Genre: Fighting Game
Platform: Playstation 4
Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs Maxi Boost ON. There’s a lot of words there. I think we’ll just refer to it as Maxi Boost ON for the purposes of this review. Maxi Boost ON is the most recent entry in the Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs series which began in 2010. These are a series of 2-on-2 arena-based fighting games focusing on the Gundam mecha franchise. This specific version of the game was released in 2016 for Japanese arcades where it was quite a popular title. Now, in 2020, the PS4 is receiving a worldwide release of this game while Bandai Namco works on its sequel. I’ve been importing the PS3 releases of this series for years so this is a dream release for me. Let’s have a look and see just how good this port is.
Let’s start with how the game plays. Two teams battle at a time and each team is given a force gauge. Whenever a member of either team is shot down this gauge depletes. Your goal is to reduce the opposing team’s gauge to zero in order to win the match. The amount taken from the gauge is based on the cost of the mech suit who’s shot down. Each mech suit has a cost that directly relates to their strength and abilities. This is the games way of creating some balance between generic, grunt suits and more popular and powerful ones. It certainly takes some getting used to but it’s fairly easy for a new player to figure out.
You’ll be able to choose your character from over 180 mecha from numerous anime and manga within the Gundam franchise. Most of these suits have movesets based heavily on moments from their respective source material. It’s a pretty cool design choice. Watching the Sinanju bounce from comet to comet or the 0080 Zaku planting inflatable Santa’s is bound to please fans. Like most fighting games there’s a few suits that are really just palette swaps of other suits, they’re minimal though. In general, each suit is extremely unique in terms of movesets with some having unique gimmicks to set them apart.
The majority of these suits have access to a mix of ranged and melee attacks. Some suits such as the Epyon, most of the G Gundam suits or the Banshee are adapted more towards melee. You’ll be focusing on one enemy suit at a time and playing a rush-down strategy while your partner supports you. Others like the Wing Zero, Rozen Zulu or Dynames focus on long range play. You’ll need a partner who can distract your opponents as you pick enemies off from a distance. Most suits can do a bit of both though so you can alternate your strategy depending on your situation.
You’ll also find that each suit has a boost meter and different amounts of ammo for each attack. This is another way the developers have tried to balance out this massive selection of playable suits. More powerful attacks will have less ammunition and take longer to reload, if they do at all. Some extremely powerful attacks can only be used once and won’t be available again unless you’re shot down and respawn. The boost meter limits your movement based on the cost of your suit. Whenever you dash, fly or sidestep in order to chain attacks together then this meter decreases. This feature forces the players to stop and land regularly to let their boost meter regenerate. It’s another way to balance suits and control the pace of battle. It’s also something else the players have to consider during matches so it adds another strategic wrinkle to the game.
Overall, the gameplay is really solid. None of the playable suits feel particularly overpowered since the cost system allows the weaker suits more respawns. There’s a huge variety of gameplay styles. You can set traps, play rush-down, act as a sniper or a grappler, use zoning strategies, etc. There’s multiple suits for virtually every playstyle you could imagine. I’d say that in this sense that Maxi Boost ON is easily the highest quality competitive arena fighter in existence.
Offline Game Modes
Maxi Boost ON contains a variety of offline game modes. These consist “Branch Battle”, free battle and “Maxi Boost Missions”. “Branch Battle” is Maxi Boost’s arcade mode and it’s playable solo or with a partner in online or offline co-op. You start by choosing a stage, one of five difficulties and progress through stages to a final boss. It’s fairly standard fare for a fighting game but it’s the way it’s structured that makes it stand out. In most arcade modes you’re stuck with a certain difficulty once you’ve chosen it. Maxi Boost ON’s arcade mode is laid out as a set of stages with lines connecting them though. This lets you choose to continue on a chosen difficulty or switch to higher or lower difficulties after each stage. It’s a nice touch for when a player feels in over their head and adds some accessibility to the game.
“Maxi Boost Missions” is a mission mode which also contains the games tutorial. You’ll play through almost 250 missions, some are loosely based on anime fights but most are original. Each completed mission grants you experience and GP which is an in-game currency. You level up with experience and gain the ability to customise your suit with add-ons you earn by completing missions. GP is used to upgrade these add-ons which will increase your stats when equipped. The missions are broken up into sections with a giant-sized boss at the end of each section. The boss is usually extremely powerful but completing certain “Break Missions”, marked by red diamonds, weakens them. Defeating the boss lets you move onto the next, more difficult section.
