An extremely enjoyable action-fighting game that skillfully mixes a number of different gameplay elements together to create an addictive, enjoyable package.
World-building & Story
Extreme Vs. Force presents a number of ‘what if’ scenarios based on Gundam history. The basic premise is that you’re an AI tasked with gathering information from famous moments in the franchise’s storied past for something called the ‘FA Project’. You’re guided by two other AI’s named Aire and Tereno who guide you through your missions which become increasingly challenging as the game progresses.
I found these two to be quite likable thanks to their banter and constant re-assurance regarding your situation, but they remain the only characters you interact with throughout the game which really stunts the narrative as there’s very little emotional attachment to anything.
In general, the game provides you with very little information regarding the world you’re in or goal you’re heading towards. There’s an implication that you know the history of Gundam here, with its multiple universes; many famous mechs and various events that changed human history (after all, this is a fanservice game at its core). If you’re mostly unaware, it’s easy enough to ignore the bits of story and simply treat the game as an excuse engage in all sorts of crazy combat, but a little more explanation and some extra characters would’ve been appreciated.
As the game is based on the history of franchise, most world-building is therefore done by visiting old locations and battlefields, which can be a nice nostalgia trip if you’re familiar with them. Even if you’re not, the locations in the game are generally top notch and provide interesting backdrops for all the fighting to take place.
Presentation & Sound
For the most part, graphical presentation is Extreme Vs. Force is very impressive – clearly a lot of work went into making an attractive game. Starting with the character models – these are detailed; animate well and each have a number of unique-looking attacks which really help differentiate the Mobile Suits, especially if you’re a newcomer – for example, Burning Gundam often unleashes a flurry of melee attacks while Unicorn Gundam focuses on devastating impact from a distance.
Sadly, there’s a slightly jaggy look to the models when viewed on the Vita’s screen that doesn’t completely detract from the experience, but it is noticeable and a bit disappointing. Mass-produced units also lack detail compared to the more well-known models, but the game certainly does a good job of giving a sense of scale to each unit and in general I was impressed with the characters.
Equally impressive are the attacks – often the screen will light up in a firework display of lasers; missiles and explosions on the backdrop of a futuristic city and it was times like these that I found myself enjoying the game the most. It’s worth noting that the framerate is pretty solid – undoubtedly there are dips, but never enough to stop the action or make me die because of slowdown, which was quite a feat considering how much can happen at once.
On to environments which – to me – were the most gorgeous part of the presentation. There’s a great variety here – much like Gundam Breaker – as you’ll find yourself brawling in desolate cities; abandoned moon bases; mountainous fields and even in space. They’re all locations from the anime, but even if you don’t recognise them they’re still beautiful places to duke it out in. Some ground and forest textures do have a distinct lack of detail but these are just a small part of the overall package and did little to reduce the overall quality.
Another note of the presentation that I’d like to highlight is use of colour – as I hope the screenshots I’ve posted so far have shown, the game goes out of its way to use a full palette, something I find increasingly lacking in games in these days. It’s only a small thing, but the bright, vibrant colours on display here really make the presentation pop (particularly on the Vita’s OLED screen) making it very impressive to look at.
Sound is as you’d expect for a Gundam game – the various Mobile Suits shout at each other in Japanese; explosions and gun noises come in from all sides while music plays in the background. The soundtrack isn’t too bad – mainly tunes taken from the series – and there’s a few catchy pieces in there although nothing too noteworthy. Still, it’s all fitting for the game.
Gameplay & Content
At its core, Extreme Vs. Force is a 3D fighting game akin to something like J-Stars Victory Vs.+. Each character has a set of moves that usually consist of a ranged attack; a melee attack and then some special attacks on cooldown timers (things such as continuous laser beams; shields; super punches). Your character has a ‘boost’ bar which allows various movement options – hovering; charging forward or dodging sideways, but you’re limited to running when the bar is empty (thankfully it does not take long to recharge). All of this makes your Mobile Suit really enjoyable to control – movement in particular is responsive – you always feel like you’re in charge of your Mobile Suit – which is so important when playing an action game; and all attacks feel flashy and are fun to pull off.
The fighting takes place across two different modes – ‘vs.’ mode and ‘force’ mode. The former is the least exciting – 1v1 or 2v2 bouts that pit you and a team-mate against opposing players. Before selecting a Gundam to go into battle with you’ll note each has a build value – 1000, 2000 etc. as well as a health bar, represented by a number in the bottom left of the screen. When a Mobile Suit is destroyed (i.e. the health bar reaches zero), the build value is subtracted from the a team gauge, the idea being that you want your enemy’s team gauge to reach zero before yours. This creates an interesting mechanic as you’ll have to choose between taking out the weaker enemy more often or the stronger player less often. Battles can get tense and there’s a lot of skill involved (particularly in keeping your AI partner alive while whittling away at the opponent’s health), but in general I found this mode to be the less exciting of the two on offer.
Far more exciting is ‘force’ mode, which reminds me a lot of ‘precinct assault’ mode from Future Cop: LAPD crossed with ‘conquest’ mode from Star Wars Battlefront II. In this, you’re given a warship which you have to protect as well as two other teams of two Gundam (for a total of four controllable teams). There are bases in the battlefield and the idea is that you order your units capture these bases then destroy the enemy warship, while your opponent attempts to do the same to you. Bases are defended by turrets and periodically send out minions to attack; capturing the bases (and destroying enemy units) will award you ‘force points’ which you can use to purchase boosts or heal your team, or unleash a devastating ‘force attack’ from your warship.
It’s thrilling stuff, made better by the fact that you’re constantly using strategy to think how you’re going to spend your force points or where best to send one of your squads. My only complaint about this mode was that it was often a little easy and over fairly quickly and I would’ve preferred bigger battlefields and a larger range of units to command to add even more strategic depth to the proceedings.
That’s not to say Extreme Vs. Force is an easy game on the whole however – in fact, some of the later missions had me almost tearing my hair out in frustration due to impossible odds. Thankfully there’s a solution for this – you’re allowed to buy one-time boosts using the points you accumulate at the end of a mission which provide extra damage or defence – and while expensive these prove invaluable in the later challenges, it does feel like you’re cheating the system a bit by using them.
Content-wise, the game has a lot to offer – the fully fleshed out story mode takes place across four time zones each with more than 20 missions each and replay-ability is encouraged through in-mission challenges to unlock ‘haro’ medals which are used for various team and stat boosts. Thanks to patches, there’s also an offline vs. mode available which allows you to pit any two Gundam against each other; as well as force battle mode which allows local ad-hoc play. The main omission here is an offline force mode – I would love to be able to come up with my own combination of teams to see who can destroy the warship first, but sadly that isn’t available.
A couple of points keep it from greatness, but Extreme Vs. Force remained enjoyable from start to finish. The combat available here is just pure fast-paced fun and force mode brought some welcome strategy into the mix – combined with great presentation and beautiful controls, the game offers an extremely compelling package.