Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS. Maxiboost ON (PS4) Review

This is the third Extreme VS. game I’ve played (fourth if you include the sadly limited PS4 reboot attempt from a couple of years ago) but the first that I brought without importing from Asia due to it getting an official English release (sadly digital only, but hey-ho) It’s actually a direct port of the Arcade game, a new game (“Gundam Extreme VS. 2”) having made this one old hat in the actual Arcades themselves. So what’s the home port like? Is there much in it for a single player? Could they have created a more Japanese sounding title?! Let’s find out!

Background:

I’ve complained on this blog before about “Over-HUD Syndrome” and I will admit that this game suffers from it quite badly, not that you have time to notice once a match starts!

This incarnation of Extreme VS. is based on an Arcade game first released in September 2010 as simply “Extreme VS.”, but it was then improved and expanded in April 2012 as “Extreme VS. Full Boost”, again in March 2014 as “Extreme VS. Maxi Boost”, then finally in March 2016 as “Extreme VS. Maxi Boost ON”. The original Extreme VS. and Full Boost were both ported to the PS3, which handily had no region locking so I was able to import them (pre-blog, I’m afraid, maybe I’ll go back to them, but I doubt it after this better version has come out!)

The PS4 version of *deep breath* Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS. Maxiboost ON was released worldwide on July 30th 2020, digital only outside of Japan and Asia. Thanks to the series going on for so long and each entry being built on top of the other the game comes with 185 selectable suits from 36 different Gundam series, ranging from the obvious to the obscure (I had no idea about Gundam 00V, a manga spin-off of 00 Gundam that features redesigns of the lead suits by various artists, before playing this series for example, or Gundam: Blue Destiny, which was a PS1 game originally…) So you’ll have a hard time at first picking a suit! That being said, to face the harder challenges you will have to pick just one or two suits to get really good with, which is always heart-breaking when the select screen is so massive…

Gameplay:

That’s twice the Nightingale has appeared on this blog this year! It may never appear again…

The core gameplay sounds simple: you have the ability to shoot, do a melee combo, dash and jump, with each suit having two or three special moves (large beam attacks, special melee combos, that sort of thing), and a meter at the bottom of the screen manages their access to a special “Extreme Burst” transformation that not only temporarily increases their attack power but also allows them to unleash a special one-off “Burst Attack” special move. Sounds simple, but there are little touches that make this game rather hard to get good at, mostly movement. If you stay stationary for more than a few seconds, you’re going to get hit, so you want to keep dashing or jumping to avoid in-coming fire, but you only have so much Boost power, meaning you could run out mid-air and slowly fall, unable to dodge.

Blocking is done by pressing back and then forwards (or forwards and then back, I can’t remember) which might be easy using a large arcade stick, it’s not so easy in the heat of battle with the PS4 analogue stick. Honestly I ended up never using it, as you can probably guess with my bracketed comment, but there were times it would’ve been handy if only it was mapped to a single button. There are really fine technical manoeuvres you can do as well, dodging at the last seconds gives you a rainbow trail and allows you to counter, but it’s very exact. I can tell you right now that there were times playing Hard and Extreme difficulty missions that the AI’s ability to pull off these exact dodges so easily and frequently drove me a little bit up the wall…

Your standard match of Extreme VS. is 2 on 2, with each team having a total of 6,000 points each, and every suit having a value assigned to it between 1,500, 2,000, 2,500 and 3,000. Cost 3,000 suits are extremely powerful, but it means if you’re both in a 3,000 suit and die once each it’s over, where as if you’re in a weaker 1,500 suits you can die and come back several times. Knowing your chosen suits strengths and weaknesses and keeping an eye on your overall team’s Point Score is as key to winning as anything else. Alongside Exhibition matches against the AI or online and offline matches, there are two key modes in the PS4 version of Maxiboost ON. The first is the Arcade Mode, a familiar ladder system where you pick a path and fight battles, each victory allows you to move forward, or cross over to a nearby path, with the paths getting harder the lower down on the screen you go. You can also unlock “EX Matches” which are often more challenging, all before squaring off with the final boss.

UNI-VARRRRSE!

The next mode is the Trials mode, where an intimidating 200 missions await you! Even more intimidating is how quickly the missions start getting difficult as they begin to have conditions like “Just your unit vs. multiple CPUs with only one life” and “If you take a single hit the mission ends”… that last one on a high difficulty mission is extremely frustrating, especially as there is no “Retry” prompt and instead you have to watch the camera dramatically pan around your downed mobile suit for 10 seconds before the mission select screen appears allowing you to load the mission again. There are some missions that if you get an “S Rank” you unlock an EX version of the that mission, which is more challenging and often has a great reward for completing it with an S… That’s another thing actually, you can earn stuff like “Heath Up” and “More damage” to attach to your suit but by the time you unlock the higher end stuff you’re only able to use it to make a near-impossible missions “somewhat beatable, maybe, sort of, if I’m lucky” missions. Throw in some often comparatively easy Boss Battles that you can make easier by beating special “Break missions” that weaken it and that’s the mode you’ll be spending most of your offline time on, that’s for sure!

All these single player modes earn you points that you can spend on costumes and HUDs and other technically irrelevant things, as well as use them to upgrade the Trials Mode bonuses further. You also unlock every suit you shoot down in a gallery, but for some reason you can’t actually view them, just see them from afar on a static screen…

Overall then it’s a great experience whether you play online or off, though in both cases be prepared to get frustrated as you struggle against the steep learning curve! (Seriously, three games in and I still struggle with close-range combat…)

Graphics and Sound:

The Divinidad is from the sadly still unreleased (in English) Crossbone Gundam Manga…

The graphics are… fine. I mean, despite all the subtitles this is still an Arcade game from ten years ago, it looks very last gen (especially in the levels themselves, some real poor ground textures!) but given the frantic action and the sheer number of selectable suits I didn’t find myself noticing. If I were giving individual score for graphics mind, it would be low for a full-priced PS4 game…

Sound is great, all the sound effects from the respective series are here and clear, background, opening and ending themes from the shows play in the background (with the ability to import your own music via a USB stick if you wish, which is rare nowadays!) and the voice work is good too. Sadly the subtitles for the opening match quotes vanish far too quickly sometimes, but hey-ho, better than not having them at all!

Story:

I swear the final bosses in the other two Extreme VS. games I played were a lot tougher… they all share the same dull Hexagon-clad stage though!

Is there a story? I mean, no, not really. The final boss in the Arcade Mode mentions something about protecting Mother Earth by destroying whoever you picked to play as, but that’s it. I believe said end boss comes from a Manga based on the Extreme VS series (there are several suits from this Manga in the game as playable as well) so you’d probably have to track down fan translations if you want some context to his pre-match speech…

Thoughts Now:

This is how I won a lot of the earlier missions. Good old beam spam!

While there were times my hands gripped the controller so hard in frustration I was worried I might crack the shell, overall I had (and am still having) a fun time with Extreme VS. Again, this isn’t my first time with the series so I do know what I’m doing, more or less, so if you’re going into this blind I’d be prepared for a frustrating time as you slowly get to grips with the game’s multiple systems. Still, if you’re a fan of the 2D “arena fighter” genre, or a fan of Gundam’s many series, it’s a real blast, especially if you’re a fan of both like myself! Combined with lots to do offline (I’m just not an online multiplayer guy, as mentioned several times on this blog) I can fully recommend this for those patient enough to learn it…

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