It is a rare thing that Gundam games get localized for North America. The series is ball-bustingly popular in Japan but compared to the likes of a Dragonball Z, Naruto or Bleach, the Gundam multiverse is a niche market in America. Being that I go through phases where I get insanely into something, I was itching to get my hands on a Gundam game. In my research, I came across Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire. Reading most people's take on the 7 year old launch title, I definitely thought it wasn't worth upwards of the $80 asking price I was seeing on some sites. It was a rare find, but I found it used at a local GameStop for $7. I figured for that price, it was worth a try. While by no means is it game of the year material, it is not nearly as bad as most reviewers in America made it seem to be. The game is set in the latter months of the original Mobile Suit Gundam's fabled One Year War. You have the choice of playing on the side of the Earth Federation Special Forces as the officer of the newly formed Mobile Suit Test Team, or on the side of the nefarious Principality of Zeon as a non-commissioned officer of the rebel forces in the land masses surrounding the Indian Ocean. The game takes place over the course of three months as the war nears it's end, and you choose the tide of battle on Earth as the events of the manga/anime take place in space.
Many reviewers complained about the graphics of the game and said that it wasn't a major improvement compared to the PS2, but praised the amount of insane detail that went into the suits themselves. I'm not typically a graphics whore, and saw nothing wrong with them aside from the water animations being a little funky. I can see where many would say that the graphics weren't great because of the backgrounds, but I felt that they were still an improvement over what the PS2 offered. The framerate even with a Blu-Ray disc that was in great condition and a damn near brand new PS3 slim chugged quite a bit when things got busy. I was amazed at how much detail went into the giant mechs themselves. Very minute details can be noticed by fans of the series and it makes for a bit of a fangasm, but don't go into this game in the present day expecting to be wowed.
One of the biggest drawbacks of this game is the movement and combat. They are EXTREMELY clunky and slow. It might be to give the player the idea that they are simply are normal human pilots as opposed to Newtypes (In the Mobile Suit Gundam universe, Newtypes are humans who have achieved a higher state of sense or consciousness allowing them super-human battle prowess). I would routinely either get ambushed by or ambush an enemy AI with a melee attack that would easily hack off one of my suit's limbs or vice-versa. The camera also had a tendency to not cooperate when in sniping mode for long-range units that I would use. Once I got used to the controls of the game, this happened a lot less, but it took until about halfway through my playthrough of the Earth Federation campaign to get the hang of it. Once you are used to the lock-on system, combat becomes much easier.
Speaking of AI, the AI in this game is either poised for lethal efficiency or stopping to watch a flower sway in the breeze when the enemy is shooting lasers through your cockpit. When I say AI, I mean friendly and enemy AI. There were some missions that I would fail simply because my AI partners were busy giving each other high fives and talking about chicks as I was perforated into dust by enemy forces. For the same token, some missions were piss-easy because the enemy was focused on a task like breaching a defensive line and I would creep up on them and hack them to pieces with a few melee attacks.
The coolest part about the game is the wartime progression intermission screens. During the intermission, you can elect to hire new pilots, order new mobile suits, upgrade existing suits or participate in training missions for a little extra money. The suits and pilots you can acquire as the game progresses have higher stats but once you get an "A" team of 2 pilots and "B" team of 2 backup pilots (since you can't bring any more than 2 support units depending on the mission), hiring any more is really not necessary. Since the amount of time and money that you get is finite, you have to choose the mobile suits you buy carefully. The training missions are nice if you want to test out the spiffy new suit you just got but if you're looking to grind money to get the suit you want it is a waste of time. You really test your resource management skills as the game progresses.
Once your intermission is complete, you can choose which missions to undertake and it behooves you to engage as many skirmishes as you can. Skirmishes net you the most money and experience and it will come back to bite you in the ass if you don't elect to undertake these missions. Each mission must be completed by a certain date noted on the mission screen. If the mission is not completed by that date, the mission is stricken from the record and you will be unable to access that engagement. This once again plays into the resource management I mentioned above.
The voice work in the game is competent, which is more than I can say for most games that come out of Japan and are translated to English these days. The music sets a good tone on the menu screens and in battle to give the game a military skirmish-type feel to it.
As a Gundam fan, I felt very attached to the story. Having watched through the original Mobile Suit Gundam and 3 subsequent side-stories, I felt that it was a nice touch that the game recounted events of the manga/anime in real time as you progressed through the storyline. Seeing familiar names pop up like Operation Odessa, The Battle at Solomon, and The Battle of A Baoa Qu was really cool for me, but ultimately mean nothing to someone who is not a fan of the series. Even still, regardless of which side you elect to play on, the ending storyline wise in the Universal Century Gundam timeline remains the same. The endings coincide with events that happen along the U.C. timeline, and you get a cool recap of what you have done along with the events of Mobile Suit Gundam in chronological order once you beat the campaign with a small blurb about your post-war career afterward.
Overall, I give this game a 6.5/10. While I enjoyed the game, afterward I felt a lot like I did after completing The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (which I did not enjoy nearly as much as I did this game by the way). This game had a lot of cool ideas that ultimately ended up as wasted potential. The choppy movement and combat are huge detractors and the game is unforgivingly difficult even at some points on easy mode.
It was really cool for me as a fan to stomp around in a Gundam Ground-Type and Gouf Custom but if you're not already a fan of the franchise this game is just a choppy mess that's best avoided (unless you happen to catch it for $7 and make back 10 times your investment selling it to a Gundam collector).
Game – Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire
Developer – Namco/Bandai
Publisher – Namco/Bandai