Developer: Koei, Omega Force / Publisher: Namco Bandai Games America / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Teen [Fantasy Violence, Mild Language]
In a way, combining Dynasty Warriors with the Gundam anime series makes perfect sense. They’ve both seen countless iterations over the years, each offering the same experience for an audience that’s completely okay with that. Just like the next inevitable Gundam TV series, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 mixes it up with a few tweaks, but this is largely the same experience as before: anime pilots needlessly pontificating on the nature of man while blowing up hundreds of robots.
If you’ve played any game with Dynasty in the title, the broad strokes here are identical. You pick a pilot and a robot, then proceed to clear out a stage populated with hundreds of nameless kill-fodder robots and a handful of ace pilots that actually pose a threat. You dispatch these pesky robots en masse by stringing together combos from weak and strong attacks, and use a dash attack to cancel your combo into other combos.
The Dynasty stigma is that you just have to mash attack until you win, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Stages in Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 are made up of zones connected by corridors, and controlling those zones will drain the enemy’s battle gauge. As long as you or your opponent have a non-empty gauge, a portion of that gauge will be consumed to respawn any downed pilots (including you). This makes stages almost have a Battlefield feel, as winning becomes more about depleting your opponent’s battle gauge than just killing everything in sight.
Granted, you do the latter to accomplish the former, but there’s still a slight element of strategy around which zone you attack. Certain zones will give your side a blanket advantage when you control them: the catapult can launch you across the map instantly, the repair bay slowly replenishes your side’s life meter, and the communications array summons an extra ace pilot on your side.
That means you’ll want to survey the field as soon as the level starts and plot out what fields you want to capture right away, taking into consideration what your (surprisingly) non-worthless AI teammates are doing as well. Of course, like any Dynasty game, you can upgrade your pilot and mech to the point where strategy becomes moot. After a few hours of playing, I had a bot so strong I could kill everything to crap regardless of strategy, but you can always play on a harder difficulty or switch pilots to keep combat interesting.
And, in typical Dynasty fashion, there’s an absurd amount of content to grind through for the completionists. Beating every level and unlocking every pilot and mech requires a hefty amount of play time, even if most of it becomes wash, rinse, and repeat.
As previously stated, combos strung together from weak and strong attacks, and you can use the boost dash to cancel any combo directly into another one. However, smacking a robot around in a combo will typically make them flop around, so directing your combo to connect when they’re bouncing around like a rubber chicken is where an element of skill factors in. The combo system is fast and fun, though I wish that the different moves in the combo had different uses. As it stands, there’s no reason to not do the longest combo you possibly can in any situation, unless you lose your juggle and your opponent starts attacking you.
The camera is another nagging issue in Gundam 3. The default view angles a little too steep over your character’s back, making it difficult to get a sense of where an ace pilot is in your vicinity if they aren’t in a cone in front of you. Similarly, if your enemy pops out of a juggle at a weird angle, you’ll completely lose track of him, especially if he dashes away afterward. I typically have to spin the camera around a few times to re-find an enemy after dropping a combo, assuming I haven’t been stabbed in the back yet.
With great use of color and subtle cel-shading, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is one of the best 3D interpretations of an anime art style I’ve seen, second only to the ridiculously named Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. Wiping out tons of enemies results in a horizon of popcorn explosions, which is heartwarmingly evocative of the show. The robot models are fittingly detailed as well, though most of them are geometrically basic by design. Stages are more flat and boring. Every level is effectively a palette swapped version of the same square areas rearranged into different formations.
Gundam 3’s sound is faithful to a fault. The voice acting is appropriately overwrought, as pilots will scream about the twistedness in the world and what it is to fight while massacring hundreds of bystanders. I’ve always found some unintentional comedy in how self-serious the Gundam universe is, and that quality is definitely reflected in the game. Sound effects are pulled straight from the show as well, with sword slashes and blaster fire lifted directly from the tinny speakers of a 1980s TV set.
Despite some interesting and appreciated attempts at complexity, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 settles into a comfortable and predictable pattern of robot destruction and digital collecting. It offers nothing profound, but improves incrementally over the last in the series (as the franchise is wont to do). Series regulars already know everything there is to know, and as such probably haven’t bothered to read any reviews. For newcomers – if you enjoy mindless action and endless collecting, you can’t do much better than this.