Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS-Force gives us some fun robot-on-robot action and follows the events of the anime. At its simplest this game is an action-strategy hybrid, you take control of a Gundam (Read: giant kick-ass robot) and fight your way through opposing Gundams while giving orders to your allies to complete your mission.
The game’s story, if it can be called that, sends you through various battles in the history of Gundam. The battles are broken down into small bite-sized missions and most missions can be cleared in 5 minutes or so which is perfect for the Vita. The missions come in several varieties from everyone’s favourite escort missions to one-on-one duels, there’s enough variety in objectives that ensures the game doesn’t became too repetitive.
After each mission every character involved in battle will gain some exp and potentially level up, more on this later. From there you go back to the mission select screen, rinse and repeat. Completing missions will net you GP which is the game’s currency and is used to unlock other special missions or to repair your Gundam. You can also unlock new characters to use in battle by completing specific missions.
Speaking of new characters, I want to point out how expansive and diverse the roster for this game is. I’ve never watched the Gundam anime so I have no idea if there are any glaring omissions but to me the roster felt expansive and I was impressed at how unique each Gundam felt to play. Every Gundam can use a melee attack and a basic ranged attack but on top of that each Gundam can have several other special attacks. Every Gundam has its own selection of attacks that can drastically alter the way you play, for example Barbatos is focused mostly on melee attacks and so you can expect to be getting up close and personal with enemies, other characters though might have a plethora of ranged attacks to pick from. This variety is nice and you’re encouraged to experiment and try out new play styles.
Each unique Gundam can be levelled up by completing missions and after each level the Gundam will gain a predetermined perk. The bonuses are nice, often an increase to durability or other base stats, which help improve your favourite Gundams that little bit more. However levelling up isn’t the ‘solve all’ button for tough fights. The battles are as much about strategic planning as it is about your own fighting skills.
During battle you’re able to give your allies orders, either engaging a specific enemy or moving to a specific base. This is vital throughout the game and often when you lose a battle it’s because you didn’t issue the correct commands to your allies rather than you not being strong enough. It’s an interesting take on an otherwise bog-standard action affair, although it often feels that there is only one viable option making it a trial and error exercise at times which can be frustrating.
Onto the actual combat, as mentioned before you have a choice of special attacks often accompanied by a basic melee and ranged attack. It’s a straightforward set up but, rather disappointingly, the fighting itself is less strategic and is more of a button mashing affair. Blocking is hit-and-miss at best and I often found it easier to just boost left or right whilst taking pot shots and firing off a special every now and then. It’s a shame because giant robots pounding each other should be the best thing since Robot Wars but instead the combat just feels shallow and messy.
To compound the problem further is the poor UI in combat. I have never seen so much going on all at once on a small screen. If there is a big battle going on then good luck making sense of all that chaos. Yellow and red bars will flash around the edge of the screen in an attempt to warn of impending danger, characters will start warning of other teams dying, not to mention all the lasers and Gundam flying all over the place. It could have done with some refinement but thankfully it never made the game impossible to play, at worst it’s a distraction that thankfully can be ignored.
Looks-wise the game holds up well for a Vita title, the environments are often unimpressive and bland but this is more than made up for by the Gundam themselves and the action. The large showcase of Gundam here gives the game enough visual variety to get by, from the elegant design of Mach Knife to the striking Sinanju, the game has done well translating these Gundam to the small screen. The game also makes the most of these visuals by taking control of the camera during certain moves to highlight the attacks in all their glory, I never found this to be a nuisance and it really just helped me to admire the spectacle at times.
MS Gundam Extreme VS-Force has plenty of content for you to get through, so although the core game can be blasted through in a few short hours there are tonnes of side quests and optional missions for you to complete at your leisure. Each mission has 3 optional objectives to complete so for all you completionists out there there is definitely no shortage of content. There is also another mode available called VS Extend which allows you to either create your own battle or tackle a pre-made score attack based battle so there is plenty in this game to keep you busy.