So, let's get on with it! Here is my long winded impressions on Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs Zeon!
First, let's talking about what I consider the main mode of this game: Campaign mode and the gameplay. I will talk about them both at the same time.
The game's storyline is set in the One Year War. While the opening may make it appear to be about you playing as Amuro in this game, which is kind of misleading at least to me, the game actually for the most part involves you not actually playing as the main characters of the series (unless you default their names during Arcade mode), but instead playing as the gaint robots or 'mobile suits' in the anime.
While this is a pretty big contrast when you compare it to past Gundam games where you often play as the main characters in their respective suits (Gundam: Battle Assault, which I will now call it Gundam! Battle Repel, and Gundam: Journey to Jaburo), this type of idea has been around in the past (the original Gundam: Battle Assault did not featured the original anime characters and instead were based on original characters, almost the same with Zeonic Front) and most of the time, it's been done effectively. One of the reasons why this could be the case is because this was an arcade game first before a PS2 game, so which you can personally feel like your in those gaint robots as a soldier, and makes more sense as you may find yourself in a 2 on 2 deal that all are Char Customs.
Most of the time you will be doing various missions that helps your army, such as protecting the fleets as they escape, doing the opposite and trying to destroy theirs before they leave the stage, defense missions for your base, testing out a new model mobile suit that you may be rewarded with, and many more. There are also storyline based missions, which doesn't take away from the feeling of being a soldier as the game brings a unique way in interacting with the anime's storyline: Things such as actually being a part of the actual mission that toke place, or simply seeing a part of the storyline taking place in the same battlefield you happen to be protecting or attacking. Once again, this is a war, so the battlefield can be full of drama, and you yourself often have a different objective that are unrelated or ties in with it cleaning.
Simply point, on a personal standout, makes it feel like your actually a part of the One Year War, instead of being the ace that does it which takes yourself out of the character because you know that's what the anime does. While the missions based on the anime are scripted, you yourself is watching the anime unfold while being a soldier in that field. As you often won't be able to use the 'ace' mobile suits (suits such as the Gundam or Char's customs), you will be able to actually feel like a soldier because you'll be using more standard mobile suits, and you'll know exactly what's it like to be in this war, and realize just how much more special the actual main anime characters are.
And trust me, you will understand this feeling, as you are ranked after each mission, win or lose. You can see just how good you are, and at the end of the game, you are given a title and name of the character your skills relate. To actually rank high, you have to be just as good as the actual anime main characters, and it's a humbling experience.
One thing you have to mind in this mode also, is the health of your suits. As the war rages on, you get more and more suits, some of them the same suits as the one have earlier but stronger. This is because when you get damaged in battle, you need to repair it in order to reuse that suit again. That means while there is a suit you love to use, you may not be able to use that suit in the next battle because you either got destroyed, or it toke too much damage and you won't be able to use it. And repairing the suits takes time, which means you may not be able to use those suits for up to 2 or even 3 more battles. Some suits, such as the aces, take even MORE time because of the uniqueness to the repairs! However, as I said, time moves even if you lost in battle. So after each mission, repairs on your suits will be made.
If I can do a compare and contrast for a moment, when you take in all of the other Gundam games has a one big experience, making the suits feel heavy and hard to control makes sense. When you play a game like Encounters in Space, where you actually play as the main characters, the controls are alot more smooth, the targeting is quick and destroying robots feels like a snap. And why is that? Is it because the gameplay got better? That could be a factor, but it's also because you are directly playing as ace pilots in that game. The controls feel smoother and faster because your playing as a VERY unique character almost all of the time. At the same time, that game sometimes is on rails, following a path of what you should be doing and following the storyline. In this game, while there is a storyline, you can do what you want when you want it. Some missions disappear if you don't do them, you can skip alot of the actual storyline missions if you feel like it.
Now while there's the flip side to that, you also have the downside of making a game on this engine feel faster and and tighter to control. In that comes Gundam Seed: Never Ending Tomorrow, which I consider to be the Seed version of this type of gameplay. As I mentioned before, the suits in this game are the firs generation. Now Gundam Seed, which doesn't take place in the same storyline as this game, is still in the same universe, and the release of the anime it's based on is based on Gundams that are alot quicker and faster, so they made a game that's like this one but with the speed of Gundam Seed. Problem is, the gameplay got messed up during the transition. As they are no longer hard to control, now the targeting and hitting the targets feels more confusing because the weight was removed so you can just focus on hitting the enemy. Overall it just feels wrong because it's basically just a future versions of this engine, when this type of gameplay is meant for this older anime.
Not everything is fine though. Though there are missions where you can test the suits, it was not until deep into the game that I learned how to actually use the secondary weapons. There are things that are happening on screen that you can miss completely simply because while it's slow, there is alot of things going on at once. However, it is pretty minor in that regard because those are there to help you out and also help you be better at the game. I could complain about forcing to take hits because I landed in the wrong side, however that's because I made that decision to land there, and didn't take in consideration of the battlefield, and the enemy attacking me. While I'm not saying you can beat the whole game with the weakest suit, you do learn the various skills and advantages of which suit is best for what type of mission based on your experience, and not simply bringing the suit in because it's your fav. one to use.
Which is where Versus mode comes in. While in Arcade and Campaign mode your given missions of what to do, in this mode you can select and fight whichever mobile suits you want to. along with having up to four friends play together. You can even unlock mobile armors, special types of mobile suits to play as. Now, while this is all fine and dandy, I actually love this mode because of the cpu vs cpu feature. In this mode, you can make it so that the computer will fight itself, in a almost always dramatic battle with 'live' camera cuts that really draw you into the battle. Let's say you want to see Amuro vs Char once again. While you won't actually name the characters going into battle, you can make Gundam vs Char's Gelgoog, and then let the battle begin, and it is always such a blast to watch. Some of the most exciting battles I've seen from this game is from this mode, and it's not always a once sided affair also. I've seen stuff like mobile suits winning against Gundam when they never beaten Gundam before.
Now, while this last point isn't about the modes, I feel the need to mention the music. Simply point, the music in this game is almost all from the original animes and movies that came out on this series. This gives it a real genuine feel of the anime and keeps you into the world. that you've jumped into. Includes on the various movie theme songs which plays in the right moments in the game. If you are a Gundam fan, you'll more than enjoy the feeling it gives, and also how special the soundtrack is to the Gundam series.
Woo..this toke awhile to type up. There is another mode too, but I haven't played much of it called Extra mode. Simply put, it's an extra mode in campaign mode where instead of suits that repair even if it is destroyed, they are destroyed forever, and you fight a more intense AI. With the arcade, extra, and campaign mode, each of which has two sides of the battle you can take, along with the excellent versus mode of this game, this game will last you for a long awhile and it's well worth the practice. This is simply one of the best true 'Gundam' games I've played that actually makes you feel like your playing as Gundams instead of human characters dressed up as Gundams.