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The One Gundam Game that Deserves a Western Release (Hint: It's Not Dynasty Warriors Gundam)

The Gundam Versus games are far and away the best Gundam games ever made. So why isn't Namco Bandai releasing them in the west?

Editorial by Kat Bailey, .

For those who were paying attention, yesterday included a minor miracle. Bandai Namco actually released a Gundam game in the U.S.

Granted, it was another entry in the tiresome Dynasty Warriors Gundam subseries, which is now on its fourth (!) entry. But for those of us still following Gundam here in the west, it's nice to know that they still care.

After all, it's been tough times for newtypes and mobile suits here in the west. Bandai has long since halted new releases, among other things permanently killing the chances of a Turn A Gundam release here in the west. The trickle of licensed games have likewise dried up. Dynasty Warriors Gundam is about all you'll see from the series here in the U.S. anymore. And for the ten of us who still care, that's a real shame because there is a really great Gundam out there just begging to be released. It's called Gundam Extreme Versus, and it's one of Asia's top arcade games.

All of the Gundams.

If you go to any Japanese arcade, it's practically impossible to miss. Gundam Versus machines often occupy entire floors in Akihabara, and they are inevitably packed with players waiting for a match. Tournaments are held through the country culminating in Tokyo's Premium Dogfight, which crowns Japan's top champion. Similar competitions have popped up in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. Two versions have now been released on the PlayStation 3, and a sequel that makes use of the PlayStation 4's architecture is expected soon.

Though it's never made it out in the west, the series has managed to develop a small following here consisting primarily of those who have imported the game for the PS3. Most are drawn in by its attractive graphics, wide selection of mobile suits, and deep mechanics. The gameplay is outwardly simple, with the controls consisting only of shoot, boost, and melee buttons, but the learning curve is steep. The action moves at an almost absurd pace, and matches often end in just a few minutes. Savvy players know how to manage their boost gauge, the importance for squaring up for a shot, and when to move in for a melee combo or special attack. Top players are almost untouchable, capable of effectively zoning out opponents and catching them with devastating attacks at just the right moment. And then there are people who can do stuff like this:

What really sets the series apart though is the teamwork that it demands. Every match is 2v2, and the best players are often only as good as their partners. Each team shares the same life bar; and with mobile suits costing variable amounts of points, teams have to be carefully coordinated. True, you can just go all out and drop in the Destiny Gundam and the Unicorn; but with both of them costing 3000 points, two deaths is all it takes to end a match. It's much better to pair a 3000 unit with a tiny 1000 unit, or two mid-size 2000 units. In fact, mobile suit synergy is so important that a match can almost be lost before it even begins if the wrong suits are chosen.

I'll admit to being terrible at Gundam Versus myself. I've done my best to learn, but its tough for a caucasian gal to pick up a partner in a Japanese arcade. Most of the high school kids and salarymen take one look at you and run the other way because they assume they'll lose. Either that, or they'll happily team up against you for a crushing 2v1. I've had more success playing the import version here in the U.S.; but alas, despite having been playing the game since 2007, I'm still not that great at covering my partner or winning those crucial one-on-one encounters. I tend to be at my best when I'm running around in a 1000 unit like the Black Tri-Stars and shooting people in the back while their attention is elsewhere. Otherwise I'm just more meat for the grinder.

As bad as I am though, I still have a lot of respect for what Bandai Namco has accomplished with the series. It's possible to describe it as a kind of hybrid of Zone of the Enders and Virtual-On, but there's really very little else like it in the world of fighting games, which makes it a shame that it doesn't get more attention over here. Granted, it had its own little corner during EVO 2013, but it amounted to little more than a group of friends getting together and streaming some of their matches during the tournament. If it had actually made it to the main feed and received some decent commentary, it might have gone over well.

That's not going to happen though until Bandai Namco decides to take a chance with a western release for the series. With the degree of crossover between anime and fighting game fandom, not to mention the continued growth of eSports here in the west, it feels like a no-brainer. Even if it doesn't take off overnight (which it probably wouldn't), it'll still enjoy good reviews and a small but vocal core of boosters in the fighting game community. It certainly has a higher ceiling than Dynasty Warrior Gundams, which inexplicably continues to enjoy the favor of Bandai Namco to the exclusion of everything else.

