Developers: Koei/Omega Force
Release Date: April 21, 2009
Many people assume that all Dynasty Warriors games are exactly the same, and to be fair, it's difficult to blame them. Unless you've played through a number of the titles, it's hard to see the difference between one game and the other, especially since many of the changes to the gameplay mechanics don't show up until the player has invested a fair amount of time into the game. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 would, logically, be a good choice for someone who enjoyed Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, wouldn't it? It's the same game with more robots, more characters and more things to do. Unfortunately, Gundam 2 has turned out to be an example of why more characters don't necessarily make for a better game.
On the surface, DW: Gundam 2 isn't much different from the previous title. The basic combat system is very similar: You take control of a powerful giant robot and beat the living daylights out of the other robots. The controls are almost identical, with the X button performing a melee attack and the Y button performing either a shooting attack using a Mobile Suit's built-in weapons or a "charge attack" when mixed with a mobile suit's X attacks. Holding the X button allows players to charge an attack for a "Smash Attack," which can break barriers and stun certain enemies. Suits can fly and boost around using built-in thrusters, but overusing the thrusters can cause them to overheat.
There's a greater emphasis on air combat in DW: Gundam 2 compared to the previous title, with players having a much greater ability to combo while attacking in the air, including the ability to perform special charging dash attacks. The Musou attack system has also changed. As in the previous game, regular attacks fill up your Musou bar, located on the lower left-hand side of the screen. Depending on the level of your Mobile Suit's equipment, this bar can have between one and three segments, and once you've filled at least one segment, you can unleash a Musou attack by pressing the B button. Musou attacks vary, depending on whether you activate them on the ground or in the air. Combination attacks are done when you perform a Musou attack near a friendly ally or when a pilot has equipped the Overdrive skill. The balance here is a little odd, since a lot of the Musou skills are surprisingly worthless, thus limiting players to using the same Musou attack again and again. For the most part, though, it's the same familiar Dynasty Warriors gameplay.
The level design is weak and uninteresting, offering no noticeable improvements over the previous title. Stages are either "ground" or "space," but the only real difference is that the Ball unit only functions in space and the walking animations are slightly different. Players have to try to take "Fields" from enemies, which are locations of the battlefield that are marked in red. If you go into that location, a "health bar" for the field will drain every time you kill an enemy within the field. Kill enough, and the field is yours. Sometimes you have to kill an enemy boss unit before the field becomes yours, but that is basically the only major difference. The biggest change to the combat involves the random appearance of "backup" for both your side and the enemy; randomized units will appear on the battlefield, each with their own effects. They're sometimes useful and sometimes harmful, but they never prove to be any real danger or threat to the player. At most, they are an inconvenience.
Players have a choice between two game modes: Official or Mission. Official modes are set in the "Universal Century" timeline and follow the story of the anime very closely. Mission mode is made up of original missions taking place outside of the normal anime plots. Instead, it involves pilots from the Universal Century and "alternate history" series, such as "Gundam SEED Destiny" or "G Gundam," teaming up for various reasons. It's worth noting for more casual fans that this includes characters from series never released in the U.S., such as "V Gundam" and "Turn-A Gundam," so don't be surprised if you don't recognize a few characters.
The basic gameplay is identical, with players taking on series of missions with their own unique goals and tasks to complete. The actual design, however, is a bit weaker than the original DW: Gundam. Mission mode is a poor substitute for the Original mode found in the first game, and it manages to be more incoherent and less fun at the same time. In Mission mode, you have one or two regular allies and everything else is randomized, making most stages pretty incoherent, even by Dynasty Warriors standards. There are a few amusing cut scenes, but nothing will be as interesting to fans as the bizarre team-up alliances from the first DW: Gundam title.
As in the last DW: Gundam game, a player's available character list is divided into two parts: pilots and robots. Each pilot has a set of skills, stats and abilities. When you play as that character, he'll gain experience points, which in turn improve his overall combat abilities. A pilot with high levels will also gain new attacks in certain machines, which allows him to make greater use of those machines than a low-level pilot. This introduces us to the first of DW: Gundam 2's many grinds. Skills are not character-specific, and each Mobile Suit has four potential skills that it can teach a pilot. No skill is unique to a suit, but some skills are easier to learn on certain suits than on others. To learn a skill, you have to finish a stage using that suit and hope the game's random-number generator decided that you learned that skill. This isn't bad for low-level skills, but when you're trying to learn the strongest skills in the game, it's a ridiculous grind to gain a skill that you only have a 12 percent change of learning. You have to do this for every single pilot that you want to use.
Perhaps the most frustrating new element is the Relationship system. Every pilot has a chart that shows how other characters feel about him or her. These feelings are changed depending on your in-game actions: Fight alongside them and you'll grow closer, but fight against them and you'll grow further apart. However, you have basically no control over this do to the game's semi-randomized nature. If you're trying to make friends with Char, for example, you have to hope that your pilot has a mission where Char is always a friendly ally, or else you're completely at the mercy of the game's random desire to put Char on your character's side and not on the enemy's. "friendship missions" help you increase the chances of certain characters being on your side, but even those are randomized and require some grinding, and you have to complete boring and uninteresting missions just to make a character like you. Unfortunately, this is a necessary evil, or else you'll be quite limited in what you can do. Certain missions, mobile suits and unlockable characters can only obtained if you've grinded up a certain relationship level. Keep in mind that each relationship level is exclusive to each character, so even if you've maxed out Char's friendship with Shinn Asuka, you still have to max out Shinn's friendship with Char.
