Games for Lunch: Bakugan: Battle Brawlers
Developer: NOW Productions
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2009
Systems: Wii (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official web site
0:00 The back of the box promises that "This is Bakugan like never before." That's highly accurate for me, since I'd never heard of Bakugan before receiving this game in the mail. But I like to keep up with the "youth culture" with its "Internet" and its "sexting" and its "industrials" and so forth, so I figured I'd see what this was all about.
0:01 Two Yu-Gi-Oh rejects stand alongside the game's logo as an awesome guitar riff plays on the preview screen. BWAH-NOW!
0:02 What seems like a billion game company logos fly by, then we see a view of the earth from space. A red-jacketed guy throws what looks like a gem. A circle with six colored gem pie pieces appear briefly. A blue-haired girl rides a robo-lion. The red jacket guy summons four girls, then throws another gem ... oh, no, it looks more like a pok?-ball. Out of the ball comes a HUGE RED DRAGON to battle a HUGE BLUE DRAGON. They both shoot energy from their mouths in huge streams that EXPLODE in a HUGE CONFLAGRATION ARGH SO MUCH AWESOME AND TITLE!
0:03 A light electric guitar slow jam plays over the title screen. When I press +, red-jacket guy tells me how his "whole world changed one day when all these random cards rained down everywhere." Really? Cards falling from the sky? Really? Anyway, the kids made up a game to play with the cards, but it turns out the cards opened up a new dimension of monsters or something. "We are the Bakugan Battle Brawlers. Bakugan: One goal, two worlds." What goal would that be? And what two worlds, exactly?
0:05 I guess I'd better go to the Tutorial first. Maybe it'll teach me what a Bakugan is. "Hello, I'm Alice. I'll tell you all about playing Bakugan," She's a cute little redhead in a yellow summer dress. "Let me help you out." You can help me out anytime, Alice... *swoon*
0:06 I have a deck of cards and three Bakugan. My goal is to win three Gate Cards. That's great, but WHAT'S A BAKUGAN?
0:07 "You're gonna get pounded, kid. You don't stand a chance," says my fat, orange-shirted opponent, Shuji, who's immediately identifiable to any children's animation fan as "the bully."
0:09 So we throw out "Gate Cards" onto a glowing, 3x3 field; then I take aim with the Remote pointer, and throw it with a Wii Remote flick. I can choose from Siege, Gargonoid and Fear Ripper. They all have a bunch of stats, but they also feature a big number at the top. I pick Siege, the one with the highest number up top. I can nudge it in mid-air after I throw it, but it still goes way too far. "I'll get it next time!" says my red-jacketed character, Dan.
0:10 On my second throw, the Bakugan hits a Gate Card dead-on ... but not the one I was aiming at. "Stand!" says the announcer as the ball unfolds to sprout stumpy legs and a little head. Shuji's turn, now. He precedes his throw with the standard over-the-top children's anime sequence. I can shoot at his Bakugan during the throw with the Remote pointer. Doe this happen in the real-world version of the game too?
0:12 Apparently the Bakugan aren't just little plastic balls ... they're real monsters! Shuji's is a big snake. Mine is a red knight. We're battling for the Gate Card we're on. Alice spouts some gibberish about Gate Cards giving G-Power boosts. Mine goes up by 110 to 390. His goes up by 90 to 290. That means I win, right?
0:15 Oh, not yet. First we get to play "Ability Cards" to boost our Bakugan further. After playing a few from my hand, my guy is at 640 and his is at 340. I guess I didn't really need to use mine, huh?
0:16 "Shaking Battle: Level 1. Shake the Wii Remote to gain G-Power." Oh dear lord no. So I shake the Remote for 10 seconds. I end up winning the battle by a score of 1048 to 535. My knight does a powerful thrust forward with his huge lance (dirty!) and takes down the snake. The animations for each character look like they have nothing to do with one another ... they never even touch! "Yes I won!" Dan says. That was quick...
0:18 Shuji misses the cards with his throw, giving me the chance to throw another Bakugan and get a "Double stand!" That wins me the Gate Card without the need to even battle, apparently. I know it's a tutorial, but this is a bit too easy.
0:20 Battle 2 ... my Siege is up against a Juggernoid, a big armadillo-like thing. We each get 100 from the Gate, so it's 380 to 270. I wasted all my Ability Cards last time, and apparently I don't draw more. Luckily he doesn't have any either. Now it's "Shooting Battle: Level 1. Shoot your Bakugan's ability symbol to gain G-Power." It takes me a few tries to figure out which symbol is mine, but after that I fail to miss a single one as they fly in from the sides of the screen. Not bad, as these Wii shooting galleries go.
0:21 Dan gives a big thumbs up as he gets his third Gate Card and victory. Quote of the moment: "That's my skills talking."
0:23 On to Story Mode to "Become the Ultimate Battle Brawler." I name my character "-______-," because I can. I can choose six different attributes, each of which is introduced in Dan's whiny voice. "Pyrus: The attribute of fire." "Aquos: The attribute of water." Imagine an adolescent Droopy Dog saying these things. I go with Pyrus because it matches my jacket.
0:25 A relatively limited character customization screen. I can change skin tone, mouth, eyes, pants, etc. I go through a few random appearances until I find one I like: a ridiculous blond afro, big blue eyes, a red shirt with a blue shoulder vest and ... are those chaps? Yup ... it looks like chaps. Let's go!
