Bandai Namco’s Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxiboost ON is a definitive mech-frenzied celebration, thinly veiled as an arena-style fighting game. Imagine taking every major Gundam version in the franchise and applying them to a proverbial kitchen sink of arcade-powered action, online matchmaking and plenty of anime references sprinkled on top; the results would be a solid example of gaming fanservice that’s been limited to Japanese arcades only. Until now, that is.
The game’s somewhat obscure origins stretch all the way back to 2001 where the original coin-op ‘Federation vs. Zeon’ dropped for the Sega NAOMI, with consecutive sequels coming right after another for the arcades and occasional console releases. 2010 brought upon the initial debut of ‘Extreme Vs.’ and three updated iterations finishing with 2016’s MaxiBoost ON. Because of this, the series remains incredibly popular in Japan and a major revenue generator, so much that a home port wasn’t even essential until this version for the PlayStation 4.
Not much has changed with the mechanics from its predecessors. Battles remain a two-on-two affair and the action is fast-paced and unrelenting, with matches lasting less than two minutes on average. This means a moderately steep learning curve, as any novice jumping headfirst into the fray will get their metallic butt kicked. Engaging enemies and securing victory requires quick thinking and knowing your ally’s strengths and weaknesses intimately, a level of patience, practice and bit of luck are required to fully appreciate ‘EXVSMBON’ in the long run.
The realization comes with the fact that button-mashing won’t get you far even as a beginner. Certainly, button layout is simple enough with melee, main weapon, jump and combination of any two of them – in addition to unconventional flicks of the controller or (preferably) arcade stick – performing various special attacks or abilities unique to each Gundam. You will have experiment in order to find your perfect mobile suit as each combatant has his and/or her own subtleties in boost gauge, ammo counts, and even shared team life gauge allocation.
The EX Burst feature of ‘EXVSMBON’ is another potential game-changer where you temporarily activate enhancements. Before hitting the battlefield, you can choose between three perks; Fighting Burst improves close-ranged attacks and breaks enemy guards, Extend Burst allows players to evade most oncoming danger and counter enemy blows, and Shooting Burst allows you to mix-up and perform cancellable ranged attacks to other ones. Of course, you can abuse your powers at the expense of your teammate, and you may ‘cost over’ with unfavorable handicaps.
The more extraordinary feat is how many Gundams are available to pick from the jump—with over 180 playable mobile suits to be exact. In fact, it is borderline overwhelming when you realize that the roster spans across 36 iterations of anime, manga and even nods to ‘Gunpla’ hobbyists. The presentation is equally remarkable and pays plenty of homages to the vast universes blended here, with the Japanese voice seiyuus intact and soundtracks pulled from their respective franchises. Maxiboost ON is a collection of everything you love about Gundam, graphically and audibly.
In terms of longevity, online play is what makes ‘EXVSMBON’ worthwhile, which is no surprise considering the replay value is entirely dependent on the multiplayer aspect. people will spend much of their time fighting online, Player, Ranked, and Casual Matches are readily available. Matches took a while to synchronize, but once in battle, latency and netcoding is relatively smooth for brisk 4-player excursions. Only time will tell if the online is appealing enough to maintain its base and QoL (quality of life) performance, at least you can link two PS4s together for LAN functionality when all else fails.
For solo players, the experience is a comparative afterthought in relation to the real meat of ‘EXVSMBON’. Maxi Boost Missions are made up of roughly 200 missions, and players must take on set battles, eventually culminating in a boss fight. Each fight has their own objectives and variables, with the opportunity to gain rank, collect reward chips, and equip upgrade data with GP points in barebone fashion. An arcade-like Branch Battle Mode is also available to take on the CPU without parameters, along with a Free Battle Mode to give you a chance to practice.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxiboost ON is a pure dream match that will attract the anime fandom and competitive players alike, with gameplay that’s basic to pick up yet engaging to master. It’s far from perfect, however, and when the awe of the massive roster and over-the-top matches begins to dwindle, being completely reliant on taking the manic action online may not keep casual fans engaged. Arcade aficionados and Gundam fans, on the other hand, should find much to love in this package, regardless of its limited appeal, and were probably overdue for a quality Gundam title anyway.