New Gundam Breaker Review
The Gundam Breaker series has been kicking around for five years now. Those familiar with Dynasty Warriors Gundam will notice that it’s a similar one-versus-many action game of sorts, but the primary allure of Gundam Breaker lies in its extensive customization systems to construct the giant robot toy of your dreams.
Its first two entries never got an English release and Gundam Breaker 3’s English version was only officially released in Southeast Asia. New Gundam Breaker is the first time this series has received a global release, and it aims to change things up considerably.
Unfortunately, New Gundam Breaker is a massive step back from its previous iterations. It attempts to reinvent the series’s excellent core mechanics instead of building upon them. What I ended up with was a disappointing, watered-down experience that exhibited some of the worst technical performance issues I’ve seen in a PlayStation 4 game.
New Gundam Breaker revolves around a new 3-vs-3 G-Cube match system for all of its stages. Whichever side has the most points when the time runs out wins; although in some cases, defeating a main quest boss unit will end the stage too. Almost all the battles in the game consist of your team against an enemy team with neutral forces spawning in.
These matches essentially throw a number of quests at the player in the midst of battle that are each worth a certain amount of points when completed. Quests consist of either breaking containers, defeating a certain amount of neutral units, eliminating specific unit types, or annihilating the enemy team’s units. Be prepared to do the same thing over and over again throughout the limited map selection - turns out that only having one mode where I did the same things again and again for the entire game quickly became boring.
I did appreciate that there were environments that showcased the scale of how small your Gundam plastic models, or gunpla, really are. Several empty gunpla shop stages effectively highlight the size differences of High Grade, Master Grade, and Perfect Grade units and having them bash on one another is a neat spectacle to see in those spaces.
This all comes with an irritating and, frankly, unnecessary change. Players are still free to mix and match gunpla with parts they’ve acquired in combat. The catch is that parts you pick up in battle no longer stay with you unless they’re manually dumped into your team’s crate before the mission ends. Each unit can only hold a total of five parts at a time as well.
If I wanted a bunch of new parts from a specific gunpla, not only did I have to break its parts - I’d have to make sure to deposit it into a crate before the stage ended. The location of that crate will change after roughly two to three deposits on top of that. It’s a hassle that doesn’t add anything meaningful.
The crux of this matter stems from yet another new feature - the Inner Frame. Think of Inner Frames as the skeletons of gunpla units; even if all their parts are broken off, the Inner Frame will remain. These five types of frames largely influence the bulk of a gunpla’s stats. They all specialize in a particular role, so gunpla building feels a bit more restrictive in some areas. For example, the Gunner Frame has lots of attack power at the expense of low HP while the Searcher Frame has lackluster combat capabilities, but excels at recon with high movement and a skill to spot containers.
Much of the heavier RPG elements in the series takes a backseat in New Gundam Breaker as a result. The only thing that can be leveled now are these Inner Frames. Past installments had parts level up individually and Gundam Breaker 3, in particular, had a color-coded loot system that provided extensive ways to tweak each of your stats significantly. All that has been taken out in favor of consolidating stats solely on Inner Frames that’ll eventually receive new abilities that can be leveled. Only two of these passive Frame Abilities can be equipped at once and provide further stat boosts.
This all sounds great on paper, but its implementation is unwieldy. Parts can’t actually be picked up on the battlefield unless your unit hasn’t attacked for a set amount of time. The chaos coupled with imprecise, floaty controls makes it more of an impediment than it really should be.
EX-Skills in New Gundam Breaker took a turn for the worse too. These are now strictly assigned to a part with no way to learn them permanently to take to another build. Parts with multiple unique EX-Skills can also only have one equipped as well. Take the Blitz Gundam’s Body piece for instance - it has an array of great EX-Skills attached to it including firing off Lancer Darts, a Laser Rifle, and its unique Mirage Colloid system that turns the gunpla invisible temporarily. There’s no way to level this part or its skills to transfer them to other robots I want to build and I can only equip one of these at any given time. Additionally, melee and ranged weaponry no longer have EX-Skills for some reason.
To top it all off, none of your EX-Skills are accessible at the start of stages. EX-Skills unlock as your Inner Frame level increases during combat. It always starts at level 1 and you have to pick up items from containers to raise it. Increasing a frame’s levels opens up access to your skills - but you have no control over which one it’ll unlock; it’s randomized every single time. Have a handy Self Repair skill on your Head piece? Pray that’s the one that unlocks early and that your Head doesn’t get lobbed off since, once again, EX-Skills are bound to a part now.
Imagine if you couldn’t choose what skill to unlock or level in a Dota 2 or League of Legends match - that’s pretty much what New Gundam Breaker feels like except much worse.
The flow of combat just feels slower in general. Stripping away individual part levels and adjusting stat modifications have surely contributed to this, but so much of what made Gundam Breaker fun is the fast tempo of its battles. Techniques like dash canceling out of your attack strings to extend your combos are gone. Popular gunpla builds that deploy dozens upon dozens of funnels to shoot out laser beams as you attack have been massively overhauled; funnels are now a simple EX-Skill that can be fired off one set at a time and keep your gunpla stationary until it fires them off.
New Gundam Breaker’s story mode doesn’t offer much either. It’s a typical light romance story with a faceless protagonist transferring into the gunpla-focused Gunbre High School. The current student council is ruling it with an iron fist and it’s up to the protagonist and his band of potential love interests to stop them. After four stages in, the story will branch into routes for each girl much like how several visual novels have romance paths for other characters.
Each one of these routes last roughly eight stages each and story events play out pretty much the same way in every single one of these; they even all have the same stages more or less. The only difference is that the chosen heroine has a bit more focus and different bits of the story are expanded upon depending on the character. It’s nothing impressive and the characters are vessels for different stereotypes offering little to care much about. Gundam fans will get a kick out of some dialogue exchanges here and there though.
Furthermore, New Gundam Breaker is a technical nightmare. It is, without a doubt, one of the worst running games I’ve played on my base PlayStation 4. I haven’t seen a game make a rougher transition to Unreal Engine 4 than this. Nevermind holding a consistent 30fps, New Gundam Breaker often completely freezes for 2-3 seconds often - even in empty rooms. When too many units appear on the screen, you can count it to stutter frequently and it’s not a stranger to single digit FPS when several effects are firing off. Severe amounts of input lag make traversing menus and battlefields unpleasant at best. The launch sequence screen to send my gunpla off into battle causes the game to hiccup as it rushes to load in assets of my giant robot toy.
Numerous camera issues also plague this among other things. The lock-on system is extremely finicky and has a tendency to have my gunpla block the entire screen if I’m locked onto something flying. Its English font is abysmally small and thin so if you plan to play this on a large TV away from you, there’s a good chance you’ll have trouble reading some of the HUD. If you wanted to have a cool BGM with your Awakened state and can’t read Japanese by chance, get acquainted with the sound test option since most of the song titles haven’t been localized either.
It’s a shame. New Gundam Breaker is a tremendous disappointment on many levels. Newcomers to the Gundam Breaker series should be wary that this latest entry is not representative of how awesome the series can get. I love the Gundam Breaker series, but this is one of the saddest attempts to reinvigorate a franchise into a new direction. Even if the delayed PC release of New Gundam Breaker were to eliminate all the performance issues, it can’t fix the fundamental flaws that have been embedded into its core systems. Its gunpla customization system is still top-notch all things considered, but the shift to conform itself onto a competitive format has damaged it every step of the way. If you're looking to give Gundam Breaker a shot, I recommend Gundam Breaker 3's English release instead.