SD Gundam Battle Alliance Review (Switch)
Release Date: August 25, 2022
File Size: 13.8
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Artdink, Alvion
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.1.0
Gundam as a series is definitely one that is simple to grasp in general, but as a franchise it can be intimidating to know where exactly to start. So when games come out, they can sometimes offer a more digestible way to take in the franchise as a whole. But of course, it’s always best to remember that games aren’t a replacement for the original anime and if you want the full picture, it’s best to take in the medium in its original form. For fans of the Gundam series, SD Gundam Battle Alliance appears to be the perfect game for those looking for a touch of action-filled fanservice. But for casual or non-fans of Gundam, is this still a worthwhile game to pick up?
Like many of the other mecha and Gundam games that have been released in the past, SD Gundam Battle Alliance is a mashup of multiple series within the Gundam series. Therefore, to best account for every series to show up without too much confusion, the story takes place in the G Universe. The G Universe is a virtual conglomeration of multiple moments in Gundam history and with each battle that you fight through, you’ll play through pivotal moments. However, there’s strange things happening in these moments, with Gundams from other series and time periods popping in to disrupt history.
That is where you, the player, come into play. Suddenly dragged into the G Universe during a mission where you’re swarmed by enemies, you find that you are tasked with fixing these breaks in history. As you play through these Break Missions, you’ll obtain Fragment Keys which can be used to fix that moment in history and set things on their correct path. But there may be more than meets the eye with G Universe.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance is a linear story in that no matter what missions you decide to start with, everything meets back to a center point at the end of a series of missions. Within each mission, a different generation of the Gundam franchise is put front and center. For fans of the series, you’ll have all of the context needed to grasp what is happening. For non-fans however, SD Gundam Battle Alliance does try to bridge the gap by exposition dumping everything about the upcoming battle. Whether that information ends up sticking, especially when you’re going from mission to mission (and series to series) depends on the person. With how the game is set up, though, it’s probably the best that could be done.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance is an action RPG where you can choose from a multitude of mobile suits, which then fight through missions trying to correct timeline battles where history has been changed. You can upgrade your Gundam, boost its stats, and equip different parts to give it additional abilities that could give you the edge in battle. Along with that, you can also choose to play single player, multiplayer, or co-op.
Battles take place in real-time as you navigate through singular levels with your mobile suit, along with two other partner characters. These partner characters can be controlled by the computer or by other players through multiplayer. As you fly around the map on a particular level, enemies will spawn that you need to defeat. Defeating these enemies will drop HP to heal your unit and Capital which is used to level up your individual mobile suit. You’ll also come across parts that can be equipped to your unit to boost stats, as well as blueprints which are used to unlock new mobile suits.
You have a range of attacks available with your unit. You have two melee attacks that can be used interchangeably to form combos, as well as three ranged attacks. However, you’ll want to keep an eye on both your stamina bar – used up whenever you attack, jump, or dash – as well as your ammo bar that needs to be reloaded after a certain number of blasts are released. Guarding has its own bar that is depleted every time that you take a hit, with the exception of perfect blocks. Guarding can be a bit finicky, as you’ll need to be proactive rather than reactive. It is very easy to get caught up in an enemy combo and once the enemy starts landing hits, it’s almost impossible to break out of the onslaught.
Along with your offensive and defensive skills, you also have a lock-on feature and a healing function. The lock-on feature can be changed to lock on an enemy based on their position on the screen or by distance. Whichever you end up choosing will come down to preference but no matter the choice, the lock-on feature is one that will probably give you a bit of trouble. There are moments where enemy ships will hover above ground and your lock-on will remain focused on that ship until you either change what you’re locked onto or just turn it off. And during moments where you’re surrounded by multiple enemies (which is very often), this insistent lock-on is annoying at best. The camera also feels very floaty and together with the lock-on will linger on a defeated enemy for a second or two before allowing the player to focus elsewhere.
A major detractor for SD Gundam Battle Alliance is the fact that it is a very grindy game. With every mission defeated, you’ll gain experience and friendship points for both your character in general as well as your partners that you select to join you on your mission. If you choose to not repeat any missions as you play through the main story, you’ll find yourself right on par with enemy levels and towards the end, even being underleveled. While it’s not impossible to beat bosses in these situations, you’ll have to be smart with your battle tactics.
