There are certain franchises in gaming that, when mentioned, usually are accompanied by a roll of the eyes. Not necessarily because the games are bad, but because there seems to be a new one always just around the corner, and it can be a little frustrating to go from sequel to sequel with what is usually only minimal improvements or slight twists on the same old formula. Dynasty Warriors in one such franchise, spawning several games including spin-offs in the forms of Samurai Warriors and the Empires games. Mobile Suit Gundam is quite similar - although not overly popular here in PAL-land, the Gundam games have been a fairly regular occurence over the years over in the West. So, combining the two franchises is either going to be a breath of fresh air for them both, or a big error of judgment.
If you've played either franchise before, then you basically have some understanding of what to expect. This is a merging of the fast-action gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors series set in a Gundam universe, so if you didn't like those games to begin with, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam will not change your mind. When the game begins, you're given a few gameplay options, each with the same basic premise... killing the opposing robots, and killing them good. Your options include Official Mode; which is the main story mode that is based specifically around the characters of Gundam, which means that those unfamiliar with the series will probably be very confused. The characters bicker and have an obvious back-story that the game expects you to know - that being said, if you're not interested in the story, you could quite comfortably ignore it and still have an alright time with the gameplay.
Original Mode on the other hand is an entirely unique premise, which focuses on characters from throughout Gundam's history and incorporates all sorts of weird things like inter-dimensional travel and time manipulation; basically, it's extremely confusing, but the core gameplay remains the same. Each of these main modes can be played co-operatively with a friend much like the Dynasty Warriors games, which is a good addition, because if there's one thing that's better than killing hundreds of robots, it's killing hundreds of robots with a buddy. There are also competitive multiplayer modes of the death-match variety, but they feel more like something tacked on rather than a vital inclusion to the package.
In the main modes of Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, you take control of a giant robot called a Mobile Suit along with a pilot, before mowing through a galaxy-load of other robots in order to take control of 'Fields', thereby securing parts of the map and furthering along the mission. In each field you attempt to capture, there is usually a whole heap of enemies to destroy before eventually getting to the specific 'Officer' of that field. Take him out, and the field becomes yours, allowing you to move on to other fields that are being contested. There is usually some sort of transition before you move from field to field, like a brief cut-scene or some vocal prompts from some of your team members, but again this is a little hard to follow unless you're familiar with the Gundam series.
At its core, it's hack-n'-slash gameplay all the way here, in the same style of the Dynasty Warriors games that we're used to. It's extremely simplistic despite being somewhat addictive. Creating combos with your big robot laser sword is quite fun for a while, although your hand might get sore from mashing the attack button. There is the option for a charged attack and by killing enough enemies you'll be able to activate a more powerful special attack too, but it doesn't do very much to switch up the repetitive gameplay. Unfortunately, the monotony isn't the only problem. The majority of enemies that fill the screen are basically useless. There are times where you will be surrounded by them, and it may look like there's nothing you can do to get out of it... except that 99% of the time, the opposition doesn't even bother to attack you. They wait for you to make a move, and even then, it's only a combo or two before the majority of the AI falls to your sword. It's very disappointing and provides no real challenge at all, which makes victories unenjoyable to say the least.
Although capturing fields to strengthen your team can be enjoyable on a very basic level, once you've done it a few times, it's hard to find motivation to keep going. There are some options in making your mobile suit stronger as the game goes on with a whole bunch of statistics that you can upgrade for those that are interested, but it still won't take long for the majority of gamers to get sick of mashing those attack buttons to defeat mindless enemies.
There isn't much to talk about when it comes to the visuals of the game. They're not completely terrible - in fact, at times there are a decent number of enemies on screen with no slowdown present. The robots themselves also look cool, with lots of detail in the suits. Unfortunately, the environments look bad to say the least. They're completely void of anything interesting, and considering Gundam has established such an interesting universe in the past, it's a shame that there isn't anything much going on here apart from lot of empty space. The enemies also have a habit of appearing out of nowhere as they are loaded onto the screen, which is disappointing. The music is at least catchy in an electronic anime sort of way, but the voice acting is extremely frustrating, unless you enjoy listening to a bunch of adolescents yelling at each other. At least they included the option to change the voice acting to Japanese instead of English.
Although we can clearly see the motivation behind combining these two franchises, to be successful, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam really needed to bring something new to the table and make us remember what made each respective game enjoyable in the first place. Instead, it reminds us of the repetitive Dynasty Warriors style of gameplay that we've been used to for many years now and also reminds us just how strange the Gundam narrative can be if you haven't experienced it before. Although the game can be addictive in small doses - plowing through hundreds of robots along with some options in terms of levelling up your mobile suit - the entire game is ultimately shallow and will only be truly appreciated by fans of the Gundam universe, who will at least have some idea of what the hell is going on.