The newest Gundam game in America is the first to focus on the UC chronology since 2003's Encounters in Space. Developed by Capcom, this game is an upgraded version of AEUG vs Titans, the sequel to 2002's Federation vs Zeon. If you've played Federation vs Zeon on Dreamcast or PS2, you'll feel right at home with this game. In essence, the game is more of a mission pack to the original rather than an entirely new product, but that's not to say it doesn't offer new content.
Gameplay wise, there are a couple of new features. First and most obvious is transformable mobile suits. Mobile suits such as the Zeta Gundam, Gabthley, Methuss, etc can all transform into a high speed mobile armor mode. This is accomplished by pressing X and then double tapping forward on the left control stick. Unfortunately, you can only stay in mobile armor mode as long as your boost gauge lasts. It would've been nice to be able to stay in mobile armor mode as long as you want, but it's still an interesting mechanic even with that limitation. You can move at high speed in mobile armor form, which comes in handy when attacking from above or when escaping from an opponent. Another new feature is the Awakening system. Similar to a power gauge in a fighting game, a bar fills up as you inflict and receive damage. When it is full, you can use one of three special abilities that you choose before the stage begins. Assault increases the power of your weapons; Recover restores energy when your armor is reduced to 0; Mobility gives you extra speed. The game advertises over 50 mobile suits. These mobile suits cover the One Year War and Gryps War eras, but there's also bonus unlockables such as the ZZ Gundam and Qubeley Mk II.
There are several gameplay modes to choose from. Arcade is identical to Federation vs Zeon, with several routes to choose from, mixing ground and space missions. There's also Universal Century mode, which allows you to play as characters from the AEUG, Titans or Axis. In this mode, you follow the story of a character from a TV series, but in certain missions you can change their fate and have them live and participate in new missions. Battle points earned in previous levels allow you to upgrade your mobile suit to new levels of power. There's also a two player Versus mode, which is quite fun, especially if you choose weird opponents. Bizarre combinations such as G-Fighter vs Guntank, or Ball vs The O provide for interesting challenges. There's also a Survival and Training mode, which are exactly what their names imply. The game controls are unchanged from the previous game. You can boost, fire a beam weapon, use a beam saber or sub weapon such as vulcans and missiles.
A Gallery gives you extra incentive to play the game over and over again. In each level, be it Arcade, Vs or UC mode, you earn points which can be exchanged for items in the gallery. These items include new mobile suits, background music, illustrations, videos and new gameplay modes. In the Gallery, you can read information about mobile suits and examine them from all angles. You can also read brief bios on the characters and hear samples of their battle dialogue.
Graphically, nothing has changed between games. All the levels returning from Federation vs Zeon look the same. The terrain in the new Zeta levels is similar to the first game, and some of the city building textures are a bit lacking in detail. However, the backgrounds stand out when you're reenacting scenes from the TV series, such as fighting the Psyco Gundam at night in Hong Kong or dueling with Paptimus Scirocco and Haman Karn in the Gryps colony laser.
As far as sound goes, all the music and sound effects come directly from the TV series. The original music and effects definitely add to the atmosphere, making it feel as though you are playing the show. The dialogue is English dubbed, and all the voices are provided by the same actors at Blue Water who dubbed the TV series. If you enjoy the dub of the TV show, everyone will sound exactly the same.
Overall, Gundam vs Zeta Gundam builds on the gameplay from Federation vs Zeon, while offering new features. The transformable mobile suits provide for new variations in gameplay, and the Awakening system can boost your offensive power or save your life in a pinch. The unlockables in the Gallery provide an incentive to play the game once you've initially beaten the Arcade and UC modes. If you never played the earlier game, this game combines the best of Federation vs Zeon and AEUG vs Titans. Even if you do own Federation vs Zeon, Gundam vs Zeta Gundam includes enough new suits and features to justify the upgrade.Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars