Friday, June 29, 2018

New Gundam Breaker Review (PS4)

The Gundam Breaker series finally gets a worldwide release with New Gundam Breaker on PS4. I've honestly always liked Gunpla (building Gundam models) a lot more than the actual anime series, so playing a game where the whole point is collecting parts and building Gundam models and then fighting it out is very, very appealing to me. The good news with New Gundam Breaker is that the model building and customization is excellent and very fun. The bad news is that collecting parts is a grind, the visual novel-style campaign is flat (and the text is hard to read), and the performance on PS4 is stunningly bad. Seriously, I haven't seen a current gen game chug along and struggle this bad on any platform. It adds up to a game you'll want to love but it just-won't-let-you. Continue reading for all of the details in our full New Gundam Breaker review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Bandai Namco
  • Developer: Bandai Namco
  • ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
  • Genre: Action
  • Pros: Loads of Gundams to build!; fun gameplay; nice presentation
  • Cons: Story font is hard to read; sluggish performance; laggy menus
  • MSRP: $60 
Buy New Gundam
Breaker at
One thing I want to say to start is that I haven't ever played a Gundam Breaker game before this so I have no idea what previous games allegedly do better. Even though you can import previous games from Japan, and importing is easier these days than ever, it isn't really something most people bother with so cluttering up a review of this game with "Old games you'll never play are better than this one so don't play this one", like so many reviews of New Gundam Breaker have done so far, is kind of pointless and doesn't really help most people who are interested in the game. Certainly, die hard Gundam fans may have imported Gundam Breaker 3, but I'd say the vast majority of mainstream and casual fans are just like me and New Gundam Breaker is going to be their first experience with the series, so I'm going to review the game with that audience in mind.

The main single-player mode in New Gundam Breaker takes place at a school full of Gunpla otaku who build plastic models and fight for supremacy. It plays out like a visual novel where you read a lot of text, occasionally make decisions (which usually come down to which of the many girls who are inexplicably attracted to your transfer student character you want to go after), and duke it out with the Student Council for control of the school. It is typical anime schlock, but it's kind of interesting to combine something as geeky as Gunpla with a waifu dating sim. Unfortunately, the text boxes during the visual novel segments are atrocious and very hard to read. The text needs to be bigger and the horizontal lines in the text box need to go away. I got tired of struggling to read stuff and just started skipping over it.

The meat of the game is building models and then using them in VR combat, of course, and it is fairly solid though there are certainly some issues. First, the good stuff. Building Gundam models is fun as heck and collecting parts and then either building your favorite Gundam or creating a Frankenstein's mosnter of parts from several different units is extremely well done. You can custom paint pretty much every part, too, so you can make a truly customized creation. You can easily spend hours and hours just making new units. Also good is the core gameplay itself. It is a third-person action game where you mash out melee attacks and occasionally use projectiles - it feels very similar to Dynasty Warriors Gundam, actually - and generally plays pretty well. The matches are usually very chaotic as they consist of 3 on 3 team battles between students with potentially dozens of Neutral A.I. forces (cannon fodder) sprinkled in for good measure. It's total chaos and it can be pretty awesome.

There are some weird quirks and design decisions that make it less fun than it could be, however. In order to acquire new parts you have to break them off of enemy units or collect them from chests during missions. What makes it a pain is that you can only carry five parts at a time and if you want to actually keep them when a match is over you have to dump them into your team's collection box that is randomly placed on the battlefield. Collecting parts for a specific mobile suit you want becomes a real grind because of this. Also sort of annoying is that each part has unique skills associated with it, so if you like a specific skill you have to use that particular part even if you don't necessarily like its aesthetics. So in other words you have to decide between battle prowess and actually making your dream Gundam. In another strange decision, the skills you can use during battle unlock randomly over the course of a match so you have to hope that the skill you need or want at a given time actually unlocks when you need it.

This all adds up to a game that makes you work too hard to actually enjoy it. The core gameplay is fun enough, but the limitations on collecting pieces, combat skills, and actually using skills in battle sort of sucks the joy out of it. You do get used to the game's rhythms after a while and it can certainly still be fun, but it is clear it could be better.
Another much bigger issue with New Gundam Breaker is that it has absolutely abysmal performance. It has massive framerate fluctuations during combat and even the menus are stunningly slow and just chug along to the point you'll think the game totally froze. It hasn't actually ever frozen on me, thankfully, but it wouldn't surprise me if it did. The sluggish menus make the customization process more of a pain than it should be.

The presentation in the game is quite nice overall with very detailed Gundam models obviously being the stars of the show. Since you are essentially playing with toys the battlefields are mostly in life sized club rooms and hobby shops (with some other scale model locales thrown in, too), which is very cool. The scale of these relatively tiny models in the big life sized rooms is very well done. The different sizes between the different classes of models is awesome as well. The sound is also well done overall with solid sound effects, Japanese voice acting, and catchy battle music. It's too bad about the awful text boxes in the visual novel segments and absurdly poor framerate.

All in all, New Gundam Breaker is pretty disappointing when it's all said and done. The core gameplay is OK and building your Gunpla is well done, but actually collecting parts is a total grind and using their associated skills in combat is a mess. Add the performance issues on top and you have a game that just feels half baked and disappointing. I can't recommend New Gundam Breaker at the full $60 MSRP, but it'll get more tempting as the price drops. Or maybe it really is time to consider importing Gundam Breaker 3 instead.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.