Maybe it was a sign of things to come, because at first, SD Gundam G Generations Cross Rays was announced for Asia only, with a SEA version with English support, cut to some time later and here it is on the west and in Steam too. A bit more time later and Super Robot Wars 30 would get a worldwide release, which was an even bigger surprise. And who knows, maybe my hopes for Idolmaster Starlit Stage (which is available on Steam, but region locked… so close… but so far…) might come true one day…
But why all of this was such a huge surprise? For a long time, many of the game of both series were sort region locked and mostly for console only. I don’t exactly why, but I suspect that licenses play a huge role.
With that all said, what is SD Gundam G Generations? It is a classic franchise of turn based tactics game, featuring characters from Gundam in SD (Super Deformed) style.
Now, there are several games in this series, but they can be sort split in two groups, the “Historical”, which feature retelling of the featured shows and the “Crossovers”, which as the name implies, feature several characters in an original story. Despite the name of “Cross Rays”, is among the “Historical” ones, for both the good and the bad. Meaning that it feature several retelling of the featured shows, but no actual interactions between them.
The best you get, in terms of “interactions” is the ability to form what the game call “Sortie teams” which you can use in missions alongside what characters featured in that campaign. You can form up to four teams (but during missions, you can only bring two), in either a “Warship Group”, which much as the name implies, is around a warship plus up to eight (or nine?) Mobile Suits or a “Raid Group”, which can have up to eight Mobile Suits.
The main difference being, that in a Warship Group, Mobile Suits can retreat to recover HP and EN, and the ship can perform an all out attack, with all MS around it. Meanwhile, in the Raid Group, units can recover HP and EN is they stay near each other and any of them and can also perform an all out attack with all units.
Forming and customizing those teams is a big part of the game, as you can select both pilots (and crew for warships) even create your own custom character, customize their abilities, select their music themes, and of course, their current MS and customize them too by adding add-ons and even selecting the soundtrack which plays during combats.
Between the several Gundam shows featured in the game and DLCs you have a ton of pilots and MS and Warships to mix in, some pilots might even have unique voice lines when using weapons of certain MS, which can be a bit amusing, seeing pilots from other series using stuff from completely different shows.
As one expect, battles are fought in a turn based tactics style, with usually the player (with the MS of the actual campaign and stage, plus, if possible, Sortie Teams) versus an enemy team or more.
Overall, the structure is pretty standard for the genre and franchise, you have an energy bar, which depletes as you use weapons, which is a curious feature, because in one hand, energy management is an issue in early parts of the game, where you likely be trying to bring MS back and forth from the Warship, but as you soon as you unlock MS with energy regeneration abilities or add-ons which do that, this become less and less an issue because lots of MS of certain shows have it, plus the ability to enhance said MS increasing their maximum energy, making the feature feel null.
The game sort features a permadeath, not for pilots, but for MS, if you lose one during battle, you have to produce it again (or choose a new one) later, but this is quite rare to happen, due to the low difficult, also in most stages you can’t lose a single MS of the main characters (but the Sorties can be lost).
There are two interesting game mechanics which are sort of tied together, one is the ability to move again once you defeat an enemy (to a maximum of three movements in the same turn) and Morale, as MS defeat enemies or dodge attacks, it gains morale, going from High Tension to Super High Tension, making attacks begin either critical or super critical, also some weapons and quest require certain levels of Morale to work.
As you can see, this often ties together with the continuous movement, this is often crucial to finish some stage which feature a turn limit.
In some stage you likely have some MS and Warships, that you can unlock as you fill a progress bar by defeating enemies using them. In general, maps feature enough enemies to do it, but you got to watch out to overuse the Sortie team, since they can eat up enemies which you might need to unlock something. Thankfully, the progress bar carries between missions, but I think, there might be cases which you don’t get access again to MS or Warship in every stage, so you might get only one or two chances.
The game feature several campaigns, for Gundam Wing, Gundam Wing Endless Waltz, Gundam: Last Outpost (G Unit), Gundam Seed, Gundam Seed Astray, Gundam Seed X Astray, Gundam Seed Destiny, , Gundam Seed C.E. 73: Stargazer, Gundam 00, Gundam 00F, Gundam 00 The Movie: Awekening of the Trailblazer, Gundam Iron-Blooded Oprhans, Gundam Iron-Bloods Orphans - Steel Moon.
At that is just the campaigns, the game feature way more shows in form of MS, Pilots and Music! Not to mention the DLC!Just the main game might have stuff from around 32 Gundam related series. But back on the topic, each campaign is split in several stages.
