Otaku Obsession: Gundam SEED - Never-ending Tomorrow PS2 review

Originally posted to MAHQ.net on 12/18/2005

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Never Ending Tomorrow is the latest Gundam game to hit the U.S. Released in Japan in 2004, the game is modeled after 2003's Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space, but unfortunately it isn't as good as that game. Where EiS was exclusively space-based, NET features ground, water and space environments. Like EiS, it's divided into several game types: Story Mode, Mission, Versus and Survival. The main part of the game is Story Mode, which is divided into two parts: Kira Yamato and Athrun Zala. You play the story of the series through their eyes, but it's largely the same story. Athrun's mode is actually a bit shorter than Kira's, mainly because he participated in less battles in the show. Mission mode allows you to control other pilots from the series like Rau Le Creuset, along with MSV characters like Edward Harrelson and ASTRAY characters like Lowe Guele. Mission mode's roster of pilots and mobile suits is impressive, but unfortunately each character only has a single mission. Versus mode is exactly what the name implies, and Survival is divided into three classes: Sudden Death, Ace and Time Trial.

Gameplay is roughly along the lines of what you'd expect from a Gundam action title. You're in a third person view, and using your mobile suit of choice you attack your enemies with either a melee or long range weapon. You can also use limited special attacks, and there are several boosts available. You have a tension meter that fills throughout the level, and when it reaches full, you go into SEED mode and briefly power-up. You also have boosts available to you from your partner, which can be used with the R3 button. Boosts vary depending on the partner you pick before each level - some replenish your health, some attack enemies and some increase your offense/defense. The more you use partners, the more you can level them up and earn new skills. There's all sorts of meters and gauges on screen, and it's frankly a bit too busy. For example, on the upper right hand corner of the screen there's a large portrait of your partner. You've also got a large targeting zone in front of you, as well as a movement sphere below you and radar to your lower left. If the busy gauges don't bother you, the hyper active camera will. Oftentimes, when you're in the middle of engaging an enemy, the camera will start moving around all over the place. Sometimes it will swing behind your enemy, or below you, or somewhere else entirely. Also, if you move around a bit, your roving lock-on will switch targets even if you don't want it to. This can be a problem if you're in the middle of fighting a boss and some stupid grunt just wanders in and attacks you.

Graphically, the game doesn't impress much. If you're expecting something like God of War or Metal Gear Solid 3, you're not going to find it with NET. While mobile suits are fairly detailed, backgrounds range from medium to disgusting. The ground-based environments are the worst: they lack detail and look like one or two textures repeated over and over. On the sound front, things are a bit of a mixed bag. The game is dubbed in English and features the same voice actors from the TV show. Some characters are voiced very well, such as Rau Le Creuset, but some sound a bit off, like Elijah Kiel or the Earth Alliance's three Extended pilots. As far as the music goes, there have been some changes from the original Japanese release. TM Revolution's "Zips," which played during the Mission Mode anime intro, has been replaced with some rock instrumental. Music from the TV series has been replaced... with music from the 1999 Sega Dreamcast game Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes.

Like many other Gundam games, there are extras and unlockables that add to the replay value. You earn points in each level based on your performance, and these points function as currency in a shop. You can purchase new mobile suits, new characters to serve as pilots/partners and extras such as a comprehensive SEED encyclopedia. The game also features about 40 minutes of anime cut scenes, which can be viewed individually after they are unlocked. Most just come from the TV series directly, but there are a few new scenes that aren't in the series at all. Also of note is a nice MSV opening sequence that features the entire cast of ASTRAY and MSV. The game also opens with a CG movie depicting several scenes from the series, such as Kira's final battle with Athrun and his showdown with Rau in front of GENESIS.

At the end of the day, NET is a game with some serious flaws that is by no means broken or unplayable. The erratic camera is probably the game's biggest problem. They gameplay also doesn't do anything you haven't seen before in other Gundam games. Your enjoyment of this game will probably depend on how big a fan you are of SEED. When you've already seen the series, you can enjoy certain aspects of the game, such as using Freedom Gundam's HiMAT spam attacks. The large selection of anime cut scenes, the encyclopedia and the voice sampler will draw in fans who really enjoy the series. It seems that this game is trying to capture the gameplay of Konami's Zone of the Enders series, but it doesn't compare even to the original 2001 game. ZOE sets a standard for fast-paced, frantic, well-animated mecha combat that Gundam has yet to match. If you're looking for a solid Gundam arcade action title, I'd recommend Gundam vs Zeta Gundam or EiS. For all but the most devoted of SEED fans, NET is definitely a "try before you buy" type of game.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars