The first Japanese-only game I ever imported provided a very enjoyable experience to demonstrate that with the right resources you can fully enjoy a game that isn’t in your native language.
World-building & Story
Now, this is the one area I won’t be able to give you a detailed overview of. The premise of the game is that you build a Gunpla (plastic Gundam) from pieces of defeated enemies that you break off by attacking them. The game itself is an action-style arena based game – think something like God Eater, but with elements of musou in as well.
There’s actually very little story in the game regardless of how it’s provided – you’ll occasionally get a VN-style conversation with a character, but the vast majority of your time is spent in the gameplay sections of battling your Gunpla.
Other than that, I don’t really have a lot to say on this section!
Presentation & Sound
In-game graphics are usually fairly impressive, but it does vary depending on what’s on screen. Models are probably the most impressive part of Gundam Breaker for me – they’re detailed and you can always see the changes to your Gunpla as you change the parts on it. What’s most impressive is the attack animations – your Gunpla will dash around the screen, swinging and shooting weapons, looking incredibly cool while doing it.
Also of particular note are the weapon and special attacks – which light up the screen with various effects. I can’t describe how cool it is to run around with a Gunpla with a beam saber in hand like a mini-jedi slashing away at foes. In addition to all this, there’s a special ‘awakening’ attack that activates once you have defeated a certain number of enemies – this powers up your character with even flashier animations which again, is always a sight to behold.
Unfortunately, environments in general are pretty dull but there are some interesting variants in there. Some areas – such as the forest you’ll start in for many early missions – have a very bland mush of trees covering most of the area which looks noticeably downgraded from the PS3 version and is generally a bit disappointing. This continues throughout the game with really par-for-the-course videogame levels – there’s desert canyons you’ll fight in; snowy outdoor areas etc. However, although you’ll repeat many of the same levels there’s enough variety in there that you won’t get tired of the environments – you’ll be fighting in the same areas but with new enemies and scenarios. And occasionally you’ll get a zone which really captures your attention like fighting in an outer-space moon base.
Aside from this, you’ll spend a lot of time in menus in order to use the shop and equip your Gunpla with the new parts you pick up from your missions. The menus are functional and critically feature English for the majority of options – which makes navigating them all that much easier.
It’s worth noting that the game allows no Vita-capture screenshots in game – the feature is literally disabled, so I wasn’t able to capture any of the moments I’d like to have done to demonstrate the game.
Gameplay & Content
As it makes up the bulk of the game, the bulk of my review will be about gameplay. As previously mentioned the game is based around building and customizing your Gunpla with parts broken off from enemies. This allows a number of different systems to play out at once as aside from attacking, you’re also trying your best to break off enemy parts while stopping your own from being broken off (although you can recover them afterwards) in order to help build the best Gunpla you can.
The actual building system is fairly intuitive – you have a number of different parts (head; shoulders; backpack etc.) and each part has a aesthetic or statistical difference. You’ll also have both a melee and ranged weapon and there are a number of sub-categories within these – so you can wield a bazooka; long-range rifle; machine-gun etc, providing a large amount of variety in how you choose to build your fighter but – more importantly – can change how you approach each mission.
To come to the battle gameplay itself, the game is both fast-paced and incredibly fun. The game is mission-based – each time you start a mission you’ll be in a small arena with a number of enemies and sometimes a number of allies. After completing each arena you’ll get a notification to move into a new area that has new set of challenges for you to face. You can move and boost around each arena with your Gunpla (which includes a limited ‘flying’ ability based on a boost bar), which makes traversal incredibly enjoyable, even if the environments aren’t really big enough to make full use of this feature.
Attacking uses both your melee and ranged weapons – you can start attacking from range with your gun and then get close in melee range to use a combo to finish off an enemy – depending on what setup you’re doing you’ll find different combinations of weapons more effective than others. Ranged weapons nearly always have reload times so inevitably you’ll spend a large amount of your time in melee range, hacking away at the enemy Gunpla. Combat here feels exactly like you’d expect from a 3D action game – your attacks have weight, you have to watch enemy patterns and move out of the way to dodge attacks etc., and it’s very rewarding. You won’t have the lightning-fast reflexes of someone like Ryu from Ninja Gaiden, but the Gunpla move well enough.
Mission variety means that you’ll be doing lots of different things – ranging from progressing through the stages or defending a certain structure to my favourite mode – ‘team attack’ which has you and 3 allies fighting against 4 enemies. Each team has a health bar which depletes each time a Gunpla is destroyed, and the first team to fully deplete the other team’s health bar is the winner. This creates some insanely intense battles where you’re fighting to keep your team-mates alive all the while pushing the enemy team back and destroying their Gunpla – believe me when I say it’s really enjoyable stuff.
Occasionally you will fight an end-of-level ‘large’ boss which can range from the more common large Gundam to specific story-related bosses. These feel much more like a monster-hunting game in design – you’ll spend a lot of the fight dodging attacks and learning patterns; you’ll nearly always have allies with you to assist with the battle etc. Yet while hunting games have always bored me after a certain point, Gundam Breaker felt fresh throughout, challenging me to not die with each new encounter.
It is worth noting that performance can sometimes be an issue – for the most part the game runs without problems, but when there is a particularly large amount of things going on among screen across allies and enemies, the framerate can slow down to a crawl. While it never stopped me enjoying my experience with the game I can’t deny that it may be a problem for some people.
As for amount of content, the game is packed with it. There are 57 missions to finish the main ‘story’, but there’s tonnes to do after that. Obviously you can return to previously cleared missions to attempt to get better parts for your Gunpla, but there’s also a tonne of new missions that have been added through updates to give you plenty more Gundam Breaking to achieve. It took me 21 hours to finish the main story, for reference.
I’d just add a quick note that the game can be tough too – really tough, especially as you get to the latter parts of the game. Some missions make it feel almost mandatory to take some friends along with you online, although everything can be achieved on your own.
Ease of understanding
As previously mentioned, there’s a heavy reliance on gameplay and less emphasis on story and text reading with this title, which is a huge plus. Although I did choose to skip the majority of the game’s story during my playthrough, I didn’t feel like I was really missing out on anything too important.
The game’s menus do in the vast majority of instances feature English text, and for anything you’re struggling with there are translation guides out there – alternatively I just used Google Translate which generally worked pretty well.
You’ll get the hang of the game fairly quickly once you have played for a couple of hours.
Gundam Breaker is a fun action game for the Vita that makes a great starter import. It’s fast paced, filled with enjoyable combat and an interesting customization system across a surprisingly large amount of content.