I hate it when BandaiNamco does that.
Oh Artdink, what went wrong? What went so damn wrong? BandaiNamco being morons and dicking you over(like every other studio underneath them) is one thing but you yourself have made some really questionable choices for some of your long standing franchises. I had talked before about Artdink, given they were tasked to make a next gen Dragon Ball cash-grab before and mentioned their Gundam and Macross games as well, with Macross Ultimate Frontier being their best game and an utter labour of love for the franchise and that style of gameplay(I should note this is a hypothesis on my part but the evidence does point to that) with Macross 30 being their second best due to its nature. So, when you rech so high and have all the ingredients and assets for a recipe for greatness or at least know what works and what doesn’t, how do you mess things up? The answer to that question, I erroneously thought, was found in Gundam Assault Survive, a “sequel” to the Gundam Battle games that added the Gundam Seed and Gundam 00 series in the game formula while making some weird gameplay changes :
It’d be easy to just rage about and I did that when it came out about it being an inferior product to Gundam Battle Universe, not implementing some of the best ideas they had in the Macross games etc but in retrospect and upon reading older articles, it’d be unfair to keep on ranting about it. Artdink, like many devs under Bandai’s thumb, often tend to release a lot of games, if they are lucky one every year and if they’re unlucky, more every year. And they are not a big studio, with only 60 people(last counted back in 2011), just like Banpresto / B.B. Studio, which is why you have a case of games like the Gundam Battle series, where it seems that Gundam Battle Universe is a great sequel to mediocre games when it actually seems like GBU was actually intended to be the fully completed game that would normally take 3 to 4 years to make but BN decided to milk every step of the developement. And no, releasing each step of the game in the market, making minimal changes every time until it’s fully finished is bad for both the customers / fans and the devs, because unlike digital media or steam, you can’t expect everyone to fuck off for 9 months in an office and complete phase 2 of a game that takes arduous development while also working on 2 more projects that should be out the same year.
But then, Gundam Seed Battle Destiny happened :
What the fuck happened here? This is utterly miserable and stupid from any sane point of view that it’s detestable when you think about it for more than three seconds. They built a new engine for the Vita, had a new setting compared to the previous games which is perfect for a new start but instead chose to transfer all the bullshit they had, none of any possible fixes implemented in the latest games and instead make it even more brainless that a game they made 5 years prior that. Battle Destiny not only tries to adhere to the Gundam Battle series DNA to a fault, it goes a few steps back even to return to the first game made. I can only imagine this happened due to the whole shitstorm of SONY killing the PSP to actively push the failure that is the Vita, Artdink trying to balance more games than they could handle and the added responsibility of developing for some of Japan’s greatest cash makers(Dragon Ball, Sword Art Online etc) because let’s face it : as much as Gundam and Gunpla are loved in Japan, they are niche. Buying a Gunpla for your kid doesn’t equate it to buying the video games as well, as evidenced by the sales of the series. Heck, even an utterly beloved franchise as the Gundam Versus Gundam series barely tops 50k in sales domestically(no info on imports) while Gunpla kits can rake up to 4 million for a fucking Zaku model. So, the pressure when developing the PSP games and even a project as big as Macross 30, a game made in collaboration with Satelight and most importantly, Shoji kawamori, to write a “final story” for Macross and let the players experience it and partake in that kind of thing, in a way only Super Robot Wars would allow you previously, wouldn’t be so high as the niche that playes the games would buy it anyway. With Dragon Ball and SAO, who also have a worldwide appeal, the pressure is incredibly real and if I had to guess, like I did before in this very post, judging their work on Macross and to a lesser extend Gundam compared to SAO, I see passion in the former while anxiety and a hollow sense of adhesion to a formula that is safe and can resonate with two very different audiences, with Artdink helming this project simply because they can do flight combat from experience. And don’t be deceived, accidentally creating something deep isn’t exactly laudable :
as seen above. It’s all unfortunate in retrospective but there’s no use crying over spilt milk. What I’m gonna do is what I do best : be a petulant jerk and fantasize about what would happen if Artdink wasn’t screwed over by BandaiNamco and got their shit together for a proper Gundam Battle sequel. You ready for some gameplay and game engine talk?
