With every passing year I think to myself, “is this the year I finally grow up and get over my love of the Gundam series?” The answer is a resounding “NO!” and thanks to the release of SD Gundam Battle Alliance I get to get my mecha fix in once again. Developed by ARTDINK CORPORATION ALVION Inc and published by good ole Bandai Namco Entertainment, GBA gives us another chance to pilot our favorite mobile suits in an original story that has us visiting some of the most memorable moments in Gundam history. The premise of SD Gundam Battle Alliance is that history is being altered by someone or something in the Gundam timelines and your job is to take place in battles to rectify and fix the problems. For those new to the series, the SD stands for “Super Deformed”, so your favorite mobile suits are in a much cuter and smaller form factor.
Story wise, SD Gundam Battle Alliance takes place in something called “G: Universe” it is a world where every story that has taken place during the Gundam timelines exists and is kept canon, that is, accurate to history as it exists in their stories until it isn’t. “Breaks” start to appear in history where stories start to intersect and mix such as the original story of Gundam that was released in 1979 is attacked by characters from a series that came out in 2019, as you can imagine there is a huge difference in design, power and also ideologies as characters meet and interact. Your job is to assist in battles where these breaks take place in an effort to get history back into its canon state using your 3-man squad with you as its leader.
Being a game based on an anime series there is a chance you can guess what primary language this game is played in and that would be Japanese, personally I watch most of my Gundam shows in Japanese with English subtitles, but for a game with a story that is relayed via voice lines and subtitles there is a significant loss of plot points lost due to most of the story being relayed to you during the action you are in the middle of and can be difficult to read the subtitles while also trying to dodge and attack your enemies as they come at you. This isn’t a total detractor for me, but I can understand someone who is not used to the concept being a bit confused on later scenes due to missing it during a mission.
Speaking of missions, let’s talk about the three different types. There are “Break missions” which is the fragmented story taking place where the different series are colliding and breaking canon, there is the “True” mission where you complete the mission as it was in its original timeline then there is the” Chaos mission” where you play the True mission previously but with a hidden enemy somewhere in the mission that has you fight a completely out of place enemy which will drop pieces to unlock additional suits from different Gundam series.
As you progress through the game you will unlock more mobile suits by finding pieces after beating either story missions or additional side missions, notice that I said unlock mobile suits and not parts, I’ll get to that. Beating the game is relatively manageable by playing the game as normal with minimal grinding and some skillful gameplay. Fan favorite suits are locked behind a higher difficulty mission called “Chaos missions” where the story takes place exactly as you played in the true mission. Chaos missions show up randomly and are available for a few rounds and then disappear. You can manually launch a chaos mission using “revision keys” which are found when completing higher difficulty missions, the drop rate on these keys is frustratingly low and the cost also too high for the number of times you need to complete the mission to unlock the pieces needed to unlock additional suites.
Mobile suits as I mentioned earlier are unlocked by acquiring “pieces” but unlike other games in the Gundam series like Gundam Breaker you aren’t unlocking an arm piece, legs or back packs but just a generic named item like “Gundam Piece 1, Gundam Piece 2” and so on. Strength has nothing to do with how many pieces you need to collect and seems to be based on popularity more than anything. It’s a system that I didn’t find particularly appealing considering what the premise of the game showed during the announcement and teaser trailers showed.
After unlocking the suits, you then need to strengthen them using capital, the currency used in game, this allows you to focus on a particular aspect of the mobile suit they excel at, the best example would be a sword wielding suit would not benefit from as many points into their range stat as opposed to putting it into melee to further their damage. There are more generic dropped items called “Uncap materials” where you uncap their potential after certain level breakpoints in the game to increase their part equipment slots. Spending capital to get a unit to level 15 for example allows you to equip two-part pieces and using uncap materials allows you to further spend capital to increase its max level to 30.
As of my writing I managed to get a suit to the max level of 90 with MUCH grinding to be had to get the necessary funds. The capital needed rises from about 50K to over 24 million at the highest level, possible but quite grindy. One of my favorites parts is that after you unlock a suit and its pilot you can customize your squad to have them enter missions with you so as you progress your squad gets stronger and stronger. The idea of balancing a squad with a balanced suit, a melee and ranged one allows you to choose your dream team and play as you would like to if you were in charge of a real squadron. Your partners have a system called “friendship levels” whereas they level up they increase the bonus affects that having them in the 3-man squadron give called “Alliance Effects” these can be a boost of 5%,10% etc to damage or defense and so on. This also gives them additional quotes from what I’ve seen from their tv shows.
The parts system is probably one of my biggest letdowns in SD Gundam Battle Alliance. Based on the initial info released it sounded like a part system from the breaker series where you could customize your Gundam and swap out parts to create your own creation, what we got was just a generic system where parts drop, and they have stats on them but there are no cosmetic or drastic gameplay changes. Probably the best parts to use are the “auto guard” just so they can you do less defensive gameplay and focus more on offense. Most parts give effects such as increased damage for melee, ranged and increase hp. Other options include increases to drops for capital, the currency that is used to power up your suits, and defensive stats to lower damage from melee and ranged attacks. The strange thing is that parts are also categorized into the All-rounder, sharpshooter and infighter categories, so if you have a part you really like you can’t use them on all suits, you may need to try and farm it up again for the suit category you are playing.
Since I picked up the game there has been one DLC released titled “Legend & Succession” which gave us a free mobile suit from the SD Gundam G Generation video game series called Phoenix Gundam, personally it was my first time seeing it in a series like this where you actively controlled it versus just commanding it to move like I have in the strategy RPG games I’ve played before. The DLC is giving us additional scenarios with new mobile suits to unlock and scenarios to play. There are an additional 2 more DLC scheduled for release in 2022. SD Gundam Battle Alliance released on August 24th, 2022, on PC, PS4/5, Xbox X/S as well as Nintendo Switch. With all of its upcoming DLC and the fact that I have the season pass, the game may not be perfect but its more than good enough to pick up and enjoy more than once to experience all the different ways to play.