Like many of you, I grew up watching Gundam on Adult Swims Toonami, which was a glorious time. However, while most of us were content with letting Gundam Wing be the only Gundam in their lives, I wanted more. Which set me down the rabbit hole of what I think is perhaps the best mecha anime in the known universe. Not satisfied, I moved over to games featuring Gundams, leading me to SD Gundam Battle Alliance after all these years. An action RPG would spawn the entire universe of Gundam, but I thought, could this work? Well, you’re about to find out, just as I did.
Platform(s): PS4, PS5 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, PC Publisher(s): Bandai Namco
Release Date: August 25, 2022
Before I go into this review, I want to let it be known that I am a HUGE fan of the Gundam universe. I’ve watched every anime multiple times, built Gunpla, and even dreamed about piloting my massive suit of destruction one day. Which will never happen in my lifetime, I know. I did not let my obsession blind me while working on my SD Gundam Battle Alliance review. Rest assured, everything you read here comes from my unbiased side… mostly.
Alright, it’s time to get into the damned Gundam, Amuro.
Gundam into the Multiverse
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.” Moments in Gundam history throughout all of the universe are now at risk, so it’s up to you, the player, and various other “simulated” personalities to fix it.
Since this is a “team-based” game, you’re also joined by two other pilots who range from being completely useless to being able to take down enemies on their own. Like you, they take damage and can become disabled, and it’s up to you or the other pilot to get them back on their feet. Interestingly enough, if you get disabled, they will come t your aid, and you get patched up. This is pretty cool. Except when that happens on boss fights, they will constantly try to get you back up, dying in the process. You can also direct them to fire their SPA attacks, when their meter is full that is.
While the story isn’t the best, it is interesting, and is also a history lesson into the world of Gundam. Those who have seen the animes will get to relive moments and see how things could have played out differently. While those who have never seen an episode of Gundam in their lives can see why the fanbase is so vast. Iconic characters, both good, bad, and chaotic neutral, are mentioned, played alongside, or fought against up from the beginning to the end. The good guys will also tag along, doing damage and providing some commentary along the way, and I loved that.
For those wondering if you’ll see your favorite (or least favorite) Gundam shows featured throughout the game, you will. About every series is touched on, and locations you’re familiar with will be either playable or mentioned.
Get into the Gundam
Initially, when I saw the game in action, I figured it could play similarly to a Musou, and it does, mostly. It’s more of an action RPG, but we’re just splitting hairs here. 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 guard. There’s also a special attack (SPA), a role action, and a chain breaker mechanic that helps restore your boost and guard meters.
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. Once used, you’ll have to wait until they fill up again. They’re cool to see in action, it’s just like watching the animes.
Role action moves are weird, as I didn’t encounter any until towards the middle of the game, and even then, I didn’t work it worked properly. For example, one role action perk stated it would grant my allies 100% health temporarily. Yet, when I activated it, I didn’t see any additional health on either of my allies health bars. This might be bugged, and I did report this. Hopefully, this gets fixed before the game is officially released.
When meleeing, you’re able to perform several standard melee hits, swap in a special melee, and use your sub-weapons as part of the gameplay loop. 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.
TL;DR – It’s fun to punch or shoot other Gundams and mobile suits in the face.
There’s a stamina system, called boost, which only comes into play when you’re trying to melee, dodge, or boosting. It’s an annoying mechanic, as once you’re out, you can’t do anything but walk around. No physical attacks, no jumping, nothing. Again, it’s stamina, and while it can be upgraded, it still manages to become a nuisance when you’re fending off multiple attacks or trying not to get smacked by a boss.
While I mentioned you can guard, there’s more to it than a beefy mecha arm to absorb damage. Guarding for too long will leave you open to a guard break, leaving you open to some massive damage. It’s also possible to pull off a perfect guard, which negates all damage, or if performed against a melee attack, it becomes a counter, letting you reverse the hit and do a slick animation. While timing the block at the right moment, let me get a counter on the enemy and get in some extra damage, or even staggering bosses. It’s worth mentioning those were hard to time, as it felt sluggish. But they felt good when you were able to execute them.
Yes, You Can Upgrade Your Gundams
While you can upgrade the huge selections of Gundams and Mobile Suits, it’s not that deep. You’ll acquire various parts and capital (in-game currency) that will be used to upgrade stats as you complete missions. The parts could be used for developing new Gundams and mobile suits. Capital earned will be used to upgrade the stats of your mobile suit, HP, Boost, Melee, and Ranged, which can also be upgraded by the capital In doing so, you’ll also progress the level of the suit.
You’ll have to upgrade each suit, as the stat upgrades only apply per suit. It’s important to note that every Gundam or Mobile Suit you use will need to be upgraded to a specific level in order to use it in the later chapters. Meaning, there’s a bit of grind that I’ll touch on in a bit.
The nice thing about the capital is once you’ve assigned it to a Gundam, you can change around the assignments. Let’s say you want to focus more on health, instead of boost. All you have to do is decrease the amount of capital assigned to the health and reassign it to boost. You’re able to adjust as many times as you want. The only downside is once you’ve assigned the capital to a Gundam, you aren’t able to take reassign the capital to another Gundam. You’ll have to stick it out or grind levels for more capital if you want to play around with the other suits.
In addition to this, you’ll find plugins that offer several perks, from lower lever plugins to higher levels that begin to offer multiple perks. The nice thing about plugins is you can easily swap them between your suits, or if you have an abundance of them, you can also sell them off for more capital. It really helps as you’ll acquire lots of plugins that aren’t worth using, but you can also always use capital.
For those hoping that they’d be able to swap out parts of the iconic units you find, this isn’t possible.
