Also available on Switch and Windows
Gundam is a MASSIVE franchise in terms of games, movies, anime, and manga. A few years ago, I played through SD Gundam G Generation Genesis, a strategy RPG game that goes through the majority of Gundam's Universal Century timeline. Cross Rays is the companion game to Genesis; it keeps the same gameplay format, but rather than going through the Universal Century timeline, Cross Rays takes you through four of the Gundam alternate universes - Wing, Seed, 00, and Iron Blooded Orphans. As far as gameplay goes, if you liked Genesis, you'll like Cross Rays.
Despite having the same basic gameplay, I found myself enjoying Cross Rays significantly less than Genesis. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why. Are the levels longer? No, but there are more levels in Cross Rays. Maybe that was it? No, that can't be it; I was feeling the game fatigue before I was even halfway through the game. Maybe the dialogue was longer? Not that I could tell; the cutscenes and dialogue segments were pretty much as obscenely long as Genesis was. Then it finally occurred to me - it was the source material. I LOVE Universal Century. I'm heavily invested in that timeline, and each series you played through in Genesis took you farther in that same timeline. When you go through different segments of Cross Rays, you may have multiple series within the same timeline, but at the end of the day, the game has four separate timelines rather that one massive, unified timeline like Genesis. That's not to say that it's a good thing or a bad thing; I just found myself much less invested going through four different timelines especially given that Iron Blooded Orphans is the only timeline in Cross Rays that I'm particularly attached to.
For those who haven't played or read my review for G Generation Genesis, let's explore the gameplay. If you've played a game like Disgaea or Fire Emblem, then you know the core gameplay - you move your units around a grid map and fight the enemy force in a turn based strategy battleground. One of the big questions that comes up with every strategy game is "Are deaths permanent?" Well, yes and no. Yes, if your unit is destroyed, you lose that mobile suit forever. The pilot of that destroyed unit, however, is not killed. You keep that pilot; you just have to buy a new mobile suit for him or her. That's a pretty fair balance in my opinion. It takes away the mobile suit that you've been leveling up and improving, so it does discourage reckless gameplay; but you don't lose the pilots you've been leveling up and improving, so it is forgiving to a certain extent when you have an inevitably bad RNG roll or just make a bad move.
While the core gameplay mechanics are pretty much the same between Genesis and Cross Rays, that's not to say that it's identical. Cross Rays definitely did make some changes, and some of these are definitely changes for the better. Unit level-ups, for example, have been modified. In Genesis, when a unit leveled up, it was given a flat boost to all stats plus a couple of points that you could assign to whatever stat you wanted. Cross Rays took away that flat bonus and left it on the player to assign all stat points. This gives the player a little more agency to craft units to whatever role they want while also diminishing the massive disparity between early game and late game units. There's definitely a gap in power between those early and late game units, but it's not quite as drastic a difference as it was in Genesis.
The most significant addition is the Dispatch Missions. You can dispatch up to three of your four teams on missions that auto-complete in real time for capital, experience, and item rewards. The longer the mission, the better the rewards. Some of them complete in as little as two hours; some of the missions you unlock later on take 15 or 20 hours to complete. If you're a little short on cash, just take a break and do some dispatch missions. If your mobile suits are a little underleveled, take a break and do some dispatch missions. If you're just tired of the game but want a little nest egg to come back to, put your teams on some 12+ hour missions, and let your teams do the work for you. It's a pretty passive addition, but it's a fantastic addition.
SD Gundam G Generation Cross Rays is a MASSIVE strategy RPG that exposes you to four of the biggest alternate universes in the Gundam franchise. For me personally, it was an overall step down from SD Gundam G Generation Genesis, but it definitely made a lot of improvements, and a lot of folks will definitely see Cross Rays as a big step forward. Whether you see it as a little better, a little worse, about the same, or if it's your first exposure to the SD Gundam series, Cross Rays is a fantastic game. Play it on PC, play it on Switch, or play it on PS4, but if you like strategy gameplay and giant robot space battles, make sure that you play it.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.