Namco Bandai and Koei's upcoming Dynasty Warriors: Gundam is one of those concepts that might sound crazy on paper but manages to work in real life. The game takes a fairly cut-and-dried mash-up approach to marrying the Gundam franchise with Koei's winning beat-'em-up formula that's been honed over the course of the Dynasty Warrior games. We got our hands on work-in-progress versions of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 iterations of the game to see how they're shaping up.
Both console games will feature identical content, though the Xbox 360 will have the addition of achievements. You'll find three modes, official, original, and versus, that let you play as familiar faces from the Gundam universe. The official mode lets you take part in adventures from Gundam lore, while the original mode offers the chance to play against faces from the various Gundam story arcs. Finally, the versus mode lets you compete against a friend. Given the Gundam franchise's long history, the modes offer a wealth of characters and mobile suits. The official mode offers a total of six pilots to play through, while the original mode features more than 12 pilots. As far as the powerful mobile suits go, you'll find more than 15 to choose from. The catch, of course, is that you'll have to unlock a good chunk of the pilots and mobile suits as you play through the various modes.
Both of the modes in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam offer a series of missions that send you fighting through hordes of enemies and facing off against more powerful ace pilots. Your choice of pilot in the modes will determine the mobile suit you use in a particular stage. The game offers a modest level of character and mobile-suit leveling that fits nicely with the simple action. Pilots will gain personal skills, which are unique abilities they can use in battle to boost their offense or defense. In addition, you'll come across parts as you destroy enemies. The parts can be used to buff up one of four attributes on your suit--fight, shoot, defense, and armor--when equipped. Fight affects your melee attacks, shoot affects your ranged attacks, defense reduces the damage you take from attacks, and armor increases the number of hit points your suit has. You can further enhance your mobile suit by pairing up specific parts with in-game mechanics that add an additional bonus to the buff you gain from them.
The versus mode will feature three game types to challenge a friend in: normal, warrior's match, and shotdown contest. Normal will offer you a straightforward one-on-one competition between you and a challenger, with no customization options. The roster of selectable characters is tied to the pilots you've unlocked in original and official modes. Warrior's match is a one-on-one fight broken up into two phases. The first part pits you against artificial intelligence-controlled mobile suits that yield power-ups and upgrades when defeated. The second phase throws you against your opponent with all your upgrades. Finally, shotdown contest puts you and your opponent on a battlefield, separated by an energy field. Rather than beat on your opponent, your goal is to keep the amount of mobile suits in your area below 50. As you defeat the never-ending rush of mechanical foes, you'll gain power-ups, which ups the number of suits on your opponent's field. Whoever winds up with 50 mobile suits on the field first loses.
Besides gameplay modes, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam features a gallery with assorted info and artwork on the title. The character gallery lets you see biographies and artwork for the pilots in the game. The mobile-suit gallery lets you have a look at the 3D models used for the mobile suits and battleships in the game. A voice gallery lets you listen to voice acting clips you've unlocked. The player record shows your vital stats as you play through the game's various modes. Finally, the BGM select option lets you change the background music heard while you browse the menu.
The controls in the game map intuitively to the PS3 and 360 controllers. You'll move and adjust your view with the analog sticks. Dashing, melee combat, shooting, special attacks, strafing, guarding, and jumping are each assigned their own buttons. If the default layout doesn't work out for you, the game lets you customize the layout to your liking. Though the game doesn't use the Sixaxis' motion sensing, it does include rumble on the 360.
Although we've seen the game on the PlayStation 3 for a while now (it was released late last year in Japan), this was the first time we'd been able to spend with the Xbox 360 game. Though there are still quite a few rough edges to the 360 conversion (mainly in the frame rate and performance department), it has a consistent look across both consoles, which was admittedly not the most stunning game ever seen on the PS3. The various mobile suits sport a clean look. The environments follow the same aesthetic and offer a solid amount of detail across the land- and air-based locales. The special effects used for the various mobile-suit super attacks offer some kick to the visuals, but ultimately Dynasty Warriors: Gundam's appeal is firmly rooted in its gameplay. We reckon the 360's rough spots will be smoothed over as development continues; there's not much reason for the game not to run well on both systems.
From the look of things so far, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam should please fans of both Dynasty Warriors and Gundam. The reliable gameplay may not break new ground, but it's definitely fun and doesn't blaspheme the Gundam name. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam is slated to ship this August for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.