While it is a lot, they all are just retelling of the said shows, sometimes in a bit of rushed fashion, which can feel like an abridged version by means of a lot of dialogue cutscenes, before, during and after the said stages.
It is a strange design decision, due to the game limitations, for people familiar with it means that scenes might look strange or simple lose original impact, to those new, I don’t know if it does a good job and in the end it spoils their ending. That said, as recaps, they do their job, but I feel that while Orphans’s campaign feels as the best recap, the other feel both too long and too rushed at the same time. Also, it makes the game feel way longer they should, but we will talk about the stages later…
If the campaigns follow their show plot line, you might wonder where the Sorties team enter? Well, in some stage you can simply bring them, there is no explanation or interaction, they are just there…
So, how stages work?
Now, each stage in a campaign, feature a main objective and a special challenge, which will be the most source of challenge through the game, and are overall well-designed, requiring often careful use of turns, but in an organic way, that never feels like a bad puzzle with a fixed solution, you might have very few turns to do something, but the ways are multiple. That said, many maps boil down to “defeat all enemies” most times.
However, less clear are the Quests, they often reward you with new pilots, MS and add-ons, now there are several types of them, some just involve finishing a certain stage, produce this or that MS or other thing, most of these are fine and could be finished in an organic way.
But on the other side, a handful of them require to “reproduce” in iconic scene from the featured show in campaign, like pick this MS with this pilot and fight that other guy over there, often down to a number of rounds. This begins way less clear, and adding your own Sorties and the very chaos of the game, can be, without checking before, very easy to miss, meaning have to do the whole map again, which can be a bit of an issue. Other quests might involve using a certain ability with the moral level at a certain point.
Problem is, Quests are slightly hidden in the UI, you can either check them in the main menu, or by looking inside the menu List during battles, something which I figured out very late…
Now, what I feel might be the largest issue is that stages can be way too long, but not really challenging, doing several of them in a row can make the game feel repetitive, sometimes adding to the time, a stage can be split in several ways:
First a stage might feature two maps, like one in ground and one in air or space, second, it might also be split in actual two different parts (divided by cutscene), one which you can’t use Sorties and one which you can. Each part can often feature several enemies, plus more that might appear either because you filled the Special Challenge or because of the stage design, meaning that battles can go on for a while, since you have often tons of MS/Warship in one side, against a ton of enemies in the other.
While maps aren’t too large, due to the game turn structure where you move everything and then the opponent move everything, added that whenever you are attacked you can either, counter, defend or evade, plus certain effect taking place, such as EN or HP regeneration playing out for each unit which feature them, can make the turns very long.
On the subject of the actual challenge and difficult, it is very curious, early on, when you like be limited to the starting character the game give you for Sorties and some MS, plus whatever the campaign offer, the game can feel it offer a good challenge, but soon as you start to progress, it gets easier and easier, because while enemies might scale in very limited way, between stages and difficult levels, they won’t catch up to your sorties teams, meaning that soon you will have pilots and MS one shooting things even in hard difficult. Ah, one thing I most forget, higher difficult do give make certain enemies drop different special abilities.
During battles, AI appear, even on hard, to be a bit passive, it sorts stand there, until you come close enough, meaning that most times, you can attack enemy at piecemeal overwhelming them.
As I said above, each scenario features a single mission and the special challenge, that when you fulfill, the game will spawn more enemy units (or move a unit away), this sometimes can be a bit annoying, because they can appear at a place, which unless you know beforehand, can result in losing the scenario, specially in maps which involve defending something.
In fact, there are a handful of stages, this can become quite an issue, specially in some maps that might feature a sort of ally controlled AI which you have to defend.
During the Gundam Seed campaign, there is one mission, where you need to guide Archangel (Warship) to a point under a certain number of turns. Problem is that during this mission, there will be two other allied warships around controlled by the AI, and they often can block your way, making it impossible to reach the point…
Meanwhile, in the Gundam 00 campaign, you have to defend four transport ships which are controlled by the AI, which have to reach a point in the map under 7 turn and not a single one can die.But, in this map, you will only have Ptolemy (warship) and the four MS of the story against several enemies, plus more which spawn, once the first ship hit the key point. Problems begin, that the transport ship have a very limited movement range and while they have enough to reach the point under the turn limit, you have no control over them, meaning they will make their patch toward the point, ignoring enemy MS in the way.
All you need to lose the scenario is maybe between to three attacks against a single transport ship, meanwhile your MS will spread around the map, each one likely need at least two turns to fully destroy a enemy MS (or maybe a support attack, if that is available or a high level of morale).
