|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Now Productions||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Meeting up with an opponent's Bakugan on a Gate card will take you into an actual monster battle. Gate cards also have an elemental alignment, as well as various effects that can power up a particular type of Bakugan. Each monster has a base Gate Power (GP), and if a card's alignment is in your favor, you'll get a nice bonus added onto your GP before the battle mini-game begins. Some cards will offer a double GP bonus for a certain Bakugan, while other cards might prohibit the use of Ability cards during the battle. It's an element of the game that offers just enough strategy without setting the learning curve too high.
Actual battles consist of playing through simple mini-games that range from scratching the touch screen rapidly, to tracing an icon as it loops around the screen. It's not the most compelling portion of the gameplay, but it fits alongside Battle Brawler's other components in a way that feels fun.
The last key feature of battles is the use of Ability cards. You can bring up to three of these cards with you into matches, and they'll help give you an edge during individual battles. Whereas one type of Ability card might nullify an opponent's GP bonus, another card might temporarily disable them.
There are a handful of other considerations, such as Bakugan stats and special abilities that play into the strategy of Battle Brawlers, and the game does a good job of instructing the player along the way. Unfortunately, the overall adventure is fairly shallow. You'll compete in a tournament, do a bit of shopping, go to your house to tweak your deck, and maybe stop by the park for an extra match. But the game stays on one set track the entire way through.
Visually, Battle Brawlers is pretty impressive, though the stakes have gone up considerably on DS over the years. Aside from the main hub, the game is fully rendered in 3D, and the character models are especially attractive. The anime style is represented nicely on the dual screen, but the variety is pretty sparse. There are only eight arenas to unlock for Battle Arena mode, and most of the story takes place inside one set of corridors. Still, it's a good-looking game with a fair amount of polish.
The music is a mix of heavy metal and hip-hop, all of which make a decent fit for the game's premise and intended audience. Each of the characters has an utterance or two you'll hear during interactions, but that's about the extent of the voice work. The sound effects could have been a bit stronger, considering the pinball elements of Bakugan tossing. A few punchy pings and whistles go a long way when banging bumpers and such.
Bakugan: Battle Brawlers for DS is a surprisingly respectable showing by Activision. With so many publishers putting little effort into titles aimed at the younger gaming audience, it's refreshing to see fans of this license get something worth playing. In the end, though, the lack of variety and stale pacing make this a game that's only really fun in very small doses. You can pick it up for a match or two, but most players will likely find the repetition tiresome.
CCC Freelance Writer