Developers: Koei/Omega Force
Release Date: April 21, 2009
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 is one of the most banal, tepid games I've ever come across. There's no other concrete description. It's not poorly conceived or implemented, nor is it too short or devoid of contemporary features. It's not particularly buggy or flat broken, but this Dynasty Warriors title is perhaps the most intensely boring game I've ever played. This thing melts your head. I could have had some fun with it if it were just bad, but it couldn't even bother being excruciatingly bad.
Indeed, Namco Bandai has shoveled mounds of content into this game. There are what amount to a couple different campaigns, several ways to experience missions, local and online versus modes, a slew of "Gundam" characters to play — each outfitted with his or her appropriate Mobile Suit machines. Individual mecha can be upgraded to swifter, more powerful, more combative models with parts and such earned by completing missions. If you can stand it, there's even the promise of add-on content in the form of downloadable missions. This game, in all its depressing magnitude, makes Fallout 3 look as short as Heavenly Sword or something.
The title's presentation is enough to make you cry. The cut scenes, if you can call them that, are mostly a collection of 2-D anime stills, vaguely animated with dialogue bubbles and frame swipes, like a PowerPoint presentation. In-game graphics are weak, with all the oomph of an online Flash game. The visuals aren't intrinsically awful, though, not in the delightful way that such things can go south. They're cleanly modeled, and the engine easily handles a lot of those models on-screen at once, a prime feature of the game. What the graphics do well is inspire slumber. Careful, or you'll nod off amidst all of the button-mashing, and then some of the most ghastly dialogue you've heard outside of a "Gundam" anime dubbed in English will jolt you awake.
DW: Gundam 2 tries at both sides of every issue, but it can't catch a break. For example, missions are too simple, long and repetitive, but navigation is often confusing within those cookie-cutter missions. Then after slogging through chafe, a few of the boss battles are a pain, overly difficult for their lead-in missions.
Mission regions are divided into things called Fields, and they're labeled alphabetically to differentiate them one from another — a good thing, too, because there's no easy way to tell them apart. You blast your Mobile-Suit-equipped character into a Field — try Field N; it's my favorite — and smack around a few hundred enemies. True to the Dynasty Warriors name, they throw the mecha fodder at you like there's no tomorrow. It's no challenge, either. As mentioned, boss characters can be a bit, eh, time-consuming for what they are, yet the run-of-the-mill enemy, despite the presence of ample minions, is a pitiful opponent. DW: Gundam 2 is all about the unrewarding smacking around of enemies. If you spend many hours with this game — bless you, I hope you don't — you can rack up a kill-count of appalling size.
That's the only way to go about it, too: Kill off a lot of the juniors, then face down a mini-boss or a maxi-boss, who's just as stale as the regulars but hardier. Field Defense Commanders are easy to find and eliminate; you grow navigational arrows off your character, pointing you right at them. Maxi-bosses are typically huge and therefore easy to find. (Maxi-bosses, however, do often feature a gimmick to get at them, making it sometimes difficult and frustrating to beat them in a fair fight.) Mini-bosses can be the worst because they're tough to find; they blend in with the enemy mecha minions, until you've substantially beaten them down so that they morph into Defense Commanders for the local field. Only then are you rewarded with navigational arrows pointing you to the bad guy. Until then, you're stuck swiveling your field of view, hunting for them, hoping they don't manage to get in front of you in time to unleash a particularly damaging attack. It's a convoluted play mechanic.
A couple of years ago, the big Michael Bay "Transformers" movie got a tie-in game on the HD consoles. There wasn't much to the game overall, but the Transformer models looked surprisingly good, so you played the game in order to gawk at the robots. If you're hoping some stylish mecha powers will add glamour to DW: Gundam 2, you're out of luck. Each mecha type has a normal attack and a charge attack — then a boost dash can be used after landing a charge attack. Various combinations of the three buttons can be combined to create different kinds of attacks, but you never feel that much in control of the character, and as visually represented, most of the attacks don't look all that different from one another. There's a special, or SP, attack, too. You'll have to charge your SP bar to use the attack, but you can upgrade the number of bars your Mobile Suit supports — which in turn enables you to use more powerful SP attacks. There's also a mid-air attack for Mobile Suits that can get altitude, as well as a hyper SP attack triggered when you're really in dire straits in the armor category. Also, there's a combination SP attack two Mobile Suit pilots can sometimes perform, depending on certain conditions.
Within the combat system is the perfect example of DW: Gundam 2's failure. There's all this depth, all of these attacks that can be triggered anytime, and a bunch of others can only be enabled under special conditions, some of which may be a combination of other special conditions. Really, it's too much to keep up with. Then, even if you do learn what to expect, it doesn't really change the gameplay, which is a travesty. A lot of effort went into building DW: Gundam 2, to no avail.
If you're looking to salvage some of this experience in collecting Trophies, you'll likely not bother. Almost all of the Trophies are progression based, indeed requiring a fair amount of progression to unlock them. You'll have to play through all levels of a mode, play through all characters or even play through all characters on all levels. With such a kill-centric game, you'd expect a slew of kill-count Trophies, but they're not here. There also aren't any dabbling Trophies, things you might pick up just by playing half-hour sessions with no specific intent but wasting time. I'm still undecided about the merits of Trophies/Achievements in games, though I'll concede the basic idea is something akin to marketing genius. In the best cases, in-game awards give you a reason to own and play a game you might otherwise ignore or have written off early. But DW: Gundam 2's Trophies, and the things required to earn them, are as lackluster as the rest of the features. It's not even worth grinding on the reward requirements just to bump your Trophy level.
I'll grant there are die-hard Dynasty Warriors fans out there — too many of them to entirely discount the franchise's signature gameplay. But there's a point at which expanding the content of that game universe, in fact expanding it to a new universe in the form of the original game and now this sequel, serves no purpose but slapping some successful branding on a game and getting it out on store shelves. I'm actually amazed how much content is in this title, but a wealth of features iced on top of a clunker is not worthy of consideration, not even for Dynasty Warriors or "Gundam" fans.
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