Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Koei/Omega Force
Release Date: April 21, 2009
Entering its 30th anniversary this year, the Gundam series is often regarded as one of the longest-running anime series out there, and it has a large and devoted fan base. With a built-in audience that's ready to pick up anything related to a mobile suit, it's a shame to see that just about every video game related to the franchise has ranged from mediocre to just plain bad. To a point, Dynasty Warriors is in a similar situation. The game that started out as a top-down arena fighter on the PSOne changed drastically for the PS2 debut into a large-scale, hack-and-slash title where one warrior can take down hundreds with a few simple strikes of the sword. The fan base for this game series is also devoted and sizable, but unlike Gundam, the games have maintained the same level of quality in every iteration.
Sensing a need for some type of change, both franchises decided to come together a few years ago and made Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, a game that essentially took Dynasty Warriors gameplay and set it up in the Gundam universe. The experiment worked well enough that a sequel was made. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 is the second result of the collaboration between the two franchises. This time, however, the game makes its way to the PS2, a system that was skipped over the first time around. Just like the first game, fans of both Dynasty Warriors and Gundam will be pleased with the result, while everyone else will simply look on and wonder what all the fuss is about.
There are two different single-player modes: Official mode and Mission mode, each one containing a sizable amount of gameplay. Official mode features a few key characters from various Gundam series, and it goes through the story of each respective series. In typical fashion for these games, each pilot and his Gundam go through space and land to fight off hordes of enemy Gundam with only a few allies by their side. In order to accomplish this, players hack and slash their way through the masses and either eliminate the given bosses for the area or take over all of the necessary sectors in the given level.
Mission mode has more in common with Koei's crossover franchise Warriors Orochi. Here, the pilots and mobile suits from multiple Gundam series are mixed together in an original story line. Players can mix and match pilots and mobile suits as they follow the story from each of their perspectives. The gameplay in this mode remains the same as Official mode, right down to the combat arenas. The only difference comes with certain missions, where you have to fight against boss mobile suits, including a few so large that they won't fit the screen and must be taken out piece by piece.
Multiplayer is separated into three offline modes that support a maximum of two players: War, Sudden Death and Hunting. War mode asks both players to race to see who will be the first to complete the objectives given during the level, and the first to get to 1,000 points is declared the winner. Sudden Death mode is similar but features a fixed time limit, and the winner is determined by who scores the most points once time runs out. Hunting mode sets one player as the hunter and the other as the target. The hunter gains points for killing the target, while the target gains points by avoiding the hunter as long as possible. As fun as these modes can be, nothing provides as much fun as the single-player modes, both of which can be played cooperatively.
There is something to be said for a series that has maintained this level of popularity while still keeping things relatively unchanged for so long. At its base level, beating down enemies is still fun. This is further amplified by the fact that you are one mobile suit single-handedly mowing down hordes of enemies; killing about 500 Gundams per level is a common occurrence. The Mosou attacks are nice and flashy and do a good job of clearing out smaller enemies. Both single-player modes also feature plenty of levels between them, giving you a good sense of value from the title.
All of these things are featured in previous games, and while a simple re-skin of the character models would have sufficed, the developers added a few more things to make the game deeper. For starters, players can now collect parts to help build new mobile suits to pilot, giving them infinite combinations of Gundam to play with. The game also employs a leveling-up system that makes your players stronger as you keep playing. Combined with the fact that the mobile suits also have their own attributes to upgrade through battles, you'll have plenty of power-ups. Finally, a friendship system has been implemented to Mission mode, and depending on how you act toward people or who you fight with, these character will either be tougher against you in combat or help you out at every opportunity.
Despite all of the accolades DW Gundam 2 has received in the above paragraphs, there are still a few things that make the title fall short from being great. For starters, the action can get a bit repetitive. Almost all of the levels are the same in both size and objectives, and with so many levels to go through, long stretches of the game can go from fun to carpal tunnel-inducing rather quickly.