Starting with the most important aspect of all, we have to talk about the engine. Artdink started making these games on the PSP back in 2005 and at that time neither the PSP was powerful enough due to the 222mhz limitation placed on it(later mysteriously “fixed” when they had to release a God of War game on it…I WONDER WHY?) and the fact that this kind of powerful portable technology was unknown at the time, 2 years in the lifecycle of the machine. So they made a placeholder engine with three important things for its core :
- The motion, weight and impact these giant bipedal tanks called “Mobile Suits” make in the battlefield
- The detail and individual power of each model with the power creep in mind as technology in-universe advances
- The simulation of the early battles between mobile suits
And they do it very well. Taking cues from a lot of early games made by Bandai’s game studio, BEC, that were developed for the PS1 and PS2 and merged their best elements to create something that is quite close to a perfect simulation of the One Year War of the Universal Century era of Gundam. Admittedly, such a scenario has problems when you present the later portions of the U.C., with the hyper fast fights of F91, the frantic missile and laser barrages of Char’s Counterattack and the insanity plaguing Hathaway’s Flash but for mostly the OYW and up until Gundam ZZ, if we’re generous, the feeling of that simulation is captured expertly. This ended in 2007 with Gundam Battle Chronicle and while Gundam battle Universe exists as the pinnacle of that series, GBU was more of a “Gundam Battle Chronicles expansion” to be fair since the additions in it compared to previous years aren’t so much the finishing touches of a game but rather the addition and improvement on an already finished game, which is what makes it so good.
So while Gundam Battle Universe was worked on at a leisurely pace, Artdink was working on another game that utilized a very heavily modified version of that game(…I assume at least, I find it a bit hard for Artdink to have developed an entirely new engine given their busy schedule and lack of personel those years) that was probably more of a passion project : Macross Ace Frontier.
Given that Macross and Gundam have very different focuses and attitudes when it comes to giant robot slapfights, the focus of the new game engine had to shift to accomodate those new cores :
- Really fast and fast paced gameplay both on foot and as a jet fighter to enable exciting dogfights
- Expansive and vast stages on both X and Y axis even at the cost of graphical fidelity but not the cost of framerate
- The ability to render a lot of units at the same time without suffering any slowdown or drop in enemy or ally A.I.
- The ability to render all of the above and the possibility of about hundres of lasers and missiles existing at once
- The ability to render not only many small planes but 2 km big spaceships in the same space without drawbacks
And a sixth addition that came with its sequel :
6. The ability to let the player customize the music of not just the stages but of the game itself
So with such heavy modifications, assets and data can’t exactly be carried over between the two series so we end up with two games that look like they play in a similar fashion on the surface, with seemingly the same assets but by the endgame they are worlds apart. Even still, Ace Frontier had problems which I’d chalk up to develop inexperience for one reason only : Macross Ultimate Frontier, one year later, not only fixed all the problems Ace Frontier had, it fixed possible problems that would arise with their new technology of Custom Soundtrack and also upped the aggressiveness while also accounting for further difficulty modes. Not to mention, the heads up display and UI during battle greatly improved with the way it was styled in Macross Ace Frontier and while I love the style of Ultimate Frontier, Ace Frontier’s style fits the Gundam much better and with some tweaking to give the Ui a more metalic look, it’d fit right in.
Look at that; compact, tight, mechanical and able to give you all the critical information without cramping up, the result of 5 years of study and development of these games to bring the best kinds of results, with all the information taking just the right amount of space while the mecha is centered just perfectly on the screen, in a distance not too far but no to close either, while conveying its artistry. All well and good right? While Macross clearly is more…archaic looking than its brother games of Gundam, the artstyle, colouring and the camera distance make up for that and make that equally as appealing, even during motion. If Gundam is about the finer details and the beauty of the deliberate motion with impact these giants make on the field from the perspective of an onlooker, Macross is about the stylization and exaggerated motion these robots can bring to the battlefield with a great sense of speed and pacing from the pilot’s perspective, even from the third person. But, if a Gundam game was to be made with that kind of engine, given that unlike Macross, U.C. doesn’t have kilometers wide or tall monstrocities that fire a thousand lights of doom while missiles are hailing from every direction and you don’t often need about 50 A.I. controlled mecha on the field plus your own. If it instead focused that power on upping the A.I. and aggressiveness even more while upping the graphical fidelity a little more since stages won’t be as taxing anymore and using the vastness of the new engine to further enhance the experience by giving several Gundams a flight mode…wouldn’t that be amazing? In Gundam Battle Universe, a problem of the latter stages is that the graphics are taxing and the game struggles with more than 10 people on the map, let alone the screen itself, so that would help a lot. Even if you couldn’t carry over assets, the assets that you would create anew with this engine would be perfect for future projects.
