Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 02/04/19 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
I love Gundam. I loved the Encounters in Space compilation movie. I’ve loved every Gundam game I’ve played (except New Gundam Breaker; that game was trash). This game, however, is just…not good. I tried to like it. I really did. There’s even some potential for a good game here. Unfortunately, it’s just not that much fun, and they find a way to take an awesome story and make it super boring.
The game basically follows the last third of the original Mobile Suit Gundam storyline with the Federation’s push to take Solomon and A Boa Qu to end the One Year War, but it doesn’t do a very good job of telling that part of the story in any interesting way. That in itself was a bit of a shock to me considering that, with the exception of maybe Operation British and the Battle of Odessa, the endgame of Mobile Suit Gundam was the most exciting part of the series. Maybe it would be more interesting to someone who hasn’t seen Gundam, but since I’ve actually seen these battles and whatnot, it just felt like a bad imitation of something incredible.
The gameplay is a really awkward 3D space combat set-up. It feels, in a lot of ways, like they had a solid plan for what they wanted to do, but then Bandai was like “Hey, by the way, you have half an hour to finish the game before we start pressing discs,” and it got rushed. The whole control scheme just feels a bit unrefined to me. The lock-on controls feel cumbersome, movement feels rather sluggish, and as for weapons, your Vulcan is useless whereas the beam rifle is basically a noob-tube. The melee attack feels more like a short ranged attack because to a certain extent, your mobile suit will just rocket towards the enemy even if they’re a fair distance away (in the context of melee), but it’s hard to tell exactly how far is too far. The entire control scheme just feels extremely rushed to me.
Visually, the game looks pretty good for the most part. The mobile suits themselves lacked some detail that I think could have been a big boon for the game, but overall, it’s a good looking game given how abysmal the PS2’s video quality tends to be (at least in my opinion). The sound design is fine, but it would have benefited a lot from the inclusion of more music, sound effects, and voice clips from the show. It certainly would have made it feel a lot more “Gundam.”
Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space is okay I guess, but it just does not hold up well against either other Gundam games that I’ve played or the compilation film on which it’s based. The controls feel rushed and unpolished, and while the visuals are pretty nice, that doesn’t make up for the disappointing gameplay and lackluster storytelling. If you find this for $5 or less, then sure, it’s worth it for a Gundam fan, but honestly, I really just can’t recommend this one. It was mostly just boring to me.