Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 Review
This game makes itself easy to belittle. If they made an encyclopedia about gaming, any of the 20+ Dynasty Warriors games could be used as an example for the hack-and-slash genre. DW is famous for a lack of innovation, and yet here we are at essentially the same thing in 2011. It may be true that you would have to be a DW and/or Gundam fan beforehand in order to see the cup half full, but if not then you still have a fine hack-and-slasher with co-op, lots of explosions, and a ton of replay potential.
You don’t need a background in the Gundam franchise to get into the story; it wouldn’t hurt, but the story is easy to overlook as it takes place in cardboard cut-out conversations. Who you are fighting, why you are fighting them, and why they are talking in the field of battle may go completely over your head, but no one should approach this game for the story.
This is how a level will unfold: you and your team control a few squares of land, you move to either neutral or enemy squares to control them, and when the enemy forces are depleted and/or the final boss Gundam is defeated you are the winner of the square and eventually the battlefield. It is nice that there are some perks for certain nodes, like factories and a fast-travel mechanism, and at times the enemy can force you to stop and actually apply some strategy to your movements, but for the most part this game is simply hack-slash-special-hack-slash-special-hack-slash-special to infinity – in other words, see enemy, destroy enemy.
The combat is very simple. You have a basic slash that you can combo a few times, and you also have a blaster. The fun comes when you chain the two functions together for a massive special attack capable of mowing down as many enemies as are caught within the area of effect (AoE), and over time you will build a gauge that allows you to unleash a super attack for massive AoE damage. The game throws droves of enemies at you at a time (having 50 Zakus swarming around you is par for the course) and your best weapon is to repeat the area of effect combo over and over until the enemy numbers are exhausted. The enemy AI could definitely try harder, but then again it would be impossible to block 50 attacks from highly-attuned combat warriors. The result is you hacking away at 50 enemy robots whose pilots are a tad slow in the head – he pulls out axe, winds up, swings, and misses, and his lifetime of combat training comes into question as you turn around and take him and 20 of his buddies out with one swing of your laser sword.
You have jet boosters that allow you to race across the map and also dodge your opponents in a way that somewhat recreates the sometimes fast-paced action from the anime, but for the most part it’s just you running around the field and applying your special attack again and again; even if there were deeper combos, the AoE combo would still be your best weapon against the hordes. There are some rules of play that are explained a bit too thoroughly in the tutorial, but for the most part you’ll run around until your team controls the map, occasionally going to help an ally or change direction if for some reason you approach a locked zone. The final boss of a map is probably the least fun part of a battle as the fight can drag on and on. There are combo breakers where you lock swords with an enemy boss and have to quickly match the displayed buttons if you want to win the moment, and the game could use more of these quick-time events or something similar in purpose to spice things up. The boss fights usually have you resorting to cornering or locking-out tactics as they are deadly – the shoe is on the other foot when your team has 50 units swarming one boss Gundam and you’re the only one doing anything about it.
The best thing about this game is the number of Gundams to unlock and customize. If you can wade through the menus you can have a ton of choices from many of the various Gundam series. If you are not a fan it should suffice to say that there are more than a few Gundam types, timelines, and stories from the anime, and in this game you are offered a nice selection from the robust roster of robots. This is the one thing that will draw the attention of anyone who grew up watching a Gundam series or anyone who likes giant robots, but sadly they all mostly conform to the same mechanics. A special attack on one suit may differ from the next, but don’t expect different “class types” like in a multiplayer game or RPG, or that the Gundams attempt as best they can to mimic their anime counterparts (such as a shooting Gundam having incredible range and powerful guns). Sure, they all look different, their attacks may be somewhat different, and the pilots may sound different, but all of it is a wash with such uninspiring game mechanics.
The sound design is serviceable with decent effects, forgettable background music, and forgettable voice acting, but nothing too horrendous unless you’re a Japanese anime purist, and if so you can turn on the original Japanese voice acting. Visually the game can sport some great eye candy as the graphics are cel-shaded, which best compliments the anime roots of the source material. The rest of the presentation is severely lacking, most notably in the lack of cutscenes. It is not easy to figure out how to unlock co-op levels, get split-screen started, or how to unlock missions as you progress in the campaign. Probably the biggest blunder was the separation of the shop and garage menus. Rather than a set of tabs where you could buy, sell, equip, and develop your mobile suits, you have to fumble through several screens. There is a reward system, a partner you can sometimes choose, friendship levels, and all of it culminates to a game that sends too much in your direction. It’s great to have all of these options and once you know what’s going on you probably won’t mind using the system, but until you figure out how this game works in its entirety it may feel like a piece of un-intuitive software.
There is nothing in this game that stands out as a detriment to itself or detracts from the sake of having fun if all you want to do is mow down waves of giant robots, but the problem is that you can go to any retail store or used game vendor and find any number of discount titles that offer more depth in both story and gameplay, as well as having better presentation than this game. Gundam fans will enjoy what this game has to offer, Dynasty Warrior fans will add another title to their growing catalog of mediocrity, but everyone else will be better served to rent this game or get it on the cheap. If you want an online or splitscreen co-op hack-and-slasher then this game will serve you well. But in the end it’s just another Dynasty Warriors game at heart with a Gundanium exterior.
Final Rating: 76%.