I don’t know children’s shows very well anymore. I do not watch as much Cartoon Network as I used to as I tend to stick to shows on DVD. Anime doesn’t always agree with me. Furthermore, it has been many years since I have willingly watched an episode of Pokemon or Yu-gi-oh. I am aware of the current craze: Bakugan. And some of my charges are obsessed with it as well. Although, I think they like how it all looks and not about the actual strategy involved. This brings us to the Wii incarnation: Bakugan: Battle Brawlers.
Bakugan: Battle Brawlers follows a male character (sorry girls!) of your creation who finds a bakugan. From there, your avatar engages in battle after battle to rise to the top of the leagues. Yes, it’s pretty basic. But it feels important. If you’re not familiar with the universe, the game does a pretty good job of catching you up to speed. That is part of what makes it enjoyable (if you are a fan of the universe): It feels like a lost episode of the cartoon.
If you’ve never even heard of the show and have no idea what to do, fear not. The game has a tutorial available right off the bat. Players compete to capture three gate cards. This is also the only place a bakugan can be “summoned.” Each turn, a player rolls one of three bakugan in an attempt to claim a card. If a player has two bakugan on the same card, then it automatically goes toward that player or team. If two different players have bakugan on the card, then they duke it out to see who owns it.
Battles are fast and rather painless and simple. Whichever bakugan has the highest attack value at the end wins. Gate cards affect your units differently depending on their elemental alignments. You can also use ability cards to further power up your bakugan. These cards also affect bakugan differently and also can only be used once per battle. After you’ve “powered up” your bakugan satisfactorily, you’ll engage in a minigame. This can range from simply shaking the Wii-mote around like a madman, shooting the alignment symbol of your bakugan or playing a simple rhythm game in which you hit symbols when they land on the proper button.
After each battle, you earn battle points. These points are then spent on upgrading your collection of bakugan, their statistics and cards. From there, you can trade out bakugan and cards to fit your current situation. There’s a lot of customization going on under the hood, even if it is straightforward. The one thing I wish was fully presented is the “history” of the game world. Cards and bakugan have far too basic descriptions for my taste. I want to be brought up to speed, not chase after it.
However, it isn’t a bad system. In fact, I argue that this is one of the closest game engines to the actual show. The Pokemon games never functioned like the high-intensity presented in the television show. This one acts like the show. It’s works to the game’s advantage because you don’t have to understand the show to appreciate what is unfolding before you.
Graphically, the game has a cute, Saturday morning cell-shaded look to it. While you’ll never meander about, watching your avatar run from spot to spot, the various locales and its characters look good. Water springs from the park’s fountain, and characters during cutscenes move with grace and perfectly match what is being said. Battle animations look cool, and the menus are cleanly laid out. Load times, while frequent during daily activities, do not hamper the action. If there was a single word to describe it all, it would be “smooth.”
Sound wise, the general effects are rather basic. It is not bad; it is just bland. The same old roars, rolling sounds and “lasers” are all present. Voice acting is a bit higher on the ladder of quality, but at times, they can be a bit pretentious or forced. But at least they sound like they belong in the universe.
Whenever I look at Bakugan: Battle Brawlers, I see a solid strategy game geared for children and their parents. This game is obviously meant for them and no one else. Can adults enjoy the world? Absolutely. It plays very smoothly. But there is only so much I can take in one sitting. I’m not 14 years old anymore. I don’t have the patience for the type of silliness presented. This isn’t “classic” cartoon fun from when my parents were teenagers that involved a guy in a mask (you know exactly which cartoon dog that likes mysteries I’m writing about). This has a high emphasis on drama and action.
As such, not everyone is going to appreciate or even like Bakugan: Battle Brawlers. This does not belong in my library for one simple reason: My cousins are not nearby. If they were, I would run out and buy it and make them play it for an hour each weekend. They would have a blast because they would probably like the game’s world and the simple fact that we have an opportunity to bond. If you have children who like bakugan, then go out and buy Bakugan: Battle Brawlers. You have an opportunity for an enjoyable afternoon.