I’m not the biggest fan of Mecha’s or Gundam, but I appreciate an S.D. game (I’ll explain in a bit). I’m probably one who dropped Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann or did not watch a lot of Gundam, Neon Genesis, or other Mecha-esque anime. The only one that will always hold a special place in my heart is Code Geass. So why am I doing this review? Well, as I said, I like S.D. stuff.
SD or Super Deformed is probably not a term you often hear. However, if I mention the word Chibi (ちび or チビ), that perhaps does ring a bell. Chibi is a Japanese slang word describing something or someone short. It comes from the verb 禿びる (chibiru), which means ‘to wear out and become shorter’ (the tip of something). The term is widely used in Japan to describe a caricature style capture where characters are exaggerated. Typically, these characters minor small and chubby with stubby limbs and oversized heads. This style, also known as super-deformed (shorthanded as S.D.), has since found its way into anime and manga fandom through its usage in manga works. Chibi can be translated as ‘little’ (e.g., Chibi Maruko-chan, which means Little Miss Maruko), but it is not used the same way as chiisana [小さな] and chiisai [小さい] (‘tiny,’ ‘small,’ ‘little’ in Japanese), but rather ‘cute’. And I usually laugh my butt off when I see S.D. Gundams, or S.D. Dark Souls stuff – so when a game about deformed Gundams made its way into our inbox, I was all over it.
And it’s developed by Artdink; sadly for the fans of the genre, it isn’t anything like Gundam Battle Universe. What you’re getting for your money is repetitive, questionably designed; beat them up with S.D. Gundams. You get new mobile suits by collecting blueprints that are dropped by completing certain levels. Sometimes you have to replay a level a few times to get signs of progress. But as the game progresses, the enemies become more robust, and you’re expected to level up your mobile suits. But every time you get a new mobile suit, it starts at level one. That means you can’t use it in the levels you haven’t played yet, as it will absolutely get destroyed or take forever to kill anything. Instead, you have to replay levels to grind for money until you can afford to level them up enough to use them. This means many players will stick to mobile suits they got early on instead of bothering with them. It sometimes felt a bit like a Musou game, with… Gundam elements.
The story takes place in G: Universe, a world where Gundam canon twists and turns in ways no one can predict. To correct this world’s distorted history, the player leads a 3-unit squadron consisting of Mobile Suits and pilots from across Gundam history – an actual Battle Alliance. I won’t spoil too much of the story since that’s probably the one part of the game that makes it worthwhile (it’s decent and feels like a standard mobile suit anime). SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE offers you three types of mobile suits: melee fighters ranged fighters, and balanced fighters. Unfortunately, the ranged attacks mostly suck. You get five or six shots for your main ranged attack before you run out and have to wait for a lengthy reload. Some skills operate on another cooldown, but they take so long that you’ll predominately be doing damage with your melee attacks, which makes the ranged and all-rounder mobile suits practically worthless next to the melee ones. As for melee, attacks use up your boost gauge, interrupting your combos’ flow.
So, as I mentioned, this game looks and plays like a musou, but combat-wise, it’s pretty different in terms of quality. The combat is decent, but there’s a delay on everything that makes it feel like you’re queuing up attacks instead of having precise control. The levels are mostly short and pretty bland. You go in, kill some fodder that mainly stands around, and then a boss enemy drops. The bosses are primarily unfinishable unless you put them in a break state, which means you have to walk up and mash buttons to hurt them. But they have a massive amount of health, and even if your mobile suits are leveled up, they can kill you in a couple of hits – which makes the game pretty hard for what it offers its players.
Since your attacks don’t flinch them, they can attack you anytime during your combos. Of course, you can dodge or guard to prevent this. Still, your partners will be hitting them, which creates visual effects that obscure their character models, which makes it borderline impossible to watch what they’re doing, so you can mostly forget about using your guard and dodges to get out of the way, as you won’t usually be able to see through the explosions and beam shots. Instead, I found myself flying, hovering around for most of the boss battles, and clinging to my life bar.
Luckily you can share your discomfort with a friend since the game has an option to tackle missions with friends in multiplayer! – Launch into battle with two partners to back you up. In multiplayer, you can play through the game with up to 2 other players in a 3-person team. I highly recommend playing it with friends after Chapter 5; trust me – it stopped being fun for me from there on (solo).
I think I’m not the right audience for this game; SD GUNDAM BATTLE ALLIANCE is one for those fans who build Gunpla and watch Gundam on a rainy afternoon. They will probably not mind the grind since they are grinding for their favorite Gundam. But if you look past the suits, you keep a barebones grind fest with bugs. Yes, I know they are being fixed by Bandai because they always will – but still – it is not the game I hoped to see in 2022; the whole game felt more like a blast from the past, even with the entire S.D. format. My advice? Wait for a sale/price-drop, or buy this one if you wake up underneath Gundam bedlinen (I don’t judge).