Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is WayForward, Spinmaster Studios and Warner Bros’ entry into the world of beast collecting and battling franchises, based on the semi popular anime series. It banks on players wanting to be a Bakugan, battle brawler like Dan Kuso in the original anime series. Originally launched in 2007, Dan and his friends get hold of cards that literally fall out of the sky, and these cards give them the possession of battling beasts known as Bakugans. Together, they help the Bakugans fight against a powerful rogue Bakugan called Naga and save their home Vestroia.
In Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia, players are playing an original character in a spin-off to the anime, though Dan does cameo in the tutorials.
The story starts with the player finishing up a soccer game, then decides to take a shortcut behind the school with two good friends Saida and Miguel. There, the trio discover a gigantic crater with a glistening rock in it and that would be their first Bakugan. There are five starter Bakugans to choose from, each with a unique attribute. Players will then continue their journey to their hideout and learn from Dan’s tutorials on how to train and use their Bakugans to fight with other brawlers. They will also be surprised to learn that Bakugans can actually speak to them in plain English, and the first thing it asks is when they are going to brawl.
Players can find their first three brawling opponents at the park, but more would spawn at different areas once they win Larry’s tournament. The brawl is a turn-based battle system with real time elements. Players have to run around the field and compete with their opponent in collecting Bakucore energy and throwing them to their Bakugan to charge their abilities.
As the spawn rate for the Bakucore energy spots is rather low, it can be really frustrating to run to an energy spot just to have the opponent snatch it from you, and now you have to run to another spot at the other end of the field. This can be especially tiresome when fighting against an opponent with a full team of three Bakugans, but fortunately the vivid animation and background music help to keep brawls interesting.
A Bakugan has a total of four abilities and different amounts of energy is required to charge and unleash them. While most of them are attack types, there are also support abilities like healing or stunning. Besides abilities, players also have to consider a Bakutan’s attribute when choosing them for a brawl. There are six types of Bakugan attributes in Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia – fire (Pyrus), water (Aquos), wind (Ventus), light (Haos), creation (Aurelus) and darkness (Darkus).
Each attribute has its strength and weakness, and obviously when battling against a Darkus Bakugan, players would want to use a Haos Bakugan. However there is one move that will ignore all attribute differences. If players collect enough Bakucore energy to charge up all four abilities for the three Bakugans in their team, they can activate a destructive Team Attack that will almost always KO the opponent’s Bakugan.
Bakugans need to brawl in order to gain experience and level up, and eventually evolve. Players can also build a strong team by purchasing better abilities for their Bakugans, and getting more variety of Bakugans from completing quests or searching the bushes. Although there is no need to catch ‘em all. Since Bakugan abilities are interchangeable among Bakugans with the same attribute, there is no difference between a Haos Howlkor or Pegatrix if you equip them with the same set of abilities.
On the other hand, each Bakugan species can carry any of the six attributes, so you can have a Hao Pegatrix and a Aquos Pegatrix, with one being a white flying unicorn, and the other a blue one. Sadly, even after the Bakugans evolve, they still look the same.
Training and building teams of strong Bakugans might be the only thing keeping players in the game though as the main story is uninspiring, with the usual plot of finding a beast, train beast, fight other beasts, find more beasts, save the world. The side quests are mundane and repetitive fetch quests like finding X number of soccer balls, or helping a mother find her lost kids. The lead character here is not helping as well as he/she is just a kid who is good at soccer and is now running about the city looking to brawl with other kids. As for the two good friends Saida and Miguel, players hardly get to interact with them, and frankly they do not stand out from the other NPCs in the game.
While players can customise their character to be a brown girl with long green hair, or a white boy with yellow spiky hair, everybody starts with the same yellow soccer team uniform. But fear not, more clothing can be unlocked later in the game by completing quests, or simply spending some in-game currency called B-coins at the clothing stores.
Characters in the game seem to have similar expressions and even dress similarly. It is a challenge to return to a quest provider in the school when every kid looks the same. The environment could be improved as well. There are too many empty spaces and even the city center is sparsely populated. All the ambiguous buildings look empty and all the cars on the roads are parked. The lack of activities on the screen is deafening. Probably because there is no background music when players are exploring the map, just soft environmental sounds.
But it is essential for players to progress in the Story mode so that they can build a strong team to fight other players in the Brawl Online mode. They would also need to earn enough B-coins to purchase better Bakugan abilities or brawler abilities to upgrade their characters. So just grit your teeth and find those 20 coffee cups to earn enough B-coins to purchase that Haste ability so that you can outrun your opponent to those Bakucore energy spots!
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is too simplistic as compared to the other similar games in the genre. With its cast of unappealing characters, it is tempting for players to press A to skip all the monotonous dialogue and just get on with the story. Brawling is definitely the main focus of the game, and the ability to brawl online with other players would be the pull factor to entice players to continue playing. Still, it is a decent game for younger players and especially those who have watched the anime.
Gameplay - 7/10
Story - 6/10
Presentation - 5/10
Value - 7/10