There’s an incredible library of Gundam games out there spread across virtually every genre imaginable. There are RPGs, third person shooters, arena battlers, and more, yet hardly any of these games has ever seen an official English release outside of Japan. Of the many Gundam games to never make their way overseas, my favorite series would have to be Gundam Breaker. These addictive, co-operative action games let me live out my wildest fantasies of designing my own robot, upgrading and earning awesome new abilities, and showing them off alongside my friends. New Gundam Breaker is the first entry in the series to be released in America and Europe, and it is a barebones unoptimized mess that removes everything that made Gundam Breaker worth playing in the first place.
The very core of New Gundam Breaker falls in line with the previous games. You battle other gunpla (toy Gundam robots) in wide open arenas with basic melee combos, ranged weapons and special abilities. When you beat missions, you can get new random parts from nearly a hundred different mech suits across the entire Gundam franchise that you can use to create your own custom robot. Want the slim torso of Gundam Unicorn with the giant legs of a Gouf Custom and the ridiculous arms of a Guntank? Wish granted.
In previous Gundam Breaker titles, you would dive into multi-area missions to fight off enemy robots and then finally engage in a boss fight with a specific flashy gunpla. As you beat enemies they would drop loot, and at the end of the mission you would take home a suite of either brand new parts to toy with, or old parts to sell or fuse for experience points. It was an addictive, Monster Hunter-esque loop that rewarded you with a trove of new items every time you beat a mission. In New Gundam Breaker, all of that is gone.
Every mission in New Gundam Breaker takes place in a 3 v 3 “G-cube” format, where teams have 10 minutes to fulfill constantly cycling side-quests that grant points until a main quest pops up and is completed, or time runs out and the team with more points wins. These quest objectives are always either “open 10 crates”, “kill 20 neutral enemies”, or “kill this specific enemy”. They’re incredibly dull objectives that get very old, very fast. Even weirder is how this reliance on quest completion means there’s entirely no point in even bothering to fight the actual members of the enemy team. Doing so contributes nothing to your score or theirs.
Even if you ace every quest and win the mission by a landslide, you won’t be getting any new gunpla parts. Instead of parts dropping as loot or mission rewards, you’re required to scavenge fallen parts from enemies on the field and deliver them to a constantly moving, slow-to-interact-with dropoff box in order to keep those parts at the end of a mission. It’s an odd system that is made downright infuriating by the fact that you can only carry 5 parts at a time, enemy attacks make you drop parts, and that AI teammates can take parts if you don’t grab them quick enough. If you focus too much on trying to recover parts, you’ll probably end up failing the mission. But to recover parts, avoid enemy fire, fulfill quest objectives, track down the delivery box and stay alive is a loaded platter of elements that gave me a headache to manage every time I played this game.
Even worse is that the duplicate parts you will often end up recovering are useless. In previous games you could use them to level up a part and unlock new abilities or boost stats, but in New Gundam Breaker, the stats for parts are static, so duplicates simply get sold for coin. You can eventually use that money to buy specific parts you want, but the prices are insanely inflated compared to previous games, and you can only buy parts individually instead of getting the satisfaction of buying the full model-kit of a specific robot you had your eye on.
Stat progression is instead reflected in two new areas for New Gundam Breaker. Your gunpla have Inner Frames, which are the skeletons on which your helmets and arms and legs reside. There are different Inner Frame types that grant you different stat ratios, and battling with a frame will level it up and unlock new abilities or buffs. While this is an interesting way to introduce RPG-style classes, it removes a lot of the customization that made previous games so rewarding. You can no longer make unique gunpla builds by mixing and matching the stats and abilities of various parts, you’ll always be defined by the frame you’ve selected.
While in previous games you could take the special skills from a certain gunpla piece and apply it to new pieces, in New Gundam Breaker these powers are static as well. If you want to use the healing ability of a specific head piece, you can only ever wear that head piece. This becomes a huge complication in battle, though, because your frame starts every mission at level 1, and you need to break open crates in order to level up and actually enable your skills. The skills that get enabled are randomized every time though, and if an enemy knocks your head off, that healing skill you’re trying to unlock is gone. It’s another headache piled on-top of an already migraine-inducing gameplay loop that killed off any endorphins left swimming around in my tired, jaded head.
New Gundam Breaker ditched the usual development team and in-house engine for a new team working in Unreal Engine 4. If the insane changes to the gameplay mechanics weren’t bad enough, the game is also riddled with performance issues I’ve never seen in a previous entry. Menu navigation and most of your combat actions have noticeable input delay, and every menu transition or start/end of a mission is met with seconds of loading lag. The game will freeze for multiple seconds, multiple times, in every mission. The framerate consistently grinds into the single-digits whenever any kind of particle effects show up on screen, and models or textures pop-in terribly during nearly every cutscene. This is without a doubt the worst I have ever seen an Unreal Engine 4 game run on PS4, and this laundry list of technical issues makes it even harder to find any kind of silver lining to New Gundam Breaker.
The robot customization still works, at least. You can mix and match pieces to craft a wide variety of bots, and apply dozens of individual colors to them to make the designs look nice and slick. It’s the one part of previous Breaker games that made it into New Gundam Breaker, and unsurprisingly, it’s the only good part of the game. While there is also a cute story mode about a boarding school obsessed with gunpla, it’s barely 3 hours long. It involves light dating-sim elements to boot, but at such a short runtime, the characters and development are nothing more than barebones tropes and by-the-numbers story beats.
I’m truly sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I am. I had wished and wished for years that Bandai Namco would give Gundam fans outside Japan a proper way to experience some of the amazing games they’ve developed in the series. Today, this wish has come true, but like a cursed monkey’s paw, it has come with a terrible price. New Gundam Breaker is available in Europe and America, yes, but it is also terrible. It is not fun to play, look at, or think about.
Version tested: PlayStation 4 – Coming to PC this summer