SD Gundam Battle Alliance Review – Mobile Suit Mayhem

    Title: SD Gundam Battle Alliance
    Developer: Artdink
    Release Date: August 24, 2022
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Bandai Namco
    Genre: Action RPG

SD Gundam is a very strange spin-off of the Gundam series. For those who might not know, the SD stands for Super Deformed, and that’s how we get these adorable miniature mobile suits. While the spin-off was popular in Japan across anime, model kits, and video games, western fans in previous years had to import the games, many of which were RPGs. Well, that’s until now with the release of SD Gundam Battle Alliance, a new entry in the series that acts as a retelling of historical Gundam events and an action-centric Gundam adventure with multiplayer offerings.

SD Gundam Battle Alliance is set in the G: Universe, where events have been disrupted, and it’s up to you to correct history. Again, story missions will have players experience some of the most iconic battles, but this time, they are altered in a way where new foes change the tide of battle. It’s here that the narrative attempts to correct this phenomenon, but it’s all just padded reasons to head out and blow stuff up.

The story is a significant highlight of the adventure. You’ll mostly interact with Sakura, Juno, and the mascot, Haro, who provide details about each mission. What’s nice is that they also take time to explain the events so new players can understand the significance of it all, and seasoned fans can indulge in the nostalgia. As the Commander, you can often choose responses, but I don’t feel they change much of the narrative.

SD Gundam Battle Alliance 2

Missions are unlocked through gameplay with objectives ranging from defending a base to destroying an enemy. The story leads you through these while offering optional objectives to grind for resources. While the environments are vast and fun to navigate, you will return to them often. However, the narrative seems to understand this and briefly explains that it’s because you are returning to the fight to experience the true history. It works, and the events vary enough to make return visits engaging.

During missions, events called Breaks will replace a character with another who doesn’t belong. This creates terrific matchups as you witness fights you’ve never seen. It’s a battle of the greats, and the conflicts aren’t something you can cheese through. Luckily, there are multiple difficulty tiers, but there’s a high level of challenge here if you set the difficulty to your skill level.

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While grunt enemies can be mowed through relatively easily in small groups, the missions love to have them gang up on you. Further, some enemies will hang out on a ledge and shoot. However, it’s the boss fights that will test your skills. The battle system utilizes almost every button on the controller as you chain together melee attacks.

Combos are rewarded with higher damage output, but you must be aware the stamina meter drains as you attack or use your booster. Secondary weapons come with a cool down, but they allow you to execute ranged shots and even throw bombs for group damage. There’s also a special that each unit can unleash that has a longer cool down, which I just saved for the boss.

The strategy elements of the series are found in these boss encounters since you have to read attacks to know when to guard. This brings us to one of the most hindering aspects of gameplay, the camera. This thing seems to have a mind of its own, and although you can move it manually, it’s always pointed in the wrong direction, or a building blocks your view as you are locked onto an enemy. It makes reading enemy attacks exceptionally difficult. It’s possible to heal during a fight, but these are limited, and you must avoid damage while you consume them.

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Through gameplay, players acquire kits that unlock new mobile suits and pilots. In addition, each playable character can be customized using points earned in missions. Further customization includes increasing stats and equipping buffs such as auto guard or speed boosts. Combat in the opening moments of gameplay is relatively slow, but this improves over time. The customization can also be found in skills, and players can put together a well-rounded crew during the single-player environment.

Multiplayer is also an option, with online gameplay allowing two friends to join you. In addition, there are options to create a room, search for a room, and jump into a quick match. Although I couldn’t play through the online mode for this review, I have played the multiplayer mode. I can say that it’s much more chaotic than single-player, given that your friends can divide and conquer objectives that offer a different layer of strategy.

After playing the game on other consoles during demos, I will say the Switch version lacks some of the graphical flair found in the different versions. Further, while the option to play with your friends is there, it’s just much easier to do on other platforms in terms of communication. The environments are rather bland but act more as arenas for the missions. However, sound design and music are fantastic, and story missions often include some of the most epic moments of the Gundam series.

SD Gundam Battle Alliance 1

SD Gundam Battle Alliance is an entertaining crash course in the Gundam series. It’s approachable no matter your level of fandom as it offers remixed historical battles with the added context of the true matchups. There’s so much to unlock and enjoy across each mission, but the repetition can weigh on the experience. Regardless, this is an addictive action game that mobile suit fans everywhere will enjoy.

Score:
8/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.