each MS and pilot each have their own level, alongside the player’s own. Individual members team will quickly become obsolete, unless they are built up.
After blowing away the aforementioned legions of enemies, the player then usually trades blows with a named boss. Thanks to a fairly robust set of combinable skills, it can be quite fun taking them down. A combination of light and heavy punches, alongside dodges, special moves are usable. Partner and subweapon attacks also fill out the move set. I like my fights to be fast‐paced and frantic, and this combat just doesn’t deliver though. A combat timer is attached to seemingly every move.
Graphics & Audio
Set in the “super deformed” (SD) spin-off, it features many of the popular mecha in a smaller forms. It’s very cute to see a pint-sized robot running around and crossing blades with other miniature opponents. It almost feels like I’m playing with action figures, bashing them together when in combat.
The 2D anime characters are similarly varied. Their voices can be annoying, especially when they have extended conversations during a skirmish. This overlapping of voices, dialogue boxes, and portraits results in a chaotic experience. Unless the player has a decent grasp on Japanese, those dialogue boxes are essential. And when characters try to condense a whole backstory of context for a particular battle or ally into a conversation, the experience becomes extremely truncated. Reading subtitles or listening to native languages is fine. But the game shouldn’t expect me to have to read a wall of text whilst I’m trying to lay the beat down on an enemy gunning for my life.
The environments in which battles take place are also suitably varied, from desert areas and rolling hills through to sprawling cities and futuristic moon bases. While varied, they are a little bland, with subpar texturing in places. This is most notable in the starting desert areas, so not a great first impression.
There also doesn’t seem to be much in the way of bringing these environments to life. There are no cars or people dotted around below your feet. Places like towns and cities have very little set dressing. I guess there is a canonical reason for that, this being a simulation and all, but it would have been nice to include more detail.
Back in 1999, Slave Zero on the Dreamcast presented a world filled to the brim with personality. I’m not sure why Battle Alliance struggles to accomplish this. Maybe it’s because I played the original Override recently, and expected the same environment detail.
Overall, this game has a good chunk of content to play through. Due to the time and dimension hopping aspects, there are a variety of modes to play, including story missions over 7 chapters (or directories) This bulks out the content and keeps the player heading back to previously unlocked maps.
For those who like a challenge there are a few different difficulty modes, including an unlockable hard mode. There is also multiplayer, although it is only online. I didn’t get to try this out as I don’t have PS Plus. Can’t really say all too much about it. Although multiplayer is nice, I do wish it had couch co-op capabilities.
There’s also a substantial number of Gundam to collect parts for and level up. While I’m not familiar with any of them, I’m sure there are some fan favourites to uncover and unlock. There are a multitude of apply pilots to unlock too. Many are able to control multiple MS, so there is some opportunity to mix and match.
Sadly, despite all these elements, not everyone may have the will to fight through the missions. There is a wealth of playable content here so it’s a massive shame how repetitive it can become. After a few missions I found my mind wandering and wanting to do something else. The best way I found to play was to beat a level, load another game entirely for a bit, and then jump back in later.
It doesn’t help that the levels can be overly long, with no checkpoints either. Fail on the third and final boss of a level, and it’s time to start over. Take too long and it’s also game over. And strangely enough, the game seems to be unpausable. Once a player embarks on a mission that is potentially 30 minutes long, then that player is there for the long haul. Need the bathroom during a boss battle? Better make it quick!
SD Gundam Battle Alliance is primarily a game for those that are familiar with the IP. Focused around replayability, it makes the player build an admittedly interesting cast of characters. Sadly, it stumbles and falls with repetitive gameplay, strange design choices and overly long, intrusive dialogue. The goal of the game is admirable, but it almost sets itself up to fail. Bringing together things from such a storied franchise is no easy feat.
It’s a fairly decent introduction, with lots of history and some context to dive into. At the very least it has piqued my interest regarding Gundam. I wouldn’t say I had fun playing though it, with there just being too many flaws overall. It is a love letter to the wider franchise but not one addressed to this reviewer. Unless you are a hardcore Gundan fan, or want a rough and ready introduction to it, I would probably give this a miss. Overall, I give SD Gundam Battle Alliance a Thumb Culture Bronze Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.