Dynasty Warriors Gundam often brings to mind my dad's occasional comment when we were sitting down to dinner at a greasy diner: "It's not very good, but there's a lot of it."
Long the video game equivalent of taking a trip to Denny's, Dynasty Warriors Gundam has never been what you would call nutritious. In large quantities, it can even make you start to feel nauseous. But there's also something comforting to sitting around hacking through literally thousands of mechs in the service of grinding levels and unlocking new units.
In that sense, Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn is more of the same for a spinoff series that now spans four entries. But it's also something of a return to basics. Gone are the flashy cel-shaded graphics from Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3. The crossovers have been toned down, and the official story mode has returned. Ultimately, it's a lot like the first two games, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, those games had a formula that plainly worked.
Like the entries that have come before it, Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn boils down to plowing through hordes of enemy mechs to capture points on a map and fulfill various objectives. Hundreds of Zakus, Rick Doms, GMs, and other grunt units fill the screen, begging to be sliced, blasted, or otherwise vaporized. In Dynasty Warriors Gundam, it's not about whether you can kill a grunt so much as whether you can kill that grunt quickly and with some degree of style.
The thing with Dynasty Warriors though is that there aren't a whole lot of options at your disposal. Sure, there are a handful of combos that exist across multiple suits; but at the end of the day, you're really just mashing buttons as the grunts stand around waiting to die. If you're in a hurry, you can unleash a burst attack or a super combo and kill them even more quickly. It's possible to make the process more efficient by upgrading suits with stat boosts and the like, but the process never really changes. For the reason, Dynasty Warriors Gundam can start to feel incredibly repetitive after a while, which is a flaw that no amount of customization or unlockables can really address.
In Dynasty Warriors Gundam, it's not about whether you can kill a grunt so much as whether you can kill that grunt quickly and with some degree of style.
But as I've already said, it can be relaxing to wade through hordes of enemies, and Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn is certainly very good at making you feel as if you're doing a lot when you're really doing very little. Simply tapping the dash button a couple times and mixing together beam sword and beam rifle shots is usually enough for a visually impressive attack that wipes that floor with the mooks buzzing about the map. There's nothing to it really; but I'll admit, it did tickle the reptillian part of my brain to see whole sectors annihilated by a combination of Heero's Twin Buster Rifle and White Base bombardment.
So basically, Dynasty Warriors Gundam is still very much Dynasty Warriors Gundam. But there are a few things that western fans will want to keep in mind about this version. First, there's no English dub, so you'll be stuck reading subtitles. I'm a purist, so I'm both relieved and pleased that I don't have to put up with a low rent dub, but I know many of you will disagree with me. Second, the story mode only covers the Universal Century (0079, Zeta, and the majority of Unicorn) and SEED and SEED Destiny. It's an approach that makes sense for Japanese fans, but western fans are bound to be disappointed by the lack of focus on Gundam 00 and Gundam Wing. Heero, Setsuna, and Domon are all there, but you'll have to unlock them via Ultimate Mode, which consists of a series of crossover vignettes featuring various heroes and villains from the Gundam metaverse.
Another thing to keep in mind: Most of the music from the Japanese version has been replaced by very boring generic tunes. Dynasty Warriors Gundam does allow for custom soundtracks, which I used to slip in songs like "Meteor" and "Ai Senshi" for a more appropriately Gundam-like vibe, but it's rather clumsy. It took quite a bit of trial and error to get the right songs playing at the right time. It's also worth noting that the localization is pretty bad. The script is rife with typos, and many of the translations vary from the officially accepted versions ("Gundarium" versus "Gundamium," for instance). It's more funny than distracting, but in tandem with the lack of an English dub, it does make Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn feel like a bit of a rush job. It makes me wonder if this will be the last Dynasty Warriors Gundam we see in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
If it is though, Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn will at least keep you busy for a while. The Official Mode storylines all take an hour or two to complete, after which there a number of relatively lengthy scenarios to unlock in the Ultimate Mode. And for Gundam nerds, there are a lot of mobile suits to unlock over the course of the game, both large and small (hope you like a dozen variations on the Zaku). Of course, many people will burn out long before unlocking every single card just because Dynasty Warriors Gundam is that repetitive. But if you want to stick with it, it'll be a while before you run out of things to do.
My own feeling is that Koei Tecmo has more or less mined out Gundam in the context of the Dynasty Warriors series. Outside of adding in the final episode of Unicorn and the insipid Gundam Build Fighters, the concept has by and large run its course. At its best, it's a mindless but reasonably entertaining venue for playing around with mobile suits while revisiting classic moments from the Universal Century, especially if you bring along a friend via local or online co-op. At its worst, it's a numbingly repetitive unlock spree with next to no discernable substance. Most of the time it's somewhere in the middle. But in the end, I suppose there are worst ways to spend a Saturday afternoon then listening to Gundam tunes and slashing through Zakus.
Pretty average. The mobile suits look good and attacks are appropriately punchy, but the background textures feel almost as if they were yanked from a PlayStation 2 game.
The sound effects are fine, but the music is pretty drab. English-speaking fans will likely balk at the lack of a dub, but I was personally relieved to hear the Japanese language track.
More confusing than it should be. Customization is actually pretty simple, but it takes a bit to figure out all the different moving parts. The custom soundtrack feature is similarly unintuitive.
It's not terribly different from the previous games in the series, but there's at least a lot to find and unlock. It also benefits from the inclusion of online and offline co-op. The only real drawback is that the actual gameplay is ultimately shallow and repetitive.
You probably know what you're getting into if you're picking up Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn. Any resemblance it might have to depth is purely superficial. But as an excuse to grind mobile suits, it's more fun than it has any right to be. I'll admit, I find it kind of a guilty pleasure, much like I do Gundam Wing. Sadly, western fans aren't likely to get anything better for the foreseeable future.