Title Gundam: The Battle Master
Developer/Publisher Bandai
Type 2D Fighting
English Version Not Available
Reviews #1, #2

Review #1 by Patrick Dolan

This is a 2D fighting game put out by Bandai. You control a character piloting a giant battlesuit. All the mobile suits (as they are known) are accurately based on ones found in the various Gundam series. There are ten pilots, with their associated mobile suits, to choose from. Additionally, there are three "boss" characters and mobile suits, although they may not be playable (more on this later).

The mobile suits are HUGE, even the smallest one fills almost 1/4 of the screen. The largest playable one fills a full half! Making the mobile suits feel even larger is the limited width of the playfield. Don't expect to put a lot of distance between yourself and your opponents. When you do move apart, the camera smoothly zooms out to follow the action more accurately.

Not only are the mobile suits gigantic, they are animated mind-numbingly smoothly. They have a ton of animation, no slowdown and a tremendous range of subtle effects. It looks better than Cyberbots with the RAM cart on the Sega Saturn. Heck, it almost looks better than SFIII in the arcade!

Combat, at first, seems like a typical fighting game. You can move right and left, jump and deliver four types of attacks. However, after playing for a short while, you discover that it really isn't the same as your typical SFII rip off.

First off, you have a "gun" button. This fires your mobile suits primary weapon. It can be aimed by repeatedly firing and pressing up or down on the joypad. It can be fired and aimed even in the air, allowing you to slow your descent from a jump.

Speaking of which, while the playfields are narrow, they are taller than the ones found in Marvel Superheroes, X-Men or X-Men VS Street Fighter. This is because every mobile suit has jump jets that are activated with either of the right triggers. With these, you can fly in any of eight directions, and stay airborne as long as you want. However, you have to stop thrusting in order to change direction once airborne. The jets can also be used to "catch" yourself when your opponent knocks you off your feet.

Another difference is the almost non-existant blocking. From what I can tell, pulling back to block only braces your mobile suit from being knocked off its feet from powerful attacks. It doesn't lessen the damage you take in the least. If you don't want to take damage, stay the heck out of the way (not easy when you're piloting something the size of these things!). There are, however, two methods of avoiding damage apart from blocking. Depending on the mobile suit you pilot, you can either dodge into the background (a timed manuver, you move back and forwards in a set time frame) allowing you to avoid _any_ attack, or you can activate a shield that can be left active indefinately, but only protects you from missile weapons.

You also don't have a typical health meter. Instead, each mobile suit has a temperature gauge. When the gauge is filled, one level of armor is destroyed. If you have no armor left and the gauge becomes filled, you're destroyed. Making this interesting is the fact that if you can avoid being hit for a while, your temp will drop, allowing you to "heal" before you lose a level of armor.

Each mobile suit has three levels of armor to protect them. Also, your mobile suit visibly takes damage during combat, with chunks being blown off, armor cracking, etc. This has nothing to do with your armor level or temp gauge, it merely shows where you've been hit the most often. If you keep taking blows to the head, you're going to show damage there.

Past these basic differences, the actual fighting is also quite a change from typical SFII clones. Missile combat is a constant element in Gundam, but it isn't like being hit with fireballs. You're piloting a giant robot, if your opponent shoots lasers at you, just plow through 'em and take the shmuck down with a beam saber upside the head! Only a couple of blows have the power to knock you off your feet, and you can take a massive amount of damage (not to mention that you can "heal" if needed), so don't be afraid of taking some punishment. Just try to dish out more than you are taking.

This is a brute force fighting game that thrives on powerhouse attacks and weaponry. That's not to say it isn't without strategy, its just a different type of strategy than most fighting games use. There are special moves for each mobile suit, combos and some limited juggling. Bottom line is, it's incredibly fun and one of the most beautiful looking 2D games I've seen on any system. If you like 2D fighters, enjoy Cyberbots, want a novel fighting game, or just want something that looks spectacular, this is a must-have. I'd reccommend it to anyone who can play import games on their PSX...

Final Comments: I mentioned earlier taht I wasn't sure if the boss characters were playable. Why? Because two of them are larger than the screen. One fills half the entire playfield! They can't be knocked off their feet, and they seem to break many other basic gameplay rules. The final boss isn't as big as the previous two, so it might be playable. Lastly, here's a list of the mobile suits used in the game. Much to my delight, I think they are all available as model kits..:) I want a ZionG!! (one of the most entertaingly irritating mobile suits in the game!)

Selectable Mobile Suits: Gundam, Zaku II, ZZ Gundam, The O, O-Mantha, Hygog, V Gundam, Sazabi, GP-02A, ZionG.

Bosses: Bygzam, Neve Zeil, Psyco MKIII