I’ll admit, it’s fun customising your suit and trying all the combinations of add-ons but I wasn’t personally a fan. The original Extreme Vs featured a mission mode similar to this but it felt more varied and detailed. Most of Maxi Boost ON’s missions boil down to “defeat a specific target” or “survive till time runs out”. Occasionally this is mixed in with a “don’t get hit or you’ll fail” rule to add difficulty. It’s not bad but the original PS3 game felt more varied in your objectives. There was also more fan-service in that most missions were based on specific battles from the numerous anime. You even had some missions with unique cutscenes re-creating famous battles. An example being that one mission recreated the Gundams fighting an army of Serpents from Endless Waltz. You had most of that scene included via cutscene and had to kill a large number of serpents to win. The mission even took place in the stage the fight occurred in. Nothing like that really happens in Maxi Boost ON though. This doesn’t make it a bad mode, it just lacks the heart and effort of previous versions of the game. Newcomers would likely enjoy it immensely due to all the opportunity the mode gives to test new suits. Maxi Boost Missions may leave existing fans feeling let-down, that’s all.
The tutorial featured at the start of mission mode is very basic. It goes over the basic controls of the game and general gameplay features like those I spoke about earlier. It also explains the three types of EX Burst and their effects when activated. Fighting and shooting burst boost your melee and ranged attacks respectively while extend burst lets you interrupt an enemy combo. Activating any of the bursts with the R3 button and pressing R3 again will activate your super move. You’re also taught how to communicate with your partner through the L1 button. You can tell them to focus on one or separate enemies or to play offensively or defensively. All in all it’s a very useful tutorial for learning the basics of the game. Combined with the new move lists included for each suit this’ll do a lot to help out new players.
Finally, there’s free battle which has a few different functions. You can set up a practice mode by setting enemies to “inactive” and putting timers and force gauge to infinite. This is good for working on your combos and testing out suits you’re interested in. You can also use free battle for one-on-one matches by setting a member of each team to “standby”. On top of this you and a friend can each have an AI partner and participate in offline battles. It’s effectively the versus and training modes of the game and it’s pretty good in that respect. All things considered, older fans may be disappointed in mission mode but the offline modes here are pretty decent. The only thing this game really lacks is a story mode.
Online Game Modes
In terms of online gameplay, Maxi Boost ON offers four modes. There’s casual match which will randomly set you up with 3 other players for an online match. It’s pretty basic but it’s nicely-done here and you’re automatically put in training mode while waiting on matches. This is a nice touch that lets you work on your skills between battles. The other non-ranked option is player match. Player match allows you to create or join rooms and invite your friends to participate in battles with others. Again, it’s nothing unique, plenty of fighting games have a similar mode for creating rooms but it’s certainly welcome. The non-ranked modes are both quite decent and I didn’t find it too difficult to find matches through them.
The ranked match modes are split into “Hold” and “Shuffle”. Hold allows you to invite someone to be your partner and play alongside them continuously. Shuffle on the other hand swaps your partner out after each match. It’s a matter of preference which mode you pick. I preferred hold mode since you can get used to how your partner plays. The random element of shuffle may be more fun for some though. Unfortunately, despite setting my region restrictions to worldwide I found it difficult to find matches. This may be due to most players having increased their rank to a point where new players can’t battle them. There’s also the possibility that fewer people play these modes but either way it made ranked hard to get into. It’s a shame because they seem like solid modes and the matches I have had went well with minimal lag.
One major blight cripples the enjoyability of these four online modes though. Bandai Namco have introduced a system designed to punish rage-quitters. On the surface this would sound like a good idea. Rage-quitters are a frustrating experience in any competitive online game but it’s implemented poorly in Maxi Boost ON. Any time where a player disconnects during a match they’re penalized with a suspension from online play. This happened to me twice while playing due to accidental disconnects. I was given a ten then a thirty-minute suspension, I’ve yet to see if it can go longer than that. This would be great if the game tracked how often you disconnected in a given time period. It doesn’t though and doesn’t base these disciplinary actions on that. As soon as you disconnect during a match you’re hit with these punishments. Anyone who’s ever played a game online knows that occasional disconnects happen no matter how good your connection may be. As a result this is something that’s simply going to frustrate regular players instead of punishing rage-quitters as intended.
The other major issue with this disciplinary system relates to Gundam’s popularity. Gundam is an immensely popular franchise in Japan. They’re even building a walking, life-size statue of the original mech as I type. The franchise has gained a decent-sized American following too. This is mainly thanks to the airing of numerous Gundam shows on the likes of Toonami. Outside of these countries the franchise is extremely niche. Here in the UK for example it’s hard to find people to talk to about anything but the model kits. Even that’s difficult. The point is that Gundam isn’t that well-known in most countries. Anyone who’s in a country where it’s not popular will have to have their region restriction set to worldwide. This means a less steady connection since you’ll be playing with people in other regions. Naturally, a less steady connection means more disconnects and more punishments. Effectively this punishes anyone who’s not in a country where Gundam is already popular. I’m a hardcore fan and getting hit with enough of these suspensions would eventually put me off Maxi Boost ON. I imagine if you’re just buying this for a good game then it’d put you off the title even quicker. Hopefully this is fixed with an update, otherwise I could see it damaging the potential popularity of Maxi Boost ON.
