Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost is one of the most popular arcade games in Japan -- and that's not just because of the name brand recognition. It's also because of its fast-paced fighting engine that's been tuned and refined with each iteration of the Gundam VS series that makes it insanely fun to play.
Good -- Co-op is the Name of the Game
By basic design, the games of the Gundam VS series are two versus two fighters. So while it's possible to play alone with a computer ally and against computer enemies, it's obvious that the games are built around their versus mode. That said, the series has often had excellent local co-op on the home console versions where you could play the arcade mode with a friend as your partner. The only problem with this was the fact that it was always "local" as opposed to "online".
In the previous home release, Gundam Extreme VS, it was possible to do a sort of pseudo-co-op by starting a versus game with two private slots; but all this did was let you face a random team of computers in a random area.
Full Boost, on the other hand, is the first game in the series to seriously integrate online co-op. You are able to play all the possible routes of the arcade mode co-op; and there are 20 mission routes (each with one to 10 stages) specifically designed for co-op as well. In fact, to unlock some of the best skills to level up your Gundams, you'll need to do at least some of the co-op missions in addition to the single-player ones.
As a lover of all things co-op, this much focus on this aspect of Full Boost is like a dream come true.
Good -- 95 Mobile Suits, Right Out of the Box
There are a lot of playable Gundams in Full Boost -- and not just from across the anime series. Mobile suits from manga (e.g., Gundam SEED Astary and Crossbone Gundam), games (e.g., Blue Destiny), novels (e.g., Beltorchika's Children) and even one from the Mobile Suit Variation model kits populate the game. Out of the box, there are 95 playable mobile suits in the game. Four more are already available on the PSN with a fifth available by using a special download code -- which brings the current total to 99. Basically, if you have a favourite suit that's not too obscure, you'll likely be able to pilot it in Full Boost.
But more than that, each mobile suit is unique -- no two play exactly the same. Each has its own loadout of weapons in addition to having varying movement speeds and hit points. If your favourite mobile suit has some sort of special weapon or attack in its source material, you can bet that that attack is part of the suit's move-set in Full Boost.
Good -- Aural Candy
Another big selling point of Full Boost is its soundtrack. Going into battle, the music of any given stage is likely to be one of the theme songs from a Gundam anime series -- usually the theme that corresponds to the mobile suits you are fighting against. There is even a version of the game -- the "Premium G Sound Edition" -- that comes with an additional 30+ songs' worth of licensed music. And frankly, over the years, Gundam anime have had some excellent soundtracks.
On top of the music, each one of the game's mobile suits has a score of voice clips featuring its pilot from the anime. And even those pilots who have never had an official voice (as they come from a manga or other source) have one in the game. In other words, Full Boost is a game that just sounds like Gundam.
Mixed -- More an Expansion Pack than a New Game
In a lot of ways, Full Boost feels more like an expansion pack than a new game. There is no new plot (though the last few games in the series have lacked plots as well) and the changes to the gameplay are relatively minor (basically just tweaking and re-balancing). The vast majority of the mobile suits in the game come straight from the previous game, and others come from games even further back in the Gundam VS series. Moreover, the battlefields are reused as well.
However, the mission mode and attached level-up system are new and the aforementioned co-op is a welcome addition. There is also a new collectible system for those of you who always have to catch 'em all, so to speak. So while there is plenty new in the game, it lacks any game-changing alterations.
Mixed -- Incredibly Competitive VS Mode
As I mentioned in my import preview of Gundam Extreme VS, the games in this series are as competitive online as any 2D fighter out there. This means if you choose to play online as a beginner, or even as an intermediate player, you are likely to be utterly destroyed.
But worse than simply losing, your lack of skill will drag your partner down with you. In Full Boost (like the other games in the series), you share a life bar with your partner. Thus, if you die, you are killing your partner, too. You can mitigate this somewhat by choosing a cheap mobile suit -- one which uses up less of the team life bar and is thus weaker than the more costly suits. But even this will only get you so far.
Now, of course, Full Boost has ranked and unranked matches; but the unranked matches are often filled with expert players simply learning to play with a new suit.
Simply put, if you are looking to play Full Boost in online versus mode, expect to get your arse kicked long and hard.
Bad -- DLC Prices From Hell
As a Bandai-Namco game, it is really no surprise that there is a stupid amount of overpriced DLC. Getting a new flight officer or simply a new battle interface costs 300 yen ($2.93). Alternate pilot costumes cost that much as well. And on top of all that, there is an online pass you have to purchase in order to play (which comes free with a new copy of the game) if you are thinking of buying used.
If you've never played a Gundam VS game, Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost is a great place to start. Its relatively friendly missions and emphasis on co-op are more than a little helpful to anyone just starting out. For experienced players, it's more of a mixed bag. Much of what you see here isn't radically different from the last game in the series; and unless you are dying to play as one of the new suits (or love online co-op as much as I do), there's not much here that screams "must buy."
Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost was released for the PlayStation 3 on January 30, 2014. There is currently no word on a Western release.