If you’re anything like me, whenever you see anything to do with gunpla and Gundam… the first thing that comes to mind is “oh, that’s really cool”. Being a total outsider to the scene, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Master Grade, Real Grade or a Super Deformed kit. In a lot of ways it sits in the same space as Warhammer for me, but that universe has been opened to me through gaming because there as many Warhammer games, as there are days in a year. To be fair, Gundam is starting to follow in its footsteps, which isn’t a bad thing. The latest Gundam title is SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE – an action RPG that allows you to battle Super Deformed or SD versions of Mobile Suits from across the Gundam series (see, we are already learning things!), and this covers what Super Deformed kit is.
Now… there is more to this game than throwing plastic model kits around a battlefield, as Gundam is based on an extremely rich and lore heavy universe, that spans countless series. If you’re in the know, the story takes place in G: Universe, which I am told is a world where Gundam canon twists and turns in ways no one can predict. In short the tale sees you playing as a nobody in the grand scheme of the Gundam world, but you are “trapped” inside a sort of high-tech version of Wikipedia, where you’ll battle your way through historic moments and events in the Gundam cannon, trying to fix the corrupted data entries and ultimately get home. Yeah, SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE is a bit Tron gone wrong, but it’s a brilliant move as it opens up the game to being a real history tour of that makes Gundam such a hit. It’s the perfect jumping on point for newcomers, as the game isn’t locked into any one era of the series. Plus real fans will get a kick from the almost countless nods and winks to key points in the series too.
SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE’s gameplay is simple but extremely addictive and is all about building on combos, as you get more powerful by upgrading your Gundam or building a new one. You can also build a team to take into battle, as you’ll quickly build two wingmen – that will save your bacon in the heat of the scrap, more often than not. There is a real Monster Hunter vibe to the gameplay loop in ways, as you do side missions and the like, only to face evermore challenging bosses. This is where the real rewards are found for defeating them, then you upgrade and do it all again. Though like Monster Hunter there is also an element of grinding that sneaks into the gameplay, especially the deeper you get into the action, which may not be to everyone’s taste if you’re just looking for a straight up battler.
Now this sounds like the perfect Gundam game. It’s got a universe spanning tale, all the key fights, great gameplay, addictive gameplay loop… where could it go wrong? Well… the SD side of its name means that it is styled after the Super Deformed side of things, so it’s a bit like Marmite, you love it or you hate it. Visually it takes the towering steel titans and renders them into cute stumpy chibi versions, which may not click with everyone in the fan base. Especially given it’s the first time we are seeing some of the epic historical battles in a game, but through an extra stylised lens. That said the Gundams on show are extremely well detailed and look great, as they get stuck into the fight, although the world around you is a bit so-so and often an empty desert or surface of the moon. Sound is handled very well, but is worth noting that voice acting is Japanese only, so only subs available if you don’t understand it. SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE’s soundtrack is outstanding with some absolute bangers in there, waiting to be found in the heat of battle.
The only real downsides are the difficulty curve is a bit steep on the boss side of things and is borderline unfair in ways, less skill-based tests and more damage sponge focused. Then nine times out of ten in a fight you’ll have a pop-up of a character or two trying to tell you something, but with them talking in Japanese. Personally I found these just taking up valuable screen space at the most important times. SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE is a really good game that is on one hand a love letter to Gundam, but also an outstanding stepping point for newcomers. Yes the SD style will jar with some, but overlook that and you’re in for a real treat.
An Xbox review copy of SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE was provided by Bandai Namco’s PR team, and the game is out now on Xbox, PlayStationm Switch and PC for around £60 depending on platfrom.
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