Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn PS3 Review

I would be mighty shocked if anyone who plays video games and is reading this review hasn’t heard of the Warriors franchise. You don’t need to have played the games to know the name, as the series has grown past its original Chinese story of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms with the Dynasty Warriors games and moved into various other historical times, such as the Japanese samurai era with Samurai Warriors, and other well-known intellectual properties. Like anime? Then you might have seen or played One Piece: Pirate Warriors or Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage. Are you a Nintendo or The Legend of Zelda fan? Then you are most likely eyeing up Hyrule Warriors that comes out in September that is filling in the barebones release schedule of the Wii U. Today, though, we are talking about the recent entry in another anime licensed game, Gundam, with the fourth entry in the Dynasty Warriors: Gundam series, called Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn, upon us for all fans to destroy thousands upon thousands of mechanical walking machines.

With the Dynasty Warriors branding attached to the game, it’s probably easy for you to guess that the focus of the gameplay is on making the player feel like a robot piloting badass who can smash through waves of opposition without breaking a sweat. In that regards, Gundam Reborn is spot on, and the Warriors formula fits right in with the Gundam licence. The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played any of the recent Warriors games, as those mechanics are standard across all the various offshoots of Omega Force’s most well-known franchise.

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Just like in the previous three Dynasty Warriors: Gundam titles, each Gundam can use special moves with the musou bar, boost or fly using the energy bar, but your main source of dealing damage will be from attacking with the melee button or the range button. Combining the two will often create a combo; each combo string is different depending on the combinations of the square and triangle button. There are a few combos per Gundam, and with over 120 of these metal fighters, you can imagine that players are spoilt for choice and fans will have a hard time picking their favourites from Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED (and SEED Destiny), Gundam Unicorn, Char’s Counterattack and many more. This helps against the repetition of using the same moves over and over again. Sure, you are pressing the same buttons and combinations, but a lot of these robots have unique attacks, so when you pick a different Gundam from the huge character selection there’s an element of surprise to see how the next one handles.

Official Mode returns after vanishing from Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3, and makes up one of the two major modes of the game. Inside Official Mode are six stories to complete, each one based on the six Gundam series I mentioned in the last paragraph, and on average take around two to three hours to finish each story. That is quite a decent amount of time to keep you busy, plus you have the various difficulties to beat if you want to replay a mission. These arcs place you as the hero of the selected show, limiting the character selection until you beat the story. Doing that will allow players to replay stages with whoever is currently unlocked.

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All six stories manage to offer a detailed insight to the major plot that less hardcore Gundam fans, and even newcomers, will feel like they have had an educational trip through each show. You could argue that there are some popular shows missing from the Official Mode, such as Gundam Wing, which was a big hit here, but at least those characters are represented in the game (their Gundams are available to pilot). Still, since the game does miss out on some major shows, this means that it isn’t as fully fleshed out as one would hope, making it miss out on being the ultimate Gundam game.

Ultimate Mode makes up the other half of Gundam Reborn, and is the more exciting of the two game modes, since it throws everyone into the mix from various shows for a collection of crossover missions. This means you can pick any Gundam you have currently unlocked and take part in any Ultimate Mode mission. While these short “what if” stories are fun, especially for fans, it still contains the same gameplay that you will have already experienced in the Official Mode, just with more openness in your character and support character selection.

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No matter which mode is participated in, you will be constantly battling enemies, racking up those kill streaks and death counts, and gaining plenty of experience points. The level system in Gundam Reborn is based on two things, levelling up the pilot through battles with experience and finding plans that can be used to upgrade the Gundam’s various stats, such as thrusters, defence and melee. Parts are randomly dropped from enemies and are ranked using a letter grading system. I couldn’t quite decipher what caused better graded plans to drop, but it seemed to be based on a mixture of the star difficulty rating of the mission plus the overall difficulty setting the player sets the game to.  Plans can be combined together, but this is limited, so it’s best to make sure you join the plans that really give you a worthwhile stat boost and turn your Gundam into a metallic killing machine.

The Dynasty Warriors: Gundam games have the extra bonus of levels being in space, giving the developers more freedom in how they design the environments. The problem is this is rarely ever capitalised on in Gundam Reborn – this is the same bland levels that you have seen in the series before, and they haven’t done much work to make them interesting. Space just feels like a land mission, since you cannot move down past a specific point and going up just feels like boosting on land. The missions should offer more open maps on land, as it still suffers from those boxed off sections that are packed with enemies. This is great for action, but for level design, it’s rather monotonous. Mission objectives do change on the fly, and they can be demanding, keeping you on your toes, such as having to defending a base, while also capturing a point at the other side of the map, while also making sure you’re allies aren’t killed. Not all missions are like this, as most simply fall back on the typical Warriors gameplay of slaughtering the weak and killing a key character, but it does make a nice change of pace when you’re asked to perform more tasks in some stages.

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Interestingly, Koei Tecmo decided to keep the audio Japanese only in this English release, which is a first for the Dynasty Warriors: Gundam series. It’s obviously done to save money, but I didn’t have any issues reading the subtitles while the action was going on, even if sometimes it feels a little delayed when you’re fighting a boss and you’re so strong that you pummel them before the dialogue even finishes. Another note is that the soundtrack has changed from its original Japanese release. This is a strange thing to do, since they’ve kept the original Japanese voices, but couldn’t keep the anime soundtrack for Official Mode? What you have now is generic music used as the backdrop, and that loses some of the emotion that fans would sense from the action.

On the graphics front, Gundam Reborn loses the cel shading aesthetics from the last game and returns more to the visual style of the first two titles. The cel shading previously offered the game a sense of style, but this return to a more realistic look shows that the graphics engine and texture work aren’t all that great. It’s fine to play, sure, and it does represent the action well, but it’s certainly not a game I’d call a graphical showcase. Gundam Reborn also suffers from bad slowdown when the screen gets filled with exploding robots.

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Previous fans of Dynasty Warriors: Gundam games will likely enjoy this. There is undoubtedly a ton of fan-service for those people, and above all, the game is easy to pick up and fun for anyone who doesn’t mind some mindless action. While it’s missing key shows for the Official Mode, the misplaced Gundams are still in there to be piloted, so not all is lost. This is a Warriors game, so anyone who doesn’t like how those play won’t find any reason to invest their time here – this is the same wild, destructive and fast-paced combat mechanics the series is known for, and Gundam once again effortlessly fits into this style of game. This is not the best entry in Koei Tecmo’s long running series, but a title that remains pleasantly entertaining and is a welcomed edition to the constantly growing Warriors catalogue.

7 out of 10