As the series finally makes it back to the west after so many years, does Gundam Versus hold up as a fighting game?

Right from the off, the game can be confusing for some unfamiliar with those unacquainted with the series. There is a tutorial, but it is incredibly brief, though still better than the previous entry, which had no guide at all. It’s also not immediately clear that Free Battle, which would appear to be the typical versus mode, is actually better suited to be your training ground. After all, it’s the only mode in which you earn neither XP nor Battle Points, which I will get to later.

Thankfully, there are good amounts of ways to play the game that will get you the XP you need. There is Ultimate Battle, which acts as a survival mode with occasional bonus rounds with online players, such as matches against giant bosses, or against multiple grunt enemies with the winner being whoever can destroy the most. Rounding out the offline offerings is Trial Battle, which is more like your standard Arcade Mode. Casual Mode quickly matches you up for an online battle against other players in 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3. Player Mode also allows you to join rooms of players with others and customize the options. Lastly, there is a Ranked Mode, but I’ve been unable to access it yet. And here is where my primary concern with this game lies.

The game can be needlessly complex and hard to understand in some areas. For example, to access Ranked Mode, I need to achieve a rank of ‘Regular’. However, it gives me no immediate clue as to how I get this rank, or what it corresponds to. After some checking in the game, I am under the impression that I need to raise my player level up high enough to this level to get this rank, which is achieved by leveling up the various Gundams and mobile suits the game offers, but how high I need to go remains to be seen. Also, the search function for Player Matches is needlessly complex. You have to search within certain parameters, which can hamper your attempts to find even a single lobby. It would be much better if there was an option to just look through a list of every room on the server that isn’t full, rather than having to toggle between every mode and every room type before I can find anyone.

Still though, when you DO get around the information problems, it’s a joy to play. The gameplay is fast and fluid, and while it can be hard to match up with the players online that know what they’re doing, getting to that level is very rewarding. As you fight on against both the AI and the other players online, you gain experience and Battle Points for the unit that you are using. Every Mobile Suit has a list of unlockable titles, emblems, battle navigators, alternate pilots and Strikers, which are friendly units that you send out for a quick attack at any time mid-battle. Combined with the variety of weapons and abilities that each unit can bring to the field, there is bound to be something that matches your playstyle in this game. The game also utilizes a quick text chat function online, so you can communicate essential info to your partner even if you both lack microphones.

The game boasts a massive roster for a fighting game, sporting over ninety different characters from across the nearly four decade long franchise. The Striker roster is even bigger than the playable roster, boasting nearly two-hundred units. You are spoiled for choice in this game as to who to settle with, although many veteran Gundam fans may be disappointed to see an absence of certain series that were in previous iterations of the game, such as G Gundam. There is also a concern as to how these characters will be made available later on as DLC. The game has no season pass option, and each DLC mobile suit is sold separately. Still, we will have to see how Bandai Namco handles this, whether it’s as a pack, as a new version of the game, or as individual DLC.

Lastly, the game’s netcode is somewhat unstable at times. When the connection lags, it becomes very noticeable, and can result in dropped inputs often. Considering how the playerbase is small to begin with outside of Japan, this is a problem that needs addressing as soon as possible. Connections that are showing as all green in the menu become red once the fighting starts and the result can be brutal to anyone not ready to deal with it.

So how is the game overall? Newcomers might find the entry to the game hard to crack at first due to some unfriendly elements of the game’s menu system, and the very minimal tutorial that only instructs you how to operate a mobile suit, and nothing more. Some veterans to the series might feel the game is lacking in content right now, especially compared to the arcade version in Japan that boasts hundreds of characters. Still, this is meant to be a fresh start for the series, one that will be separate from the arcades. Bandai Namco has some work to do to make this the game it can bed, but the groundwork and potential is there. The patches that were being released in Japan in the months before its release in the west showed various small but nice features being added. It’s a start, and hopefully, with time Bandai Namco will turn this into the Gundam game we all want it to be.

And hopefully without us having to break the bank on DLC.

++ High fighter count
++ Lots of stuff to do
- Hard for new players to get into
- Shaky connection issues so far
- Several series missing