Toss Rainbow Six, MechWarrior 3 and Oni into a blender, mix for a couple of minutes, spread thin in a brownie pan, bake for twenty minutes at 350 degrees, and you’ll get Mobile Suit Gundam: Zeonic Front (MSGZF). How does it taste though? There will be people who can’t stand it and people who can’t get enough of it. MSGZF puts an interesting spin on what first appears to be a run-and-gun shoot’em up, but necessitates strategy in all but two missions.
One would find it hard to believe the Bandai development team didn’t play around with Rainbow Six before they constructed MSGZF. While not identical, nor as intricate and complex as Rainbow Six’s mission planning, MSGZF’s pre-mission strategy must be thought out and implemented carefully. I figured my skill could get me through all of the missions with the default route and mission setup. I stood corrected as soon as the third mission left an entire segment of the Gundam’s route unfinished. This requires the user to at least go through the map/route portion of planning and complete the Gundam’s routes. The game is surprisingly difficult after the first few missions and if a half-assed route is thought up, you’ll probably find yourself playing the mission over a few times until you know where all of the enemies are located. The purpose behind the mission planning is to avoid being caught off guard, or without backup in the vicinity. The entire process of planning may seem very tedious to someone wanting to jump right in and go at it, but Gundam enthusiasts will enjoy controlling every minute detail regarding the way the Gundams tackle a mission. Along with setting up the route, you can also change the other squads accompanying you on the missions. This is a feature not used in the beginning. However, as you advance, more squads become available, along with different weapons and attributes that make them worth looking over and analyzing. Other than that, the pre-mission festivities include mission briefings, advice, simulator programs, and training missions.
It’s unfortunate that games based on such great concepts are not always developed by the most talented companies. I don’t mean to insult Bandai. The game looks alright and fixes the minor problems experienced in Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo. The most noticeable difference is the “Gaussian” blur that has apparently been applied to the entire screen. A lot of people complained that Jaburo looked too unrefined and had pixilated lines. To fix the problem, Bandai decided to blur the edges of all objects and give the entire game a “softer” look. I don’t mind the graphics, but if a game like this was developed by Rockstar or Square, the visuals would have been astounding. The game sports nicely modeled buildings and trees. Through most of the game, you’ll walk between buildings as tall as yourself, in amongst trees, or inside caves. The size of the surroundings accurately depicts just how large the Gundam is; not the size of Godzilla, but certainly big enough to look out above the tree tops. One of the more appreciable qualities the game offers is the animated characters. Before, during, and after missions, you’ll constantly speak with different characters; all drawn as anime figures should be. The quality of their voices is good, as well as the actual plot they unveil. This compliments the roots that Gundam originates from and will once again please enthusiasts of the show. Other than the voice acting, the sound in the game isn’t original. All of the noises a monstrous machine should make are included, as expected. The music is better than the sound effects. I think the music brings a quality to the game that identifies it as an anime/Japanese oriented game. You’d have to watch anime to know what I’m talking about, but I definitely noticed its presence.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Zeonic Front could have really set itself apart in the game play department. It wasn’t a giant disappointment, but waiting for an excellent Gundam game shouldn’t take this long. After so many games, you’d think the developers could bring something new to the table and establish a highly addictive and enticing “core” to the game. The entire game involves walking around and blasting enemies. Sure, the mission objectives differ slightly but the variety is not nearly great enough. Despite the repetitiveness of walking around and destroying other vehicles or robots, there is that “style” I like in the game. The control response is excellent and the scheme is simple. The game chooses which weapon to fire depending on how far away the target is. This makes things much easier to manage, considering you have both analog sticks to control, run/walk to hold, the other L/R buttons to command your team, and different radar modes to flip through. The game reminds me of Oni when the Gundams fire their lateral rockets, and jump side to side, or straight back. The actual move doesn’t accomplish much, since it’s slow to perform, but definitely gives the game a nice movement touch.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Zeonic Front will appeal to a certain group of people. I think anyone who likes the TV series, or any other anime show for that matter, will be more forgiving of the game's shortcomings and will certainly be more patient. The game doesn’t move at a swift pace, so it’ll seem extremely tedious if a player doesn’t approach the game having played any of the previous Gundam titles, or with the understanding that a lot of planning is needed. Personally, I'll enjoy playing this game every once and a while and I can easily see hardcore fans loving it.