The venerable Gundam franchise has spawned countless video games over the decades, and one of its most popular is the long-running Gundam Versus series. This series can trace its origins back to Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon, which first hit Japanese arcades in 2001, before getting console ports on the Dreamcast and PS2.
Since then, Gundam Versus has received over a dozen entries that have gotten progressively more insane, both in terms of gameplay and title length. Gradually dipping into crossovers, the series now sports over 180 mobile suits; drawn from close to 40 different anime, manga, light novels, and movies in the Gundam mythos.
The series has always been predominately focused on arcades, with entries occasionally getting console ports years later. The latest of these is Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON; an arcade game from 2016 that has just made its way to PS4. It’s also one of the rare Gundam games to get a Western release, even if it wasn’t accompanied by a physical version.
Regardless of if you are a veteran of the Versus series, or a complete newcomer, the PS4 port of Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON is loaded with tense battles, tons of content, and copious amounts of Gundam fanservice.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: July 30th, 2020
If you are new to the Gundam Versus series, you’ll immediately want to start with the Maxi Boost Missions mode. This acts as the game’s single player campaign, and contains a brief overview of the controls and mechanics. Even with this tutorial, however, you’ll definitely need to seek out game guides and video tutorials online. This is the one I used, and it helped immensely.
Much like its predecessors, Maxi Boost ON is a 3D arena fighter focused on 2v2 battles. While relatively simple to learn, it’s absolutely packed full of mechanical depth that the game is terrible at actually conveying to new players. Despite some experience with the series bar recent years, I quickly found myself pretty overwhelmed when first jumping in.
The series has changed so much since I last played that I’m effectively a newcomer now, and Maxi Boost ON‘s new player experience is pretty terrible. The game feels rather stiff, clunky, and unintuitive when you pick up the controls for the first time, and it doesn’t help that the game barely teaches you the basics before throwing you to the wolves.
A quick glance at a guide reveals dozens upon dozens of concepts that players have learned over the years that the game’s tutorial just doesn’t prepare you for. This means that any newcomer that jumps into the online mode, or even some of the harder single player battles, will probably get extremely frustrated very quickly.
The core of Maxi Boost ON‘s mechanics revolve around boost management. Double tapping the X button will make your mobile suit start zipping around the arena with its thrusters, and each suit is different when it comes to their boost efficiency.
When your boost starts getting low, you’ll need to land for a moment to regain it, which leaves you vulnerable to attack. Your boost bar is also used to block and perform boost steps, which are short sidesteps that allow you to dodge attacks and break locks on tracking projectiles like missiles.
If you push your mobile suit too hard, you’ll overheat. This leaves you even more vulnerable, and comes with a wide range of other penalties. For example, you can still block when you are out of boost, but it becomes more like a quick parry with a much shorter margin for error than normal.
The game’s depth comes from all the ways you can use your mobile suit’s boost and movement mechanics to outmaneuver your enemies. There are tons of little concepts, like boost cancelling, boost hopping, rainbow stepping, and so on that simply aren’t properly conveyed in the tutorials. You will definitely need to do your research to learn the core concepts needed to survive even the most casual of online play.
Even after playing for a while, I still find some aspects of the controls a bit clunky. The game relies a lot on double tapping in different directions with the analog stick to perform moves. Blocking is performed by quickly flicking the analog stick down and up, and can feel a bit unintuitive.
Many suits have charged moves that require holding a button down. This gets awkward when a suit has a ranged attack that is performed by holding the melee button down.
Once Maxi Boost ON clicks, you’ll find an extremely deep and awesome fighting game experience. Battles are fast and intense, involving lots of flashy melee combos and ridiculous ranged weapons Gundam fans have come to expect from the newer installments in the franchise.
A lot of this depth comes from the sheer amount of mobile suits in the game. There are 183 in total; each with their own unique playstyles, sets of weapons, and attacks. Some suits are extremely easy to pilot, making them perfect for newbies. Meanwhile, others can be ridiculously complex, with multiple modes that result in several pages of combo and weapon lists.
There are ranged mobile suits, melee mobile suits, and everything in-between. Mobile suits come in four cost levels: 1500, 2000, 2500, and 3000. In Maxi Boost ON‘s standard mode, both sides have a force gauge of 6000 points. When a suit is destroyed, its cost is deducted from that team’s force gauge before the player respawns.
Generally speaking, the more expensive the mobile suit, the more raw power and health it comes with by default. At the 1500 point level you’ll typically see things like Zaku IIs, Acguys, or Gundam-type mobile suits piloted by rookies, such as Chris in the Gundam Alex, or Marbet in the Victory Gundam Hexa.
