It feels like it's been ages since a Gundam game with an original story has been released, especially in the West. For years it's been one arena fighter after another, but Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation Code Fairy is a breath of fresh air, at least in that respect.
Using the framework of the multiplayer Battle Operation 2, Code Fairy tells a brand new original story set during the One Year War. The game, as a whole, seemingly replicates the feeling of an episodic anime, and admittedly anyone familiar with the Gundam series will get more traction.
The story focuses on a secret all-female unit in the Zeon military known as "Noisy Fairy." You take on the role of Alma, a young girl and ace pilot recently assigned to the unit. The story itself is pretty basic with this first volume, but the main cast of characters is fairly compelling. Code Fairy is certainly more light-hearted than a lot of Gundam stories, but this first volume definitely looks like it's setting the foundation for topics the Gundam series loves to tackle - the horrors of war and how people find their way in conflict.
Code Fairy plays out across a number of episodes, with this first volume containing the first five. These episodes really do feel like an interactive anime episode, sporting a proper anime opening and ending, and a visual-novel style story. Each episode is interspersed with at least two different battle sequences, which is where all the gameplay takes place.
In battle, you control Alma, while the AI squadmates of Mia and Helena accompany you. If you've played Battle Operation 2 you'll be immediately familiar with the mechanics, as Code Fairy uses the exact same system but with a few extra twists. There are three mobile suite types (General, Raid, and Support), and there's an advantage triangle with Support strong against Raid, General strong against Support, and Raid strong against General.
Each mobile suit has one main weapon, one melee weapon, and an array of sub-weapons that they can equip. Before you sortie into each mission you'll have the chance to edit your suit and your teammates. While you can unlock a few alternate parts and weapons, it's clear that the variety will increase more as the second two volumes release.
Unlike other Gundam games, the mobile suits of Battle Operation are hulking behemoths of metal that aren't exactly easy to control. There's a certain clunkiness to how your suit moves and attacks, but that's entirely intentional. You can only equip one weapon at a time, and each weapon takes a good while to reload, but you quickly learn to swap between weapons on the fly. There's definitely a learning curve with Battle Operation, and anyone used to faster mech games might have trouble adapting. At the same time, the inaccuracy of attacks can oftentimes be frustrating. All that being said, I can't help but admire the combat in Battle Operation and how well it portrays the Gundam series as a whole.
Where Code Fairy introduces something new is with squad mechanics. Each pilot has a special ability they can use during battle, and more unlock as the pilots level up and increase their stats. For example, Mia's skill restores 30 percent health on everyone, while Alma's boost her own speed, armor, and turn speed by ten percent.
Your AI allies do a fairly good job on their own, but you can pick a target for them to focus on, which also increases the damage they do to said target. Code Fairy absolutely encourages cooperation with your squad, and by and large, it works well.
One aspect of Code Fairy that really blew me away was how each combat mission felt distinct, and the game does a great job of providing diverse challenges. One mission has you luring enemies into exploding traps, while another has you sneaking around a cliff to gain the high ground, trying to avoid the enemies massed at the front.
The one catch with all this is that Code Fairy is absolutely unforgiving in its difficulty. The scales are always tipped against you, and there are a few times that it feels downright unfair with the number of enemies thrown at you. Outside of the main story, you also unlock a variety of simulation missions that present even more unique challenges, and the chance to unlock more mobile suits and parts.
While I definitely dig the early story beats and gameplay, one aspect of Code Fairy that's not going to blow anyone away is the presentation. It's not the worst-looking game out there, but the character models and art in story sections feel a bit budget, even though the animated cutscenes are higher quality.
As the start of a three-part series, volume one of Code Fairy shows a ton of potential. I wish the story and characters were a little more complex, but even just based on this part of the story, I have hope that'll happen. Code Fairy Volume 1 very much feels like the beginning of a full game chopped into an independent part, so it's a bit lacking as a standalone title, but with the second part coming soon I'm excited to see where things go.
TechRaptor reviewed Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation Code Fairy on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 4.
- Fun story with immediately likable characters
- Combat missions all feel varied and unique
- Complex combat system that feels representative of Gundam
- Visual presentation leaves a bit to be desired
- Seriously steep learning curve and punishing difficulty