The upgrade system also contains some flaws that don't make it enjoyable. Parts are randomly dropped per level and you never know what you've grabbed until the level is over. Considering how long the levels are and the fact that you might not even get a better part than the one you have now, attaining parts becomes a chore rather than a benefit. The same goes for the leveling up your pilots and mobile suits. No matter how well you perform, the game randomly hands out upgrades to random areas of your pilot and mobile suit, making it frustrating when you try to work on upgrading one thing and are leveled-up in something completely different. Finally, the friendship system works nicely, but the allies and enemies you get per level are completely randomized. If you really want to improve the relationship between pilots, you have to hope that you get to team up with that pilot almost every time or risk restarting levels over and over again until you do. It's a system that makes it more frustrating than fun.
The controls are relatively unchanged from before, which is a good thing for both newcomers and veterans of the game series. Movement is handled by the left analog stick, while the right one handles camera control. The Square button is for light attacks, strong attacks done when the Triangle button, and the Circle button initiates Musou attacks. The X button initiates thrust, and the L1 button makes the Gundam jump. The placement of the jump button is the only one that will confuse series fans, but considering how jumping isn't really a big part of the game combat, the awkward position won't affect players much at all.
The graphics are some of the best the series has seen on the PS2. The games have always been known for being able to cram as many characters on-screen as possible, and that tradition continues with this title. It's made even more amazing by the fact that the mobile suits are a little bigger than the normal soldiers seen in Dynasty Warriors games. Character movement is fluid, with no hint of slowdown regardless of how many enemies or particle effects are on-screen; the effects, like the glow from beam swords and explosions, look good. This is further accented by the parts of a mobile suit that can be ripped off during combat. Fans of the series will be satisfied to know that they can finally chop off heads and limbs in this title.
All of this comes at a price, and it's most apparent in the backgrounds. Whether fighting on the surface or in space, the backgrounds are bland and lifeless. You'd be hard-pressed to tell what level you're in just by looking at your surroundings. Worse yet, objects have a tendency to pop-in a good amount of the time. Enemies and obstructions will fade in when you're close to them, which can be harmful if you're trying to quickly boost to get to an ally in need. None of this is helped by a HUD that occupies a good portion of the screen, especially the radar, which seems larger than the ones seen in previous titles. Finally, the camera, which has been troublesome in past iteration, is still the same here. More often than not, you'll be controlling the game like a first-person shooter since you will be trying to manipulate the camera during combat. Again, fans of the series will be used to this drawback, but newcomers will get frustrated by it rather quickly.
Like the graphics, the sound is very good but suffers from the same issues that the titles before it were plagued with. The sound effects are nicely done and match the ones heard in the anime series, which should please die-hard Gundam fans. The music is a sort of mash-up between the tunes found in both series. One level could have the orchestration found in the anime, while another could have the hard rock that Dynasty Warriors fans are all too familiar with. The voices are the same ones found in the series and are delivered in exactly the same manner. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your opinion of the English dub that the series has had for quite some time. For those wanting to compare the two, there is no opportunity to do so because unlike the first game on the PS3 and Xbox 360, there is no option for Japanese voices. Considering that the Naruto series of games has featured this option on the PS2, it's a shame that this Gundam game can't do the same thing. Another knock against the audio has to do with the repetitive nature of the voices. The first time you hear phrases from characters, it's cool. Around the fifth time you hear the same phrases being said, you'll tire of them and wish that they say things less or say nothing at all.
DW: Gundam 2 is a step backward for the series as far as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions are concerned. The transition from the original to the sequel seems to have added more content but failed to tweak what needed to be fixed. This is a little better on the PlayStation 2, where the first game had never premiered. Despite the problems with graphics and sound, everything is of a higher quality than the previously released games on the system. Dynasty Warriors fans will be happy with this offering because the gameplay is still the same but you now have the opportunity to fight in something that doesn't involve the Yellow Turban rebellion. Gundam fans will be happy because they can finally say that their favorite anime series now has a game that is more than decent.
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