Collectible battle animals-robots-demons-creatures-cards will never cease to stop being produced it seems, and each of them is almost always carried over to multiple media types. Pokemon is obviously the biggest example of this, but Bakugan: Battle Brawlers has been picking up steam as of late.
In the actual real-world game, players place large, magnetic cards on a playing surface and then attempt to roll plastic balls onto them. These balls are the Bakugan and magnetically pop open into their beast form when rolled on top of a card. Then by way of adding up various G-Power cards and through other rules, a winner in each battle is determined and that player wins a card. Once a certain number of cards are won, that player is the overall winner of the game. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea.
The videogame take on the franchise, Bakugan: Battle Brawlers, puts players in control of a customized character that they attempt to take to the Ultimate Battle Tournament. Between matches (which include both tournaments and one-off battles at a park, akin to an arcade mode), you can buy new Bakugan: Battle Brawlers, upgrade them, purchase G-Power cards and manage your decks for your next fight.
This setup works well enough, though there’s a limited number of Bakugan: Battle Brawlers for purchase, largely because they essentially repeat across the six different types of Bakugan (also known as Attributes). Depending upon what cards are played and what battlefield you’re on, one type may provide better bonuses than another, but it seemed hard to justify having to buy what is pretty much the exact same creature six different times in order to really take advantage of this. Instead, I just pumped money into the ones I had in order to upgrade them and dealt with the situations as they came up rather than buying a whole new slew of creatures for a new tournament.
Play-wise, a few liberties were taken with the rules of the game in order to make it more exciting, but really all that happens is that you do all of this stuff to build up to a showdown between two Bakugan, and then one just runs into the other and quickly wins.
After throwing your Bakugan into the playing field (which is done by swiping up on the screen with your stylus), other players can try to knock it off-course while you try to steer your creature into pick-ups on the field to make your Bakugan stronger for the current match. After that, you can use any of the three Ability cards you’ve pre-selected to boost your Bakugan’s G-Power, and then you play one of three mini-games to further raise your little guy’s G-Power. These six mini-games include a lite DDR-esque timing/rhythm game, a challenge where you have to trace a circle as it goes around an infinity symbol-like path, another where you scratch at a square as quickly as you can to build up power and a few other similarly quick and simple games.
After all of that, whichever Bakugan has more G-Power hits the other Bakugan once and the round is over. It seems to me like the game would have been more exciting if you threw your Bakugan, used an Ability card and then played a mini-game while your Bakugan were fighting, where your actions directly impacted their battle. Instead, the build-up to the battle is way longer than the actual fight and the skirmish is over in seconds. There aren’t even multiple rounds where they trade blows – it’s like early Mike Tyson is in the ring every time.
Now, while the way the mechanics play out aren’t done in the way that I would have liked to have seen them, fans of the Bakugan franchise who want to take everything that comes with it on the road may find something to like. All of the elements are here – there’s collecting, vicious monsters of varying types and lots of battles to be had. Support for up to four players is here as well via a local WiFi connection, though it’s a simple setup and isn’t online or anything of that sort. I don’t think it’ll completely take fans away from the card game, but it might be entertaining for a weekend or two.
Usually I am not known as someone who gives games a break on the graphics front. Either a game is worth the money, or it out and out stinks. However, in the case of Bakugan, I had some real world models to compare the actual stuff in game to.
In the case of Bakugan, they had to walk two lines. How the toys look, and how the characters look from the cartoon show, then they had come up with how they’d best look together. It’s perfect, it’s not the flawless, multi-polygon look we’ve come to expect from games recently, or the cell shaded method. Instead we’re given a compromise. We see polygons for the Bakugan, and cell shading with the cartoon characters.
The only hiccup this system suffers is in movies when you can see how bad they look together. I mean the cartoons look flat, while the Bakugans look like they’re not really in this world, I won’t get into how bad the background look. However, that could be seen as another compromise, high end front graphics, and poor background ones.
As part of my research for this review, I did listen to a few of the cartoons this game is based on. From what it sounds like, they hired the original voice actors to do the voice work for all the characters who appear in the game. I have to step back for a moment, in awe. The DS isn’t known for always being a memory heavy hand held system, and to get the voice work of over ten characters voices on one cassette is an impressive feat.
There is no music that has got you wanting to jam with it on, and stop playing the game. Once again, I think of the target audience, and I can’t help but feel it’s perfect for kids. During the light fights, it feels very happy, during the fights against major opponents, or ending the game It gets into the more darker, and dramatic type that you’d expect.
I know more than a few games have been hammered over how bad their multi-player options are. If you want host a game, or play locally, this game is great. It has those features, and you can even play against the computer without it counting except for self bragging rights. Who can really complain since it does offer multiplayer features.
The downside is the fact that there is zero internet play. It’s like designing a great pick me up game, and being told you were sold half of it. You want to play online, you want to face friends you’ve made online with this game, and you can’t. It’s a major let down, and I am sorry, the child argument isn’t going to fly in this case considering how simple it is to set up wi-fi connection online these days.
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