Years of terrible licensed games in the west have, I think, inoculated me against the kind of bad that’s Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn. The hack and slash and glide and laser from Tecmo Koei has all of the hallmarks of a ruthless cash-in, from the barely-there narrative presentation to menus and options that stink of the classic combination of no time, no effort development, and still, here I am about to recommend the experience.
Gundam Reborn is based on the many mecha anime that make up the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, the Studio Sunrise’s cash cow that has spawned an impressive 28 series and original animation videos since Mobile Suit Gundam debuted back in 1979. Reborn, like Namco’s Naruto brawlers, attempts to retell the stories of each of those series, using what I’m sure are iconic moments from each series across multiple campaigns that remain incomprehensible to your reviewer. But let’s file that under “presentation,” a point I’ll get back to later.
Reborn’s campaign or “Official” mode is where you’ll find the story, spread across six eras of Gundam history: the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, and Mobile Suit Gundam Destiny. Each of these campaigns whisks you through the story-lines for each series (I think), putting you in an era-appropriate, upgradeable mech and then letting you wade through literally thousands of disposable enemy bots. In my first hour alone, I think I destroyed something like 2,000 mechs.
The actual combat will be familiar to Dynasty Warriors veterans, with a vertical twist: your pilot can hover briefly to land attacks on larger targets. It’s hard to deny that there’s a certain thrill to wading into a crowd of enemies and letting loose with a combination of laser sword and a seemingly endless barrage of rockets. Meter-driven special attacks (which I think are mission context sensitive) allow you to lay waste to dozens of enemies at once while dramatically knocking down the health of command units.
Upgrade paths for your mecha are largely stat-driven with plans found on the battlefield from fallen enemies allowing you to customize and improve your mobile suit along with tweaks to specific pilot skills boosting your speed, rate of special attack recovery, and more. It’s not exactly robust or deep, and Reborn does an awkward job of explaining the system in early levels (be ready to deal with a lot of slides and text), but it’s functional and the improvements to your unit are evident and often quite destructive.
You can take more mechs out for a ride in the “Ultimate” mode, which just dumps all of the mobile suits from the story campaign into a pile and lets you slog your way through missions to pick up extra parts and skill points. This is the mode for those of you really keen on the gameplay without all of the messiness of the story.
Where Reborn falters is in its overall presentation: the combat visuals are largely PS2-era clunky polygons and AI-light enemies in drab environments (pixelated city, the blackness of space, or pixelated field). We’re given Reborn as a kind of bare-minimum product, with stills from the animated series accompanied by Japanese VO used to bridge missions and subtitled dialog that you really can’t pay attention to adding context and additional character bits during missions. While I can’t say that I was exactly invested in whatever was going on in the Unicorn campaign, I’m disappointed that Tecmo didn’t offer me the opportunity to get involved via either an English-language option or at least smart breaks in the action to follow the narrative.
Even though Dynasty Warriors Gundam: Reborn feels like it was dumped unceremoniously into the English-language PSN store, for fans of either franchise, it’s probably worth picking up. What it lacks in depth, it more than makes up for in breadth and things going boom.
Charles Webb has been providing pop culture criticism and new coverage for sites like Comics Bulletin, MTV, Twitchfilm and Paste Magazine. A video game industry vet, he is a credited writer on multiple titles, most recently working at Microsoft Game Studios. Don’t look too much into it, but he is a carbon-based hu-man.