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   MS Saga: A New Dawn - Staff Review  

How to Build a Gundam
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Unbalanced
COMPLETION TIME
50-80 Hours
OVERALL

2.0/5

Rating definitions 

   Sixty years ago, a cataclysmic event known as the Great Fall wiped out most of Earth's life and civilizations. Now, giant robots known as Mobile Suits are becoming increasingly common, many of which are wreaking havoc on the world. The hero of MS Saga: A New Dawn, Tristan, and his friend Fritz were both victims as the orphanage they lived in was destroyed by a black Mobile Suit. Vowing vengeance, they use a machine known as a G System to create a Mobile Suit of their own in order to track down those responsible.

   Naturally, the path that the heroes must travel to attain revenge will be filled with countless battles. Though the encounter rate is very high near the end of the game, the battle system is still the game's strong point. Energy determines what the heroes and enemies can do as most actions eat it up very quickly. Melee weapons tend to use less energy than ranged weapons, but they leave the user open to counter-attacks. Each pilot also has a set of techniques that require one point of energy and some TP to use. They are often very diverse, so it pays to match them with equipment that can take advantage of them such as a heavily armored healer or a psychic with a funnel pod. Boost attacks are special techniques that consume massive amounts of energy for often devastating results. Many strategies revolve around them, so it's very important to be able to generate enough energy to use them. Though some energy is regained each turn, the quickest way to attain it is by defending or charging. Charging nets more energy than defending, but it also leaves the user open to attack and unable to counter melee strikes. Some optional parts effect the rate of energy gain and will make one method more effective than the other. It's up to the player to decide which equipment and strategies to use in order to maximize which boost attacks are available and customize how much energy regular attacks cost.

Fight! Fight!

   Once players reach a certain point in the game, they will be able to build and equip their Mobile Suits with a wide variety of parts. There is actually quite a bit of strategy that goes into this as each pilot is skilled in a different area and with different weapons. There are also more complex strategies involving option parts that bolster the regenerative properties of Mobile Suits that stay in the back row. By carefully customizing the Mobile Suits in use, it becomes possible to greatly amplify the effectiveness of a party.

   Though a good deal of the system's fun comes from tinkering with Mobile Suits out of battle, it is kind of a mixed bag once battles begin. Ordinary battles are generally pretty dull due to the lack of variety in opponents. Unless the enemies get lucky with some critical hits or status effects, most battles in an area are fought in almost exactly the same way. However, boss and sub-boss battles up the difficulty significantly and will force the player to take advantage of their custom built army and strategies.

   Much of the game is on the easy side, but it is fairly common for the difficulty to spike at odd times. Simply being incapacitated by a nasty status effect or accidentally playing into an enemy counter-attack-type boost can make even a routine battle difficult. This is actually rather common due to the inability to effectively protect against status effects for the majority of the game and the fact that a critical hit from an enemy has a high chance of causing the hurt status effect. Overall, the difficulty can only be described as very unbalanced, especially with bosses and optional areas taken into account.

   Like the battle system and difficulty, the interface is also a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are numerous hidden rules when it comes to equipping Mobile Suits that are invisible until a conflict occurs. This conflict ranges in severity from a simple warning to the game forcibly removing carefully placed equipment without a chance to cancel. It can get rather frustrating when one has a specific plan for optimizing a Mobile Suit, only to find out at the last minute that there's some secret rule that prevents it. Another minor issue is that many screens do not show the pilot of a particular Mobile Suit. This can become a problem when swapping pilots and equipment in order to optimize a party or when making room for a new, better Mobile Suit. On the other hand, the control setup is simple and easy to learn and the auto map, sort, and, to a lesser extent, equip features are very useful tools.

Place weapons carefully Place weapons carefully

   Unfortunately, that is where the positives end. The story is easily the worst part of the game as both the plot and characters are sorely underdeveloped and follow a rather unoriginal journey. This is especially harmful due to the sheer length of the game: there simply isn't enough substance to keep the player entertained for over fifty hours, especially due to repeated use of the exact same plot devices, many of which are rather cliché. Additionally, there are a number of rather glaring inconsistencies and plot holes that render many parts of the story utterly meaningless. Needless to say, the story fails to live up to the Gundam legacy.

   As mentioned above, the game's main quest will likely take about fifty hours to complete unless the auto equip feature is abused. That said, there is plenty of extra content to keep players busy for an extra thirty or so hours. This content ranges from numerous extra bosses and challenges to entire dungeons, though generally the only reward is better equipment or a legendary Gundam.

   Despite what one might expect from a game as lengthy as MS Saga: A New Dawn is, there is very little variety in the background music. As such, many of the tracks can become very grating even though they themselves aren't bad. Thankfully, there are numerous battle tracks, but even some of them get old after a while. Sound effects are decent and serve their purpose, but they aren't anything special. There is a small amount of voice acting to be found in the game, but the quality varies a lot depending on the character.

   Though not incredibly impressive, the visuals are better than the sound quality. Most Mobile Suits are of SD design and all of them change in appearance depending on what they are equipped with and what color they have been painted. A good deal of the backgrounds and dungeons are of generic design, but there is a minute or two of good looking FMVs to balance this out.

   Though MS Saga: A New Dawn gets off to a decent start, the storyline is dragged out far longer than it should have been without adequate development. To make matters worse, there is very little variety in the accompanying music. Fortunately, the battle system does offer a decent amount of customization and strategy, despite the difficulty being unbalanced at times. Gundam fans will likely enjoy building and testing their own custom Mobile Suits, but the game itself isn't very good overall.

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