Gundam SEED: Battle Assault
Gundam. For anime fans, that name should conjure up images of massive robots decked out with laser cannons and energy blades. Since its inception in 1979, the franchise has spawned multiple series featuring these hulking mechs and lives of their pilots. Gundam SEED follows in the tradition of its predecessors by portraying an ongoing struggle between the Earth’s military alliance and ZAFT, a group comprised of the united space colonies. This series focuses more on the issues of genetic engineering, from the moral aspects to its impact on mankind. With such conflicts on the rise, it doesn’t take long for both societies to unleash their respective Gundams and start an interstellar war.
At least, that’s what the anime is all about. You won’t get to see any of the cool stuff in Gundam SEED: Battle Assault; instead of watching the plot develop and the characters grow, you’ll only get to choose among a handful of mechs (plus a few unlockable ones via an outdated password system) and have them battle each other in Street Fighter 2-esque fights. Sure, there will be some dialogue between each fight, but these two-lined discussions don’t give much insight into the pilots’ personalities or motivations. You’ll get to view heated exchanges like “Let me see how well you fight! Okay!” or “Don’t go easy on me! That was a close one!” You’ll never figure out who is fighting for the different armies, let alone any of the story elements that made the game’s parent series so intriguing.
You’ll probably be too busy kicking the other Gundams’ asses to care, however. Battle Assault pits you against the rest of the main characters from the series, each with their own powerful mech at their disposal. You’ll get to choose among robots equipped with varying attack ranges, an assortment of laser cannons, giant light-sabers, and a few other surprises. Despite the array of futuristic weapons, the Gundams clash in the style of so many other 2D fighters. A quick button command can summon a laser blast, while others can perform multiple sword slash combos and spray a few bullets into an opponent’s armored hide. Even the oversized guns can be used as blunt objects if you get close enough to your enemies. These robots may be towering hunks of metal, but their speed and agility defeats any semblance of physics.
Unfortunately, none these aspects make the game particularly deep. Much of Battle Assault’s gameplay merely involves button mashing your way through fights; you can easily dominate your enemies by backing them into a corner and laser-spamming them into submission. A health bar-shattering 11-hit attack should require some effort, not holding back on the directional pad and pressing the attack button for all you’re worth. Since the majority of the special attacks can be performed so easily, there’s never a need for timing or strategy. The game tries to provide some variation by allowing you to add points to a Gundam’s attack, defense, and agility stats. Unless you use all the points to maximize health, the differences are so insignificant to make any impact on the gameplay. The only truly interesting things are the Gundams’ super moves, which allow you to unload a barrage of cannon fire, smash your foe into the nearest corner, and a few other brutal assaults once per match. The problem is that these one-time attacks can be avoided by blocking; you’d think that getting crushed into a wall, slashed twenty times, and getting roasted by a highly-powered laser beam would put a dent in an enemy’s armor (let alone their health bar), but they’re annoyingly resilient.
Assuming that you actually want to keep playing this mindless button masher, the game provides a few extra gameplay modes to chew on. If you actually find another gamer willing to admit to owning this game, you’ll be able to link up for a little multiplayer action. There’s also a Training Mode, but the simplistic controls ensure that you’ll never need it. The only remotely interesting features are the Survival and Time Attack modes, which test your ability to quickly take down as many enemies as possible while not getting knocked out. Of course, allowing you to maximize your Gundam’s stats makes the challenges pathetically easy at best. Unless you happen to really enjoy the broken gameplay, there’s nothing to keep you coming back for more.
Unless you’re a hardcore Gundam SEED fan, anyway. The game features the cast of the show via mug shots during the conversations, so all you’ll get to see are some bland uniforms, overly large anime eyes, and differently colored hairdos. You’ll be fighting in various locales, like top of some ship drifting toward Earth, along the banks of some random lake in Alaska, or the mangled ruins of some godforsaken space station. The real detail is focused with the Gundams; you’ll be able to see spiky red armor decorating the Aegis, the brightly colored shield on the Strike, or the razor-sharp scythe that the Forbidden wields. There are other little details like the smooth attack animations and the sound of laser blasts sizzling against the metal, but the character models are far too grainy and blurry to do them any justice.
It’s a shame, really. The thought of turning epic Gundam combat into a fighting game is quite awesome, but Battle Assault falls far short of its potential. The story and characters are almost non-existent, giving you a game with little personality. The basic gameplay is based upon what countless other 2D fighters have featured. The fast-paced combos and intense combat are befitting of the game’s anime counterpart. However, the simple controls, easily abusable moves, and utterly broken gameplay turn what could have been a decent fighting game into a pathetic button mashing exercise. For shame, Bandai. You can do better.