It has been awhile since Bandai has rolled out a Gundam title, but even though a few years have passed, not much has changed. Developed by Capcom, and produced by Bandai, Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam has a ton of unlockables, all the characters and mobile suits from the series, but little has been done with regards to advancing the visuals and the gameplay. If you're a hardcore fan, (you know who you are) the game is worth a look. Casual gamers won't find much value in the plentiful extras, and will likely tire quickly of the simple and repetitive gameplay.
The game's story is set seven years after the One Year War. The Earth Federation, which won the war, has become corrupt, and its Titans police force has become a dictatorship. Now, the Anti-Earth Union Group and the formerly villainous Axis coalition find themselves on the same side in this new conflict. At the center of it all is a new hero, Kamille Bidan, who is the pilot of the mysterious transforming Gundam known as Zeta Gundam.
Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam's biggest strength is its large number of suits and missions. With 55 mobile suits, over 200 missions, and a plethora of unlockable content, it takes a very long time to say you've beaten the game. In reality, many of the missions are the same, and you're literally playing a mission over several times, but from the perspective of another character. Most of the gameplay is found in the Universal Century mode. Here you can play as the A.E.U.G, Titans, Federation, or Zeon, and you can re-live events from the series. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of variety to the missions, and the stories aren't fleshed out enough for anyone new to the series to understand. If a quick fight is all you're looking for, the vs. or arcade modes will fit the bill. Up to four people can play the game at once, but the framerate just doesn't hold up enough to make it playable.
Generally when you think giant robot games, or games with giant robot suits, you think in-depth gameplay and a steep learning curve. That is not the case with Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam. The controls and combat are very simple, and are reminiscent of War of the Monsters or any other simple fighting game. You can select from a couple of different weapons, but in combat they are almost useless. It's possible to hit a non-moving target, but once they start moving around, trying to hit them is an exercise in futility. This leaves the plasma sword and running up to the enemy and smashing a button as the main way in which to attack. Needless to say this gets old very quickly.
The game is severely hampered by a terrible camera that can't be adjusted. The right analog stick performs no function, so it's odd that the developers chose to forgo giving the player at least some control of the camera. Locking on to enemies is the only way to get the camera to move, but even that doesn't help much with enemies that are off screen, especially in the levels that take place in space. It's frustrating, and there's no rhyme or reason for the camera being this problematic.
The character models that Bandai released to promote Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam looked nice, but they are nowhere to be found in the actual game. The models are poorly textured, and their lack of detail is obvious when you examine them in the gallery area. The levels are bland, sparsely populated, and again, poorly textured. Some buildings can be destroyed, but they don't show damage – they just sink into the ground in a small cloud of dust. There aren't many flashy explosions, no thick smoke, and no giant displays of sparks lighting the screen when these huge behemoths clash; it's rather underwhelming.
Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam's music is faithful to the series, but it's an acquired taste. If you love what you have hear in the anime, then you'll be happy; but if you're a newcomer, it might take awhile to get used to. There is a small amount of voice acting, but it doesn't add a whole lot to the story. It's similar to the banter you hear before and during battle in the Starfox games, which means it's pretty worthless.
Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam is not a horrible game, but it's designed for an incredibly niche audience, and its gameplay and graphics are so out of date that there's no compelling reason for anyone else to give it a shot. If the story mode was deeper and gave some background as to just what is going on, then perhaps it would be worth a look; but that didn't happen. If you're a fan of the series, Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam gives you just what you want. Everyone else should stay away.