Maxi Boost ON is an update of a ten-year-old game. Bandai Namco have clearly tried to update the graphics with each version but it’s still a ten-year-old game. Despite that, this game looks really good. The suits and their weapons and accessories are incredibly detailed. There’s lots of little things like the mono-eyed suits, their eye moves to follow the target they’re locked-on to. You’ll have different coloured beam blasts depending on the suit and the colour of its beams in the source material. Lots of little touches that add up and make this a good-looking game despite the age. There are a number of stages that don’t look as good as they did in 2010. They haven’t had the same attention given to them as the suits. Overall, Maxi Boost ON is a great looking game, provided you don’t expect modern AAA title quality graphics from it.
Music is the other big flaw in Maxi Boost ON alongside that awful punishment system. Previous versions of this game have had incredible soundtracks filled with well-known songs from the franchise’s history. Bandai Namco got into the habit of releasing premium soundtrack versions of the console releases with Full Boost on PS3. It wasn’t a problem there because the basic Full Boost had the original Extreme Vs soundtrack with some new additions. The “Premium G Sound” version of the game simply added more songs that fans wanted into the game. There’s an equivalent for Maxi Boost ON but it’s mostly songs from previous versions that were removed for this port. The soundtrack has been ripped apart so that Bandai Namco can sell it back to consumers at a premium. Virtually every popular song from an older series or movie has been cut for this and I find it disgusting.
Fortunately, Bandai Namco have given you the option of importing music files from your USB storage devices. This fixes the issue somewhat as you can add the songs that are missing by getting copies online. It’s also nice in that you can create a custom soundtrack from your favourite songs if you wish to. Not everybody will want to listen to anime music constantly as they play so this is a nice feature. Being able to do this doesn’t take the sting of the missing music out entirely but it helps. The game has a good soundtrack by default. I just find it disappointing that Bandai Namco robbed players of what it should’ve been to sell a premium edition.
Maxi Boost ON offers players a range of customization options. I’d spoken about the add-ons in Maxi Boost Missions but they’re exclusive to that mode, these aren’t. You can make changes to the UI of the game during battle. These customization options allow you to alter colour, text size and font as well as add graphics such as snowflakes. Not everyone will take advantage of this but it’s nice that it’s there. You can also set specific background music to play when you win, lose, etc. There’s also generic fighting game options like customising your player profile with logos and titles. On top of those, Maxi Boost ON allows you to favourite specific suits, choose pilot outfits and a “navi”. The navi comments on your gameplay and stays in-character depending on which character you pick for the role.
“Gallery” is the major extra mode in my opinion. It’s pretty amazing. You can view cutscenes but the list of them includes information about each series that a cutscene is taken from. There are similar lists for mobile suits, navis and pilots that give details about their roles in their stories. The pilot and navi lists even go as far as telling you the voice actor behind each character. Finally, there are the figures. Throughout the game you’ll earn figures of each playable and non-playable suit featured. You can view them in the gallery. You don’t get to see them in detail where you can examine them but it’s nice seeing what you’ve won. I’d say they’ve put a fair bit of effort into the extras of this game and I loved them. There are games that have done more but I think this is a brilliant aspect of Maxi Boost ON.
As far as presentation goes this game does pretty well. The menus are laid out very clearly and the main menu features short and sweet explanations of each potential selection. The character select screen groups characters by the series they appeared in so it’s easy to navigate. The tutorial I’d mentioned earlier is presented in text boxes. These make it very clear and easy to understand for new players. Unfortunately, that tutorial doesn’t seem to be available outside of the missions it’s split into which is a shame. Being able to access the full tutorial from the main menu or gallery would’ve been incredibly useful. We do get a great intro cutscene to the game that really sums up Maxi Boost ON. Teams of robots blasting and slicing each other to pieces. The music accompanying the cutscene really hypes you up too. I think the presentation is top-notch overall.
Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs Maxi Boost ON is a fantastic game held back by some poor design decisions. There’s the possibility these could be fixed through future updates but we’ll have to wait and see. Aside from the flaws regarding the soundtrack and punishment system for disconnecting during online matches the game is great. This is a dream game for a Gundam fan like me and if you just like arena fighters then you’ll probably enjoy it too. There’s been a lot of care put into the gameplay of this title. The vast majority of playable suits feature unique movesets and animations straight from their respective source material. Despite that level of fanservice the game manages to stay balanced enough to feel legitimately competitive. I wish more anime arena fighters were like Maxi Boost ON. I’d recommend the hell out of this title as it is now. If Bandai Namco fixes that flaw in the online system then Maxi Boost ON is my game of the year.
Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs Maxi Boost ON
This port of Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs Maxi Boost ON is incredible. There's some major flaws with the online play and soundtrack that hold it back a bit though. I've went into detail on them in the main review. The overall gameplay, the variety of offline and online gameplay modes and the extras included are terrific. Graphically it's definitely a product of its time. The original Extreme Vs is a ten-year-old game now. It looked amazing for the time and Maxi Boost ON is a slight visual improvement on it. This won't stand up to modern games in terms of graphics but it still looks good and the overall presentation is just brilliant. To me, this has the potential to be my favourite game of 2020.
Offline Game Modes
Online Game Modes