My Inner Gundam Nerd Squeed for Extreme Vs-Force

In the lobby of Bandai Namco's new studio in Santa Clara, there are several Dark Souls statues in the lobby, including the Red Knight going down on one knee in that signature Dark Souls III pose. But it was something else that caught my eye, a pair of human-sized robotic figures. "An RX-78!" I gasped when I saw the original Gundam. I even noted that it was flanked by one of its 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, though, as 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, 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 re-targeting and dashing to avoid enemy fire.

The tactical gameplay involves taking down an enemy command ship and moving into the arena, all within four 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 in waves as you approach your various objectives. Though they had fairly low health, there were enough of them to temporarily slow me down so that the first time I played through the level, I failed. 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 and blowing it up with a smirk. 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.

Already available in Japan, Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Force is slated for a North American release on July 12, 2016 for PS Vita.