Some time ago, when I played “SD Gundam G Generation DS“, I had to praise it for some of the unusual functions it contained, not commonly found in this kind of game. While this new title retains many of the functions seen in the previous one, it feels like an insipid gameplay experience, where you’ll spend countless hours fighting battles that are way easier than they should.
Those who are fans of the anime and manga may love the memorial stages, where you’re able to reenact a few of the series’ famous battles, but everyone will probably feel like this game is simply too easy. More often than not, a single one of your pilots is able to hang around and destroy a massive army, just because their regiment is composed by simple mass-produced units. Unlike what happened in the series, where this kind of thing happened all the time, here it may require you up to three turns to eliminate a single unit, possibly hinting that you should be focusing your mind on more strategical battles.
If that’s the case, there’s something that should be ask: “Strategy? What’s that?”. Sorry, but you won’t find any kind of strategy in here. You’re able to create several teams, composed by up to four units and their pilots, but apart from the character’s ability to use IDs (special techniques which improve their abilities for a short amount of time) there’s not much that can help you. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself thinking about how much time will it take to complete a certain level, one where the enemies are a simple nuisance and can barely damage your units. Literally, I’ve fought battles where the opponent army was two times bigger than mine, only to defeat them without losing a single of my units.
As the game generally follows the rules instituted in the previous title, you could think that I had just captured the best units and used them for myself, turning the game into an easier experience, which isn’t exactly true. In fact, capturing units was made slightly harder, as the game now lacks any kind of option that allows you to defend, or even dodge, enemy attacks. Some characters have a small ID that allows you to bypass this problem, but the removal of a such a basic option is just cruel, as it ultimately makes you destroy a lot of units that, normally, you’d like to capture.
When you finally capture one of those units, you can not only use them for yourself but also decompose them in three components, which you can use to improve your other units, either improving some of their stats (which depend on what mechanic you pick) or turning them into a completely new unit, following an evolution tree. This feature appears to have been modified in a bad way, making it too hard to acquire specific units. Besides, no matter what their power is, the last unit in every tree always seem to require the same component, a particular level 7 card, which is generally hard to acquire and often disappoints those who apply it to their units.
You can assign pilots to almost every unit you want, but by setting specific combinations (i.e. put each character in their proper unit) you can unlock a few secret gameplay sequences, which may grant you extra abilities, among which many “Cross Drives” are present. This technique, which also gives the name to this game, requires you to have certain units in the battlefield, which you should place in particular spots. When that happens, they’ll be able to unleash a powerful combination move that damages all your opponents, providing you with quicker victories. Placing those units in other spots also determines which attack they’re going to use, but since you have to set those spots before each battle, this feature gets old easily, eventually leading to a time where you’ll find yourself constantly relying on the three options available – Attack, Defense and Power Save – to quickly place your units in the way that better suits your needs.
Apart from this small feature, the battle gameplay is, unfortunately, the one seen in many other turn-based strategy games, as you take turns to move all your units in a squared field and attack your enemies. Unfortunately, the previously-stated lack of defensive maneuvers makes the game too basic, with most enemies either being damaged by your attacks or merely dodging them as the effect of a previously-used ID. This is where another of this game’s flaws makes itself visible, the controls.
Unlike other games, where you can either use your stylus or the normal controls to command your units, this game only allows you to manage your army via the tactile screen. This has proved good in the past, with many other games featuring this kind of gameplay, but here it seems to present players with a few problems. For example, when you want to move an unit, you have to drag it from their current location to their final spot, a task that is made harder as such motion not always works as it was supposed to, often requiring you to scroll the screen by yourself.
Relying in two main paths, this game’s storyline is disappointing. While covering many events of several “Gundam” series, many characters and units are limited to basic cameos, with others occupying too many stages of the storyline. Overall, like it happens in the “Super Robot Taisen” series, the final result of so many storyline interactions ends up in a disappointing result, with many important details and interesting moments being lost in the transition. The addition of memorial stages could have slightly corrected this problem, but since there aren’t many of those stages to be played, that’s not really a solution to the problem.
One could think that the inclusion of so many playable units would increase the game’s play time, but it doesn’t. It is interesting to see what both selectable paths have to offer, but once you’ve explored all their levels I doubt you’ll continue to play this game. I must state that the game also offers a small encyclopedia with many unlockable articles, but unless you’re a huge fan of the series I doubt you actually care about this feature, as it provides simple textual information.
From a graphical point of view, this game is better than its predecessor, as it allows you to clearly see all units and their attacks, which often resemble their animated counterparts. Unlike before, the game actually looks like a Nintendo DS title, instead of being limited to the pathetic animations and graphics that were seen in the previous game. The rare FMV sequences are quite enjoyable, and it’s a pity that they weren’t used more often, as they could give an interesting boost to this game’s quality.
Oddly, both the sound effects and music suffer from the same problems as before. Apart from presenting us with a game that features no voices whatsoever, the number of sound effects available here is just too limited, and since the music played is constantly changing you’re not even allowed to enjoy the (few) good songs that this game has to offer.
Close to no knowledge of the Japanese language is required to enjoy this game, but due to its flaws I strongly recommend that only true fans of the Gundam anime/manga purchase it. If that’s not your case, there are better choices for turn-based strategy games out there.
Developer:Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Exclusively on: Nintendo DS
Release Date: Aug 09, 2007 (JP)
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