SO WHY THE FUCK DID THEY DO THIS?
Please explain it to me. What kind of baboon-brained buffoon thought it was a great to scrap FUCKING EVRYTHING and restart from zero and making everything WORSE! Why focus right up the ass of the Mobile Suit? Why clutter the screen so much? Why make everything transparent, displaced and on top of each other, covering a quarter of the screen and have zoom ins and zoom outs each time a boost action happens? Even if you don’t go back to the U.C. and go with the SEED series, why do that? If anything, while the Gundam Battle portraying fairly accurate the UIs of some of the early Gundams while if we were to apply the same care for the SEED equivalent of GB series, it should look like this :
That’s a god damn nightmare even without the DRAGOON system on and its dozens of targets it can simultaneously lock-on at once that you don’t even attempt to do it since it runs on the rule of cool when it comes to how awesome the pilots are and what the mobile suits can do in that universe. So what should they do? Just use the Macross Ace UI and just…I dunno, paint it purple or something instead of blue to reference Kira’s purple seed that breaks every times he enters Jesus mode. Simple, unintrusive and the camera is at a confortable distance to show all the glorious action the pilot engages in. And make the target reticle like that of Macross Ace for fuck’s sake, nobody likes the giant circle thing unless it serves a purpose. And if it’s not the same purpose as DMC, it’s useless because your simple colour changes don’t have to obscure a giant robot up close. Maybe once you’ve flown off hundrems of meters up in the sky like Macross, that’s cool, you play with the perspective and it’s appreciated.
Now for the combat; The original Gundam Battle game borrows more elements from some older PS2 Gundam games that grounded the earth combat while patching in their idea for space combat that was nothing like Zone of the Enders of the game that inspired ZOE, the Char’s Counterattack PS1 game. It’s why the mobile suits have a robotic, lumbering sense when it comes to doing anything beyond firing a gun, like moving around, having only a very basic melee attack that can’t even make them move around and instead looks like rock’em sock’em robot swinging its torso spastically while flailing its arms.
This core remained strong throughout the series and changes were made, with later entry Gundams(the mobile suits, not the games) and other mobile suits further down the timelines added in the future games being more articulate, even touching up on some old animations and finally making it so that at very close proximity, even if the mecha didn’t move towards the target, they would at least turn around and start smacking them. It’s fairly accurate as a simulation, considering how a lot of works portray the early stages of the mobile suits with only far down the line and with space spazzes with jedi powers being able to make the giant robots do minute motions and finese their way throught laser fencing. So, even when they added Char’s Counterattack as a mission mode in the final installment of Universe, it could be forgiven and to make up for it, they buffed and boosted the mechanic of the Dash attacks that were introduced ina previous installment while adding the mechanics of additional skills and passive bonuses to characters. Keeping that in mind, going with Gundam SEED and the Cosmic Era as a focus is…kinda risky to be completely honest here. Unlike the Universal Century gundams where they can lend themsevles in the Simulation aspect that Artdink strives for, Gundam Seed, in the same vein as Gundam 00 and Gundam Wing before it isn’t as easy to adapt in that kind of genre for one reason : the genres that accurately depict these Gundams are either Warriors or the Gundam fighters.