At the end of almost every mission, there is a boss battle that you’ll need to defeat in order to clear the mission entirely. Bosses are much stronger than regular enemies, and they are the only enemies in the game that have a dedicated balancer bar, which is decreased every time they take a hit. If you’re able to hit them enough times, it will be fully depleted, meaning that the character can’t move for a while. This balancer bar only appears for Gundam bosses however, and not any of the large ship enemies that you’ll face in battle.
As you progress, the amount of boss fights will increase. If you happen to lose a battle against a boss, you’ll have to start the mission all over again. Any Capital that was earned from regular enemies does stay in your possession, though, giving the player some way to at least boost their stats before trying again.
As you progress through SD Gundam Battle Alliance, you’ll unlock many different Gundams along the way. Capital is an important resource that you get by defeating enemies and clearing missions. Capital is used to boost one of four stats on a Gundam: HP, Boost, Melee, and Ranged. Once you invest Capital into a unit, it can’t be removed and applied to another Gundam. However, you can remove Capital applied to a specific stat and allocate it to another.
Given the large amount of Gundams that you unlock in the game, what could have been this game’s greatest strength ends up falling flat. As mentioned prior, this game is very grindy. If you don’t want to be struggling in boss battles, you’ll need to grind up Capital to boost your Gundam’s skills. But since you can’t allocate Capital from one unit to another and the price for raising stats steadily increases with each investment, you end up with way too many Gundams and not enough Capital to invest in all of them. And you need to boost those stats to take on missions, as that is one of the many things that make a huge difference in battles. This ends up with the player having to invest in one of the early Gundams, as it’s not viable to focus on any that show up later in the game, unless you’re willing to grind for more Capital.
Along with boosting stats, you can also equip skills that you unlock as you play through missions. Skills give your Gundams different abilities, such as increasing the guarding window or making it so that you aren’t interrupted when attempting to heal a partner mid-battle. You start off with one skill initially, but two more will unlock as you level up. You also have equipment slots that you can put parts in to boost your stats and give more passive abilities. Any parts that you feel won’t be of any use can be sold off for Capital.
To unlock more Gundams, you’ll need to pick up blueprints during missions. Each Gundam needs a specific amount of blueprints in order to be unlocked. Most Gundam you’ll find unlock with just one initial playthrough, but as you progress through the game, you’ll need to replay through missions multiple times in order to collect all of the blueprints needed.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance uses 3D models for both the Gundam models as well as the environments, while using 2D art for the cutscenes. Given the Switch’s capabilities paired with the abundance of partial effects that appear during battle, some moments can look like a pixelated mess. Otherwise, the game looks pretty good and runs smoothly. The environments look polished enough, although stages blend into one another, whether you’re in a mountain valley or a ravaged city. The amount of detail that went into each individual Gundam makes each one stand out in their own way.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance is fully-voiced in Japanese, with some cutscenes playing out automatically and others needing player input to progress. The cutscene subtitles actually progress pretty fast compared to other games. There is also talking that happens mid-battle that can be very easy to miss as you’re busy fighting against enemies.
In terms of the music, a lot of the tracks are synth and guitar heaven. There are a lot of heavy-hitting songs that get the blood pumping and immediately get you in the battle mindset. It seems that a lot of the music is pulled from the individual Gundam series, which makes sense when building out the soundtrack. Of course, though, when listening to all of the songs at once, it can all end up sounding like a singular synth-blasting mass.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance is a tough one to really feel out. For those who like the endless grind that still exists in some realms of the RPG genre, you’ll find yourself right at home. There are a lot of Gundam to unlock and a lot of Capital to grind to make them viable. And with tough boss battles aplenty, this is overall a nice challenge for action RPG fans. And perhaps the experience could be less painful when playing with other people in multiplayer.
However, in terms of playing on single player (along with a non-fan dipping their toes into the Gundam pool), SD Gundam Battle Alliance does make for a middling experience. Missions follow the same rhythm of beating up enemies, collecting items, and beating bosses before taking on the True Mission. Rinse and repeat. The finicky nature of both the lock-on feature and camera also don’t do much favors for the combat portion, which by itself otherwise does its job well. Hits feel powerful and landing a long combo on an enemy is very satisfying. But sitting through exposition dumps that won’t mentally stick after going to the next mission, fiddling with battle controls, and grinding up enough Capital to make use of Gundams that appear late in the game cools down any excitement that can come from playing.