FEATURE: "SD Gundam Capsule Fighter" Hands-on Impressions

OGPlanet brings Korean internet cafe hit stateside

In retrospect, my introduction to the Gundam franchise was likely less than ideal. When Toonami broadcast Gundam Wing, it gave me the impression that the emphasis of the series was on the complex relationships between attractive teenage boys who also happened to drive massive battlesuits. My familiarity with Gundam has grown since, allowing me to understand the two elements of the franchise which have made it so wildly successful. The first is, of course, the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime which revolutionized the mecha genre by introducing more mature themes, specifically the use of mecha in war. The second was the diversity of Gundam after breaking from its original Universal Century storyline, spawning a huge variety of series with vastly different designs and artistic styles.

 

The greatest excuse for robot kung fu fighting.

 

Inspired by the line of miniature mecha toys inspired by the popular line of mecha model kits inspired by the hit anime about mecha, SD Gundam Capsule Fighter reaches the deepest level of mechception. Developed by Softmax and released by Netmarble in 2007, SD Gundam Capsule Fighter became a huge hit in the internet cafe scene. Like many popular Korean titles, it is free-to-play and enjoys a lively competitive scene. One of the main attractions is definitely in its striving to keep true to the diversity of the vast number of Gundam titles.

 

The selection is... diverse.

 

The mobile suits are divided into four categories ranging from the weakest, C, to the strongest, S. Although there's a wealth of statistical information and powers you can look up to see individual advantages of differences in power between mobile suits, their appearance alone makes it pretty clear. The C class you begin with is pretty one tone with a basic design like a training suit for a Zaku while the S class are a spectrum of brightly colored Gundams with accessories like jet planes strapped to their backs, cannons twice as long as they are tall, or surfboard-like beam sabers. New mobile suits can be purchased directly or via virtual capsule machines which have random chance of producing several mobile suits of different classes. Each purchase can be made through the in game currency accrued by playing the game or with Astros, the OGPlanet virtual currency available for purchase with real world dollars.

 

Rank is roughly proportional to a mobile suit's number of jets and guns.

 

Online play comes in the form of co-op missions of up to 4 players and versus battles of up to 12. Missions range from iconic moments from Gundam series, such as protecting launching shuttles from attacking Zaku, to the bizarre, like protecting White Base from attacking RX-79 Gundams. Most missions are fairly short, even the longest not lasting longer than maybe 15 minutes, giving the game a pick-up and play feel. The playstyle is 3rd person with the traditional WASD controls with most mobile suits using a four skill system usually including a melee weapon, primary gun, machine cannons, and an ultimate attack. The style of gameplay is reminiscent of a more casual version of Armored Core if you shrunk them down, gave them big heads, and called them mobile suits. SD Gundam Capsule Fighter seems to be trying to capture the more measured combat of the earlier Armored Core releases before combat began to reach supersonic levels of booster maneuvering.

 

By measured I mean you trade speed for 8 independently firing cannons.

 

Although the engine is more simplistic than other mech titles, there is definitely a ladder to climb. Lower level mobile suits have more lives than the S class mechs in combat, but are hard pressed to compete against their overwhelming firepower. Before figuring out the mission selection screen, I was kicked from a few lobbies for being a "noob" which I felt was uncalled for until I made it in a mission where I was able to enjoy watching my training mobile suit repeatedly explode. Meanwhile my allies were blowing up battleships with their cannons half the size of my mech. I think this is an indication of a problem with menus. In my defense, the missions I selected were labelled as very easy and the menus are so cluttered and contain so much information it is hard to determine what is relevant and how it interacts. 

 

The English translation helps... somewhat.

 

While it is easy to see what originally made SD Gundam Capsule Fighter a hit, it is definitely beginning to show its age. Even in the free-to-play market, games are continually developing more complex gameplay while graphics continue to advance toward that of major console and PC titles. There is definitely a niche to which the game has a more targeted appeal. Although my obsessive need to get 100% completion was long ago broken by Disgaea, I can definitely see how a collector, especially a mecha fan, could be drawn to get all the mini mobile suits. Regardless of your motivation for playing, it is a nice distraction and nowhere near the time commitment most MMORPGS require. Is anyone here playing SD Gundam Capsule Fighter?

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