With its first release back in January of 1988, the long-running strategy series of SD Gundam has finally made its triumphant official debut in the west with SD Gundam G Generation Cross Rays on Steam. In the convening 30+ years, this series has seen more than 40+ games spanning generations of both home and handheld platforms including the likes of the Famicom, Virtual Boy, PSP, and PlayStation 4. Now, after so long, English speaking fans of the legendary mecha anime series Gundam no longer will have to rely on import websites and other region digital marketplaces in order to create their dream teams of pilots and mobile suits.
For anyone who may be unfamiliar with this series, the SD series (standing of “Super Deformed”) of titles are deep tactical RPGs with a plethora of options for customizability. Deploy squads of your hand-picked mobile suits and pilots from throughout the property’s history, as you tackle memorable conflicts from each game included series’. This new game includes units from the universes of Gundam SEED, Gundam 00, Iron-Blooded Orphans, and Gundam Wing that range from impressive main Gundam units you expect, to mass-produced generic suits that all the nameless pilots would use. Up until they’d get destroyed by an actual Gundam, that is. Each unit has a variety of attacks at their disposal that can be used to attack individual enemies, areas on the map, or even transform the machine itself into a new mode.
Combat takes place on a grid, similar to other popular titles of this type like Fire Emblem and Super Robot Wars. Taking turns, you and the computer will square off to destroy specific targets, protect others, or survive for a given number of turns. The real treat of Cross Rays is when you get into combat encounters. Units hurling their attacks one another or teaming up together, unleashing their barrage of bullets, beams, and sabers, while a track from a Gundam series plays in the background. The attention to detail with many of these attacks, with anime cut-ins, and dramatic camera movements, really makes these encounters the best part of this game. Of course eventually, if you get tired of watching the animations, you can always just turn them off. This option is handy for when you need to speed up the grinding process.
Outside of the main game mode where you play through important skirmishes from the various included series, is an automated mission dispatch mode. Feeling like it was taken straight out of a mobile phone title, you are able to send a team out on various missions. These missions can take anywhere from an hour up to 12 hours and reward you with experience, money, items, and even new units or music! You are able to get items that will speed up the missions, so if you don’t want to wait 12 hours for your main team to return, spend a number of these tickets and they can be back right away. I found this to be the best way to quickly farm experience to power level units and develop an arsenal with better mobile suits, but it’s almost too easy. The main way to unlock new units being leveling up a suit and then developing it down its evolution tree. In the main game, units only get experience if they participate in combat, making you have to balance and juggle which units and pilots you want to level up. With these dispatch missions, every unit and pilot assigned to the team gets to experience, making this hands-off and wait option the most time-efficient way of grinding. I find it disappointing that in a game about making your dream team and taking on enemies, the fastest way to make that team, is to not play.
While Cross Rays is available on the Switch and PlayStation 4 overseas, at the time of writing, we have only received an official release on Steam. With this version, not only do players get various PC settings they can tweak, what really stands out is the ability to add in your own music. This music can then be assigned to your various units, so whenever they get into combat, your added track can play. I highly recommend swapping out renditions of popular series music that come with the game, with the actual tracks from the show. There really is no comparison between the two, having the original tracks really add to the experience.
SD Gundam G Generation Cross Rays is an enjoyable title that will appeal to both fans of the non-universal Century Gundam series’ and rich tactical RPGs. While it appears overwhelming at first with its onslaught of numbers and stats, most of it can be glossed over for casual playthrough. They will always be there though if you do want to invest more time to really optimize and specialize your playthrough. The visuals, sound effects, and music calling back to the source material gave me the occasional shiver of excitement. With hundreds of mecha and dozens-and-dozens of pilots to choose from, this really is the first dream team Gundam game for western audiences. Hopefully, this won’t be the first and only time we get an official localization of one of these titles, and who knows, maybe next time, we will even get the console ports!
This game was reviewed on PC with a review code provided by the game’s PR group.