At the 3000 point level you’ll see a lot of the fancy stuff, like most of the Gundams from Gundam Wing, many of the Gundams in the second season of Gundam 00 and its movie sequel, the Nu Gundam, Unicorn Gundam, and so on.
Many of the newbie friendly suits sit in the 2000 and 2500 point brackets. The 1500 point suits tend to have the highest learning curve, which makes a degree of sense. After all, most of the mobile suits in this bracket are mass production units, or simply outdated and outclassed by newer models.
The 1500 point mobile suits normally rely on a lot of gimmicks and unconventional tricks, allowing you to live out your fantasies of taking on advanced Gundam-type suits in a lowly Zaku like in Bernie’s battle with Chris in the final episode of 0080, or when Norris took on the entire 8th MS Team and a squad of Guntanks in his Gouf Custom.
There is a fair amount of depth and strategy when it comes to choosing your targets due to the Over Cost mechanic. If a high cost suit is destroyed and the team doesn’t have enough force points left, the suit will respawn in a much weaker state. This means that it’s often more strategically sound to bully the lower cost mobile suit, before focusing your fire on the higher cost one.
The stupidly large amount of playable mobile suits means that it’s hard to truly get bored with Maxi Boost ON. As a Gundam fanatic, I often find myself a bit paralyzed by the number of choices, because there are so many fan favorites to choose from. What’s more insane is that they managed to make so many of them feel very unique and different from one another.
Each mobile suit will typically have a main ranged attack, a main melee attack, a sub ranged attack, a special ranged attack, and a special melee attack. Many of these can be modified by holding buttons to charge attacks, or hitting different directions when using the weapon. For example, the Psycho Zaku’s standard ranged weapon is its machine gun, but holding the fire button allows you to use the beam bazooka.
Many suits will also have assist moves that summon friendly mobile suits to help them. Gato’s GPO2A can send out a Dom Tropen to charge your target with its heat saber. Alternatively, a different button combination brings in the Xamel to bombard your target with its massive 680mm gun. Not all of these are attacks either, as sometimes the assists involve summoning friendly mobile suits to shield you.
There are also plenty of mobile suits with alternate modes. The Hildolfr can transform into its tank mode to move around the battlefield faster, and basically anything with a fighter or mobile armor mode can transform to fly around. Suits like the Strike Gundam, Impulse Gundam, and G-Self can swap out their weapon packs to gain access to new attacks and weapons.
Some suits have a different take on transformations. The Gundam Alex starts a battle in its Chobham armor, which can absorb some punishment before being purged to gain access to a new move set and weapons.
The Full Armor Unicorn Gundam, meanwhile, detaches its huge array of bazookas and rocket pods after they run out of ammo, at which point it gains access to its shield funnels to conduct all-range attacks.
Rounding out each mobile suit’s arsenal of weapons are the EX bursts. As you deal and receive damage, an EX gauge fills. Once it gets at least half full, you can unleash your EX burst to gain a massive boost in performance. There are three to choose from, which fall into the categories of improved melee attacks, improved ranged attacks, or improved survivability.
Each mobile suit also has a unique ultimate attack tied to its EX gauge. The original Gundam, for example, can knock an enemy into the air and replicate the famous “last shot” scene.
Others, like the Penelope and Xi Gundam, just involve firing their mega particle cannons at max output and bombarding an area with funnel missiles. Some are truly ridiculous, like Char in the Sazabi just outright dropping Axis on the battlefield, causing an enormous nuclear explosion.
Like the game’s tutorial in general, I kind of wish Maxi Boost ON did a better job of explaining each attack and move in a mobile suit’s move list. All you get is a name without any real description of the attack. Most are rather obvious, like a mega particle cannon attack shooting a really big, channeled beam.
Some moves just aren’t even on the command list, however. Emma’s Super Gundam shows a rocket barrage attack in her list of weapons during a match, but its not on the move list. Meanwhile, the Kampfer’s chain mine is attached to one of its melee combos, which is yet again not displayed in the move list.
One minor nitpick I have is that some of the game’s extensive roster feels a bit redundant. There are no less than three versions of the Zeta Gundam, all piloted by different characters and using slightly different moves and weapons. There are several examples of suits being repeated, but piloted by different characters and in different point brackets.
It comes off as reusing assets to pad the roster out a bit more, and it’s a little disappointing because there are plenty of other fan favorite mobile suits that aren’t represented in the game. This is ultimately just a personal gripe though, and its hard to argue with 183 playable characters as a feature point, even if some are just minor variants.
