SD Gundam Dimension War
  • Genre:
    • Strategy
  • Platform:
    • Virtual Boy
  • Developer:
    • Locomotive Corporation
  • Publisher:
    • Bandai
  • Released:
    • JP 12/22/1995
Score: 40%

This review was published on 07/29/2016.

SD Gundam Dimension War is a turn-based strategy video game published by Bandai and developed by Locomotive Corporation for the Virtual Boy. It was exclusively released in Japan on December 22, 1995, though there's a Japanese to English translation patch available online. Along with Virtual Bowling, this was the last official Virtual Boy game to come out in Japan. In North America, that honor went to 3D Tetris. Anyway, as this game's title implies, it's based on the Gundam franchise, which was created by a company named Sunrise and often revolves around giant robots fighting each other in outer space. The Gundam franchise started on April 7, 1979, as an animated television series called Mobile Suit Gundam. The TV series was revolutionary for its time and quickly became a big hit. Gundam eventually transformed into a worldwide phenomenon due to its popularity, which led to the creation of countless other media based on it, such as more TV shows, movies, comic books, and yes, video games. Quite a few Gundam games have been released over the years; some of them good, some of them bad. This is one of the bad ones.

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All Virtual Boy games have a red and black color scheme on the account of the system's limited screens, which is rather unappealing. This coupled with the fact that the screens are positioned directly in front of your eyes tends to induce significant eyestrain. However, this game makes matters even worse by having absolutely atrocious graphics. You could tell this was a budget title with how cheap the visuals are. Backgrounds and foregrounds for battlefields are as basic as you can get, often being rendered mostly in black. With all that blackness, there's really not much to look at in this game. Perhaps that could be partially excused due to the fights primarily taking place in outer space, but in that case, the game could have had more environmental variety. Occasionally there'll be a planet or something in the background, but that's about it. The 2-D sprites are also poorly animated, tiny, and lack detail. Plain and simple, the graphics for this game are lazy. The music and sound effects are also quite bad.

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Like most turn-based strategy games, you and the opponent take turns moving units across a chessboard-like environment. In this particular game, each player is able to move all their units on their turn, which is in stark contrast to chess, where players can only move one piece per turn. Unlike most turn-based strategy games, the chessboard-like maps go three spaces high, giving them a slight three dimensional feel. You use the left d-pad to move the cursor around, the L and R shoulder buttons to decrease and increase the cursor's height, the A button to select units and confirm commands, and the B button to cancel commands. Most units are giant robots, or in this case, tiny robots, but some are spaceships. You can tell which unit is yours by the way it's facing; friendly units face away from you, whereas enemy units face towards you. The objective of each mission is to eliminate all enemy battleships, and failure occurs if the same is done to you. You can also lose from taking too many turns to finish a battle. Aside from the 3-D map, this is pretty standard... or it would be if it weren't for the real-time attack sequences.

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When one unit moves within range of another, an attack sequence can be initiated. The sequence differs depending on whether it's robot versus robot, robot versus battleship, or battleship versus battleship. Fights involving two robots are broken up into two phases: the approach phase and the close combat phase. Both phases have timers and they either end when one side is destroyed or once time's up. During the approach phase, you'll fire shots at the enemy with the A button while using the left d-pad to avoid their return fire. Once that's done, you'll enter the close combat phase, where your robot and the enemy robot will do battle up close. This phase has you fly around the screen with the left d-pad and you use the right d-pad to do different attacks. The attacks differ slightly depending on which robot you're controlling, but most of them consist of a beam saber and various guns. Additionally, you can move from the foreground to the background with the L and R buttons. This is frustrating, because the screen is divided into three planes and it's difficult to tell which one you and the enemy are currently on. Due to that, there's a lot of ambiguity on whether attacks will connect. These interactive attack sequences should be fun, but they're not.

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While the robot battles have you manually control things in real time, that's not the case for everything. If your battleship is attacked or attacks something, the sequence is fully automated. You do still get to control your robot if it attacks a battleship, but you'll only get an approach phase. Indirect attacks are also fully automated. The advantage to indirect attacks is that you get to attack from afar, plus you don't have to suffer a counterattack in return. The disadvantage is... nothing, basically. You can also set up ambushes by hiding behind objects on the map, like stray asteroids, but there are barely any tactical reasons to do this. One big problem with the battle system, and there are many, is that there are no real advantages to doing things manually. The optimal strategy is to use battleships and indirect attacks exclusively, as the computer's automated attacks are far more effective at dishing out consistent damage than anything you could ever hope to do. The enemy AI is also so bad that they'll sometimes not even bother approaching you if you use ranged attacks. Despite this being a strategy game, there is very little strategy to be had here.

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The pacing to this game is excruciatingly slow. Battles are so sluggish that a single skirmish can last well over thirty minutes. Units move across the map at a snail's pace, the menu navigation is clunky, and it takes forever to destroy a single unit. Even for a turn-based strategy game, this is completely ridiculous. Really, the biggest challenge of this game is trying to stay awake. It's also hard to tell the relative position of units due to the weird graphical perspective and three dimensional maps. It's like 3-D chess, except with graphics that leave a little too much for the imagination. The Virtual Boy's stereoscopic 3-D is supposed to help with this, but it doesn't. As a result of that, ascertaining the attack range of each unit requires a lot of guesswork. That's especially irritating if you want to do indirect attacks. Speaking of, it's also not clear which units even have indirect attacks. Such a lack of information is inexcusable for a strategy game.

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This game isn't worth playing. It's not one of the better Gundam games, nor is it even one of the better Virtual Boy games. Even if you're a hardcore Gundam fanatic, there's no value in playing this. The graphics are bad, the music and sound effects suck, the battles are about as exciting as a tour at a pencil museum, there's hardly any strategy present, and the story is practically nonexistent. Do yourself a favor and skip this game.

Word Count: 1,245

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