Franchises can be double-edged swords when it comes to gaming. The Bond franchise, for instance, has produced one superb game and a plethora of utterly shocking ones. The Gundam franchise is also very similar in this respect too. There have been vast numbers of Gundam games released over the years, of which most have been total gaming travesties. Thankfully “Lost War Chronicles” is a refreshingly solid gaming experience.
“Lost War Chronicles” is a pseudo side-story to the original Gundam’s “One Year War”. Using a very similar, but a nonetheless graphically improved and speedier game engine to that of “Journey to Jaburo”, many will feel that this is merely a soulless cash in rather than anything of worthy repute.
It is probably one of the most solid Gundam and, consequently, mecha games of recent years. Whilst not as inclusive as Capcom’s popular arcade incarnation, there is considerably more depth available to the player in Bandai’s recent outing.
Set over fourteen missions (per side) and with a total of 33 available Mobile Suits, there is an ample amount of gaming to get through here. Gameplay is a blend of real time tactics and combat action. The player can command two wingmen through the use of three simplified orders, rear guard, forward guard and free for all. Judicious use and application of these commands is crucial in most circumstances, especially if you wish to receive a suitably high enough rank to unlock more aspects of the game. Naturally, this “team” based nature of combat brings a whole new refreshing dynamic to the game’s versus mode, but more of this later.
The controls are particular comprehensive and work thus. Movement is mapped to the D-pad and L1/L2 buttons (the latter allow the player to strafe). Triangle is the player’s melee weapon, this can vary from beam sabres to a basic punch depending on what Mobile Suit you are using. Circle initiates the Mobile Suit’s shield, this is very useful but has a finite amount of armour and needs to be utilised accordingly. Square is your main weapon, solid weapons have fixed ammo counts (and can subsequently reload) but beam rifles are constantly charging. This means that, for the latter, it is quite possible, if frugal, to keep up a constant barrage of fire. X allows the player to boost, naturally the amount varies depending on what type of Mobile Suit you are piloting (double tapping a directional input allows the player to skim or, in close combat range, orbit a locked on enemy). Locking on to a foe is implemented via L2, at a distance this zooms up into a search window allowing the player to scan wide areas for approaching enemies. The real fun and depth that the game offers resides in the function that R2 offers, the in-game submenu.
In depressing R2 a small menu appears with four options. Combining Triangle with R2 activates a sub-weapon, some of which can be highly potent (again depending on what Mobile Suit is being used). Square with R2 produces a high powered sniper/charged attack that, if it hits, inflicts vast levels of damage. The downside is that it can only be activated whilst stationary, meaning that the player is an easy target for any enemy that has you within its sights. X with R2 makes the player ram whatever target it has locked onto. Whilst not necessarily a high damage attack but it stuns most opponents, allowing the player to get an edge on the consequent close combat action. Finally, merging Circle with R2 allows the player to utilise the aforementioned squad tactics options.
The controls give the player many options, but the actual implementation of viewing your surrounding area can be awfully constrictive. Admittedly, the left analogue sticks offers a “free look” function but it doesn’t allow the player the visual freedom that they dearly require. Moreover, it is particularly difficult to use whilst in the thick of combat, where a more forgiving view would be helpful. Admittedly the “cockpit view” allows the player to avoid some of the problems an awkward third person view produces, not to mention making the game considerably more immersive. The only down side of the first person view is that of the opaqueness of your Mobile Suit’s arms, which somewhat kills the sense of being inside a cockpit.
The real reason why this game is worth investigating is due to its expansive versus mode. These include Team VS, Mission VS (only one mission for each side unfortunately), and a Combat Drill (the latter has to be unlocked via game save data from “Journey to Jaburo”). Team VS is a two player deathmatch with wingmen, naturally the depth of in-game squad tactics plays a pivotal role in either decimating your foe or keeping your defences up. Naturally, the 33 selectable mobile suits, each with varying attributes and abilities, will allow diverse versus options as well. Mission VS is, essentially, a co-operative mission that is undertaken by both human players, rather than the computer controlled squad. Finally, Combat Drill is much akin to the Team VS option except more focused. You only have one squad setup at your disposal and have to attack the other squad in their base. The big difference is that the each base has their weapons deployed, meaning that the player has to take into account other facets of combat.
Of all the Gundam games created thus far, “Lost War Chronicles” is by no means the best, but it is refreshingly solid. The in-game squad tactics is well implemented and truly comes into its own in Team VS. Not to mention that for fans of the saga there are lots of superb little touches and even a few continuity glitches, such as the GP-01 from 0083 making an appearance four years before it should do. Overall a solid title, and well worth a look regardless of your interest, or lack thereof, in the Gundam franchise.