For the most part, the library of Gundam related games on the PSP is a remarkably solid one. With developers like Artdink and Capcom producing some truly excellent games. However, more recently Bandai Namco have become pretty complacent and gone back to their old ways of funding quick hack jobs to harvest some quick cash.
This is no new trait either, as the later years of the PS2’s life also saw a similar trend with woeful games like Gundam Climax UC springing to mind. What with lacklustre efforts such as Gundam Assault Survive, the writing has been on the wall for a while now. So it’s not with great surprise, though with some regret, that Gundam Memories has ventured toward the fecal end of the gaming quality spectrum.
This is not to say that Gundam Memories has no redeeming qualities, as it is arguably one of the most visually and technically impressive PSP game’s we’ve seen. Engine proficiency aside though the game itself is a catalogue of face palming awfulness.
The main bulk of the game plays out similarly to Gundam Climax UC. Simple missions where you circle strafe around cycled fixed lock-ons without much control of vertical movement. Combat is split between ranged and melee with a pretty anemic boosting setup that links the two. The latter is also an issue as the player cannot out flank enemies in many encounters, which is a pretty substantial issue if the game were solely focused on combat but this isn’t quite the case here.
Apart from the core “combat” the other main element to the game are a slew of quick-time events. Now, we’re not overly fond of these kind of features in games but they can and often do have their place. Normally as a means to rubber stamp a victory and then used moderately sparingly. In Gundam Memories none of that is the case. Instead these are used as major means of dealing damage in the middle of a fight once sufficiently charged. Annoyingly, the animation for when an enemy activates their own attacks is identical to yours so you’re often left wondering whether you initiated the attack by mistake. Countering these attacks can also be pretty arduous as well as rather inconsistent. On most enemies, a successful button press awards a counter to the enemy’s attack but on some encounters, normally with bosses in particular, these counters never occur and instead a protracted continuation of events results in something not too dissimilar to what would be a mechanical colonoscopy.
Following on from this is the inevitable upgrade system that’s prime purpose is to buy your way out of failure. Either through directly upgrading your mobile suit’s abilities (such as health, attack or defense) or through buying more powerful quick-time events. The acquisition of these upgrades turns the game game into a merciless grindfest. This is very much apparent that on failing a mission you still receive enough currency to purchase upgrades.
If all this sounds like the game is a walkover, then don’t get ahead of yourself. There are numerous and pretty brutal difficulty spikes throughout the game, often to do with the fact you haven’t reached a sufficient level of upgrades in order to progress.
Though this is not the worst aspect of the game. Despite the fact missions are hugely repetitive, the boss battles are pretty awful as they can initiate their own very powerful quick-time events on you. Almost always resulting in an instant death. The infuriating aspect to this is that you can’t really avoid them, as there is no real messaging to say that your enemy has the option available. So you’re inadvertently caught like a rabbit in the headlights of an oncoming car, except this car has the lights off and the bastard behind the wheel is wearing nightvision goggles.
Overall then, despite being technically quite impressive the game itself is really quite disappointing and for the most part desperately frustrating. Thankfully there are still plenty of great Gundam related games available on the PSP, so all is not lost at least.