The PlayStation 3 launch is upon us, and what could be as popular in Japan as Sony's behemoth video game machine slash Blu-Ray movie player? Well, besides Pachinko, I would be willing to put a fair wager on giant mech suits. In continuing the long tradition of putting soldiers in body armor bigger than a house, Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire brings to life the anime with a rabid fan base both abroad and on these shores just in time for the PS3's launch. The series has a huge following in Japan and it isn't surprising considering the game brings together the aforementioned giant robot armor with the Sony next gen system. It's like peanut butter and chocolate to a Mobile Suit Gundam fan: it ain't new (dozens of games have been made for the PS2), but it's always a tasty treat.
For those unfamiliar, the storyline follows the war between the Zeon and the Earth Federation Forces (EFF). In a bid to declare independence from the EFF, the Zeon, oddly enough, declared war while using their technologically advanced Mobile Suits. The embattled EFF countered with their "Gundam" suits, and the game sets the player nine months after the Zeon invasion of Earth, allowing you to choose either side in this interstellar conflict.
Fans of the series, or of the mech genre in general, will likely find a lot in Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire to recommend itself. The gameplay will be suitably hardcore requiring skill and patience. The limbs and the head of a mech can be destroyed limiting abilities of the poor sap controlling the suit to fight or even see. Melee and range weapons will be available for mixing up the action, as a scoped rifle could destroy the sights of an enemy combatant and a close kill can be accomplished with a sword. Also, I never understood why a giant armored vehicle would require an additional shield strapped to its arm, but if you want to drop it in favor of freeing up an additional hand, by all means. The titled is filled with options.
Speaking of options, getting into a fight with another mult-ton robot with massive ordinance can cause a lot of wear and tear on your own mech suit, so repairs and upgrades will be necessary. The repair and upgrade system is a little odd as it actually takes time to fix your mech (a nod to realism) while missions continue to be posted simultaneously. Take too long with tinkering under the hood of your Mobile Suit, and you will likely miss a few missions.
Graphically, there will most likely be a bit of a letdown, after all the fascinating "target" videos that have been shown previously at game shows. This is a launch title, after all, and much of the capabilities of the PS3 have yet to be fully explored. Still, it should look and feel much more detailed than current gen systems, and of course, expect many, many enemies on the screen at the same time. Just do not look to be blown away as if the CG movies will be coming to life.
As I mentioned, Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire will be a launch title, and those of you who were lucky enough to get a guaranteed pre-order, be on a Circuit City line since Monday or happen to be rich and enjoy buying everything from eBay, might have something to look forward to this November 17th. It helps if you're already a fan of the show and the earlier games, because unfortunately it just seems to be too much of a niche title for the casual gamer to enjoy. The action is slow and methodical, and the various tactics involving the use of NPC squads and the timed repair system will make it a difficult sell for non-fans. Regardless, a launch title is a launch title, and how many times are you going to play Resistance: Fall of Man anyway?