Gundam games continue to get a bad rap over here due to the flood of really awful licensed titles in the early 2000s, and we're a long way from the heyday of Gundam Wing in the late 90s. But Gundam Extreme Versus is more than another licensed game; it's a very good fighting game in its own right. Its conspicuous absence in the west is depressing, particularly in the light of the continued support for Dragonball Z and Naruto games. With the growth of eSports, the explosion of streaming, and a PlayStation 4 release for Gundam Versus no doubt on the way in the next year or two, the time is ripe for the best of the licensed Gundam games to make their way west.

Do the right thing Bandai Namco. Make it happen.

* I'm aware that a couple Gundam Versus games have been released here in the west. But those games had no online suppport and focused primarily on the less popular Universal Century shows.

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Comments 17

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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #1 Funny_Colour_Blue 4 years ago
    Off topic but, I thought Mobile Suit Gundam: Battle Operation for the PS3 (2012) was really cool!

    ..You know, minus the micro transactions?

    I'd hop into a Zaku and snipe those pesky Gundams...for Bernie!Edited July 2014 by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #2 Kat.Bailey 4 years ago
    @Funny_Colour_Blue I had totally forgotten about that game. But yeah, wasn't it pretty microtransaction heavy? And slow? I think it was based on the Gundam Senki engine.
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  • Avatar for gold163 #3 gold163 4 years ago
    Surely expensive licensing plays a part, as does relative obscurity outside of Japan. We're talking about one of the biggest Gundam crossovers ever; there's sure to be a lot of red tape surrounding voice acting, vocal soundtrack, etc, not to mention many of the suits and characters featured in the games have never really appeared in the West.

    I'm not sure how much trouble Namco Bandai went through to get the Dynasty Warriors Gundam games here in the West but I'm sure they had to cut a lot of music tracks especially in order to actually get the game over here due to licensing.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #4 Funny_Colour_Blue 4 years ago
    @Kat.Bailey Yeah it was very micro transaction heavy and really really slow, hahahaha! But like, when it was shown at E3 the previous year, I could barely contain my excitement - I said to myself “THAT’s a game I really want to play!” – and between Battle Operation and Lost Planet 3, I would've totally bought it in a heartbeat if it ever became available here.

    Because there hasn't been a whole lot of games that have really captured that pilot/mech-visceral-feeling of combat as seen in “Metal Warriors” (1995) for the SNES and it’s a real shame because there really needs to be one!

    Lost Planet 2 came close, but it never felt “snappy” enough. I was hoping they'd fix that in 3 but then they handed off the series to another studio and I just lost interest.

    :(
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #5 SigurdVolsung 4 years ago
    I wish that they would do more with Gundam as well. I love anime in general, but Gundam is a huge favorite of mine within that. Good article about an under-appreciated game.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #6 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    I really like Gundam, because it makes the Mega Man franchise look modest in scope and easy to keep track of by comparison.
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  • Avatar for GaijinD #7 GaijinD 4 years ago
    To be fair, the continued presence of Dynasty Warriors Gundam likely has a lot to do with Tecmo Koei's obsession with leaving no Warriors game in Japan. Both of the Fist of the North Star-branded games came out here, and as much as I love the series, FotNS is a repeated commercial flop in the US.

    As for Bandai, I'm not really sure what they're thinking. They seem to have decided that the failure of garbage like Gundam Crossfire must be because America hates Gundam and surely can't be the fault of the game. I mean, 0079 actually got bad ratings on Toonami! How could that be? (It can be because it was over twenty years old at that point and they were trying to sell it to kids that hadn't been born when it was made. The folks at Toonami knew from experience that older shows tended to tank on their block, but apparently no one at Bandai wanted to listen to their warnings.) Granted, the Vs. games we did get didn't do that well, but my understanding is that they've changed a lot. They're faster and flashier now, and I wish Bandai would give them another chance.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #8 Kat.Bailey 4 years ago
    @GaijinD Bandai officially gave up on the U.S. when Gundam SEED tanked.
    @gold163 It may. But Dynasty Warriors Gundam has shown that it can be done. Characters from Gundam X, Victory Gundam, and Turn A Gundam have all appeared in the DW games, and none have been licensed for release in the U.S. Remove the official tracks and replace them with generics and include the option for custom soundtracks. Done.
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  • Avatar for XyzzySqrl #9 XyzzySqrl 4 years ago
    They seem to think we in the US would prefer Rise of Incarnates, which is basically Gundam Versus without the Gundams.
    And without the quality.
    And as a free-to-play microtransaction storm.

