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Developer:
Bandai
Publisher: Bandai
Platform: PS2
Release Date: February 21, 2006

by Josh Ferguson




In the past, we have seen Bandai release a large collection of both action and fighting games based on the Gundam universe. However, in February of 2006, Bandai released the first Gundam RPG with MS Saga: A New Dawn.


MS Saga: A New Dawn follows a young boy, Tristan, living in an orphanage. However, one day his life was completely changed when a group of black Mobile Suits came upon the orphanage and burned it to the ground. Everyone was killed in the attack except for Tristan and his good friend, Fritz. From then on the two vowed to avenge the deaths of their friends. In order to do so, the two must take control of the very objects that destroyed their lives... the Mobile Suits!


Looking over the story in MS Saga: A New Dawn, one word comes to mind... clichť. These days it seems like nearly all games revolve around some character wanting revenge for the death of their friends or family. If that wasnít enough, very early in the game you will come across a mysterious character that is suffering from amnesia. Sound familiar? If youíre an RPG fan then it should ring a bell. Well, probably several bells. In other words, donít be looking for a deep and unique story here. Also, there really arenít any particularly memorable characters in the game. While none of the characters are exactly bad, there really isnít a lot of character development. Still, if you're a big Gundam fan, you're probably going to find something of value in the story.


Throughout the game your party will travel from town to town in a pretty consistent method of obtaining quests. When you arrive in a town, normally you will have to talk to a certain individual who would like you to go complete a quest, such as defeat some other Gundams. Of course, this type of gameplay leads to a lot of backtracking between levels, and because players must travel across the world map to find these locations, you will often be thrown into random battle after random battle.


As I said earlier, MS Saga: A New Dawn features a large amount of random battles. Considering that the game features a lot of backtracking, chances are you will more than likely become irritated with the amount. It also doesnít help that some of the random battles can be quite difficult, and that if you accidentally take a wrong turn on the world map you might not survive. The large amount of random battles also feels fairly unrewarding because it seems like it takes forever for a character to gain a level.


The actual combat in MS Saga: A New Dawn is pretty basic and similar to that of most turn-based systems. Battles take place with three of your party members against a number of enemies. Even though you are limited to only three party members, it is possible to switch characters in and out of combat. The characters in combat have two main forms of attack, range and melee moves. While melee attacks are stronger, they also risk the chance of being counterattacked. Characters also have their own techniques that are similar to those of magic spells in most other RPGs. These techniques allow you to restore health to your Gundams, remove status effects, cast status effects, and other things you would assume a magic spell would do.


Characters throughout the game also have some very powerful attacks called "boost attacks." These are the strongest of their attacks, but also deplete a significant amount of an individual's EP, or Energy Points. At the beginning of a character's turn, one point of energy will automatically be restored. However, when a character attacks, their Energy Points will begin to deplete. Energy Points can also be restored by using the charge command, or by pressing the defense button, which wonít drain any of your Energy Points. The game features a wide variety of boost attacks that include a heavy damage physical attack, a shoot-all ability enabling a character to hit all the enemies with a ranged weapon, some that shield your party from incoming attacks, and many more.


One of the best things about the game is the amount of customization and control that a player has over their Gundam. In fact, the game features a collection of over 30 different Mobile Suits from previous games in the Gundam universe. There are over 260 different parts and a variety of colors that players can mess around with and customize the looks and stats of their Gundams. Each Gundam also has an amount of inventory that they are able to carry. This inventory is shown by a large green graph with each type of weapon and other equipment taking up a certain amount of blocks on the graph. As long as there are blocks empty, the character can continue to carry on more and more equipment.


As far as graphics are concerned, MS Saga doesnít exactly feature anything that I would exactly brag about. For the most part, the characters donít look too shabby, but the actual Gundams look small and seem oddly shaped. And since most of the game will be played inside of the Gundams, players will be getting a good look at them over and over and over again. There also isnít very much variety in the enemies that you will encounter in combat. While they might look a little different, most enemies are either a Gundam or a tank-like vehicle. Occasionally you will encounter ones that are different-colored, or wielding some sort of different armor or weapons, but thatís about it.


The sound in the game is another area that isnít exactly anything impressive. For the most part, the game's soundtrack isnít done too badly, but most of the music is pretty forgettable. The game also features some voice acting. Well, kind of. Throughout the game you will be hearing character voice acting, but it isnít used often at all. It is really too bad that the voice acting is so limited because it really isnít all that bad.


Even though MS Saga: A New Dawn isnít exactly groundbreaking, it does feature a large amount of customization that can be really fun. While the game isnít much more than an average RPG, chances are hardcore Gundam fans will really enjoy it. If you donít mind the dated graphics and somewhat clichť story, then MS Saga: A New Dawn can be a fun and interesting game. Let's hope we see more RPGs in the series!


Final Grade: 67%




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