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Review: Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match

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Come and try this Panzer High

Truth be told, Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match isn't the game I wanted out of something based on one of my favorite anime series. 

That game would be the ideal ambassador for the joy of Girls und Panzer, bringing its unique blend of sports, cuteness, and armored warfare to the gaming masses the way the Ultimate Ninja Storm game brought Naruto fandom, or the way one could in theory become a fan of Sword Art Online solely through playing the games. 

Dream Tank Match isn't that game, but that's not to say playing it wasn't a blast, or even that non-fans of the series won't get anything out of it.

Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match (PS4) 
Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment 
Released: February 22, 2018 (JP), February 27, 2018 (SEA)

(Note: This review is of the version of the game released in Southeast Asian territories. A North American or European release is as yet unannounced.)

So if Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match isn’t the game I unreasonably wanted it to be, what is it, then? That might require some background, first.

For the poor souls that haven’t heard of it yet, Girls und Panzer is an anime series about the ultimate traditional women’s sport: “Panzerfahren,” a game of combat in vintage armored vehicles from in and around World War II. In the show’s timeline, Panzerfahren is so exclusive to the ladies that characters in the show titter and joke about boys driving tanks like they might about seeing men riding side-saddle or dressed in bustles and bloomers. Also, many of the towns and schools are built atop massive, floating, miles-long replicas of wartime aircraft carriers (the smallest is 1/3rd the size of Manhattan). And most of the schools in Japan's Panzerfahren Federation are themed after a World War II belligerent, their students adopting the stereotypical customs and manner of their theme nations. No reasons for these details are given, for no reasons are needed.

The show focuses on the Ooarai Girls’ School’s own Panzerfahren team, under the leadership of veteran tanker Miho Nishizumi. In a classic underdog ascension tale, Miho transfers in and takes charge of the struggling team, defeating established competitors and winning the national championship, saving her school in the process. There was also a film that sort of repeats the plot, except they beat a bunch of college aces.

Anyway, it’s all lovely and you should watch it.

I’m giving up all this background info not just because Girls und Panzer is a bit weird, but also because Dream Tank Match feels like it should’ve been released a couple of years ago, when the film I just mentioned was fresh on screens. That’s because it’s very much a tie-in to that release. Its story mode recaps the key tank battles from the movie, under the guise of the Ooarai girls inviting all parties involved (including their opponents, the Selection University All-Stars) to a conference to discuss the match and cut together a promo video using the captured footage. Overall, it's a good excuse to gather a dozens-strong cast of characters from every faction in the series and have them banter it out over long visual novel-style dialog sequences, but with so much of the character dynamics and even basic setup taken for granted, it doesn't help anyone new to Girls und Panzer get a good handle on the show's unique premise. 

Worse still, the missions themselves fail to capture the show's inventive use of tactics or its sporting drama. It's one thing to be able to take control of other factions' tanks and view certain engagements from an alternative perspective - such as controlling the girls of Jatkosota High as they solo an entire platoon of M26 Pershing tanks in their dinky Finnish BT-42 - but for the most part the mission design is sorely thin, often limited to simplified objectives pulled from the structure of the multiplayer. The same goes for most of the challenge missions, which "recreate" battles from the show but mostly end up as skirmishes against the AI using pre-selected tanks and team compositions. Two saving graces for the single-player offering are ensconced in Domination Mode, a semi-random five-match gauntlet where players choose a school to fight as against the other schools, and the Free Match, which allows for fully customized team comps and the "Dream Tank Match" of the title.

While single-player is a bit of a damp squib, the core combat underlying it all is surprisingly adept at grabbing that Girls und Panzer feeling. Mechanically, Dream Tank Match leans even further towards arcadey antics than even the likes of World of Tanks or War Thunder, opting for the higher speed and over-the-top atmosphere of the show over varied tactics or strict realism. The tanks may perform to specs more suited to modern-day battle tanks, but the details go together well, maintaining the sense of verisimilitude. For example, concepts like ballistic trajectory, armor facings (tanks are more vulnerable from the sides and rear), and even "tracking" (immobilizing enemies by targeting their treads) are incorporated into the game, but so are Gears of War-style Active Reload system, lock-on targeting, and the ability for nearly every playable tank to drift around corners or do burnouts like they're doing an armored version of Initial D.  


Also helpful is the visual and audio splendor. Every tank is lovingly detailed as expected, but is stylized to emphasize the bright colors and poppy effects of the show. The contrast works great as the environments vary from the typical battlefields of other games. Many levels are set inside small, modern Japanese towns (with the School Ships looming in the distance), or on golf courses, or inside amusement parks. The music, mostly consisting of jaunty military-style marches, is also taken from the show - and from history, as the soundtrack includes renditions of pieces like Russian folk song "Katyusha", the UK's "The British Grenadiers", and even "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", played when the American-themed Saunders High tanks are in play. Customization adds another level of otaku nonsense, as unlockable decals and paintjobs allow players to assemble the most cringe-worthy anime tanks known to man. If you thought the hideous itasha parked outside comic conventions were bad/awesome enough, try plastering anime cuties' faces all over a 200-ton "Maus" tank and taking it into battle. 

With forty-four playable tanks to unlock, and hundreds of decals to farm from collectibles scattered about the stages, there's plenty for a dedicated Girls und Panzer fan to do as a show of devotion. The skill, though, comes into play in the game's multiplayer modes. Friend matches and custom lobbies are available for use, but I found the most success simply quick matching into Annihilation (team deathmatch) or Flag Tank (kill the VIP) sessions. Though the matches and relatively small stages won't ever allow for the tactical ingenuity displayed in the show, the solid combat allows for some rollicking tank brawls, with vehicles circling each other crazily. "Events" are occasionally held to mix things up, like adding limited-time team comps. For example, the current event restricts both sides to the hilariously small Carro Veloce, an Italian "tankette" armed with a pea-shooter machine gun and prone to flipping over in anything stronger than a stiff breeze.

Ultimately, Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match isnt the perfect primer for  Girls und Panzer, nor could anyone expect it to dethrone contemporaryporary tank sims, but taken on its own merits, it's a solidly-built, roundly enjoyable foray into the fun-loving world of Girls und Panzer, delivering a ton of fan service and some engaging combat on top. 

I'd still want you to watch the show, though.

[This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match reviewed by Josh Tolentino

7.5

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
How we score:  The destructoid reviews guide

 
 
 

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoAnime Editor   gamer profile

When not posting about Japanese games or Star Trek, Josh serves as Managing Editor for Japanator, Dtoid's sister site for the best in anime, manga, and cool news from Glorious Nippon. Disclosure... more + disclosures


 


 


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