0:27 A silhouetted dragon sits in an electrical field in front of a void. "Finally the silent orb is complete. Now all Bakugan will bow to me!" says a green-skinned guy with a pointy chin and ridiculous mustache. "Moments later, in the Doom Dimension," reads the title card. The what? A red orb flies up from a desolate, dead planet. Many others also arise, creating a huge red energy ball in the sky. It explodes and another dragon shoots out of it and toward the void in space. Um ... what?
0:29 Cut to a fountain against a blue sky. "No way, I wasn't making fun of you guys," my character says to Shuji and his diminutive sidekick, Akira. I say I like Bakugan, but I'm not very good. Shuji says he'll teach me a lesson ... in Bakugan. OK, Lesson 1 ... WHAT'S A BAKUGAN? Then Dan walks up. I recognize him because he's "all over the net." He offers to help me and "show me some of his old tricks. And if you're lucky, I won't even charge ya." Is Dan a gigolo?
0:30 The game lets me skip a repeat of the tutorial, thankfully. Shuji says he'll get me back at the tournament. "To enter the tournament, I need a wicked Bakugan, something like Trago," I say. "Yeah, it's really important to have a tight relationship with your Bakugan," Dan agrees. That just sounds ... wrong.
0:31 I can now visit the store. Nay, I MUST visit the store. Complete with muzak. Alice is the store clerk! She sees me looking around every day, but is surprised I know her name, which I apparently got from the net. Oh, I have no money ... er, Bakugan points ... so I go to the park to battle someone random people to get some points.
0:33 Walking in the park, a blinding white light fills the sky and a Bakugan ball falls at my feet. "Wow ... I've never seen one like this before." It opens and talks to me. "My name is Leonidas." "Hey, you want to partner with me?" I ask. "I sense that in this world I will only release my true power in these Bakugan battles." Really, Leonidas? You figured that out after 10 whole seconds on the planet? That's ... impressive.
0:34 Now I have some options! I can go to the park for random battles, back to the store to browse, or enter a tournament. Hell, the tutorial was pretty easy, let's see if I can win the "Neo Challengers Tournament" with no preparation. The word "neo" is much cooler than "new," don'tcha know.
0:35 "They're just names to me. I will crush them." says Leonidas as we discuss the impressive lineup of competitors. He's not angry, he "just doesn't fear weak humans." My character tells him to lighten up, but he shouldn't. He's by far the best character yet.
0:36 I can reorganize my deck or look at my next opponent, but I just jump into the battle. It's Shuji again! Have I mentioned how ridiculous my yellow afro looks?
0:37 Unlike the tutorial, I can choose my Gate Card here. There's a Leonidas card that says "Leonidases get the Gate bonus twice!" Wow ... convenient! Also, "Leonidases?"
0:38 Shuji misses with his throw and I get another double stand for a free card. That means I wasted my two good Bakugan, though, so my crappy third one, a five-horned minotaur with 180 power, has to battle his 210-powered Stinglash (a large scorpion). The bonuses change it to a 340 vs. 330. We both use a few cards to up out powers to 450 and 430, respectively.
0:41 Another Shooting Battle ends with me winning, 790 to 595. My guy charges and knocks over his scorpion. Guess I didn't need those cards after all, huh?
0:44 Shuji misses his first shot, allowing me to get another easy double stand. Victory! I get 1810P to spend in the shop. My character says "That's my skills talking," again, despite there being minimal skill involved, as far as I can tell.
0:45 For my second tournament battle, I'm fighting against a girl with blue pigtails and a yellow belly shirt. "I'll show you what I can do." OK, they had to intend all these double entendres, didn't they?
0:46 Her white Fear Ripper goes up against my red Leonidas. I thought we were on the Leonidas card, which would give me a big bonus, but no, we're actually on her card. After the bonuses I'm barely ahead, 490 to 450. I don't even bother with the cards, and it ends up 816 to 742 after some controller shaking. Leonidas does a dual slash that brings the Fear Ripper to his knees. Some cute animations here, I guess ... exciting for eight-year-olds, perhaps.
0:49 Robotallion is a white ... robot, up against my armadillo (I don't even remember the real name). After the Gate bonuses I'm behind by 30 points, but we both use some bonus cards and tie at 440. After yet another Shooting Battle (they're no longer very interesting) I end up winning 765 to 555. Man, either I'm really good at shooting or the computer is really bad.
0:51 I actually ricochet a shot off the back wall after an overthrow! They really give you a lot of control after the initial throw. For some reason, my opponent skips her turn, letting me get a double stand and the victory. "That's my skills talking" count: 3. I'm up to 4410P!
0:53 Up next is Marucho, a tiny bespectacled boy with a blond cowlick. He's "the only son of a millionaire," and "a walking encyclopedia," so, you know, kids should be able to relate!
0:55 Leonidas is up against Gargonoid, yet another nondescript white dragon. I finally got Leonidas to land on my Leonidas card, bulking hum from 340 to 660. I lard on the cards (why not), making it 970 to 520 in my favor going into the shooting battle. At the end, I win handily, 1235 to 595. A huge blue laser from my flying Leonidas knocks down his Gargonoid.
0:58 Hmm, seems my Juggernoid is way behind in the second battle, 640 to 270, due to a big bonus for his guy. I finally lose my first battle 895 to 657 after the Shaking Battle. I guess I should have saved some of those cards...
Would I play this game for more than an hour? No
Why? For a card game, there seems to be extremely little strategy on display here. The matches are way too short, and battles are determined almost entirely by who has the better Bakugan/cards, as far as I can tell. There may be some combos you can set up, and there's some question of when to use your cards vs. when to save them, but it's no Magic: The Gathering, that's for sure.
This column is based on a retail copy of the Nintendo Wii game provided by the publisher.
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