It has taken quite some time for me to properly work out why I dislike Gundam Build Fighters Try in comparison to the original first series; for much of the series’ run time I was unsure if the weaknesses I was identifying within it were based on misremembering the merits of the original. After all, both series embodied similar tropes – that of a naturally talented character helping out technically proficient but less skilful teammates in pursuit of the grand prize of a wargaming tournament. Both protagonists fielded powerful units with over-the-top weapons to face dramatic opponents, so complaining about the way in which fights were resolved by means of a finishing-move judiciously deployed seemed inaccurate. Eventually though I realised the problems with Try were as much with its ethos – its whole attitude behind the game-selling message front and centre – and its characterisation as anything else.
Build Fighters, the newest entry in the Gundam franchise marks a significant departure from the series’ roots; it moves away from military science fiction stories in imagined universes where giant robots are weapons of war, and instead imagines a much nearer-future world where previous Gundam series exist as in-setting fiction unchanged from their existence in the real world. The story becomes one about a futuristic hybrid miniatures/video wargame – players build SF analogues of extant scale models and use them as their avatars in-game much like Activision’s recent Skylanders series. Obviously, this is a plain recognition of Gundam as a commercial entity – a story about consumers of actual products and media. The intent is undeniably to raise awareness of the franchise and its physical merchandising – yet the attitudes its characters promote are not quite simple conspicuous consumption. The series promotes physical items which themselves promote past media, some of which is over 30 years old, and the emphasis is as much on appreciating the entire setting and game as simply the physical objects.