Looking (and sounding) Mighty Fine
I’m just going to cheap out here and say that the game looks exceptional well for what it is. The SD models of iconic mobile suits are detailed and animated well. I didn’t have any issue with any of the designs; at times, I had stopped to ensure they were true to their anime counterpart. And they were. This goes double for the sound and music. If you’ve ever watched the anime and are familiar with a specific Gundam and the sounds it makes, it’s in the game. Right down to the weapon effects.
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. You can listen to and apply them here when performing a SPA attack. The song only lasts for a few seconds, but I thought that was a nice touch. However, if you’re looking to stream the game or record videos, you might incur some issues as there’s no streaming mode to be found. I uploaded a video on YouTube for this review and was instantly tagged with a copyright claim, so I removed it.
If that wasn’t enough, you can, at least on the PlayStation version, you can also connect a USB drive, and import your own music.
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.
Lastly, there’s no dubbed dialogue in the game at all. While you can change the language text in the game, the only spoken dialogue is Japanese. Not that I minded, as I prefer my animes with their original voiceovers. However, this may be a problem for others, so I’m just pointing that out.
The PS5 version has a toggle so you can switch between a frame rate optimized experience or better visuals with Ray Tracing. To be honest, I didn’t see much difference between the two visually, so I left the FPS optimized as my preferred.
That Grind Is Annoying
Earlier, I spoke about the game having a grind, and that’s not far-fetched. There’s a hefty amount of grind in SD Gundam Battle Alliance, from going back to previous levels to earn capital to replaying those same levels to eventually acquiring those parts you need to develop a Gundam completely. An excellent example of this is the RX-78-2 Gundam. While you find the first of its many plans you need to complete, you only can get the first of those from a specific level. Then you must go back and play that stage repeatedly until you get all those plans. Adding to this, some Gundams have level one plans, while others can have put to three tiers of plans. If you want to build that Gundam, you’ll have to continue to replay those levels until you get all the plans.
That’s some heavy grinding, which happens when you’re trying to collect some of the more desired Gundams. On the one hand, you hate the grind, but on the other hand, you really want to get those suits. The fact that the game was designed around this annoying mechanic really frustrates me. Yet, as a Gundam fan, I do want to get to play with them eventually, so I put up with it.
You also need to grind as the stages get progressively more challenging, and there are level requirements. Entering a stage higher than your current level isn’t impossible, but it definitely will feel like it. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the other pilots, who’ll be able to jump into action without worrying about leveling up their Gundams.
Your allies also have a grind, and depending on how long you play with a specific pair, they’ll gain what’s friendship. The more friends they have, the better the pilots will react, more dialogue will be spoken among the team, and you’ll gain “Alliance Effects”, which is another way of saying buffs. Again, this is another grinding mechanic, I really didn’t see much of a reason to deal with it. Then again, there are so many damned cool pilots that it’s hard to pick just two for the entire duration of the game.
How’s the Multiplayer
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get in any rounds of playing the game online. It would seem that everyone else playing this for review wasn’t interested in trying multiplayer. I even set up a room and waited for 30-minutes on several occasions before I gave up.
I saw some players who managed to get the game early in another country, but every time I tried to connect, I received “A connection error has occurred” and couldn’t connect to that session.
I’ll circle back once the game is officially available in North America and try it out again.
Well, That’s Sub-Optimal
So far, the game seems pretty amazing, doesn’t it? However, with the good does come some bad or just freaking bothersome.
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.
Secondly is how dialogue occurs during combat because you’re flooded with dialogue from Sakara, her assistant June Astarte, 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, especially when you’re in the middle of combat, and you call on one or two of your allies to spam their SPA attacks, with most of the right side of the side being obstructed. I’m not a fan of that.
While the game does have some options to change the camera and locking onto enemies, it didn’t seem to help. Whenever there were multiple things on the screen, I struggled to lock on to anything and basically stopped using the lock-on. Locking on was a pain with bosses, as they tend to have multiple sections to target, and they were typically close to each other. Trying to hit that sweet weak point ever so much… sub-optimal.
The camera has a lot of jank as well. If you’re too close to an invisible barrier, or anything that can bar your visual, sometimes the camera will go crazy and block your vision. This gets worse if you’re being pushed into those barriers, your Gundam will sometimes become one with that barrier until you’re able to maneuver away from it.
Then there are the final bosses for every directory. Before facing off, you can clearly see the required level requirement before fighting them; however, don’t believe the games’ lies. While the first couple of final bosses are easy enough to work out, things ramp up once you get to the end of the game. And I mean, they ramp up hard.
One particular boss stated I needed a 22 -level to fight them, but of course, it didn’t mention that the boss also was faster than most Gundams in the game, could fly, had an I-Field (rifle beams don’t do damage), and hit like a Psycho Gundam. Sure, I eventually beat it after coming back and leveling up a few (10) levels. The final boss difficulty needs to be re-tuned. Sure, you can change the difficulty, but it doesn’t change how the boss reacts or take away its buffs. All it changes is how hard it hits you.
Lastly, in terms of accessibility options, there are none to be found. Again, I’ll continue badgering developers and publishers until this is commonplace.
The game is still fun, but some things need to be addressed, and hopefully, BN does address these concerns.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance releases on August 25, 2022, for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, and PC.
Review Disclosure Statement: This copy of SD Gundam Battle Alliance was provided to us by Bandai Namco for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Affiliate Link Disclosure: One or more of the links above contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission should you click through and purchase the item.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance is a love letter to Gundam fans, full of recognizable characters, Gundams, and serves as a history lesson for newcomers and veterans.
The gameplay loop is enjoyable, if not repetitious at times, the story is interesting, and it’s another Gundam game we get to play. Honestly, I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would, as again, SD Gundams were never my thing. Now, when I play the game, I don’t see them as SD Gundams. I guess I’m a fan now.