When I was done marathoning all three installments of Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation: Code Fairy, I felt no particular need to play Mobile Suit Gundam: Battle Operation 2. The game is based on the engine and mechanics of the free-to-play, multiplayer-focused Battle Operation 2. But it’s frankly a good sign that Code Fairy didn’t serve as my gateway to getting back into GBO2. At least in my case, that lack of desire shows that Code Fairy is a Gundam game that stands alone.
It’s best to think of Code Fairy as a way for B.B. Studio to expand the use of its Battle Operation engine beyond its original focus on online multiplayer. In a sense, it’s like the “campaign mode” Battle Operation never had, although in this case it’s sold separately. Indeed, Code Fairy is single-player only, though linking save data from GBO 2 will unlock various goodies in both games (such as Code Fairy Mobile Suits in GBO 2). There’s no need to worry about events, daily logins, or any of the free-to-play fluff that powers today’s live-service titles. All there is is the fifteen missions of the main story campaign (five per part), and the simulator scenarios if you want to practice or grind out some extra rewards.
Being core to the experience, Gundam Code Fairy‘s narrative is pretty strong. Unlike the single-player modes of most multiplayer-first action games these days, the campaign doesn’t feel like an afterthought meant to mollify people who don’t have internet connections. If anything Code Fairy‘s campaign recalls the older era of Gundam titles, led by the likes of Journey to Jaburo, Lost War Chronicles, and Gundam Side Stories: Missing Link. Like those games, Code Fairy tells yet another unknown tale from the shadows of the One Year War.
By my lights, if there’s any one Gundam game that Code Fairy most resembles, it’s Mobile Suit Gundam: Zeonic Front. Not only is Code Fairy entirely about characters from the Principality of Zeon, it has a number of minor callbacks to units and events from Zeonic Front itself. The story follows the exploits of Alma Stirner, a Zeon pilot newly assigned to the North American front and “Noisy Fairy”, the Zeon military’s first all-female mobile suit squad. Alongside fellow squaddies Mia Brinkman and Helena Hegel, Alma takes her marching orders from Noisy Fairy’s commander, former ace pilot Killy Garrett. Together they train, grow, and become a fearsome asset to Zeon forces over the course of the One Year War.
Major events from the One Year War form the background and backbone of Code Fairy‘s story. Though every mission is one that applies to the specific, relatively small theater of Noisy Fairy’s operational area, big happenings like Operation Odessa and the death of Garma Zabi help tie the game to the larger Universal Century timeline. If you ever wanted to know how Zeon forces were able to fight for a bit longer after the critical loss of Odessa’s mining operations, Code Fairy teaches us that this squad played a part in making that happen.
Gundam Code Fairy is structured a lot like Sakura Wars, which in turn is structured like an anime series. Each of the 15 missions begins is bookended by an anime-style intro and ending sequence, along with a “next episode” preview. Hand-animated sequences also lend flavor to the storyline in each mission. Even the way the characters are rendered in the in-engine cutscenes has been adjusted to be more “anime-like” in appearance compared to the NPCs in Battle Operation 2. Also like Sakura Wars, the game is quite light-hearted, tonally speaking. Though these girls are most definitely soldiers on the losing side of a war that’s killed half of humanity in less than a year, there’s still time to throw a Halloween party or agonize over mandatory physical training. Players and Gundam fans looking for a gritty war story may be disappointed that Code Fairy is closer in spirit to something like Valkyria Chronicles than War in the Pocket.
The glut of narrative and character holds up the weaker portion of Gundam Code Fairy, which is the mission design. Though the gameplay of Gundam Battle Operation 2 is fairly solid, that base is built on a foundation that serves uncomplicated multiplayer brawling above all. That means, that despite attempts in each mission to provide varied and interesting objectives, the mechanics don’t always work out in a satisfying way.
For example, in one mission, I was to lure enemy forces into a set of pre-planted traps. However, once the mission kicked off, the enemy forces acted like AI bots in a simulation match, and didn’t really behave in a way that fit the “script” of the mission. Nevertheless, the moment-to-moment combat is strong. Each mobile suit has a variety of weapons available, and things like thruster cooldowns, reloading, and various aiming stances give Code Fairy (and by extension GBO 2) a simulation-style edge. It’s a slower, more methodical combat flow, compared to the high-speed chaos of the Gundam VS games, or the arcadey action of the Gundam Breaker titles. It can also get surprisingly hard, since your Zeon-model mobile suits are often at a disadvantage fighting beam-equipped Federation forces or even taking on a fully armed Gundam unit.
Mobile Suit Gundam Code Fairy feels like the revival of a beloved era of single-player, narrative-focused Gundam games. If future efforts in this line get the same care and attention, then basing it on a free-to-play multiplayer-led engine like GBO 2‘s was a move well worth the tradeoffs.
All three parts of Gundam Code Fairy are available on PS4 and PS5.