With the U.S. release of Gundam Versus on PlayStation 4 this year, many Western players will be experiencing this storied franchise for the first time. The Gundam Versus tutorial is good, but it may not fully prepare you for the shark pit of multiplayer.
The first time I played Gundam Versus was in a Japanese arcade, where I was mercilessly bullied by children. No tutorial, just children blowing up my Zaku II over and over again. Cackling all the while. I swore vengeance. They’re probably 15 now, and I’m unlikely to ever see them again. Anyway, to keep you up to speed with the average arcade-going Japanese child, we offer this beginner’s guide.
Controls and setup
Gundam Versus was originally an arcade game, and its controls are designed for an old-fashioned joystick. Does this mean you should go spend $150 on a good one?
This ancient debate always comes down to what you’re personally comfortable with. However, Gundam Versus’ controls call heavily for multiple button combinations, fast button tapping — and they even expect the player to move around as normal while holding down a button or two. Many of these actions are trivial on an arcade stick but finger-twisting torture on a DualShock 4.
If you have an arcade stick, we recommend starting from there. If you’re considering an arcade stick … the good ones cost $150, just so you know.
On a related note, for this and other fighting games we strongly recommend a wired internet connection if at all possible. Gundam Versus is very fast, and the faster the game is, the worse a Wi-Fi connection is going to be. A single 1-bar connection can completely ruin a 16-player lobby, so people will hate you and boot you. If you can set up a wired connection, do yourself a favor and do so.
Gundam Versus has a very intimidating character select screen, especially if you aren’t already familiar with Gundam games. We can’t tell you what will fit your style, but we can give some basic guidelines and suggest good characters to start with.
Keep it simple
A lot of the Mobile Suits in this game, particularly the 500-point and 200-point suits, take an experienced player to really bring out their strengths. As an inexperienced player, you’ll want something straightforward. Try for something with a basic beam rifle, and build your game from there when you know how to use it. Also avoid fighting type units for the moment. You won’t really understand close combat until you understand ranged combat. It’s like skipping a step.
For all-rounder units with good fundamentals, try the original Gundam, Freedom, F91, Gundam Mk-II (white), Banshee or GP03.
Freedom is probably the most straightforward suit in the game, loaded with beam weapons. When you’re a little more confident, Nu Gundam, Sazabi and Wing Zero are all pretty straightforward 500-point suits. Moving on from there is up to you. Try a lot of different characters, and try to find that perfect fit for the way you play.
Not every move is in the move list
You should know that for most characters, the in-game move list does not show every single attack a Mobile Suit can use. This is a UI blunder. In fact, the move lists only tell you the universal basic moves: ranged, melee, sub weapon, special ranged and special melee.
Try pressing each of these commands in conjunction with a different direction for different results. During melee combos, try holding Up during a combo for different results. Some of these off-list moves are also the most important.
The biggest omitted move in Gundam Versus is transformation, for the rare characters like Zeta, Wing Zero, and G-Self who have the ability.
To turn into a flying form, hold down the jump button and double-tap any direction, holding it down on the second tap. The MS will transform and fly in the direction you tapped. Hold any direction to steer, and let go to turn back to MS mode. This eats boost meter, so just like with boost dashing, you have to be careful about flying for too long.
Flight is very different from regular MS mode: You move quickly, but you have to aim your shots manually, and dodging enemy attacks is much more difficult. Use it strategically to cover ground in a hurry and punish opponents who aren’t paying attention to you.
The lock reticle
This is discussed in the tutorial, but it’s just that important.
The green lock means “out of range.” Unless the target is completely stationary, you won’t hit a green-locked enemy. This is because you aren’t really locked onto the opponent. If the opponent is moving at all, the beam will fly right past them. It’s really important to understand that you generally shouldn’t bother wasting ammo shooting at a green-locked enemy.
The red lock means “in shooting range.” At this range, Gundam Versus gives your shots some auto-aim assist: They will fire in the general direction that your enemy is moving and track them to an extent. Your opponents will generally have to boost dash or jump to evade the shot.
Different Mobile Suits lock on at different ranges: Long-range snipers like Nu Gundam have a long red lock range, but brawlers like the GM Custom have a very short one. When playing as a long-range MS, part of your game plan is keeping opponents right at the edge of your shooting range, in a place where you can hit them but they can’t hit you.
The second red lock means “in melee range.” This is a helpful indicator for when, exactly, your melee attack will connect and when it will just barely miss. Pay close attention to this icon, because it can be tough to judge the proper melee distance in Gundam Versus.
Canceling attacks and movement
Above, Nu Gundam cancels a beam rifle shot into a dash, cancels the dash into another beam rifle shot and repeats. This is a typical Gundam Versus attack pattern.
This is also something the tutorial mentions, It is vital. Many of your Mobile Suit’s attacks can cancel directly into other attacks. For example, you can cancel the RX-78 Gundam’s beam rifle into its bazooka shot if you fire a beam rifle shot and immediately press the sub-weapon button. Which moves can cancel into which is entirely character-dependent, so experiment with your own MS and see what you can do.
Furthermore, you can cancel out of almost any attack or movement in the game with a boost dash or boost dive. Attacking, boost dashing and attacking again — often concluding with a Boost Dive to recover quickly — is the main flow of attack in this game. One really efficient way to cover ground quickly is boost dashing, quick stepping (double tap a direction) and using a boost dive to end the sequence.