    So... yeah, we're never getting a real Versus title. (Although I for one am happy with the Dynasty Warriors Gundam series.)
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #10 SigurdVolsung 4 years ago
    @Kat.Bailey That is a shame because I absolutely love SEED. I have watched the whole thing 5 times and Destiny twice.
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  • Avatar for jonleo75 #11 jonleo75 4 years ago
    Here's another Gundam game that deserves an English version: Gundam Breakers.
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  • Avatar for organon #12 organon 4 years ago
    They probably saw it as direct competition for the Armored Core 5 series, which they published in the US and Europe. AC 5 and Verdict Day have some of the same core gameplay tics as Vs, but have a more "western" militaristic styling, 4+1v4+1 co-op, deep character customization , and multiplatform support. Verdict Day in particular was a weird underperformer; essentially nowhere covered it or reviewed it despite it being a new, bafflingly deep game from a long running series by From Software. It should have been an easy sell for America.

    I would not be surprised if we saw Versus now that From has been bought out. (I would also not be surprised if there wasn't an AC6 for a while.)
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  • Avatar for aaronpinsley40 #13 aaronpinsley40 4 years ago
    Sigh.

    I picked up Extreme Vs. right after Full Boost came out, so of course there was no one online left to play with. I would grab Full Boost, but the whole online pass system it uses is a pain to deal with.

    Also, didn't Bandai release two Vs. games on the PS2 way back when? Federation Vs. Zeon and Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam? They were mediocre and terrible if I remember correctly.Edited July 2014 by aaronpinsley40
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  • Avatar for GospelX #14 GospelX 4 years ago
    @Kat.Bailey I think Bandai made one last attempt at Gundam after SEED. They ran Gundam 00 on SyFy. I just don't remember any toy or game tie-ins. But this was also around the time when it looked like Bandai was clearly making questionable business decisions regarding their anime releases. They were at a loss for how to sell anime in the US.
    @aaronpinsley40 Both of those games were released on the PS2. They were both ports of earlier arcade games by Capcom, and they pretty much created the engine used for the entire Vs. series. It helps to be a big Gundam fan when playing those games. Federation vs. Zeon had a really neat campaign mode in which you discovered/collected additional mobile suits as you go and select the suit you think is most suitable for the mission ahead. You play through the entire One Year War from either side. Once you complete the game, you can go through on a harder difficulty level. Instead of having suits go in for repairs when you fail missions, you lose the suits completely. Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam has a fun feature in which you play through the extended timeline, mission by mission. At certain points, you can change the timeline and see some interesting things - like an early rise for Neo Zeon or advanced suits being used by people from the earlier series. (Oh, and you can save Kamille's mind at the end of Zeta, which later happens in the New Translation films.) The gameplay doesn't have quite as much going on as the more recent games, but it's understandable when you compare the mobile suits to tanks.
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  • Avatar for GaijinD #15 GaijinD 4 years ago
    @GospelX@Kat.Bailey SyFy's anime block definitely had problems, but as you've reminded me, they did run both seasons of 00. It's a shame Bandai Entertainment got the axe; they were one of if not the first to put five episodes on a $25 DVD, something I appreciated having gotten into anime when it still came on $30-$40 VHS tapes with two episodes. They put out some quality box sets, too.
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  • Avatar for gintoki #16 gintoki 4 years ago
    I have the first VS game on the PS3 and I am BAD. I blame too many days spent on Dynasty Warriors Gundam games
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  • Avatar for ianjarrell11 #17 ianjarrell11 3 years ago
    I hate to disagree, The VS series is NOT the best gundam game as it doesn't follow what the gundam show is about, WAR! True, Having gundams clashing with each other is cool, but, It falls flat. The VS series isn't a series i like (It's very rare i find a fighting game i like) and the TRUE series that should come to the west is the Battle series (like battle universe or Assault Survive). Not only do you pilot gundams you can even pilot grunt suits as well. Not only that but you're fighting a BIGGER battle and YOU can change outcomes. You want to make it so that Unit 4 survives, Rush to Thoroughbred's aid. You want to save Lalah, Help Char out on Zeon. I'm sorry, there's more to gundam then just mechs fighting, there's also lore and characters in there too. Hell, you can even BE Armuro or Char.

    The Battle Series is one that everyone should try.
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