Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Versus Preview

Ever since the stunning debut of Mobile Suit Gundam Senki: Record U.C. 0081 on the Playstation 3 in 2009, Gundam fans have been anxiously awaiting the venerable franchise's next foray to current-generation gaming platforms. (Ignoring the Gundam Musou/Dynasty Warriors: Gundam games for obvious reasons).

Well, it would seem the wait is over. Surprising very few of us, Famitsu has unveiled "Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Versus" for the Playstation 3--a port of a Japanese arcade game that was released in September, 2010. Featuring an enormous roster of playable mobile suits, this is the first home-console release of a Versus game since Mobile Suit Gundam: Alliance vs ZAFT II+ back in 2006.

There is no word yet on whether or not the PS3 version of Extreme Versus will receive additional/special content (previous ports have gotten additional maps, mobile suits, and fairly elaborate story modes), but we DO know that players will be able to duel one another across the Playstation Network. The game is currently slated for release (only) in Japan this December, 2011.

For the uninitiated, the Versus series is a line of arcade games, nearly all of which have seen console ports. The first four games (Federation vs Zeon; Gundam vs Zeta Gundam; Alliance vs ZAFT; Alliance vs ZAFT II+) were all ported to the Playstation 2 console, while the two subsequent games (Gundam vs Gundam; Gundam vs Gundam NEXT) saw ports to the Playstation Portable.

Personally, I'm having a bit of trouble accurately gauging my excitement for this title. The first several games in the series were all great fun, but I haven't been able to really get into any of the games made after Alliance vs ZAFT II+. Part of this, most likely, has to do with the move of the series from the PS2 to the PSP--the lack of a second analog stick, and the smaller screen, made it a difficult transition. More than that, however, is the fact that I really don't think that the simple arcade combat fighting mechanics used in the series (which really haven't changed very much since the first game was released in 2001. The combat alone wasn't enough to sustain the games a decade ago, and it's sorely insufficient today.

For the most part, those earlier console ports managed to get around this by including fairly significant bonuses. Alliance vs ZAFT II+, for example, had a massive story mode which included a fairly deep "relationship" building aspect to a very, very large single player campaign following (what passed for) the story of Gundam Seed Destiny, including cut-scenes and some very fun missions ripped straight out the episodes of the anime. Gundam vs Zeta Gundam, conversely, included an absolutely fantastic single player mode allowing players to fight through the One Year War, the Gryps War, and in some cases the start of the first Neo Zeon War, as almost any pilot from Mobile Suit Gundam and Zeta Gundam--and even a few from ZZ Gundam. Organized along "lines" through time, by accomplishingly certain objectives you could change the history of the Universal Century--and a lot of those alternate histories were pretty damn cool. Even the first game, Federation vs Zeon, had a very expansive single player mode based on the Mobile Suit Gundam saga, letting players assume the role of a nameless grunt in the conflict, and fight through the entirety of the One Year War.

Basically, there were a lot of reasons to play beyond "beat shit up with your mobile suit." This context--this depth--made the games pretty damned fun, and allowed for varied mission objectives and mechanics--such as the inclusion of massive battleships roaming the field.

Unfortunately, the Versus line has changed. Instead of focusing on single conflicts/universes/settings, the focus has broadened considerable (to include just about every bit of the franchise you can imagine) and in doing so, has lost quite a bit of depth. Almost all of the grunt suits (which were my favorite to play with in the earlier games) are gone. It's all Gundam, Gundam, Gundam. Attempts to weave the player into the narrative of Gundam were abandoned entirely. So, basically, I'm not expecting this game to have much to offer besides "beating shit up with a Gundam," which really hasn't been enough to excite me since Gundam Battle Assault 2. Still, it's been several years since we got Senki, so I suppose it's best to just be happy the game is going to the PS3 instead of the Vita. And it's also entirely possible Extreme Versus PS3 will include some nice single player content, but given the utter and complete inability Japanese developers seem to have to create crossover narratives, Bandai-Namco in particular, I wouldn't hold my breath.

For those overly concerned about visual fidelity, the arcade hardware used for Extreme Versus is based on PS3 architecture, so rest assured--this is own damned pretty game. Due to the constraints of its arcade origins, expect the maps (though many and varied) to be fairly small, and fairly lacking in terms of terrain variety and deformation. The following mobile suits are all confirmed to be in the game, either through scans, screenshots, or their inclusion in the arcade version:

Mobile Suit Gundam
  • Acguy
  • Gundam RX-78-1
  • Gelgoog Char Custom
  • Zaku II Char Custom
Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team
  • Gelgoog Custom
  • Gundam Ez8
Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket
  • Gundam Alex
  • Hygogg
  • Zaku II Kai
Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
  • GP01
  • GP02
Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
  • Hyaku Shiki
  • Messala
  • Qubeley
  • Zeta Gundam
Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam
  • Qubeley Mk-II
  • ZZ Gundam (Full Armor)
Mobile Suit Gundam Char's Counterattack
  • Nu Gundam
  • Sazabi
Mobile Suit Gundam F91
  • Berga Ghiros
  • Gundam F91
Mobile Suit Victory Gundam
  • Gun-EZ
  • V2 Gundam
Mobile Fighter G Gundam
  • Dragon Gundam
  • God Gundam
  • Master Gundam
After War Gundam X
  • Gundam Double X
  • Gundam Virsago
New Mobile Report Gundam Wing
  • Deathscythe Hell Custom
  • Heavyarms Kai
  • Tallgeese III
  • Wing Zero Custom
Turn A Gundam
  • SUMO (Gold)
  • Turn A
  • Turn X
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny
  • Aile Strike
  • Destiny
  • Forbidden
  • Infinite Justice
  • LaGOWE
  • Providence
  • Strike Freedom
  • Zaku Warrior (Gunner Pack) Hawke Custom
Mobile Suit Gundam 00
  • 00-Raiser
  • 00-Quanta
  • Cherudim
  • Exia
  • Raphael
  • Susanoo
Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
  • Delta Plus
  • Kshatriya
  • Sinanju
  • Unicorn
Gundam AGE
  • Gundam AGE-1
  • Astray Red Frame
  • Crossbone X1 Kai
  • Crossbone X1 Full Cloth
  • Crossbone X2 Kai
  • Hidolfr
  • Hi-Nu Gundam
  • Zudah

Screenshots from Famitsu.

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