In New Gundam Breaker you are the newest Gunpla builder at Gunbre High, Japan’s leading Gunpla Battle technical school as they seek to lead the world in its growing interest of Gunpla. You’ve been Gunpla-ing for years, and recently won a Gunpla battle at your old school! But what the hell is a Gunpla?
You know those model kits of planes and cars, that you have to cut off of a frame and glue together? Well, that. Except mecha - specifically Gundams. Yes, this is basically an advert for Gundam model kits.
See, in New Gundam Breaker, the Gundam franchise is alive and thriving - anime, manga, models, it’s all absorbed and adored by your fellow students. The school has multiple workshops for students to put Gunpla together, and they decide pretty much everything by Gunpla Battle. You don’t actually experience any of the lessons, you just go from battle to battle after a brief visual novel-style cutscene.
It’s this which brings in the game’s main problem. I have a 42 inch TV, have 20/20 vision and obviously sit back away from it. Since the voice acting in the game is all Japanese, there is a lot of text to follow along with. The game makes this almost impossible unless I’m sat much closer to the TV. The subtitle text is a light (thin) font, and since the box containing them has faint lines across it instead of being a solid colour, it makes it even more difficult to see.
That’s not the worst of it either, as at the end of battles and during the entire Build menu, the font they use is even smaller. This is not a game that you can easily play if you don’t want to sit close to your TV. In the 3v3 battles, I had to give up trying to follow along with what the teammates say, and I’ve been killed a few times when attempting to work out what each part does, and whether to keep or discard it.
Right, so the main crux of the gameplay is controlling your little model in battle against other little models for various reasons. The anime episode that it comes with does explain the logistics of this, but the game doesn’t. A lot of these are 3v3 matches, where you and two others have to complete certain missions such as destroy 10 GunTanks (if you’re a fan or can work out what they are). The team which completes the most missions wins the match. Unless you're distracted by the number of enemies, and your teammates inadvertently complete it for you. There are other types of battle, but those tend to be straight up fights where you have to destroy your opponent.
Your Gundam can jump and fly limited distances, depending on your boost gauge. Your attacks are melee, though you can equip a long range weapon too. There are special attacks, but using those requires levelling up in the current mission, so your strongest attacks are locked until late in each mission - if you manage to unlock them at all.
Another aspect of battles are components which get dropped by enemies. You can pick up five at a time, and swap them out as and when you want to use them (if you can read what they do). Heads, arms, legs, bodies and weapons are all hot swappable, although they won't remain changed between battles. If you want to keep them, you have to switch them in the build menu - supposing you keep it after the battle.
In each battle there is a crate which you can put parts into to keep them once you finish, win or lose. It's in a random place each time, and given the size of some of the maps you might not be able to find it. It's entirely possible for your teammates to use it before you even locate it, meaning that you won't be able to since it's a single-use thing.
I think the main draw for New Gundam Breaker is the build mode, which lets you put together your ideal mecha from the parts you've collected or bought with a lot of in-game currency. You can then paint it however you like, add lighting effects, swap the background and pose it to take pictures of it. In battles each part will have a different effect, whether it's changing a stat or adding a special attack.
As a first entry to the franchise (which has been running for years in Japan), it doesn't really doesn't do a great job of explaining the world. It doesn't even tell you what a Gunpla is, or why it's important to the characters - their entire education system is based around this one concept! The game is full of anime tropes such as childhood friends reunited in high school, the pervert bully, the student council, a harem - it's hardly revolutionary. The characters are fairly shallow, too, so if you're hoping for a story then you're out of luck.
New Gundam Breaker’s gameplay is hampered by a lock on system that just doesn't seem to work. It will lock onto a random enemy, even one that's far across the battlefield, and require you to manually focus on the one you actually want to fight. It's super fiddly, especially when you're still locked onto an enemy you've just destroyed because it hasn't exploded yet - or worse, one you've knocked down and have to wait to get back up before you can finish it off.
If you've gotten the impression that I'm not a big fan of this game, you'd be right. It has far too many issues to be fun, as well as 1-2 second freezes during battles that I haven't even mentioned. I've heard that the previous games in this franchise were better, and I can believe that as there is scope to do this concept better. Sadly this wasn't one of the times. The mecha and environments look nice, but if that’s the only true positive I can find, then this game must be a poor one.
New Gundam Breaker (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
New Gundam Breaker is a good concept, shoddily put together. The story is a trope-fest, battles are confusing and the masses of text are hard to read. There are so few positive points it’s not funny.