Versus games are like buses — you wait for one and then several coming along at once. While many FGC members are deep in the lab with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, another multi-franchise (or at least multi-timeline) crossover game has finally come to the West. As the first Vs. game designed exclusively for consoles, Gundam Versus will be many people’s introduction to this style of fighting game. While impenetrable at first, Gundam Versus promises a highly engaging arena fighter once players wrap their heads around its combat system.
If you’ve never played a game in the Gundam Vs. game series, it’s tennis doubles, a third person action game and a 3D fighter all rolled into one, with a bit of resource management thrown in for good measure. Gundam Versus can be played in either 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3 modes, with 2v2 being where the game really shines. 1v1 duels are fun for learning the specific quirks of your Gundam, but the large maps means that you spend most of the battle chasing down your opponent. 3v3 are a little too hectic at times and prone to turning into a slideshow, should one player have a bad connection. Whether you’re playing 2v2 or 3v3, being a lone wolf is a recipe for disaster, as gung-ho players will be quickly gunned down in a hail of multi-colored projectiles. Movement, footsies, and teamwork are the name of the game — and it can take some time to get used to its unique take on the Versus fighter.
As each Mobile Suit can quickly close distances by boosting or using special movement commands, learning how to evade enemy shots and attacks is the first thing you really need to learn. There is a short tutorial which teaches players the basics of movement and combat, but it will take a fair while before you’ve mastered Boost Hopping, Boost Canceling and the new Boost Dive mechanic. The Boost Dive has Suits dashing back to the ground, giving players another way to mix up their movement and refill their Boost meter. This means that the first few hours of Gundam Versus can feel frustrating if you’re a newcomer, as you have to deal with experienced pilots dashing circles around you and then dicing you up into little metal pieces. Once you have a handle on your jet-powered footsies and are paired with good opponents however, each match feels like a frantic ballet as you and your opponent try to outmaneuver each other to find that one precious opening. When health-bars are low and each team is down to their final respawn, matches become absolute nail-biters. The core combat of Gundam Versus is fantastic once you get the hang of it — just be prepared for that to take a couple of hours.
When picking your Mobile Suit, they generally fall into three categories: Shooting, Fighting, or Various. If you prefer zoning and frustrating your opponent from a distance, Shooting-class Gundam are the way to go, while Fighting-class Gundam are all about getting in your opponent’s face and making them panic. Various suits are usually jacks-of-all-trades, with some being classed as Various-S or Various-F if they use more projectile or melee attacks. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of each Gundam, as players sacrifice Cost Points whenever they respawn during a match. You’ve only 1000 Cost Points to use in a standard match, with suits ranging from 200 to 500 Cost. While you may want to pilot that super cool 500 Cost suit as soon as you boot up Gundam Versus, you’ll end up losing the entire match if you die twice.
Picking a Gundam is half the struggle though, as there are over 90 playable Mobile Suits in Gundam Versus. You also need to pick a Striker – Gundam Versus’ version of Assists – from a list of over 100. Not only that, you have to unlock every Striker by playing as certain Mobile Suits, meaning you may be searching for hours before you find the Striker that’s right for you. With Bandai Namco adding more Suits via DLC, you’ll never be short on new characters to try out, but the overwhelming number of characters means that you’ll be stuck on who to start learning the game with. Personally, I found Freedom Gundam, Gundam Barbatos, and the original Gundam to be good suits to start off with. Certain series like Mobile Fighter G Gundam, SEED Destiny and Gundam 00 Season 2 have been cut from the initial roster, but it’s more than likely that fan-favorite Suits will be added back in with future DLC.
Rather than opting for a bonkers cinematic story where all the pilots from each Gundam series crossover a la Super Robot Wars, Gundam Versus keeps it simple with its single-player modes. Ultimate Battle is your standard Survival mode, where players battle wave after wave of enemy Gundam while upgrading their suit with stat bonus. Trial Battle is akin to Arcade Mode, as pilots fight through a gauntlet of combatants, complete with the occasional branching path. Each trial is dedicated to a specific series from the Gundam multiverse, just to add some variation. A little bit of story or inter-character dialogue would have added some flair to this mode, but you do see a special CGI intro for each individual series which is kind of cool. Besides that, Free Battle gives you the ability to create custom matches to test certain Suit combinations. With no bespoke Training Mode to speak of, you’ll have to cope with setting your Free Battle opponent to stop in order to learn new Suits.
This guide from UnlimitedBrettWorks should help ease you in during those first few hours of play.
Most of your time with Gundam Versus will be spent fighting online, and the netcode is hit and miss. Unlike most fighting games where you only have to worry about one dodgy connection, you can be facing down three rubbish connections if you’ve got particularly bad luck. If you have good connections all round, it can play like a dream, but all it takes is one person’s spotty WiFi to bring a match to a grinding halt. As I’m playing in Europe, the small player base for Gundam Versus means I had to turn regional filtering off in order to get matches. US players should be fine keeping the regional filter on, but continental players may struggle.
Along with Casual matches and player lobbies, Gundam Versus does come with a Ranked mode where you can better control connection quality. Greenhorn pilots are weeded out straight away, as you complete 50 Casual matches to even play Ranked. From there, you have a variety of settings which allow you to avoid bad connections and select specific teammates. One setting auto-rejects opponents with less than a three bar connection and you can set it so you only get grouped with teammates running a specific cost Gundam. Having played with my fair share of 500 Cost teammates who just loved dying within 20 seconds of the match starting, you’ll be happy to have that second filtering option. For the best experience with Gundam Versus, play with a static teammate. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.
Despite the lackluster single-player modes and the absence of certain series from Gundam Versus’ line-up, it oozes with a reverence for Gundam. From the fully-voiced cast, to the authentic hit sounds and music straight from the show; it’s clear that the developers love them some Gundam. All of the models are faithfully recreated from the show — but the lighting can sometimes make them look less like giant mechanical war machines, and more like Gunpla kits. The actual arenas are a bit bland in comparison to the highly detailed models, and the camera does have a tendency to go ballistic whenever you and an opponent are in close range. As good as some of the show OSTs are, I will go mad if I hear the original Mobile Suit Gundam theme again.
For diehard fans of the show or the other Gundam Vs. games, you’ll be in robo-heaven with Gundam Versus. Some will be put off by the exclusion of series like G Gundam and SEED Destiny, but the introduction of mechanics like Boost Dive add another layer of complexity to its already rich combat system. If you’re new to the series, soldier through the initial difficulty curve and you’ll find a rewarding fighting game that will keep you engaged for hours.