Roll ‘Em if You’ve Got ‘Em
Does the world really need another card-based video game? The developers of Bakugan: Battle Brawlers seem to think so, or at least they seem to think there`s still plenty of gold to mine from this franchise. And who in a God-fearing, capitalist society can blame them? Leave Pokémon to die a miserable death shrouded in obscurity while you callously move on to the next big craze.
I will admit I was convinced I was not going to like this game, but not because I’m an old, jaded gaming journalist that is fearful of change. While that may be true to some extent, it was not the reason I didn’t like this game.
True to my instincts, I didn’t care for Bakugan: Battle Brawlers. And the reason is simple: it just doesn’t make a good video game. Unlike Pokémon, Digimon, and other card-collecting games, Bakugan is much more physical; something that just doesn’t translate well to a video game. It features balls, larger than your average marbles, which are rolled onto a playfield where magnetic cards are located. When a ball lands on one of these cards, it springs open revealing one of many powerful characters hidden within. The creatures are actually an amalgam of every sci-fi anime you’ve ever seen such as mutated versions of dragons, robots, dinosaurs, aliens, and other standard monsters. All I ask is who wants to play a virtual version of a game that’s so cool to play in real life?
It’s difficult not to get into the history of the franchise, so I’ll try to make it as painless as possible. It’s also difficult not to get into the rules of the game, but I’ll only mention what is relevant to the review. You can learn about it in detail online, by purchasing this game, or getting involved in the live-action game. The rules are not difficult to learn, and neither is the game difficult to play regardless of your opponent(s). You can play against three other enthusiasts, but the multiplayer component is restricted in that it doesn’t support online multiplayer – only local. That should give you some indication about the overall quality of this game.
Bakugan: Battle Brawlers, (from now on will be referred to as BBB), is based on an anime cartoon of the same name originally released in Japan and gaining popularity in North America as you read this. The story is about a group of friends that find strange metallic cards which have fallen from the sky. These cards represent powerful creatures known as Bakugan; inhabitants of another planet. They must be released by a special technique to do battle with the evil forces that have followed them to Earth and want to take over the planet.
BBB the video game falls short in generating any palpable excitement. Not only is the game void of excitement, it’s also void of action, strategy, and fun. It seems to take its cue from the spring-loaded mechanics of the real-world balls, as most of the game is spent preparing your Bakugan for battle. Once it’s loaded with as many elements as you jam into it, you throw it into the fracas and in a few seconds your fate will be revealed. It’s all very anti-climactic.
Players toss their cards into the arena. Then they roll their Bakugan balls into the arena in hopes of landing on a particular card. Should two players land on the same card, the battle begins. G-Power cards, or gate cards, are the most important cards in your deck. These cards contain power upgrades and can even change the rules of battle when landed on. You will want to try to land on these cards, either your own cards or your opponents. You can attempt to influence your opponents’ direction by introducing a magnetic field into the arena. They of course can do the same to you. As you move about the arena, you can increase your strength by landing on power-ups. Your Bakugan and G-Power cards can also be upgraded with points earned from battle as well as through experience points that can be used to level-up your Bakugans.
When the battle has been instigated, you will perform one of three mini-games to help increase your creatures’ powers. There is a rhythm-based game, a shooter, and a stick-shaker. The rhythm game is a simple, Simon Says-style of mini-game where you tap buttons in a specific order at specific, timed intervals. During the shooter mini-game you will have to target various icons that appear on the screen and shoot them. Last but not least is stick-shaking. It involves flicking the analogue stick from side to side as fast as you can within the allotted time. There’s really not much to these games, as there’s not a lot of room for improvement. That’s really all there is to it. In fact, you’ll find that everything in the game repeats, including the Bakugan monsters.
BBB does not do the PS3 or Xbox 360 justice. The cutscenes are as good as any anime, but that’s not saying much. The in-game animation is choppy and sloppy, but in its defense, there are no technical issues with slowdown or latency. The music fits the gameplay, as it’s frenzied and frenetic but not in a good way. Voiceovers are good, but the sound effects, like the rest of the game, suffers from repetition.
To me it seems that BBB is best-suited for the DS. To a lesser extent, it might have made a decent PSP game, but it just doesn’t cut it on the consoles. The Wii version could have capitalized on the interactive mini-game aspect instead of offering such a small smattering. Young players enchanted with the whole Bakugan franchise will likely enjoy seeing the game come to animated life, and they should get a few more hours of play out of the four-player mode. But those with less than a passing interest are advised not to attend this ball.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.8 Graphics
Unimpressive anime quality with jerky animation. 4.0 Control
Controls are smooth and extremely operational, if extremely limited. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Average anime soundtrack, very repetitive. 3.0 Play Value
An interesting concept that doesn’t translate well to a video game. 2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.