While the real draw of Maxi Boost ON is its competitive multiplayer, the game has so much single player and co-op content that I can even recommend it to Gundam fans that aren’t interested in the competitive side of the game.
The Maxi Boost Missions is a pretty lengthy campaign where you fight your way through nodes on a grid representing different battles. Many of these are loosely based on moments in Gundam history, like a battle where you have to use Amuro to fight Char and Lalah, or a 2v2 battle that involves Banagher and Marida versus Full Frontal and Angelo.
There are other mission types in the Maxi Boost campaign as well; including survival battles, score attacks, battles where you must defeat a specific target, and boss fights against massive mobile armors like the Big Zam or Regnant.
This mode is also full of enemy mobile suits that aren’t playable, and technically brings the full number of mobile suits represented in the game closer to 300. That is a bit disappointing, as some of them are mobile suits I would have liked to use, such as Doms or Serpent Customs.
I think a boss mode where someone plays as one of the game’s gigantic mobile armors would have been cool as well, but the game’s roster is large enough to keep any diehard Gundam fan entertained as is.
One of the more unique aspects of this mode is the ability to unlock and install upgrades on you and your AI partner’s mobile suits. Each upgrade has a unit cost, and your max cap increases as you level up and progress through the campaign. They are all various types of passives, and some are admittedly pretty boring, like 5% increased defense.
Some can get pretty dramatic though, like increased boost efficiency, better partner AI, or 50% more melee weapon damage. Many of these upgrades can be enhanced by spending GP, a currency you get throughout the game.
Besides a practice mode, the single player content also includes the Branch Campaign. This lets you pick a mobile suit and fight your way down a branching pathway of missions that vary in terms of difficulty and objectives.
This mode can be played in co-op, and usually takes about 30 minutes to complete. The extensive number of branches means there is a ton of replay value here, despite how short a single playthrough is.
As far as long-term progression goes, Maxi Boost ON is full of cosmetics to unlock. These include new HUD designs and all kinds of avatars and player card customizations.
These can be unlocked by spending GP you earn from playing the game, or by reaching certain milestones. These can include raising your proficiency with specific mobile suits by using them enough times, beating specific missions in the campaigns, and so on.
You also gain figures every time you defeat a new mobile suit. These figures are grouped into sets based on the series they appeared in. When you complete a set, the game will award you with a sizable chunk of GP to spend on cosmetics and upgrades in the Maxi Boost Missions.
If all this wasn’t enough, Maxi Boost ON quadruples down on Gundam fanservice. Not only does the game have loads of mobile suits and stages based on various famous scenes from throughout Gundam history, but you can choose from a few dozen characters to be your “navi,” both in menus and during battles.
These characters will pop up to make comments during battles and while navigating the menus. Most of the female characters also have an “intimacy” meter that raises the longer you use them. Raising your intimacy will unlock unique player card customizations and alternate outfits for the girls.
Gundam has a ton of famous tracks and opening themes, and Maxi Boost ON includes close to 100 of them. You can set the music that plays in the menus and when piloting specific mobile suits. There is even a music importer you can use if your favorite Gundam opening themes aren’t in the game.
While Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON undoubtedly has a steep learning curve and doesn’t do a particularly good job at easing newcomers into the series, it is ultimately a very rewarding game to play.
There is a ridiculous amount of mechanical depth in the boost and movement systems if you want to dip into the game at really high levels of play. At the same time, the huge amount of single player content and variety ensures that it can be enjoyed at a more casual level as well.
If you are a big Gundam fan, Maxi Boost ON won’t disappoint you. Even if your personal favorite mobile suit isn’t included, chances are you’ll still find more than a few suits you really like in the game’s absurdly large roster.
If you aren’t a huge Gundam fan though, I’m unsure how much enjoyment you’d ultimately get out of the game. There is no denying that Maxi Boost ON is a very fun, mechanically deep 3D arena fighting game, but it is overflowing with so much Gundam fan service that it might be pretty overwhelming to gamers that aren’t already into Gundam, or are merely casual viewers of the franchise.
You’ll probably still have quite a bit of fun even if you don’t know the difference between an MS-06R-1A and MS-06R-2, but this is still a game that is unapologetically targeted almost exclusively at Gundam fans that want to see lots of mobile suits from different timelines reduce each other to space dust. In that regard, it definitely succeeds at what its trying to accomplish.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review copy provided by Bandai Namco. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.