If you were into Mobile Suit Gundam Wing back when it aired in the 1990s, then you may have heard of or even played Gundam: Battle Assault on the PSone. In an attempt to capitalise on the aforementioned anime's popularity, publisher Bandai decided to localise the 2D fighter, which was called Gundam: The Battle Master 2 in its native Japan.
A sprite based brawler, Battle Assault features playable mobile suits from across the franchise, all the way from the original Mobile Suit Gundam, up to the property's more recent endeavours. However, with only a small selection to choose from, it's a bit of a pitiful character roster by today's standards, but at least there's a decent amount of variety on offer, from the bulky ZZ Gundam to the comical Acguy.
Bigger mobile armours are also playable, but to say that their inclusion makes the game unbalanced is an understatement. Some suits dish out far more damage than others, while a few of them even feature devastatingly broken combos. It's not a title with competitive credentials, then, but a two player versus mode at least lets fans duke it out.
The fighting itself is quite technical, with an ammo count, and a thruster gauge to keep an eye on. Special techniques are activated through Street Fighter-like button presses, and there's a surprisingly decent amount of depth here, as you learn to link together different moves. Attacks can be reasonably varied, too, from long range beam rifle shots to simple kicks and beam sabre slices to gigantic energy blasts.
The whole system takes a bit of time to get used to, though. Arenas are small, and could even be called cramped, especially when both combatants are each battling as two of the larger suits. This means that there's never much room to manoeuvre, and proceedings can feel static and stifled as a result. Fights also aren't very indicative of the source material, with the suits generally smashing their limbs into each other and only pulling out signature weapons during special moves, but having said that, there's no denying that the game's got its own unique feel.
As battles rage on and health bars begin to deplete, chunks of armour come away, as the mechs slowly reveal their inner workings, complete with little electrical sparks. The real-time damage is a nice touch, and only adds to the already enjoyable detail of the character sprites. In fact, the release as a whole has a great art style, from the bold menu screens to the pilot portraits, while the stage backdrops provide a few interesting looking locations to fight through.
Moving onto the title's main feature, story mode puts you in the shoes of Gundam Wing protagonist Heero Yuy, as he attempts to hunt down Treize Khushrenada, one of the series' main antagonists. Funnily enough, this scenario was added only for the Western release of the game, again, in order to capitalise on the animation's popularity, and replaced the storyline of the Japanese version. Not only that, but the pivotal Wing Gundam itself was introduced for the overseas edition, and is actually a clone of the Zeta Gundam, sporting the same moveset, and only differing in terms of visual design.
Jumping from stage to stage and defeating each enemy pilot as you go, the story mode will only last you around 20 minutes, but it's a relatively fun little romp if you're a Gundam fan, although it's worth pointing out that it makes no sense chronologically, or canonically, and exists purely so that the title can mash distant personalities together into a single plot.
Unless you haven't already guessed, Battle Assault is a somewhat bare bones fighter, but that's not to say that it doesn't have its good points. The soundtrack, for example, is great, and hosts some incredibly catchy little tunes that are tinged with 90s anime flair.
Recommended only for hardcore Gundam fans looking for a hit of nostalgia, Gundam: Battle Assault hasn't been ravaged by time, but it was never anything special to begin with. Combat shows promise at times, but small arenas keep brawls from being as grand as they arguably should be, while a lack of content means that you probably won't be spending long in the pilot's seat. Fortunately, the game's style and its enjoyable soundtrack at least make this a somewhat memorable mech-'em-up.