Yet another Bandai Playstation game based on the sci-fi anime series, Mobile Suit: Z-Gundam is a 3-D mech action-shooter/fighting game that can best be described as "Virtual On in space." The game contains two discs, each packed with different missions and cinemas that also can be used for link play (extra playstation, television, and link cable are not included).
Story Mode consists of a series of different missions interspersed with spectacular anime and cg fmvs. Once a cinema is viewed it is playable in Theatre Mode and can be saved to a memory card. While most of the missions are strictly one-on-one mech fighting, some of the battles are against spaceships and a few take place while riding a hover board or straddling a rocket. A Mobile Suit is provided at the start of each mission but different weapons are selectable including beam rifles and bazookas. Special attacks can also be performed such as triple fires and machine guns. Most of the weapons automatically lock-on when the opponent is within range. Tap the burnier and the Mobile Suit thrusts forward or away from the enemy but use it too much and the engine will overheat (a Burnier power bar is displayed onscreen). Each mech also has a shield which can be used to deflect long and short range weapon blasts.
The war takes place in space, on the surface of the moon, and across different parts of a certain blue and green planet. One of the best settings is at Cape Canaveral in which you can battle around a space shuttle. Another cool stage takes place in a city with destroyable buildings.
The gameplay is wickedly fast and furious. The Mobile Suits have 360 degree movement on the large battlefields although the controls demand some practice in order to master. Z-Gundam supports the dual analog controller (only in the green mode) and the analog joysticks (if you're lucky enough to find one) but can be very frustrating with just the standard digital pad.
Pure arcade fighting action can be found in the Vs. Mode. Players have the choice of sixteen characters and twenty Mobile Suits after finishing the Story Mode on each disc (the bosses are only selectable after completing Vs. Mode with different characters). Unfortunately, aside from Link Mode, there are no two player battles. The second disc also contains a Gundam Viewer Mode which offers stats and specifications for each of the unlocked Mobile Suits.
In-game graphics are impressive; all textured polygons, sharp light sourcing effects and eye-candy explosions. When wounded, affected parts break off including arms, legs, and heads. There is no visible clipping or slowdown along with very little loading time. The sound is also first-rate and the music is very theatrical and rousing (although it tends to become a bit repetitive).
No Japanese is needed to play the game (all of the menus are in English) but the cinemas are sadly not subtitled. Although one may not know exactly what is going on during the fmvs they are still thrilling none the less (even better than the anime contained in the Ghost in the Shell game). Perhaps they might make more sense for those familiar with the Gundam manga. All in all, Bandai has finally delivered an awesome Gundam game that offers many hours of replayability.
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