Could That Be the Red Comet?
Bandai-Namco recently held a preview event for games they are releasing later this year. Upon entering there were several Dark Souls statues in the lobby, including the Red Knight, but it was something else that caught my eye, a pair of human sized robotic figures. "An RX-78!" I practically gasped at the original Gundam, silently noting it was flanked by one of it's early enemies, a classic green colored Zaku II. Yes, I am that much of a Gundam geek.
Bandai-Namco had a game just for Gundam nerds like me: Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs-Force is a Playstation Vita adaptation of the competitive multiplayer arcade game Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs., with a single player strategic mode that combines tactical combat with player vs. CPU arcade action. Extreme Vs. Force is more than just an arcade game with a tacked on mode, the new Force mode is a completely different game. I squeed a little bit when the brand manager said the title was mostly related to Universal Century titles, my favorite Gundam timeline, which has recently had a resurgence with the UC Gundam and Gundam: The Origin anime miniseries.
The playable demo gave a brief example of the new Force gameplay, putting the player in control of a squad of different famous Gundam pilots and their mobile suits—American fan favorite from Gundam Wing, Heero Yui, was present, as were other heroes and antiheroes. Single player combat between the mobile suits is divided into lock-on fire with beam rifle, and a dash with the beam-saber laser sword, and a thrust-jump that allows the suits to fly for a limited time. Extreme Vs. Force uses a lock-on mechanic, but lets you know—through a host of traditional Gundam sound effects and on-screen visuals—when you're being targeted; switching off the lock-on auto selects the mobile suit targeting you, making the game a frenetic mix of targeting and firing, crossed with retargeting and dashing to avoid enemy fire.
The tactical gameplay involved taking down an enemy command ship, moving into the arena, within 4 minutes. Also within the combat area were three auto-turrets capture points. Pressing a shoulder button opened up a map with the enemy ship, and the control points and paths to them. Here you could send your squad of Gundams to different areas of the map, as well as your own slow-moving capital ship.
Once dispatched, the Gundams would have to contend with a host of different mobile suits attacking waves as you approached your varried objectives. Though they had fairly low health, there were enough of them to temporarily slow me down enough that the first time I played through the level I failed it. In a second playthrough I dashed through the enemy to capture one of the turrets, then attacked the command ship directly with a series of beam saber attacks, after flying up to it, blowing it up in an incredibly satisfying way. This gave me a taste of the gameplay, but screenshots show some more involved tactical scenarios, and I was told by the brand manager that the game's Force campaign would be "quite long", which should add a lot more content to the arcade franchise.
The Gundam Vs. arcade series allows players to compete in 2-versus-2 competitive matches where they get to choose their pilot and Mobile Weapon (the robotic suit) in a head-to-head battle, choosing from what are mostly the lead characters of existing Gundam series. A prior version, Extreme Vs. Full Boost was released on the PS3 in Japan, but Extreme Vs. Force is the first time that the series has been released in North America, and Extreme Vs. Force is built on that model, with the additional strategic squad mode. Gundam games, like a lot of brands have had a few standouts amidst a lot of mediocre titles, and it'd be nice to see a real solid licensed game for the franchise. Hopefully Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Force is that title.