As always in a fighting game, you want to mix up your actions to keep your enemies guessing.
Boosting and Overheat
You’ll very quickly find out that you run before you walk.
Boost dashing is the Gundam Versus way of life: It links every action. You’ll dash in, take a shot, dash back out and take another. It feels great, and eventually you start to take it for granted. However, your boost meter is limited (how much boost you have changes by character), and you have to regularly find points where you can stop boosting. There’s a big tactical element around when to boost and when to stop.
The longer you boost, the longer the pause when you finally stop for a moment. During this pause, you are momentarily vulnerable to attack. A player with a good eye will anticipate your fall and try and aim for it, especially after you’ve done a lot of boost dashing. Part of the guessing game is “Am I safe to stop here?” Keeping your movements unpredictable will keep the enemy from getting into your head.
If you allow the boost meter to fully deplete by boost dashing or flying, the bar will read “Overheat” and your machine will completely stop moving, accompanied with a spark effect. An overheated MS is stunned for about two seconds, which in the fast world of Gundam Versus is plenty of time to do serious damage.
Unless you’re completely safe from reprisal, you generally want to avoid going into Overheat at all costs. Always keep your boost meter on your mind and try to have an escape plan. Boost with discretion and don’t overextend yourself.
Team Play and the minimap
Gundam Versus is a two-on-two game (or rather, two-on-two is the standard), and you are stronger together. Players often run off to opposite ends of the map to pointlessly fight one-on-one battles. Don’t let your team end up like this. Stick with your teammate and protect each other, and you’ll outlast a team that doesn’t bother.
The best thing that can happen for your team is that both of you corner a single opponent and overpower them. This can happen when one enemy is knocked down or when they run too far from their teammate to do anything about it. You’re always looking for that opportunity, and you’re always looking to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Anybody who tells you ganging up is dishonorable misunderstands the game: Ganging up is a core part of Gundam Versus’ design.
It’s easy to forget the big picture when you’re fighting it out in the moment. Make a habit of checking the minimap in the upper right corner of the screen to get a bird’s eye view of the battle. Make sure you’re not too far away from your teammate or sandwiched between your enemies, and reposition if you need to. Until you check it on the minimap, you might not notice you’re in a bad position at all or that your teammate is taking a beating.
Gundam Versus players talk about “front” and “back.”
Ideally, there should be a player up front leading the attack and dealing big damage, while their teammate lays down cover fire from behind to keep the opponents from catching the front player. A lot of Mobile Suits, especially the close combat types, are made to play front, while long-range Mobile Suits tend to play back. This is by no means an ironclad rule, but it is a combination with some synergy.
The single most common player personality type I have seen online, both among Japanese and American players, is the player who picks a close combat unit (Exia, Barbatos) and then runs straight in, sandwiching themselves between the two enemy units and getting killed. My number one piece of advice for team play is: Never to do this. If you’re playing the front position, do not outrun your teammate: They need to be covering you. If you’re half the map away from your opponent in the first two seconds, they can’t do anything for you.
Of course, in a game this fast, roles can switch and formation does break. Especially when you’re starting out, simply make sure you’re watching your teammate’s back as well as your own.
The match isn’t over until the last Mobile Suits explodes. If you’re at low HP and the cost meter is less than or equal to the cost of your MS, that means your death will end the match. Things immediately get very dangerous for you, as the other team will get very aggressive in trying to kill you.
When this happens, run. When one shot will kill you and the other team is doing their damnedest to chase you down, run. The situation is grim, but the best thing you can do for your teammate is buy them some time to knock down the enemies coming at you.
It’s still possible that, if you keep the other team away from you, your teammate can guard you and fight them off. If you charge in, there is no chance at all. I’ve seen so many matches end with a low-HP player trying to fight off the other team by themselves. I haven’t seen it work once yet.
If you’re knocked down at low HP and the other team is starting to hover around you, one thing you can do is press no buttons to stay lying down. This could buy you a few seconds and wind up saving your life.
Friendly fire Do and Don’t
Gundam Versus has friendly fire. Though damage inflicted when you hit your teammate is significantly lower than normal, it is nevertheless possible to end the match by making a team kill (and the game will silently point out your shame by panning the camera over your way).
Observant opponents will note the momentary stun from friendly fire and follow up on your teammate for even more damage. Also, if you knock down your teammate, you briefly put yourself in a two-on-one situation against the enemy, which you never want.
Do risk friendly fire to get your teammate out of a situation where they’re being attacked, especially when it’s a melee combo. Even if you do some damage to your teammate — even if you’re afraid of the shame of a team kill — the enemy would have hurt them a lot more. Just try and be delicate if it’s an option. (This might not be the situation for Virtue’s beam launcher.)
Do not try to help with additional fire when a teammate has the enemy in a melee combo. They will finish their combo just fine, and the only things you will accomplish by butting in are ruining the combo, lowering their damage and disorienting or even knocking down your teammate, all of which puts you at a big disadvantage. Rather, let your teammate do their work and concentrate on the other enemy, making sure that they aren’t able to cut off your teammate’s combo themselves.
Likewise, when you and your teammate are on top of the enemy, don’t both press the melee button at the same time and crash into each other like a couple of robo-clowns.
There isn’t a solid English-language knowledge base for this game yet, but try GGEZ and Dustloop’s wikis. If you really want to take a big dive and you’re familiar with numpad notation (or perhaps you just happen to read Japanese!), the Japanese fan wiki is highly detailed and complete.