A new role-playing hack and slash/shooter from ARTDINK and Bandai Namco arrived late last month (August 25, 2022) in the form of SD Gundam Battle Alliance. Arriving on Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X, and Steam. Let’s dive right in and see if this sounds like one for you!
SD Gundam sees you take on the role of “the commander,” a pilot who finds himself and operations manager Juno inside G: Universe, a world in which the history of Gundam is recorded and stored. Unfortunately, upon arrival, you find yourself greeted by an AI dubbed Sakura by Juno, who informs you that history has become corrupted and that fragments of history are interacting and crossing over, causing errors in the system. Together with the AI, you and Juno set out to repair the records and discover what’s behind the changes.
Due to the sheer amount of Gundam series and storylines in Battle Alliance, the story can be a little overwhelming at first if you are new to the series, though I found that this eased up as I progressed and found myself more interested in the shows’ original story lines and not just that of the game.
The title story plays out in your standard 2D visual novel style as well as via conversations that occur while you are on mission. The former I preferred as the latter often played out while I was in combat or during boss attacks, making reading the subtitles less than ideal as I focused on staying alive.
Mostly, the story kept my attention and pulled me further and further in as each new piece of information and plot twist fell into place, but splitting my attention between the story and the battles made me miss things at times.
Visually, the game uses a 3D chibi-style in missions that worked surprisingly well for the Gundams, somehow making them adorable and still looking awesome at the same time. Coupled with the many different animations and variety of designs, the suits as well as combat nearly always came off as impressive.
The level design itself didn’t do much to impress me most of the time, especially when compared to the suits. One nice detail was the fact that the buildings in cities and the like would crumble under the weight of your suit if you were attacked. Outside of this, however, there was not much that caught my attention while traversing the mission zones.
On the other hand, the 2D visual novel sections and the 2D characters I found very fitting with what I know of the series, as well as not feeling out of place with the games’ chosen art style, with each aspect coming together quite nicely.
While the game offers multiple language options for subtitles, the audio is Japanese only, meaning you’re likely going to be reading story segments in battle, which, as mentioned, while not totally impossible to do so, it’s just difficult at times. The BGM in battalion alliance also comes with a fair assortment of flavours, with some being more appealing than others, but generally pretty decent.
Gameplay, however, is the main focus and seems to be where most of the work was put in with this title. Not only is the game capable of making you feel like an incredibly powerful Gundam warrior as you tear through the city’s and enemy forces, it’s also not afraid to feed you some humble pie when you come across key figures (bosses). To top it off, it’s also terribly addictive as well as quite smooth and responsive.
The games’ single player mode sees you play through the game’s story, tackling break missions (missions with incorrect or misplaced data in them) and rectifying the anomalies before clearing the true version of the mission, while gathering resources to upgrade your suits as well as acquiring new blueprints for a large variety of new suits from multiple Gundam instalments.
Each mission sees you lead a 3 man squad, yourself and 2 partner units, as well as being often joined by an additional allied unit. While partners and allied units act independently, you are able to order them to use special attacks when their gauge is full. While the AI controlled units can be considered adequate and can see you through to the end game compared to your character, I can’t say I ever felt like they were the difference between any of my wins or my defeats.
Fortunately, there’s also a multiplayer mode that sees you team up with other players in place of your partners. Should you choose to go this route, story segments will be skipped. However, it makes clearing missions and farming blueprints much easier, especially when it comes to the latter unlocked chaos missions. Personally, I found multiplayer a great addition to the title that helped clear up some of the more challenging missions without having to grind out items and money. While you can occasionally get an end-game player joining you to fly through a mission, having players at your level join you makes things go smoother than relying on the AI partners.
While combat itself is relatively straight-forward, each gundam has a class that provides certain benefits. As well as this, each unit basically plays the same way with melee attacks that can be used as long as you have boost (stamina) and 3 secondary attacks that have ammunition that refills over time. As well as this, you also have a special attack that can hit for large damage. While some units have an advantage in melee, others may be better at ranged combat. Ultimately, it’ll likely come down to your play style, but I wouldn’t stress about things too much, and instead, experiment and find what feels good for you.
Besides what I’ve already mentioned, there are also multiple mechanics that add some more variety to combat, such as guard/counter, flight, back attacks, and more, all of which will likely see use in your gameplay and quickly become intuitive. Combat overall seemed more in-depth than I originally expected, and while you can make your way through a good chunk of the games’ content without mastering everything, you’ll likely be using most of the games’ tricks instinctively before you know it.
Overall, I spent far too many late nights on this game as I lost track of time and picked it up whenever I had a free moment as I tried to improve my suits or unlock new ones. Both single and multiplayer modes are valid options to play through, with the latter being a great help when farming, though not something you have to rely on if you choose not to. I loved the designs of the Gundams and enjoyed the gameplay, and I still find myself wanting to play more even now.
A surprisingly enjoyable blast that could entice newcomers.