There’s no dancing around this issue here, that’s how it’s done for that era and given that Artdink’s record on those genres is…let’s just say abysmall. And I’m being generous when Dragon Ball Battle of Z is concerned. But risky isn’t impossible. You know why? Because Artdink fixed quite a lot of problems and made shooting and melee combat fun, even taking cues from the Gundam Vs Gundam games Banpresto made for the arcades, a year prior to their Macross game. And they improved that further in Ultimate Frontier the very next year, even if those changes weren’t as deep as those between Gundam Vs Gundam and Gundam Vs Gundam NEXT. Though I think that in the same way that GvG inspired Artdink to up the ante with Macross, Macross’ ideas about having the basic ground and air melees being mostly the same with very slight differences in animation, disregarding the enemy’s position, might have prompted ByKing to rethink their melee system in Gundam Extreme Versus…I doubt it actually happened but it’s a funny thought, nonetheless. 🙂
But they helped the game immensely, going as far as not only make some completely bonkers attacks for a lot of Valkyries but also make some utterly absurd fighting styles for them, not seen in the show. They even understood that the kinetic energy of the mechas can be used to make tracking and hitting opponents in long distances possible :
Did you catch that? Notice how the melee tracks and snaps to the target, almost instantly. And that’s at the maximum level the game allows you to upgrade, before the Limiter Release, which coupled with the pilot’s maximum levels at Sensing and Fighting, makes tracking even better in the game. Another thing that Macross did was to accurately portray not only speed but moving animations and postures for the Valkyries, throughout the ages, sculpting them far more faithfully with their experience in making games finally showing. Unlike the Gundams where they are all upstraight, run like a pastic model kit, even when Gundams like F91, the Nu series, or even the GP series from the 0083 OVA had very defined motions and have been portrayed in other games properly or how some ground units could have very fluid runnng animations. Macross circumvented them making the VFs have distinct run styles over the eras to reflect the evolving quality of animation in the series’ history, something like that can easily be done with simple tricks, like GvG does by making some units slouch a bit when running. Given all that, I don’t expect the melee in Artdink’s games after their release of Macross Ultimate Frontier to be as complex as shown here but I expect to be able to pull off some of the combos shown :
given some ingenuity. To give an example and context, in Macross Ultimate Frontier, you could find new and clever ways to chain melee attacks by taking in consideration the ability to transform, the boost in momentum it gave you and the fact that any point during a combo, the player could press the down direction while meleeing, to have (most of) the mechas do a Shinryuken-like uppercut or a motion similar to that damages the enemy multiple times and sends them flying, unable to recover for a few seconds; so a player could start a combo, uppercut the enemy but since the game doesn’t have Jump cancels or weapon canceling(most of the time, it’s important to note that when a weapon attack can cancel everything out, it’s meant as a combo ender due to its power) for melee combos on purpose, the player uses the transformation mechanic instead to cancel all actions and animations, give himself momentum, reach the enemy, transform back to robot mode and pummel them in the air all over again. And you could go even further repeating this loop two or three more times I’d wager(I can only do this loop only once :p). Of course, without a properly upgraded unit, pilot and perhaps the Limiter Release for the very early and very weak mecha you gain, that isn’t exactly possible but it becomes possible down the line. Unlike the Gundam games, where you have figured out the entire depth and complexity of the melee system in three second with a GM, in Macross, the more you advance and unlock more ludicrous Valkyries and upgrade them while your pilots grow, you discover that these numbers not only mean something, they incentivise you to push yourself to adjust to those new parameters to pull off stylish fights. For the veterans of action games, it’s like playing normally through DMC3, experiencing the gameplay and learning the ropes only to start a completely new file on Turbo mode and while redoing the whole thing, you have to reacclimate yourself into these new speeds.
Macross did that 4 times at least before letting you go absolutely crazy without limits.
Which makes me question Artdink’s sanity and logic when it comes to Battle Destiny again, when the system I described above fits the damn era of Gundam so perfectly.
Even if they didn’t go with SEED for their material, even if they didn’t make Gundam Assault Survive 2 and only remained in the Universal Century and just added the F91 / Crossbone series and Hathaway’s Flash for campaigns, using the Macross engine and making new assets would only benefit them. It would give them also a chance and a nice bit of motivation to finally sculpt these later Gundams properly, with their slocuhy run animations, proper weird beam sabers, better and longer combos and since the engine allows it, the ultra fast spinning of lights, as shown here :
Plus even if the early Gundams can’t move fast, the better and elevated framerate would only help the player come up with good tricks. But that’s not all : the menus would greatly improve and one other important change would be implemented with the Macross engine assets : the ability to change loadouts completely. I find this overlooked in Gundam but a lot of Mobile Suits, be they Federation, Zeon or from the Titans, do have different loadouts or “variants” as they are called. An example in the Macross games is the most famous VF-25F Messiah from Macross Frontier; it has its proper form, it has a Super Pack, which slightly changes its loadout and gives it some slight boosts but hampers some of its movement, the Armoured Pack that pretty much does the same but far better and the weapon replacements are stronger, with Tactical Nukes this time and finally the Special Armoured Pack which is similar to the Armour Pack but changine one of the weapons to the VF-25G’s Sniper Riffle and changing the Ultimate Attack it initially had to one that references Alto’s 1-minute sequence of unloading all the ammo he has on the Vajra Queen’s face. Now imagine that level fo customization on a future Gundam game; no more would you need to say “we have over 9 billion mobile suits” that are slight variations of the same damn thing and only makes the game artificially longer by making the player grind for the same Mobile Suit but also exclude some of their modes as well. The two examples that always come to my mind are how the RX-78-2 Gundam aka the very first and titular Gundam and the GP03 Dendrobium.
