in Review

Gundam Breaker 3

Can you believe we’re already close to half of the way through June? That means were almost 50% done with 2016! Most years I’d write about how amazing it is we’re already this far into the year (and thus this close to Christmas) but this year has been, frankly, a slog. Between beloved entertainers dying, outright tragedies, the Trumpification of politics, and everyone’s personal struggles, I’ve got a depressingly large selection of reasons to wish we could just skip ahead to 2017, but a few compelling ones forcing me to focus on the here and now – like my video game backlog!

The Witcher 3 was such a good, long game that I’ve had a hard time since then committing to lengthy experiences since completing it. I’ve still barely scratched the surface of Metal Gear Solid V, and am paralyzed in fear of getting into the new Fire Emblem and X-Com games. Instead, I spent the winter and spring on lighter fare like Tom Clancy’s The Division (it was OK), Hearthstone (the new cards are fun), and VR games to go with that crazy expensive headset I bought. So it wasn’t until May that I saw the credits roll in a game. It was one I imported, a sequel to one of my favorite games last year, a crazy little gem called Gundam Breaker 3.

Gundam Breaker 3 is all about bringing the joy of building Gunpla (that’s the street term for Gundam plastic models) to the digital world. And they do that not by simulating tearing tiny parts out of plastic molds, but by letting you build, paint, and fight in a mobile suit made of all your favorite Gundam parts. This game features over 200 mobile suits broken down into their heads, torsos, arms, legs, backpacks, shields, and weapons. It’s up to you to pick the best combination, as pretty much everything is allowed, no matter how ugly things get.

The big change this time around is that stats for all parts are identical when they’re at the same level, so players aren’t forced to choose between their favorite parts and the most optimal build. To compensate, the game has added new optional parts which can be attached and positioned to the mobile suit’s body. These parts include various guns, missiles, grenades, swords, funnels, bits, reactors, and even the signature Gundam V fin, so all the most iconic stuff is available to you, if you want it. Even special moves, when used enough, will be unlocked for use without their default weapon type/part requirement. You even don’t necessarily have to migrate from the starter HG parts to the larger MG parts this time, as you can just keep leveling your HG parts and they will maintain stat parity.

Anyway, that’s the sell for people who already have tried Gundam Breaker games. For everyone else, here’s all you need to know: this is Gundam Diablo. There is a small set of levels which you will play over and over with increasingly stronger enemies. Every single one of them will drop parts, which you can take and use on your Gundam. So you kill a Tallgeese, you might get a Tallgeese head. You’ll do this over and over, as even if all you want is that Tallgeese head, parts have levels and you want to level yours up to the cap so you can have the strongest Tallgeese head possible. If that sounds good to you, go get this game now.

The story is actually a lot weaker this time around, as the melodrama of the last game is replaced with a lame story about a humble Gunpla shop trying to establish itself as the best team of Gunpla fighters in the world. It picks up at the end, with space elevator high jinks, but you can skip the whole thing. Which is a shame, because this is the first game in the series to be available in English (even though it still didn’t make it to North America). But being able to read the menus will be a big boon for those of us without the ability to read Japanese. And the game plays better than the last one too, so development effort was focused in the right area.

In the mid-2000s, I looked to the Armored Core series and dreamt of a Gundam game like that. We’ve got one now, just with a really light, cartoony tone. Which is fine. Gundams are toys, and my fantasy isn’t to fight in a real war against real humans who are trying to kill me. I just want to make the goofiest, most impractical war machine ever conceived.