But once that is done, then you go to the next part of the stage, which somehow worst, because of a single thing: While the stage is pretty standard, just defeat all enemies and the Memento Mori, problem is that the special challenge is about making Ptolemy be the one which kills Memento Mori in less than seven turns…
First problem, remember, Ptolemy is a warship not MS, meaning isn’t that strong, also it don’t move very far. Also Warships don´t get the extra movement from defeating enemies.
Second, Memento Mori, just stand there and does not attack, meaning you can’t count on it attacking you and during the counter-attack you destroy it.
Third, you have to use all your movement to get close to it, and you will reach it only in the exactly last turn, and even so, only one of your weapons will be able to reach Memento Mori, meaning that you have no room for error, and also you need to carefully damage Memento Mori before, to almost zero HP and hope that Ptolemy Missile Barrage (your only weapon with enough reach) can finish it.
In my first try, I had to give up, because Memento Mori had almost no HP, but it was way more that the Ptolemy could do of damage, and remember, it was the last turn, so no second chances, I could not use any MS to damage it a bit more, because all then caused too much damage and killing it.
I had to do the second part of the stage again, thankfully I had a save at the first turn of the part, carefully damage it and then got it destroyed by Ptolemy.
One really strange feature is the Dispatches Missions, which despite the name suggest isn’t really missions, but instead you can send Sorties Teams away for a period in real time (during which you can’t use them while playing), after which they might gain XP, credits, music, abilities, MS and add-ons, the rate depends on how the Sortie team send way is formed, because each mission might have some requirements in format (Warship or Raid), add-ons or special abilities, MS.
The way DLC add new content is by adding those Dispatch Missions, except in this, there is a progression bar, which fills up as you do it, again the rate depend on the Sortie Teams formations and requirement, as you reach certain levels you unlock the rewards.
Now I know that as you read this you might expect here begin the part where I tell you, about some microtransaction or monetization to speed up the process, but let me tell you, there is none.
No, the game even gives you away a special item which speed up the process, you’re likely to have a ton of them, which make the whole thing even more weird. Maybe the idea was just having a feature where your character can gain rewards and level up outside of playing in campaigns, while you are not playing the game, because this will be your main source for credits to produce some of the more costly MS and warships.
Anyway, here a curious effect take place, as you need to send away teams several times to unlock everything in a DLC, you will likely over level your pilots and MS.
Since I mentioned, while you can customize your character, MS and warships, by either spending credits to improve them, adding add-ons or skills, the more you play and do dispatch missions, you quickly reach a point, there they don’t matter at all, and while you might possess a ton of them that might simply forget to add them at all… In fact, the UI for choosing abilities for characters is a bit awkward to use, since you likely have a ton of them in different levels, but no way to search or filter.
DLCs, Expansion and Season Pass.
As a bonus, I might try to explain how they work, because in first glance, it can be confusing:
Expansion Pack: This one add a new difficult level (Hell and Inferno), some new Pilots and MS (both from the G Generations), some Add-ons, Abilities, Quest and Dispatch Missions.
Also, it adds five new scenarios, which aren’t in the Historical angle, but a very budget like Crossover, meaning you got to see a very lightly interaction with the characters, like in one, which some characters from Gundam Wing appear in G Unit map. But some maps are just reused from the campaign, with some different objectives, like you have to defend against waves of enemies (which can make the stage, which often already feel too long, even more long).
The higher difficulty don’t feel worth, as they can make stage, again, too long…
Season Pass: It features all the four individual Dispatch Mission Set DLCs, where each one add a handful of characters, MS and Music. Despite the fact, that Dispatch Missions, aren’t missions at all, theses DLCSs are the best, meaning you got at least new stuff to use in Sorties. Season Pass also give you some bonus stuff, which you get instead of buying each set individually.
Now, Season Pass don’t include Expansion Pack and vice-versa, and the Expansion Pack isn’t part of the Deluxe Edition.
In the End
While the mix and match of pilots, MS and Warships, plus the animations and music and some of the stages, make for an enjoyable experience, while the game feature lots of campaigns, begin this a “historical” game, they are ok recaps, often too long, which I admit by the end, left me a bit exhausted.
It is a bit hard to exactly recommend this game, but don’t get me wrong, this is a very good game, you can tell that it was like a lot of work to get it done (specially when you notice the huge cast for VA needed), but I personally feel would enjoy it more, if instead was one of the “crossover” game, because just a recap with some tactical battles between, which often drag for too long can make the game feel, like I said above, exhausting.