The first one has its normal form, a variant where it dual wields, a variant where it has Char’s colours and all of them have very slightly different stats with different special attacks while the GP03 only exists as the Dendrobium, the combination of the GP03 Dendrobium Stamen and the Orchis mobile armour, despite the GP03 DS having a fight in the series but a lot of games have already adapted its fighting style quite adequately before. RX-78-2, beyond the annoying variations, also loses a lot of its weapons, like the lance and hammer and they are instead given as an afterthought to the Prototype Gundam and the G3 Gundam instead. And there are more, like the ALEX Gundam not having its iconic tinfoil armour. It would have been far more preferable if The newer Gundam game would adopt that system, even if unlike Macross, not all variable packs altered stats and gave the unit the player chooses a second HP bar. Even without that second HP bar and the purging mechanic for these kinds of variants, that would still cut down on useless spots in the roster and expand the usefullness of a lot of mobile suits. I’d say that since we’re talking about a post-MUF era, Artdink should probably even try something even more interesting that can only work for the world of Gundams : Custom Variable Packs.
The idea behind this concept is simple : there mobile suits out there than have a lot of weapons. A whole lot of weapons. So while you have your normal variations, the player is allowed to purchase a slot for his own custom variation pack for said mobile suit, let’s say the RX-78-2 Gundam. That mobile suit comes packed with various weapons that don’t fit the usual 4 weapon slots and a sub weapon slot that mobile suits are allowed to have in this game and even comes with a variation of those weapons and special attacks. After experimenting, the player creates their own pack, for example, mine would be the dual wielding Beam Sabers, the Beam rifle, the Dual Hyper Bazookas, the single Hyper Bazooka, the Head Vulcans as a sub weapon and the RX-78-2’s normal special attack the Downward Slash. Of course, another player might want the same thing but with the Beam Javelin instead of the dual Beam Sabers. And so on.
Admittedly this creates a bit of a problem that Macross kinda faced as well : a lot of them Valkyries tended to share animations between melee attacks and some had semi-cloned movesets. The trade-off was that they had different finsher attacks, different dash attacks and the lengths of these combos were usually quite big, often requiring four or even five inputs to do five attacks, which was a big change from Gundam’s basic three-input combo that could result in either three attacks or four if you were lucky and an attack during that combo hit twice. The thing is, those moves weren’t shared among random Valkyries but rather Valkyries of the same manufacturer, or era or even type; the VF-25 series of Valkyries has a fairly similar moveset but they have different lenghts and / or finishers depending on the type to signify the pilots fighting style as a nod. Same thing can be applied to Gundams. Another thing would be that now, the melee for the Gundam would need to be expanded. While the basic idea of expanding the moveset and giving the mobile suits the uppercut from Macross is a step up, I’d go a bit beyond and say that a worthwhile addition to this would be guard breaking attacks instead of just “Special Melee” that barely breaks guards at times and the ability to have some ludicrous dash attacks now for massive damage given the energy needed and tight timing input, like F91’s Beam Sword spinning proper, the Nu Gundam’s(and its family’s) rapid punches and kicks that reference the beatdown Amuro gave Char’s Sazabi in the movie, a good old flying kicks or even Iai slashes. The final things I’d advocate for this topic is the dash cancel, also known as Rainbow Dash in Gundam Versus to elongate combos and make things even more exciting and the ability to for special weapon combinations(more on that in a bit). Again, I don’t want Artdink to try and emulate GVG but they had already implemented such a mechanic for their Battle Robot Damashii game.
