Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation Code Fairy

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: Nov. 5, 2021 (US), Nov. 4, 2021 (EU)


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PS5 Review - 'Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation: Code Fairy - Vol. 1'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 17, 2021 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation Code Fairy is an action game that tells the story of the Noisy Fairy, a secret unit struggling to break through the North American Continent during the One Year War.

The Gundam franchise has numerous video games, and the One Year War has more tie-in titles than any other era. There are strategy games, action games, RPGs, tactical simulators, and countless other offerings devoted to this one part of the in-universe war. Gundam Battle Operation: Code Fairy - Vol. 1 is the latest game to follow this pattern, but the twist is that it's a single-player, stand-alone campaign that's based on the popular online multiplayer F2P game Gundam Battle Operation 2.

Vol. 1 is set during the One Year War, the great war that defined the original Gundam anime. The war focuses on the battles between the Earth Federation and the independent space colony nation Zeon. When the story opens, the war has already killed the majority of the human race. Players control Alma, a young Zeon soldier who is assigned to the first all-woman Zeon combat unit, the Noisy Fairies. The story follows Alma as she makes friends with the other soldiers in her unit as they struggle in the losing war that Zeon is fighting against the Federation.

Vol. 1 suffers from its plot being told only in the opening segments of the story and feeling out of place. The primary cast is clearly designed to be more like the protagonists of a high school "slice of life" anime than anything that fits in the One Year War. Until the very end of the first segment, they spend most of their time having parties and eating cake, and there's very little sense that they are technically space Nazis fighting a bloody war that killed billions of people. It could almost feel like an alternate universe except for the constant references to the original Gundam or the various side stories, like Igloo and Zeonic Front.

The last chapter seems to hint that it's going to eventually address those issues, but it feels tremendously weird to hear your characters arguing about who ate the last slice of cake while a Federation pilot is howling at them for revenge because their family died during a colony drop. Even the characters feel tone-deaf, like complaining angrily about the Federation committing a war crime by using captured Zakus when, again, they are willing participants in a horrifying bloody war that involved gassing civilians and dropping colonies on cities.

It makes the characters tough to enjoy because they don't feel like they belong. You're never given a clear idea about why they are fighting or what their beliefs are. Maybe that will be explained in future volumes, but it doesn't change the incongruity of having a Halloween party with costumes not long after the brutal destruction of an entire squadron of enemies. It also doesn't help that thus far, Vol. 1 follows the standard template for Gundam side-story titles. There's room for the game to grow into something more distinctive, but at first blush, it feels halfhearted and mercenary.

Code Fairy also includes Gundam Battle Operation 2, which is a multiplayer-focused, third-person shooter. You get to pick one of your favorite Gundam units and take them into battle, with each unit having its own distinct set of weaponry and abilities. A Zaku or GM is a solid, well-rounded unit that can do everything, while a Guntank or Zaku Cannon serves better as a long-range support unit. You can customize weapon loadouts before battle, such a swapping between a machine gun or bazooka, but most units also have a steady loadout of moves.

In the story mode of GBO2, you'll only have access to Alma's Zaku, but you can unlock upgrades and customizable equipment options as you progress to boost its stats. There's also an optional Simulator mode that lets you control any number of suits from either the Federation or Zeon side. The Simulator mode does away with story quests for optional objectives or "cost"-based gameplay, and it'll cost more to deploy more powerful units.

The big focus of combat in GBO2 and Code Fairy is a cost to every action. Fire a bazooka, and you are unable to attack for several seconds. Perform a melee attack and miss, and you're vulnerable for several moments unless you spend thruster gauge to avoid. Combat is intended to be quick and brutal, with capitalizing on mistakes being the optimal way to win. You need to chain together attacks to do the most damage possible without leaving yourself vulnerable to enemy counterattacks.

There are a lot of small factors to consider in every encounter. Units are divided into Raid, General or Support types, which have a weapon triangle. Raid units do more damage to Support types, who do more damage to General types, who do more damage to Raid types. You can command squadmates to take advantage of this, or you can struggle through the bad matchups. You also need to take and hold repair points to keep your machines fighting fit, which involves taking a risky trip out of your suit long enough to secure the point without either you or the suit dying.

The combat is very engaging and does a good job of modeling the razor-thin combat that the Gundam anime is supposed to be based on. The pace is significantly slower than most Gundam games, but that adds a nice amount of weight to every action. This is partially because it's based on a multiplayer game, so there's some degree of balance to every action.

The game also suffers from one of the common problems of turning a multiplayer-focused game into a single-player title. You're effectively fighting AI versions of opponents that don't play like human beings would and are often far less cautious. This works against the gameplay design because they don't care about winning objectives, just doing damage. In comparison, you have a single life and need to carefully ration your actions, or you'll die in moments. The balance is that your enemies are pretty dumb and don't take advantage of the game mechanics.

Code Fairy functions like a series of extended training missions for GBO2 more than its own self-contained thing. You're given scenarios where you learn various mechanics and can test them against AI opponents, mixed with a storyline. It feels odd that it's a separate game because it feels like a story mode that should've been included with GBO2.

Code Fairy is self-contained, but there are bonuses for connecting to your GBO2 account. It's mercifully free of "gotcha" mechanics or any of the other pay-to-play gameplay design elements from the F2P multiplayer-focused version. You unlock new units and upgrades by doing well on missions. You can customize with fewer restrictions and enjoy the mechanics without worrying about your wallet. If you really like how it plays, the F2P version is available (this game is clearly trying to serve as a gateway drug to GBO2), but it stands well on its own.

It's difficult to recommend Gundam Battle Operation: Code Fairy - Vol. 1 on its own merits. It's effectively one-third of a storyline that is a tutorial and stand-alone story for GBO2's gameplay without its "gotcha" elements, but at this moment, the game is effectively incomplete. Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 will be released within the next month. When it has the full storyline and set of units, it'll be a lot easier to make a determination about the entire package, but until that happens, you're better off waiting unless you're a huge Gundam fan who has to play this right away.

Score: 7.0/10

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