SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE is an action role-playing game (“ARPG”) developed by ARTDINK CORPORATION and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It is based on the Gundam franchise owned by Bandai Namco and is also the first Gundam game that has graced the Xbox platform in over a decade. For those that don’t know of Gundam, you might think of it as giant robots fighting each other—and that’s true, but only part of it—there’s a lot of character and story development in the various series and films within Gundam that have enamored fans for years and years to come.
BATTLE ALLIANCE is basically a mash-up of all of those aforementioned media works, bringing them together into this narrative that revolves around resolving historical inaccuracies occurring in the Gundam timeline. For fans of the franchise, they’ll get to fight alongside characters they know as tiny versions (think ‘chibi’) of Gundam units in dioramic-like battle arenas, reexperiencing those fights from an outsider’s perspective once more. For folks who don’t know much about Gundam, the story might not jive all too well, as the game dumps down some of Gundam’s epic scenes into simple visual novel explanations.
But that thankfully doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay, which packs quite the punch.
BATTLE ALLIANCE’s core gameplay loop is simple and well-tested. Players pick missions to play, suit up as their Gundam unit of choice, complete said mission, and earn parts and other items required to enhance and uncap their units. These missions can be completed solo or online, and in either case progression can be made through the game’s campaign (the latter skips cutscenes, however, which can be later viewed in the archives).
Missions tend to favour one objective, and that’s to clear all enemies towards the end of the level, where a boss fight will commence. Each mission supports up to three players or AI-controlled units which the player can select from. There are three Gundam unit types to choose from (infighter, all-rounders, and sharpshooters) and have their advantages on the battlefield. It’s a good idea to have one of each on missions but it’s not a requirement thankfully.
All missions take place in tiny, simplified versions of the historical event’s locations. These maps set out to do their job and not much more than that—think big zones with tunnels in-between. There aren’t any stage hazards to speak of, but there are plenty of invisible walls to run into. There’s enough space to maneuver about, of course, so your giant robots don’t feel like they’re stuck in boxed levels. But I do factor level design into replayability, which affects this game quite a bit and I’ll touch on that shortly.
There’s a Lot of Iron in My Blood
In BATTLE ALLIANCE, combat and playstyles are dictated by the unit of your choice. Whether that involves close-quarters combat or shooting from afar. Plenty of units play differently, but they all tend to fall into the same functions of light, heavy, and launcher attacks. Still, the game has plenty of combos to mix and match with, and arguably the best thing about the game are the fights themselves. Fighting against any Gundam unit, whether it’s the dime-a-dozen Zaku or Wing Zero, you need to constantly be on the move to survive because getting hit could easily wipe you out.
Most if not all hits will stun you and take quite a bit of damage, even if your unit is higher leveled than the mission requirement, and the enemy AI isn’t afraid to swarm you on all fronts. Bosses also have plenty of moves to knock you off your feet and move into your position, especially if you catch their attention which is indicated by a red ‘hate line’. Besides getting out of the line of fire, you can guard against these attacks, and if you guard at the right time, you’ll be rewarded with a free attack that staggers the enemy. As it is a bit overpowered, sadly that parry move has a very tiny window of success that’ll need plenty of practicing and, a lot of the times, dumb luck.
I say that because, while I quite enjoyed the combat, I have some issues with how the game telegraphs enemy attacks in conjunction with the game’s visual style. The game isn’t much of a looker, and in true Gundam fashion there’s a lot of chaos on-screen that clutter up any sort of information the player needs to survive. You’ll find yourself getting stunned quite a bit from attacks outside your peripheral and frontal attacks you could’ve easily guarded but couldn’t see, thanks to the plenty of explosions lobbed by friend or foe alike. And the counter move I mentioned is affected by this, as the window of opportunity is so small, you really need every bit of information you can get to survive.
And on a smaller note, a lot of Gundam’s cool scenes during these missions are only available in Japanese dubbing. While I prefer native languages for media works, I also understand that some players might not like or be able to read subtitles and frantically dodge enemy attacks. Something to keep in mind.
No Unicorn in These Hills
Players can discover new units to play as by replaying levels and finding blueprints. Replaying levels is also necessary to obtain parts to uncap your Gundam and increase their stats. While you could play the game on easy and breeze through the main campaign, you’d still need those parts and blueprints if you want to play as some of the cooler Gundam units. In addition, easy mode also limits the parts earned on mission completion, so while failing a mission on normal might suck, you still keep resources earned to upgrade your unit which makes easy mode a bit of a waste of time in my opinion. Besides, the game isn’t hard—you just need to be on your toes and have your specs up to speed.
But I struggle to call this game ‘replayable’, or at least mission replayability. Each mission plays out more or less the same, with some escort and defense objectives here and there. Like I mentioned previously, the level design is simplistic and doesn’t add to the experience much besides being visual fan service. And while there is boss variety, the game’s combat isn’t deep enough to solely rely on said fights. If you do replay missions, it’s best to do it with friends or online players because, while solo play is viable, you’re likely to get bored quick (unless of course, you enjoy grinding out things like partner levels and resources).
This game reminds me of another Bandai Namco-published series, God Eater, in a lot of aspects. From mission setup down to multiplayer progression and level design. I think if you like those games, you’ll find fun in BATTLE ALLIANCE. And despite the grinding, there’s enough content to go over for in a single campaign playthrough with a season pass (sold separately, of course) of content that will come later. I liked the story and its original characters, even if I can’t say I enjoy the presentation of prior Gundam events very much.
If you’re an Xbox and a Gundam fan, buying this game is a no-brainer.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X, Windows 11|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC (Steam/Play Anywhere), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||24th of August, 2022|
|Publisher||Bandai Namco Entertainment|
|ESRB/PEGI Rating||T for Teen – Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol, Mild Blood, Mild Language / PEGI 12 – Bad Language|
SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE$59.99 / €59.99
- Solid combat system with a lot of Gundam models to choose from.
- Multiplayer system is set up well and allows for progression.
- Story is fun fanservice for Gundam fans.
- Visuals aren't the best and are a distraction to combat.
- Mission objectives, paired with simplistic level design, can become stale.
- Replaying said missions for to grind for parts doesn't help the above point, either.