Review by Chaytel Solverre
Giren Gets Even Greedier
The most recent entry in the popular Japanese 'Giren no Yabou' series takes everything the previous games did and expands upon them, with a few notable exceptions. Set in the Universal Century timeline of the Gundam franchise, this is a turn based strategy game with a lot to offer fans of the series. Please note that this game is almost entirely in Japanese, and will probably never see a stateside release; you must either be a big fan of Gundam, or understand the Japanese language to fully enjoy this game.
That aside, people who are able to understand what's going on (by knowing Japanese or just recognizing the characters and events from the anime) are in for a treat of a game. The game follows the anime pretty closely, starting with Mobile Suit Gundam, moving through the events of Z Gundam and ZZ Gundam, finally concluding with the Char's Counterattack storyline. Also included are the characters and suits from numerous miniseries. Players drive the story forward as they try and take control of every territory on Earth and the area of outer space immediately surrounding it.
Gameplay consists of a 'Strategy Phase' and an 'Attack Phase' for each faction (of which there are many, some dozen or so in all). Strategy Phase looks a lot like the game Risk, you build your Mobile Suits, tanks, planes, etc. and you deploy them, move them, invest in spying, research new units, enact plans and events, and so forth. When two enemy forces meet the game goes to the Attack Phase, a hex-grid based battle system which looks, feels, and plays like the Super Robot Wars game series. (Another great import title!)
As for the game's scoring, I have broken it into five parts, Gameplay, Replayability, Graphics, Sound, and AI.
A few changes have been made to the gameplay that will confuse returning players. The Diplomacy system has been removed and replaced by, basically, a good/evil slider that opens or closes options for you based on where you currently are on the scale. Aside from this confusing little bit, the game plays much like older titles. For players new to the series, there is a steep learning curve that smooths out more as you play and figure out commands. There are a few naggig flaws in the gameplay, particularly the inability to cancel some actions in the Attack Phase, but this is nothing serious.
This is a hard game, harder than the others that came before it, actually, and that's saying something still. However, the challenge, coupled with so many factions, and hundreds of characters to pilot over 400 different units makes for a game with a lot of replayability. The AI likes to do things a little different each time, so no two games will ever be identical.
The animated cutscenes have been replaced by photo-montage sorts of cutscenes, but this poses no real loss to the game. Unit and character pictures look like they came right out of the anime, and the graphics on the Attack Phase maps are mostly easy to identify and look fine. Battles are animated with neat little scenes showing the two units fighting it out, and though this can get a bit repetitive, it can be skipped.
The game takes a hit here. While there is a nice orchestral soundtrack, the game has no music from the cartoons at all, which hurts the experience a lot. All the weapons sound different from the way they did in the cartoons as well, though the sounds they do make are not bad or annoying. The game has average sound, overall, but why it didn't use the music and sounds of the anime is a mystery.
The AI is generally competent, as far as AI goes. it's hard to exploit it often, and it has the sense to build a superior force before attacking you. The AI can do almost anything you can do but, it's still the AI in a PSP game. It sometimes makes stupid mistakes (letting units run out of fuel, letting you surround it, forgetting to put a reasonable amount of defenders in a territory, etc.) that hurts the score here.
Total Score: 8/10
Kidou Senshi Gundam: Giren no Yabou - Axis no Kyoui is a great game overall, with unlimited replay value and an immersive experience for Gundam fans. It is an improvement of the earlier incarnations in the series, with more of everything, and less of nothing. Overall, a game that came out almost perfect, dragged down only by very forgivable AI flaws and less forgivable poor sound decisions.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Kidou Senshi Gundam: Ghiren no Yabou - Axis no Kyoui (JP, 02/07/08)
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