Robots are a group resource for all the pilots. Robots will have the same stats and abilities when used by Kira Yamato as they do as when used by Domon Kashuu, and the only major difference comes from the pilot's own stats and level. This sounds like it would cut down on grinding, but the exact opposite is true. DW: Gundam 2 has divided every unit into five parts: left arm, left leg, right arm, right leg and torso. In order to use a unit, you must first collect every part of the unit.
Once you've done that, actually leveling up the unit is an extremely tedious task. Each "part" has stats and a rank, and to power up your unit, you have to either play as that unit or kill an enemy while piloting that unit. At the very end of the stage, you'll receive "parts," usually including a part for the unit you're using and potential parts for the units you defeated. You have absolutely no control over what drops from the unit, though, so if you're looking for a new torso for your Infinite Justice Gundam, you have to hope that one drops during a fight. Even if it drops, you then have to hope that it is better than the one you're using, or else you get to do this again. It is possible to level up existing parts by "upgrading" them at the in-game Mobile Suit Lab, but this isn't any less of a tedious process. Upgrading gives a unit's part a small stat boost, but you can only upgrade once per mission, and you must complete a mission before you can upgrade again. Either way, trying to get even one unit up to good stats is a long, tedious and grind-heavy task
There are 62 playable mobile suits in DW: Gundam 2, compared to the 19 from the original, but the unit list is vastly overinflated. Every unit is accessible by players, aside from the tremendous Mobile Armors that I'll discuss later. This includes the weak "grunt" mecha and the powerful units used by the main villains and heroes. Only a small number of the units have full sets of moves. Most of the "side-character" mecha, such as the fan favorite Zaku II or Gouf, only have a limited number of available attacks and are missing some crucial gameplay mechanics, such as smash attacks; their dash attack capabilities are so limited that they're nonexistent. Furthermore, they only get one Musou attack with one level. There are even lower-tier mecha than those, including ones who have no attack ability other than pounding the X button wildly. While there are a huge number of suits in the game, only about 25 or so are worth playing, and the rest exist to handicap the players by giving them fewer options, less combat capability and poor balance. It's particularly annoying in a game created for fans of the Gundam franchise because there is a good chance that your favorite unit may be one of the limited ones.
The biggest new feature, quite literally, in DW: Gundam 2 is the addition of Mobile Armors, which are extremely powerful and very large robots. They tower over the regular units on the field and prove to be an inarguably deadly foe. Unlike regular enemies, Mobile Armors can't be beaten by pounding on them, and even a fully upgraded character will only take off slivers of their health. Players must wait for a green crosshair to appear over the Mobile Armor, which indicates that it's vulnerable to attack. These moments of weakness only last for mere seconds, and killing an enemy this way is a long and tedious process. To defeat a Mobile Armor, you must hit it with a Smash Attack or Musou Attack when it is weakened. This knocks over the Mobile Armor for a brief period of time, allowing you to do more damage to it. Mobile Armors also have location-based damage: Attack an arm or leg enough and you can destroy it to limit the armor's attack capabilities.
While Mobile Armors are an interesting concept, they don't really work well. If you're strong enough, knocking them over once or twice is a breeze, and you can crush them. If you're weak, the battle becomes a long chip-fest as you do minimal amounts of damage, knock over the armor again, and repeat. It never manages to hit the right level of challenge, especially since the Mobile Armors are not difficult opponents. Their health bars are huge and they have a lot of power, but it is easy to stun them or knock them over with a Smash Attack, so they end up being far less threatening than any Mobile Suit. Even worse is that the game's AI has no idea how to handle Mobile Armors. If you don't kill them quickly, be prepared to encounter a "Game Over" screen because one of your allies decided to flail wildly and ineffectively at one and promptly got himself killed. There's nothing you can do about this but hope that your allies stay far away when one of these monsters shows up.
By any modern standard, DW: Gundam 2 has an extremely awful localization. The translation is full of obvious translation errors, typos and poorly localized lines. The game is full of errors that a simple fact check should have caught. A number of important gameplay elements were so badly translated that I had to resort to Babelfish and a Japanese wiki to figure out what they did, and the Babelfish translation was clearer than the official one. The voice acting is almost comic. The dub actors seem to have no idea as to the context of their lines, so the readings are hilariously off, even to those who are unfamiliar with the franchise; even the good actors flubbed a majority of their lines. There are some really hilarious situations where the wrong actor read the wrong line, leading to instances when Hayato's voice actor suddenly read one of Amuro's lines. Unlike most of Koei's Dynasty Warriors games, including the first DW: Gundam, this game has no Japanese voice track, so players are stuck listening to the awful dubbing.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 is a good example of how not all Dynasty Warriors games are created equal. Despite having a much larger cast and very similar gameplay, DW: Gundam 2 is less fun than its predecessor in many crucial ways. The game is significantly more grind-heavy, requiring players to invest a ridiculous amount of time on nearly identical "friendship missions" and randomized part drops for every available character. The Mobile Armors are a poor addition, either ruining the flow of the game or providing an uninteresting and flawed "boss" enemy who is far easier to kill than a powered-up Guncannon. It's really difficult to recommend this game to any but the most die-hard of Gundam fans, and even they will be turned off by the awful localization and lack of a Japanese voice track. Newcomers would be better off getting the cheaper and much better-designed Dynasty Warriors: Gundam instead.
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