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A lot of meaning can be parsed from a name. Take a look at Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn—I have to imagine someone who hasn't played a single minute of the game would expect hack-and-slash combat that lacks depth, but also manages to hit the pleasure center in the brain often reserved for guilt. Oh, and there are giant robots. That person would be 100% correct, which simultaneously emphasizes Gundam Reborn's strengths and weaknesses. Its familiarity creates a level of comfort for fans of both Dynasty Warriors and Gundam, but it also ostracizes the larger video game audience. Either you want to mash buttons in a mobile suit, or you don't—there's no in-between.
The player's attachment to the Gundam anime series raises the potential for enjoyment, as the game tackles six different iterations of the show in its main story mode. Even if your exposure to Gundam is minimal at best, you'll likely appreciate the series on at least a superficial level. If nothing else, it has style that translates well to the video game format. It feels as though the game condenses each storyline in an effort to cover the six series, but I did take interest in improving my Gundam knowledge. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to follow along at times due to the lack of an English dub. On some level I appreciate its adherence to the original Japanese, but it was an option in past Dynasty Warriors Gundam games, and thus stands out as an odd omission in this entry.
But exposition isn't high on the list of priorities for Gundam Reborn. It's very much a game concerned with large-scale enemy encounters, in which players dispatch foes in the most efficient way possible. Mashing a couple of buttons remains the most effective combat method, which plays into the repetition discussion that follows the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Fans argue that combat depth does exist, and they are right in that players can enact more-involved combos. The lack of necessity is the issue—I don't need to pull off those special moves because the game is easy. The button mashing approach proves just as useful as a more combo-heavy approach, and so it becomes the default for most players.
And yet part of me takes joy in the game's combat. There's something about destroying 100+ mobile suits in the course of five seconds that appeals to the sadist-anarchist in me. The feeling doesn't sustain for longer than an hour or two, but those brief moments of enjoyment showcase why the series has a strong fanbase. It also acts as a form of stress relief, in which I just turn my mind off and lay waste to a bunch of enemies. There's something refreshing about the simplicity of it all, even if it wears thin after a short time.
Gundam Reborn does have depth though; it just exists outside of combat. The game features a myriad of upgrades for each mobile suit, which can be applied or combined with other upgrades to increase stat boosts even more. The game fails to effectively explain the convoluted upgrade system, but the sheer number of items unlocked after each mission creates a reward-based system that helps encourage longer play sessions. In addition to parts and upgrades, the game also includes cards that can be collected and used to apply even more upgrades. It's the carrot-on-a-stick game design approach, and it works well in Gundam Reborn.
Nothing about Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn truly stands out, but developer Omega Force knows its audience and focuses on a specific design approach that works. The combat does little to deviate itself from past entries, but decimating thousands of enemies in mere minutes still provides some level of fun. Fans of Gundam will surely love the inclusion of six different series, and the number of mobile suits and upgrades gives some incentive to keep playing. It doesn't escape the repetition that plagues Dynasty Warriors titles, but fans of Dynasty Warriors and/or Gundam will find something to enjoy.
Copy provided by publisher. PS3 exclusive.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn
Combat is fun in short bursts...
...and super repetitive in longer play sessions
No English dub
Numerous upgrades and parts to collect
Upgrade system is convoluted
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