SD Gundam Battle Alliance – Review
Follow Genre: ARPG
Developer: Artdink
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: PC

SD Gundam Battle Alliance – Review

Site Score
6.8
Good: A deep dive into Gundam history that will delight fans
Bad: Feels like a repetitive grindfest
User Score
7.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

It’s not always easy to review a licensed game if you aren’t familiar with the license in question, especially if said game puts a heavy focus on fan service. Case in point: SD Gundam Battle Alliance, Artdink, and Bandai Namco’s latest title based on the long-running Gundam franchise. This reviewer only has a cursory knowledge of Gundam and while we typically tend to do some research on material we aren’t familiar with, SD Gundam Battle Alliance digs deep into Gundam’s 40+ year history. The massive amount of time and effort it would take to become knowledgeable in Gundam’s lore probably isn’t worth it for a single game, so read on to find out the perspective of a non-fan. Can SD Gundam Battle Alliance convince us of its merit without banking on brand recognition and nostalgia?

Story

Despite the visual spectacle surrounding SD Gundam Battle Alliance, the overall plot presented here is paper-thin and serves as little more than an excuse to have the on-screen action make a modicum of sense. Most of the narrative is told through lengthy expository dialogue between characters too, and these can drone on a little too long. It can be difficult to keep your focus on the story as the majority of these dialogues are displayed while you are actually playing the game. Fortunately, given that the story itself is about as deep as a kiddie pool, things are easy enough to follow. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s recap what SD Gundam Battle Alliance is about.

Stepping in the shoes of the nameless Commander, and aided by a programmer who goes by the name of Juno Astarte, the player is thrust into a multiverse situation of sorts. A sentient AI has brought our heroes to the so-called G:Universe, where simulated versions of characters from different Gundam anime, manga, and video games come together to do battle with one another. Any similarities to the plot of Space Jam 2 are, of course, sheer coincidence. There is a larger, overarching mystery in play here but in all honesty, this plotline failed to interest us. It’s clear that SD Gundam Battle Alliance’s main aim was to bring these characters together to provide as much fan service as possible.

Graphics

Over the years, Gundam media has adapted various visual styles and now that various eras of Gundam history are brought together, a compromise had to be made to create aesthetic consistency. Artdink settled on the so-called SD versions of the suits, which are super deformed Chibi-esque 3D models that walk the fine line between looking adorable and highly detailed. The cutesy models aren’t as intricate as they could be but this does mean that the game isn’t as taxing on your hardware as it could be and SD Gundam Battle Alliance’s performance felt smooth as a result. Character sprites are presented through more traditional, anime-styled static portraits, and given how much dialogue there is, you’ll be seeing these a lot.

Sound

Taking a deep dive into the franchise’s history, SD Gundam Battle Alliance’s OST comprises a selection of tunes taken from various Gundam media, which should put a smile on the faces of anyone familiar with them. We never expected to hear music from 1980s anime in a game from 2022, yet here we are. The game also features voice acting, though only in Japanese. Rounding things out are the sound effects, which are more than decent enough, if not outstanding.

Gameplay

As an action RPG with a very heavy focus on arena combat, SD Gundam Battle Alliance definitely feels like a love letter to the series that should delight fans. The game consists of a series of short missions that see you take the pilot’s seat in one of the famous mobile suits from various Gundam series -provided you can unlock it, of course. It’s a highly accessible title, eschewing gameplay depth in favor of a system that’s easy to learn and feels fast and responsive. There is of course a fairly large selection of mobile suits to choose from and each of them falls into one of three categories: the All-Rounder, which is the most balanced class of the three, the Sharpshooter, which focuses on range, and the Infighter, which is a melee class. As long as you stick to the same category, each suit feels very similar in the way it plays, and you’ll feel instantly familiar. We should note that every suit you unlock starts at level 1, no matter how far into the game you are. With over 60 suits to collect, you’ll certainly have your work cut out for you, especially if you intend to have all of these at a level where they can actually do something.

The same can be said for the Commander himself, as well as the AI companions that can accompany them: everything in this game needs to be leveled up to become useful. Granted, the AI co-pilots aren’t all that useful and are much better substituted by having a friend join you in co-op mode, and the pilot skills that are unlocked for the commander every other level only have a limited impact on overall performance, but the sheer increase in base stats that come with leveling up mech suits is essential to victory. There is also limited customizability to the mech suits, which adds some strategic depth, but again, this requires you to spend Capital in order to get your suits to their full potential. If you’re hoping to stand any chance when playing online, then you’ll need to put in some effort lest your mobile suit is immediately obliterated.

This brings us to the elephant in the room when it comes to SD Gundam Battle Alliance’s gameplay: it’s a massive grindfest. Boss battles in particular can feel like massive difficulty spikes. Leveling up your mobile suit requires an in-game currency, known as Capital, and you’ll be hard-pressed to keep up with the Capital required to keep a single mobile suit in the running and if you’re aiming to level up multiple ones so that you can exploit enemy weaknesses, then the game becomes an even bigger grind. There is some mission variety and different difficulty levels in order to keep things fresh but this isn’t enough to keep things from halting the sense of progress and ultimately feeling like a very repetitive affair. Of course, having an affinity with Gundam is a tremendous boon here, but if you’re only a casual fan or aren’t familiar with the series, then it’s clear that this is a game that banks on its license for at least part of its appeal.

If this sounds like we’re dismissing SD Gundam Battle Alliance as a quick cash grab or the latest in a long series of terrible licensed games –of which there are plenty-, then we’re going to clarify that that isn’t our intent. SD Gundam Battle Alliance’s foundation is solid, with a fun and accessible combat system. However, the main campaign suffers from poor pacing and an unreasonable necessity to repeat missions ad nauseum just in order to grind the necessary resources to progress. If you’re not enamored by the massive amount of fan service, it’s going to be difficult to look past these shortcomings. Unfortunately, we aren’t part of the Gundam fan base -if you are, you can probably bump up the game’s score by a point or two.

Conclusion

While SD Gundam Battle Alliance definitely feels like a love letter to the long-running franchise, non-fans are probably better off getting their kicks elsewhere. The game’s core mechanics aren’t bad, but the overall pacing and difficulty spikes make for a title that quickly devolves into a massive grindfest, and without affinity for the characters, there is little to keep you motivated to replay the same missions over and over again. If you happen to be in the niche that SD Gundam Battle Alliance is aimed at, there is a good chance that you’ll love what’s on offer here. In that case, however, chances are you didn’t need us to convince you in the first place.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
SD Gundam Battle Alliance - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
SebastiaanRaats


No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.