Following on from my review of Zone of the Enders, I thought I’d continue the mecha theme for this review. As mentioned before, I’m a huge Gundam fan. I started watching the meta-series when I was a young boy and Gundam WING was on Cartoon Network. Since then, I’ve watched everything from Mobile Suit Gundam to Iron Blooded Orphans, and all of the OVAs in between. As such, it should come as no surprise that I have owned a number of the games in the past (and am currently working on a collection of the PlayStation Gundam games too).
Therefore, I think it is about time to go back and look at the very first PlayStation 2 Gundam game that I ever owned or played; Federation VS Zeon. Not only was it the first PS2 Gundam game I played, but it was also the first 3D Gundam game I played as well. So, I naturally had very fond memories of it. But, when I took the rose tinted glasses off, did it stand up to the picture I had my memory? Let’s find out.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation VS Zeon takes place within the Universal Century timeline, specifically the One Year War that made up the plot of the original anime series. When you start the game, you get to choose which side of the conflict you want to be on; the Federation or the Principality of ZEON. From here, you’re given the most basic Mobile Suit model available to start your “training” as a Mobile Suit (or Mobile Armor) pilot.
This was a big plus for me, specifically, as most tie-in games will usually put you in the role of the protagonist of the main show, but Federation VS Zeon had you play as your own character. You are a grunt, basically, who needs to prove themselves in battle. This adds a slight element of roleplay to the game, especially as you have to “earn” new Mobile Suits and equipment.
Add to this the fact that you end up fighting alongside the main characters of the anime, and the game makes you feel like you’re actually part of the story. For what is essentially a 3D beat ’em up, the fact that the developers were able to add the level of story that they did is great.
New missions unlock as you complete others, each adding to the overall feeling of an ongoing war. And you receive “orders” from your chosen side through textbox dialogue on the overview map. The story itself is relatively thin but works well enough to keep you entertained whilst playing the game. A bit more depth to the story, and some actual characterisation of your player character wouldn’t go amiss, but for what the game was designed as, it does a pretty good job of giving you the details you need. The events of the anime are also covered in the missions you do, with the main characters showing their allegiances and rivalries when they appear as well.
As mentioned earlier, Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation VS Zeon is basically a beat ’em up game with a Gundam paint job. Each mission revolves around battling other Mobile Suits, and the mission goals are typically to destroy all of the enemy forces or eliminate a specific enemy. Therefore, the game is really easy to pick up and get started with.
However, don’t let that fool you. It’s not an easy game to complete, nor one that you’ll get bored off easily. As you start to unlock other Mobile Suits, you’ll also have to deal with the fact that repairs for them take time. So, the more damage your Mobile Suit takes, the longer it will be before it is ready for battle again. That adds a huge amount of tactical strategy and planning to the game, as does the fact that you need to chose which weapon layout you want to take on each mission. Not every Mobile Suit can use every weapon, so you need to play your Mobile Suit usage around both the repairs and the weapons required by the current mission.
Add to this the fact that, when in a mission, you need to deal with the amount of ammo you have available, since it is finite and there are no pickups, and you’ve got a very strategic beat ’em up game that requires a lot of thought to win.
In terms of the missions available, there are two main types; ground combat and space combat. Ground combat is the most basic, as you move and jump your Mobile Suit around cityscapes, islands and various other landmass to fight your enemies. The space combat, on the other hand, is far more interesting. Because of the game shifting into “full 3D combat”, you need to keep an eye on all sides – enemies can come from 360 degrees, and you can attack the same way.
This makes for some really fun and exciting missions as you move through space trying to locate your targets whilst protecting yourself.
At the end of each mission, you are also graded, so those reading this who are like me and still want high scores, you can get competitive against yourself and keep trying to improve.
When you take into account that Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation VS Zeon was released in December of 2001 (just over 16 years ago), the graphics actually hold up really well today. The Mobile Suits are perfectly replicated from the anime, giving a huge sense of immersion, and even the smallest enemies like the tanks look exactly as they should.
The menus and user interface isn’t great, looking very simplistic, but let’s be honest… A menu is just there to provide information and a means to get to the next mission. So, as long as it isn’t completely garish, then I don’t see a problem with it. Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation VS Zeon’s menu is visually fine, just a bit basic. However, that certainly does not detract from the game in any way. Instead, it means you don’t get distracted by the UI, leaving you free to focus on the game itself. It’s just a shame that the UI during the missions doesn’t get any better. The life bars are ugly and the warning alerts flash almost in the middle of the screen, which does grab your attention (like they are supposed to) but can get distracting if you’re focusing on an enemy.
However, despite this, the graphics overall still stand up to the test of time, and that’s a real achievement for a game that is 16 years old.
And That’s All Folks
Overall, Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation VS Zeon is still an awesome game, even without the rose tinted glasses on. There is just enough of a storyline to get your hooked in so that the gameplay can latch on to you and not let go. It’s a really fun game, and a great Gundam game. If you’re a fan of the anime, or are just looking for a different style of beat ’em up game, then you should definitely check this one out.
Are you a fan of Gundam? Have you ever played Federation VS Zeon? Let me know in the comments below!