The odd couple returns; refreshed, refueled, and raring for another round of robo-cide with Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2. The first go made a less than auspicious entry into orbit, casting shadows of doubt on its sophomore flight. But the steadfast engineers at Koei are hoping that this make will be the one with all the right parts. With buster rifles cocked and thrusters flaring, this eccentric offshoot of the Dynasty Warriors series looks like it’s ready for a fight, but will fans find the courage to suit up for another ride?
Much as its title obliquely advertises, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 pairs the familiar elements of Koei’s period brawler with the mechanical machismo of the Gundam series; giving players the opportunity to brush elbows with the who’s who of the franchise’s 30-year run. Superstars like Domon Kasshu and Heero Yuy show off their familiar mugs, while some of the more recent and esoteric picks like Turn A Gundam’s Loran Cehack also squeak in spots on the roster. The character list is diverse, and the warehouse of Gundam stocked: the sequel boasts more than 60 unique mobile suits, dwarfing its predecessor’s count by more than three-fold.
You’ll find ample use for each one in the game’s official and mission modes, which delve into a mix of faithfully retold events and canon-crushing crossover scenarios. Taken on alone or with a wingman, these character-specific campaigns provide some decent insight into the Gundam universe. But if you aren’t thoroughly versed in the applied use of gundanium, you may find yourself trying to piecemeal the big picture together. The series is thick with history, and the game’s scattered narrative only begins to scratch its shiny alloy surface.
With the conquest of each mission, characters can be leveled, skills assigned, and parts researched to pimp out your giant war machines. You can even venture from your normal routine and build relationships out on the battlefield, earn licenses for other gundam models, or partake in a few challenges to test your worth in the cockpit. There’s almost never really any shortage of things to do—the only problem is if you’re up to it.
The Dynasty Warriors series was never known for fresh formulas or a wide range of objectives; and unfortunately, the same holds true here. The game is certainly good for providing a long list of things to pursue, but it’ll also test just how much you like capturing the same old battlefield again and again.
Hardcore fans may get a kick from the various crossover scenarios, new giant boss battles, and the small selection of added online multiplayer options give the game some legs to stand on past the humdrums of single-player. But neither offering is particularly substantial or compelling enough to keep your interest going once the fuel burns out.
The frontlines may be different, but the tactics are the same. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 sticks closely to its noble Chinese ancestry with its robot-slaying, base-capturing gameplay.
Veterans of the first engagement will recall some familiar elements in play: bars representing enemy counts must be depleted before staking claim over a battlefield, and enemy commanders must be defeated with the appropriate blend of melee, ranged, and special attacks. Middling tweaks to aerial mobility and combat spruce up your gundam’s armaments some, but for the most part, the game is rooted in its old ways. Control over your gundam can slip away in the heat of intricate combo strings, and the often mindless pace of combat can get to be, for lack of a better word, robotic.
Though the game falls prey to many of its lineage’s flaws, it also plays to a few of its strengths. Each of the 60-plus mobile suits touts its own unique characteristics that add to battle, such as Epyon’s signature heat whips. It’s a small consolation, but true fans won’t have a problem getting behind their favorite gundams…unless it happens to be Death Scythe or Tallgeese, as they apparently didn’t make it past the shipping yard.
In all, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 sees a few fine tunings under the hood, but nothing that particularly enhances its mech-flavored stylings. It still very much feels like Dynasty Warriors with Gundam, and though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it isn’t anything worth enlisting with the Earth Federation for, either.
For a series that takes place in the distant future, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 looks noticeably like a relic from the past. The 3D models are flat, hues dull, and the camera uncompromisingly inert. The game’s visuals do hold a respectable framerate once platoons of mobile suits flood the screen, but the overall graphical detail is definitely not up to scratch with its smoother, sleeker, cel-shaded peers.
Outside of the battlefield, the presentation takes a slight upswing with anime character portraits and voice acting closely resembling the era and studio from which that particular series was spawned. But with heavily compressed videos and large stretches of unvoiced mission dialogue, the overall package is inconsistent and largely unattractive compared to the more polished presentations of other anime games.
Giant robots or not, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 doesn’t quite have the thrust to wedge this stagnating series out of its fixed orbit. A few of its content-conscious fixes definitely strike a small blow for hardcore recruits, but it’s going to take a lot more for Gundam reserves to find reason to splurge. A cautious rent would definitely be in order; just don’t be surprised to find these metal suits oddly empty on the inside.