Dynasty Warriors: Gundam is every bit as half-hearted a game as its unimaginative title suggests. This mash-up of franchises is ultimately little more than a lame cash-grab, an excuse to put two fairly popular brand names--Koei's Dynasty Warriors beat-em-up series that lets you play as ancient Chinese warlords fighting hordes of enemy soldiers, and Gundam, a long-running Japanese anime and toy line that stars giant mechs and the space jockeys that pilot them--on a box and extract dump trucks full of cash in the process. In Japan it clearly worked, since the game hung out atop the country's sales charts for a good long time. Now Dynasty Warriors: Gundam has hit North America; thus, a whole new audience can experience its limp, repetitive action, its insufferable characters and storylines, and its unflinching dedication to mediocrity.
As much as Dynasty Warriors: Gundam seems like it ought to be aimed squarely at the audiences of both franchises, in reality, the scale tilts toward the hardcore Gundam fan. The game draws several of its storylines from a wide variety of Gundam animes and pretty much expects you to know who all these characters are, as well as what's going on, without even a hint of explanation. If you don't already know a whole bunch about the Universal Century timeline, Elpeo Puru's relationship with Judau Ashita, or what the significance of some guy repeatedly calling himself the "King of Hearts" is, turn around and run screaming away from Dynasty Warriors: Gundam because this game is not for you.
On the flipside, anyone who is nuts for the various Gundam anime series will probably cackle with glee at all the crazy suits, characters and stories tossed into this game. Even some non-Gundam fans might be able to just ignore the barely coherent storylines and grating voice work (thankfully, you can turn the Japanese language track on, which makes the storylines only slightly more incomprehensible than they are in English) simply for the promise of being able to take control of a giant mobile suit to wreck a gaggle of enemy Gundams. However, regardless of which camp you fall into, once you actually get your hands on the controls and bust through a few missions, that promise is quickly broken.
Save for the swapping of ancient warriors for future warriors, this might as well be any of the dozen or so previous Dynasty Warriors sequels from the past several years. Combat is practically untouched, except now, every playable character can fire guns. Too bad they're worthless. Guns almost never seem to hit anything or do significant enough damage even when powered up over time. Beyond that, you're left to mash on the same two attack buttons over and over again against hordes of mostly ineffectual enemies, periodically tossing in a special attack. Though none of the playable characters play identically to one another, the combat is similar enough among all of them that you pretty much end up with the same boring experience time and time again.
Mission objectives don't help. They rarely extend far beyond the scope of beating up everyone in an area, beating up a specific enemy, rescuing a friend from getting beat up, or getting from one part of the map to the other in a set amount of time while beating up enemies along the way. Combat is a bit flashier visually than any of the previous Dynasty Warriors games, specifically the effects that fly from the various guns and swords of each mobile suit. But the character models aren't remarkably detailed, and the battle arenas are the same sort of barren, poorly textured wastelands as in all the previous Dynasty Warriors games. The one wrinkle is that periodically you find yourself battling in space, but the space levels are even more pathetic, as all you do in them is float around on a flat plane while some ships sit still in the background. Without much visual pizzazz to make up for the painfully simplistic combat, it doesn't take long for the proceedings to get old.
In fact, the only thing that makes Dynasty Warriors: Gundam's combat even remotely challenging is a slightly busted camera. It's basically OK on standard battlegrounds, but the second you get into any area with walls or a ceiling, or you find yourself up against a boss enemy, it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of where the enemy you're fighting is relative to you. Mobile suits can dart around a fair bit, so it's easy to lose track even without the camera screwing up on you. But when you couple that fact with the camera constantly snapping to a position that is least advantageous to you in a fight, you'll end up a bit flustered.
It's sad that the combat is so dull because if nothing else, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam does offer a good chunk of content. Granted, a lot of it is the same content over and over again, at least in terms of gameplay. But there are 16 different playable characters spread across the official mode (which is based on existing Gundam storylines) and the original mode (which is a collection of new storylines built around notable characters from the series), each with several missions apiece. There is also multiplayer to consider. You and a friend can play cooperatively through both the official and original modes. Though for the game to be over, it only takes one of you to die, and there's really no reason to subject someone you like to this sort of perpetual boredom. There's also a versus mode, where you and a friend can either fight against one another directly or compete to clear an area of enemies the fastest. Shockingly, this isn't much fun either.
As you play through the official and original modes, you have the ability to gain new skills or parts for your mobile suits. These parts make you significantly stronger as the game goes on, improving your armor, your melee attacks, your shooting skills, and adding some new abilities to your special attacks. Almost none of it matters, mind you. All you really need to do is get as many melee attack upgrades as you can, and you'll be an unstoppable force. And on top of that, the amount of play time you'll have to log to get all those upgrades is far too high for any average person's psyche to bear. No one should have to trudge through that much monotony.
The best thing you can really say about Dynasty Warriors: Gundam is that it's not broken. Apart from the camera, nothing strikes as busted or unfinished; it's just a supremely uninspired game. You could measure out the amount of thought that went into this game design inside a thimble: Take Gundams, put them in the existing Dynasty Warriors game engine, and call it a day. This game is content to leave every ounce of Dynasty Warriors' stale gameplay intact and just swap out the aesthetics. That isn't enough to make this game fun. Not nearly enough.