The long-running Gundam franchise didn't have the sweetest welcome to the next generation of video game systems, thanks to an underwhelming debut on the PlayStation 3. That won't stop Namco Bandai from churning out the Gundam games, however, and fortunately, SD Gundam: Scad Hammers has a look and control scheme that definitely sets it apart from the norm.
One thing is certain: Scad Hammers looks quite a bit different from the PS3 Gundam game, thanks to the superdeformed art styles that make the giant combat mechs--dare we say?--cute. Everything from the mechs to the buildings in urban environments to the massive stone outcroppings in some of the rocky, mountainous missions is shrunken down to give the game a cutesy, cartoonish look (and we mean that in a good way). Even though the mechs look cute, there's no doubt they can kick some tail, thanks to the game's control scheme that makes good use of the Wii's unique capabilities.
Scad Hammers makes use of both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk controller. To move your mech, you push in any direction on the Nunchuk's analog stick. Boost jumps are performed by pressing the Z button, and charge attacks are done with the C button. For the most part, though, you'll be using the Wii Remote to attack your foes. Your Gundam's primary weapon is a huge, spiked wrecking ball attached to a long chain, which you can swing around in any direction using the Wii Remote. Push forward with the remote to perform a powerful smash attack, the harder you swing the remote, the more devastating the attack will be (and an onscreen icon will show you exactly how hard you are swinging). By moving the remote left, right, or backward, your Gundam will attack in that direction, making it easy to put a hurting on foes that are behind you or to either side. Finally, by pressing the trigger on the Wii Remote to let out some slack on the chain and then twirling the remote in a circular motion, you can swing your wrecking ball in a circle, devastating any enemy in its path. To be fair, these circular attacks are not as powerful as standard strikes, but they do a good job of giving you some room when you are surrounded. Other controls in the game include holding the A button to defend against attacks and pressing the A and trigger buttons together to perform a special energized spin attack.
As you go through the missions in Scad Hammers, you'll want to pay attention to a couple of onscreen gauges--the first is a health meter, the second is your energy level. Your health will deplete when you take damage, of course, and your energy level will degrade as you perform special attacks. During your battles, you'll smash objects like crates, buildings, or rocks and find health or energy pickups, as well as weapon or shield upgrades. In addition, defeating enemies will level up your Gundam, which will provide you with stronger attacks and more health.
The first three missions in the game are essentially training missions, though they do seem to have some sort of narrative arch, considering you see the same characters popping up, such as allies with helpful hints on how to play the game or nefarious-looking bosses sending wave after wave of Gundam fodder for you to bash your way through. Even the early missions display a bit more variety than simply running into a room and clearing it out, though there is plenty of that. In one training mission, after beating down the enemy forces, you're required to move a downed spacecraft past a certain point on the map before it explodes. To do so, you simply bash it with your hammer over and over until you've pushed it across a predetermined line. Another level challenge has you escorting what looks like a supply ship in outer space as it's besieged by enemies from all sides. While this level doesn't really take place in a full 3D space (in other words, you can only move side to side, not vertically), it's a decent change of pace from the traditional missions.
Based on the time we spent with the game, we ran into some pretty cool enemies. The first traditional mission after the training series had us tackling not just other Gundams, but also tanks and jets. None of these are formidable by themselves, but when amassed, they prove to be dangerous. At the end of each mission, we faced a couple of big boss enemies--and we do mean big. Unlike the pip-squeaks that make up the normal enemies, the bosses in Scad Hammers are huge and require a lot of punishment to take down. The boss fight in the first nontraining mission had you facing a massive, slowly moving plane in a timed contest. The goal was to take it out before it crossed the line and attacked your supply rig. None of the bosses we encountered were particularly difficult or required any special tactics; beyond their sheer toughness, they were pretty easy to take out.
The most appealing aspects of Scad Hammers are its colorful, cartoon look and its easy-to-use controls. During the most intense battles, the action can get pretty feverish, as you are beset on all sides and are whipping your Wii Remote left and right to fend off the tide of enemies. While the controls are fun at first, they aren't particularly deep, and it isn't long before you're wishing for a bit more variety to the attacks you have in your arsenal. That said, Scad Hammers' lighthearted approach and nonstop action would make it an appealing choice for action fans and Gundam fans alike...if it were coming to the States. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case, as the game seems bound for Japan-only status for the time being. Should Namco's plans change (and we sort of hope they do), we'll keep you informed of this game's progress.