The stipulation this time however should be that only certain mobile suits can do that, like the Blue Destiny suits but only when in EXAM mode or the F91 can do it all the time because it’s made with that kind of mechanic in mind but others like the Nu Gundam can only execute that kind of thing only if a Newtype is on board and has that skill equiped, things like that. Speaking of skills and abilities, let’s talk about overhauling the ability system to the one matching that in Macross.
While we’re at it, I’d say we can take it a step further; instead of being content with Macross’ Commanding and Passive Skills and add Gundam’s “Additional Skill” as well in the mix. Additional skills are easy to do and make, have them be universal, usually tied to things like reviving the unit with 1 more HP once per battle, activating an invincibility period once you reach a certain threshold of health for a very brief period of time to turn the tables, up a certain stat for the remainder of the mission once you lose a great amount of health, that sort of stuff. For Passive and Commanding skills there has to be a devide between Newtype Only skills and Oldtype Only skills. The universal ones can be pretty easy to do, like the ones found in Macross, once again, since the boosts they give could fit the Gundam universe as well but an idea would be to have a few Newtype passive skills relating to facing off against other Newtypes or something like “Newtype Weapons get a boost” while Oldtypes would get the ALICE system as a commanding skill, giving the pilot a massive boost in all status while trading their SP for duration, kind of like how the EXAM and ALICE work in GBU, except more buffed and a finally a Passive Skill called “NT-D”, reffering to the NewType Destroyer protocol in Unicorn, that is activated when the ALICE skill is initiated and deals aditional damage to NewType enemy pilots. That way, NewTypes get buffed appropriately and Old Types have a way to dealing with those constant buffs whithout lagging behind. What’s more, with that kind of reworked system, the EXAM system can now become a moveset changer like it’s meant to be, along with an offensive boost.
One universal Passive Skill I’d like to introduce to the game though would be something I’d call “Weapon Combos”. With this one skill, I aim to rework the entire combat system of this game, by giving the player an option : the absence of any and all passive buffs at the gain of being able to unlock new moves for nearly all the Mobile Suits in the game. How this works is that several new combo moves are unlocked depending on not only the mobile suit in question but also their loadouts. For example, let’s take the Hi-Nu Gundam to showcase all the possible situations : say you have the beam rifle equiped and in the middle of a normal combo(ground or air don’t matter with the Macross melee system) or even during the uppercut-like motion and you decide to press the button to fire the beam riffle, you end up with a new move like this or if you have the Machinegun arms equiped and you use it any time during the melee combo or uppercut, you’ll do a combo like this or if you decide to to attack with the Fin Funnels during a melee combo, it’d result n something like this combo. There are downsides to this though as one can’t execute them without having sufficient ammo in the weapons, they always deplete all of it regardless or not if you have more than the required amount, while the weapon must be present. Of course, for these kinds of new moves to work, there must exist a precedent before in the shows, or previous games, so a GM or a Zaku can’t pull those insane stunts for instance, unless they are some special custom variant, like Char’s Zaku or something.
Moving over to the correlated topics of targeting and mobility of the suits, with targeting being a bit of an issue in those games as it takes up to many buttons. Especially when you have transformable Mobile Suits come Zeta gundam and even Mobile Suits that can fly in the atmosphere in that same series. Not to mention, the transformations are limited and handle dreadfully. In Macross, instead the ransformations to non jets are handled in an akward way admittedly but there is logic for their stiffness given they are giant metalic weights trying to gracefully fly in gravity but that fits the model for the Gundam games, while the flight controls during the Jet modes would benefit immensely gundams like the Zeta and its line of variants, the Super Gundam, the S Gundam and the EX-S Gundam as well to name a few on top of my head. In the same vein, instead of giving the player a very useless camera button, you instead allocate those buttons to the various transformations instead. The targetting now is automatic like in Macross and the targeting button instead cycles through targets instead of disengaging and with the help of the directional pad the player can manually strafe the targeting to the next desirable target. This also gives another advantage to the player that can be ported from the Macross games : multiple missiles lock-on barrages. Granted, in Gundam it’s not as crazy as Macross’ but there are weapons that can target multiple opponent or a single opponent multiple times, like the Funnels often do. This way, certain weapons can gain a new function by holding down the button press, to fire multiple shots, though it’d be mostly Newtype weaponry and a few tracker missiles, like the ones the ZZ Gundam has on its backpack.
