Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS. Maxiboost ON is pretty much the pinnacle of the long-running arcade series -- especially on console. It's an intricate, impressively comprehensive game that has so much to offer, whether you're playing solo, with a friend, or against strangers online. It's even a little overwhelming at first, but much like the title's arena-based action, everything eventually clicks into place -- it just takes some time.
Indeed, Maxiboost ON's biggest issue is one that the series just can't seem to shake. In short, the game's got a very steep learning curve, but it lacks a proper tutorial. If you're already familiar with the Versus games this likely isn't a problem, but newcomers are in for a rough ride -- as they always have been.
There's an awful lot to love about Maxiboost ON, but rookie pilots are destined to struggle. These games are built to be competitive; there's a high skill ceiling and a great amount of depth to discover, but without a dedicated tutorial, it can feel like you've got a mountain to climb. To be fair, though, Maxiboost ON's all-new Maxi Boost Mission mode does at least attempt to teach you the basics.
The mode's initial round of missions are set to the easiest possible difficulty level, and feature text boxes that explain the game's controls. It's a start, but there's no mention whatsoever of the title's more nuanced mechanics -- the stuff that's actually going to make you a proficient mobile suit pilot.
Fortunately, that's basically where our criticism of Maxboost ON comes to an end. If you can break through the title's inherent difficulty, a world of anime robot carnage awaits, and it's glorious. For the uninitiated, this is a primarily team-based arena fighter. Matches are typically two-on-two, and the objective is to destroy your opponents while fighting alongside your partner.
This isn't your usual brawler, though. There's a heavy emphasis on movement -- knowing when to boost across the battlefield, sidestep, and jump is vital to success. This is where most of the aforementioned difficulty comes from, as the act of simply moving your suit can be tricky at first thanks to weighty controls and multiple button inputs. There's a distinct and unique rhythm to the Gundam Versus games that demands patience and timing. Every suit has its own set of moves, from ranged blasts to various melee combos, and much like a traditional fighting game, practice eventually makes perfect.
Thankfully, you're not forced to hop online and get your arse kicked. There's a load of offline content to chew on here, and with such a huge mobile suit roster to explore, Maxiboost ON presents serious bang for your buck even if you never touch its multiplayer suite. The arcade-style Branch Battle features high scores, varied objectives, and, as the name suggests, branching paths that lead towards a final boss. It's great fun taking on tougher and tougher challenges alone, but you can also pair up with a partner, through either split-screen or online co-op. Naturally, being able to coordinate your attacks with a human ally adds even more depth to combat.
The aforementioned Maxi Boost Mission is always an option as well, sporting a huge number of missions to complete. Some are straightforward battles, while others task you with piloting a specific suit, or satisfying unique objectives. The fun does vary a bit more in this mode -- missions with strict guidelines tend to lean into unfair territory at times -- but success nets you upgrade parts that can be used to strengthen your style of play. It's a pretty basic system, but it succeeds in adding a tactical wrinkle to proceedings, along with a welcome sense of progression.
Meanwhile, the game's online modes are rather standard, but the thrill of going toe-to-toe with players of an equal skill level is always going to entice more serious competitors. Casual matches sit alongside ranked competitions, and it's easy to get hooked. The whole online experience is quite quick and snappy, and performance seems solid. Together with all of the offline content, it feels like there's something here for everyone, resulting in a robust Gundam package.
With characters, suits, and even music plucked from every Gundam show, Maxiboost ON gets an obvious recommendation if you're a fan of the franchise. But even if you don't have the time to master the game's combat system, the release still holds up as a grand Gundam crossover.
Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS. Maxiboost ON is the ultimate Gundam Versus experience on consoles. The series' steep learning curve remains, but once you've broken through that initial barrier, there's a massive amount of metal-mashing fun to be found. As both a comprehensive gameplay package, and as a celebration of all things Gundam, it's very, very hard to fault.