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SD Gundam Battle Alliance Hands-on Preview Impressions

SD Gundam Battle Alliance is Gundam into the Multiverse

Over the past few months, we’ve heard a lot about Bandai Namco’s upcoming Gundam title, SD Gundam Battle Alliance. Recently, Bandai Namco approached me and asked if I wanted to get some hands-on with the full game. Did we want early hands-on with a Gundam game? Does Char love the color red? Of course, we did! While I had access to the entire game, I only had an hour to play it, but I made the most of it. 

So, here are my impressions of my hands-on with the SD Gundam Battle Alliance.

The Story and Breaks

Firing up the game, you’ll find yourself in the G Universe, a newly created Gundam universe. I was greeted by an AI called Sakura, who provided me with an explanation of what was happening, and it was odd. Everything that occurs in the G Universe is just a simulation. However, the outcomes can influence the entire Gundam Universe that we know from the anime and alters those timelines. When this happens, it breaks the universe, so the missions are called “Breaks.” 

It wasn’t mentioned who did this or how, but that plays out during the game.

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Following that explanation, I was into a GM and partnered up with two other pilots and was able to play through the first level in the game. After going through a short period where I was instructed on how to use the controls, I could play freely. After dispatching a small number of mobile suits, I came upon the “White Base, AKA The Trojan Horse,” and there’s where things played out differently.

Instead of encountering a specific blue mobile suit, similar to the anime, I instead encountered Gundam Barbatos from Iron-Blooded Orphans. A suit from a completely different universe! A battle began, and I was fed more bits of the story while being instructed on how to use my unique ability.

After dispatching Gundam Barbatos, Sakura explained that the timeline was still broken, and I had to play through a few more missions before I could repair this one point time. Not wanting to spoil the game, I’ll leave those parts out and go to the next part of the preview.

Correcting Timelines and True Missions

After a few stages, I made to correct the broken timeline for the first mission I played. To reinforce this, Sakura had me replay the level, but this time as a “True” mission. Going through it this time, I noticed a few things were different, as Amuro Ray, pilot of the RX-78-2 Gundam, was part of my squad. He wasn’t there the first time I played as a “Break.” Making my way back to the White Base, this time I encountered “Ramba Ral, AKA the Blue Giant.”

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Another battle ensued; however, now we had Amuro in toll, and things played out similar to the anime. Both Amuro and Ramba Ral were speaking to each other as we battled it out, with unique lines from the anime being spoken. While we couldn’t defeat Ramba, as he escapes, Amuro mentions that he wants to “defeat” that guy.

So now we’ve established that going into missions for the first time, they will be “Breaks,” requiring us to fulfill an objective for them to become “True.” Then replaying those corrected missions to see different outcomes and rewards.

Get into the Gundam 

Initially, when I saw the game in action, I figured it could play similarly to a Musou. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every mobile in the game has access to a normal melee attack, a special melee attack, a ranged weapon, two sub-weapon skills, a dash/jump, and a block. There’s also a special attack (SPA) and a few other mechanics, but I couldn’t touch on it due to the time.

When meleeing, at least from what I played, you can only perform two melee attacks as part of the gameplay loop. If you press melee again, it will pause, like a cooldown. However, you can still perform two melee hits, perform a special melee attack and then go back to standard melee hits. You can also mix those up using charged melee hits. You must hold the melee or special melee buttons to perform those. A charged melee will perform an AOE attack, while a charged special melee attack will launch enemies, allowing you to chase after them and melee them more. Or you can shoot at them. Either way works. Yes, this game has combos.

The SPA or Special Attack is a powerful move unique to each suit. These can be performed at any time, as long as the SPA gauge is full. From what I played, the gauge has a 2-minute cooldown, so you don’t want to spam or waste it.

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There’s a stamina system, which only comes into play when you’re engaged in combat. This also varies depending on the suit you use. For example, I noticed I was heavily restricted in the GM, but not so much when I stepped into the Gun Cannon (I love this suit) or the RX-78-2 Gundam.  

While I mentioned you can block, there’s more to it than just putting up a shield or a beefy mecha arm to absorb damage. Blocking for too long will leave you open to a guard break. While timing the block at the right moment, let me get a counter on the enemy and get in some extra damage. It’s worth mentioning those were hard to time, as it felt sluggish.

During my time with the game, I’ve fought across iconic locations and pulled straight for the source material. Some of which were not only highly detailed but also destructible. I’m not ashamed to say that I did spend some time shooting and crushing builds to see if it was possible. 

Again, this does not play like a Musou, which is not bad. I didn’t feel limited by how the gameplay was structured, and since I only played an hour of the game, that could all change. I’m sure the more complex the missions and mobile suits are, we’ll also see changes to the gameplay.

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You’ll acquire various parts and capital used to upgrade stats as you complete missions. The parts could be used toward developing new Gundams and mobile suits or to supplement their abilities like adding more ranged or melee power, adding HP, and more. Each suit has four stats; HP, Boost, Melee, and Ranged, which can also be upgraded. In doing so, you’ll also progress the level of the suit. Lastly, you’ll have to upgrade each suit, as the stat upgrades only apply per suit.

Thoughout Gundam fandom, there are fans who have an affinity for a particular piece of music. I do, you do, we all do. A nice feature of the game is you can also choose to listen to the default mission music, which is a preset track from various Gundam themes. Or you can select from a long list of musical tracks from the Gundam universe. Which I found was pretty cool. 

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Fully Voiced Gundam Action

It’s clear that this game is teeming with Gundam love, and I’m excited that the voice actors from the Mobile Suit Gundam anime have returned to voice their counterparts. I had the biggest grin when I first heard Amuro and Mikazuki’s voices over the comms. I hardly watch Gundam with English dubs, so I’m familiar with the Japanese voice actor’s talents.

I do have a few grips with the game. The first is with how long the animated story sequences are. I understand that they’re an essential part of the story, but they go on for too long. I lost out on valuable preview time with the game due to going through so many of these. 

Secondly is how dialogue occurs during combat because you’re flooded with dialogue from Sakara, her assistant, and others. All while the game’s combat sounds and dialogue are also going. There are also animated parts that can block your version at times.

Yes, There are Sentient SD Gundams

Lastly, I wanted to address something I read on either Twitter or Reddit. Honestly, I can’t remember which, but it was a concern that SD Gundam Battle Alliance would acknowledge SD Gundams properly. Now, here’s where things may get confusing.

In the Gundam universe, we had the SD Gundams, super-deformed versions of the Gundams we all know and love. But then you have the SD Gundam shows such as Superior Defender Gundam Force that also featured SD Gundam but was also sentient. Yeah, it’s weird, and I was never a fan of that. 

There are also a quite a bit of them to select from. Again, since this is a preview, I don’t want to spoil everything. However, in the screenshot below, you can see a few that are playable.

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So, there you have it, the sentient SD Gundams exist in SD Gundam Battle Alliance. They’re entirely playable, and when you select them, they don’t give you the ability to select a pilot when heading out on a mission. So, there you go.

Wrapping things up

After playing the demo and then getting some hands-on with the full game, I have to say that SD Gundam Battle Alliance pays tribute to the Gundam franchise. There’s a massive amount of well-known mobile suits, pilots, and locations that fans of the series will love.

The gameplay loop is enjoyable, the story is interesting, and it’s another Gundam game we get to play. I had a blast with the game, and I can’t wait to get back to playing it. Honestly, I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would, as again, SD Gundams were never my thing. Now, I’m hooked and wish I had more time to play. 

SD Gundam Battle Alliance releases on August 25th, 2022, for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, and PC.