Have you ever dreamed of building your own Gundam model and fighting it out with other builders? Well, I haven't particularly dremt about that either, but it's a massively entertaining idea. There really is something great about being able to fly around in giant robot mechas and fight for what you believe in. The premise and design have a lot going for it. Given the opportunity to completely customize Gunpla, otherwise known as Gundam Model Kits, I was definitely excited to give this game my best shot. It might be a slight departure from other titles in the otherwise Japanese-exclusive series, but it is still Gundam nonetheless. Is New Gundam Breaker the next Newtype pilot prodigy, or will it be just another Zaku that instantly falls at the hands of the Federation?
I advise that you get used to that nature of the dialogue because, in New Gundam Breaker, you will be hearing a lot of references to many of the different Gundam series from over the years. Some of it is entertaining, but it gets a bit overwhelming after a while. Unfortunately, the story mode is really the only game mode. There are online modes as well, which I will cover later. The gameplay consists of one very long and very repetitive story mode, taking place over 65 missions in total. For each mission, you are presented with a scenario path that shifts focus to whichever female that scenario belongs to. That may seem like a lot, but considering that only about eight of these missions are unique, that's not a lot to choose from. Every scenario has the exact same storyline with some changes in dialogue. There are a few differences here and there, but not enough to save it from feeling endlessly repetitive and boring.
I could have forgiven the overly-repetitive missions if it meant that the story was interesting and fun, but I couldn't even have that. You are an unoriginal transfer student that is sent to an unoriginal high school where you proceed to create a harem in order to defeat the corrupt student council to restore the fun back to building Gunpla. That is more or less the story in the entirety, and it's kind of sad how little effort they put into it. Sure, it's still the idea of fighting against a corrupt government in efforts to restore peace as every Gundam show presents, but it's so hard to take it seriously when every girl fits the generic anime stereotype to a T. You have your childhood friend, the cool one, the smart and timid one, and so on and so forth. The plot pretty much drives itself, and the characters do nothing more than provide the unnamed main character with a love interest. I wish I could say that the characters were interesting, but if it's girls you want, you might just be better off watching anime instead. I will say, I did not expect this of a Gundam game, and I'm certainly not pleased with what it has presented.
At least the game is fun though, right? Nope. The game is completely rendered in the Unreal 4 engine, and apparently, that's not a good thing. Every minute or two, the game likes to freeze up for a few seconds before getting back into the action. This only occurs after slowdown, but it doesn't let up until the freeze happens. I can't believe that this is acceptable in the modern day and age of gaming, but here we are. After a good hour or two, you start to see how soulless this game really is, and as a big fan of the Gundam franchise, I am completely disappointed.
All things considered, the idea behind the combat mechanics aren't actually that bad. Every weapon-type performs differently. With beam swords, whips, daggers, beam rifles, rockets, and more all being available to choose from. This creates tons of variation and definitely changes the experience for you. In addition to your weapons, each part of your Gunpla provides a unique ability to your mobile suit and enhances your combat abilities. Some make you go faster, others are giant lasers, and of course, there are also support types that can heal or provide a radar to your team. This is all fantastic in theory, but it's held back by a leveling system that wastes more time in each mission than needed.
The first minute or so of each mission, which already lasts for only about ten minutes, is wasted on collecting boxes to gain levels and activate a random ability on your mobile suit. You can also gain experience by destroying the enemies' Gunpla, but that doesn't matter when every mission has objectives, and more than half of them start with destroying ten boxes. Each mission is broken down into collection, destruction, and boss type objectives. They throw them at you randomly, so sometimes you will need to 'Destroy 20 units' and other times you will need to 'Recover the key part'. In order to keep any parts you collect, you must go to a box to send up your five inventory slots back to your base and hope that the enemy AI doesn't shoot you down. That's right, you can only carry five things at a time. To make matters worse, if you take damage, you can drop your items. Even the boss objectives are more of a nuisance than anything since sometimes your partner, in a 3-on-3 battle, will take it out before you can go around and collect any new parts that may have dropped. Alternatively, you can run out of time because your AI partners are not helping to take out the boss, and you're outnumbered. Moreover, the majority of each mission focuses more so on collecting broken Gunpla parts than actually engaging the player with tense combat situations. It all feels like a grindy waste, and without any other game modes to play, the random objectives start to weigh you down.
Unluckily for us, there is an online mode, so now we can play an already broken game experience with other people online. This makes it nearly impossible to have any idea what you're doing because of the constant frame drops due to poor connection and the aforementioned freezing problem all in one. I don't really see what went wrong here, because I thought it was fun to compete for the most points in online matches, but my experience was completely ruined when I realized that every match was a laggy mess. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if it didn't take 30 minutes to find a match, but at that point, it feels like a waste of time. Clearly, nobody is playing this game and I think that might be telling in its own right.
With that out of the way, we can jump into what makes this game great: Gunpla customization. Unfortunately, one of the only amazing things to come out of New Gundam Breaker is its customization. You are able to take literally any part of a Gunpla that you've claimed to combine them into anything you want. You can customize colors, wear and tear, gloss, dirt; anything. Everything you make just feels like your own, and there's so much to try that it can keep you busy for hours just coming up with cool ways to customize your Gunpla. Even if this does technically tie into the main course of the game being that it affects your stats, I feel that this is probably the best part of the game. The amount of things you can make is wild, and each part is detailed and beautiful, so it's almost a shame how much you have to collect in the main game before you can really put your brain to work.
Does New Gundam Breaker provide enough unique assets and ideas to make up for what it's lacking in? Absolutely not. There is so much lost potential here; nothing was done right. The Gunpla customization was the only driving force in the game that even motivated me to keep going. I even went as far as to unlock every single trophy in the game in order to squeeze out all of the contents in hopes to find something amazing, but the only thing it lead to was more disappointment. I really wanted to have another Gundam game to fall in love with, but I definitely couldn't find it here. If you want a true Gundam Breaker experience, it might just be worthwhile to import the older games in the series from Japan. As far as this title goes, it's better left forgotten.
Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38