With that in mind, the motion physics mad ein Macross have to remain intact and add two new elements to the Gundam world : jumping and the ability to freefall. The first is very easy to do since it would fit some Gundams, like the GMs or the Zakus to just do a little inadequate short hop but upon doing a second hop in the air they could boost normally again. This is mostly done to distinguish some of the older or heavy models from the ones that can engage in more complex aerial maneuvres, it’s also done to make the Mobile Suits fall faster when walking off ledges. In the Gundam Battle games and even in Macross unfortunately, when walking off a ledge, you fall a bit slow and depending on how much you’ve upgrade your booster capacity and thrusters, along with that movement speed, you can basically travel to the other end of a canyon before you even begin to fall properly. That is stupid but Macross had a semi-solution to this problem, called Engine Stalling. Engine Stalling was the result of the player boosting upwards once while in Fighter mode and quickly pressing the boost again, more than once in quick succession if needed, while the boosting was still in process, resulting in a stall of the engines that froze the player in place, unable to do almost anything but in turn, they would plummet to ground very quickly, even avoiding fast enemy attacks if used tactically. Of course, upon touching the ground, all sorts of tricks and cancels could be done to cancel out the landing animations. For the Gundam’s case, it should be more like the free fall in the Gundam Versus series, when a mobile suit enters the battle after being downed once. That would fit a bit more thematically. That doesn’t exclude the fact that if a mobile suit walks off a ledge or a cliff, it should just plummet down and carry a bit of the momentum it had, instead of hovering around for hours before it lands. The suits that can jump, like Norris’ Gouf Custom for example, should also have aerial attacks that consist of short swing or something similar, while having the ability to side step instead of side dashing like the rest of them.
Let’s talk Shop.
I don’t expect something at the absolute level of Ultimate Frontier, where you have Sherryl and Ranka with new recorded lines fawning over you, being basically shop waifus and dressed in cute outfits etc but I do expect the idea of the shop being there with the same level up system and the goodies it can offer. For a Gundam game, the idea of purchasing enemy crafts instead of just capturing it like previous Gundam Battle games would be a blessing. Being able to buy things like more the Limit Releases, new soundtracks, variations of existing unlocked suits etc would only make the game more fun and less grindy. Speaking of grinding, rework the Pilot Stats point system. In Gundam, every kill gives you a certain amount of points and for stats that don’t require shooting down enemies, you’d be hard press to guess how the calculations work, often resulting in massive frustration. In Macross, each stat is gained by an action done(landing five hits in a boss for example may be one level in Macross but in Gundam, you have to slaughter about 50 bosses with only melee moves to even try and level up at higher levels) and the XP requirements for each stat level up are far more lax, resulting in less grind. On the note of XP and Tuning points, several things need to be rebalanced for the mobile suits. One of them being the rebalancing of the melee weapons since the design philosophy of Macross had in mind that even if the weapons that the mechas have will ultimately fall short due to them being outdated, all of them should be able to deal the maximum amount of damage in melee upon fully upgraded(with the Limiter Release of course), with almost all of them being able to maximize the damage at 900 points. For Gundams it’s also quite the good number but I’d say some exceptions should exist, like the dual wielders having higher DPS and they deal more hits per button press, they should have a lowered max number, like 800. Alternatively, behemoths that have those huge Beam Sabers, like ZZ should get a boost in attack at about 1200 or some, since they deal big damage but have a really short moveset with broad moves that is easy to avoid.
Finally, I’d say that beyond the ability to being able to rotate between operators, once you buy them and that ability from the shop, that should be a feature but the other thing I’d put in is the Dual Special Attack. In Gundam Battle series, by using a Special Attack while guarding, results in something called the “Rage Mode”, where the player glows intensely and gains a small stat gain while having the ability to loop melee attacks akwardly that doesn’t always work. In Macross, the same button combination results in the player and the partner doing their SP Attacks at the same time on the same target but without the partner using their SP.
That is all. I wish Artdink could have made a game like that but it seems it was never meant to be. Just like the Gundam Series, Kira “Hey Zeus” Yamato only made things much more hilarious than they ought to be, by massively fucking up and looking goofy at the same time.