It is a challenge for a developer to package nostalgia into a video game. Especially when this package relies on the experiences we had as kids and teenagers. The Bakugan series was one of the toys-to-life franchises that lived alongside Yu-Gi-Oh and challenged Pokemon. It was successful in retail and the TV series did well globally. However, the video games have struggled to keep up with the modern age and Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is no different. It is hard to overlook the game’s shortfalls in favour of “nostalgia” as there’s a lot wrong here. We are also talking about a game that costs R800. If this was an R30 app, perhaps it would be a different story.
In Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia, the developers at Wayforward have taken the Pokemon: Let’s Go approach to much of the gameplay. In addition, this Nintendo Switch game is clearly aimed at kids and most likely kids who have a box full of Bakugan toys. The gameplay is simple, the story is dull and the one-note combat doesn’t do much to bring the world to life. You start off the game with a basic character creation system. The game’s overall art style makes tweaking your main character a joy. Although appearance options are a bit basic, it is better than nothing.
It was hard to understand what was going in in the game when it came to the story. There’s a short cinematic that tries to set things up but in short, the Bakugan live alongside the humans and have been integrated into society. It is one of those stories where asking questions will get you nowhere. How does the world function with these gigantic monsters around and why do they exist in the first place? Let’s not forget that these massive monsters just fight each other in random places and kids, who are meant to be innocent and pure, recklessly wreak havoc through these creatures. Who cares? It is what it is.
Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is a pretty basic game in every aspect. The story and narrative leave a lot to be desired with side quests delivering basic dialogue and no real context. If you have played a Pokemon game, the overall plot will seem quite familiar. Strange earthquakes happen and these kids set off to find out what is causing them. Of course, this is after coming into contact with their own Bakugan which just so happen to fall from the sky and crash into the earth.
It is hard to stay focused on the story here. There’s no animation work at all. Instead, characters pop in and out of the screen with different poses to try and express how they are feeling. The entire game is also delivered through text so get ready to read… A lot. It also does not help that every character look alike and there’s no personality to go around. I know this is aimed at kids but even they need some sort of excitement in a video game.
Exploration is okay, to say the least. The San Barbaras hub is where I spent the most time running around picking up and delivering items for friends. It is also the place you can spend your hard-earned cash on clothes and other customization items.
Managing your Bakugan team is the core experience in the game and it is fun for the most part. Bakugan all relate to a specific element including Darkus, Haos, Ventus, Aquos and Pyrus. You can have up to three Bakugan in your team and can switch between the ones you obtain at any time. New moves can be purchased with money earned from fights and each Bakugan has a handful of cool abilities to take with into battle.
We then have the Bakugan variety or lack thereof. Collecting these monsters was fun at first. Until I realized that there was only a handful to find and most of the roster is padded with different elements of the same monsters. So a fire, water, dark and ice centipede-looking Bagukan. The same for others too. Imagine Pokemon but each monster has five different versions. No wait, if that were the case, they would have at least been fun to find, battle and the story would have been interesting enough to carry it all.
Brawling is what Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is all about and the entire toy series relies on fighting other monsters. Unfortunately, once again the video game is just bad at it too. Battles are boring and uninspired. Not to mention your character just stands there watching its Bakugan just standing there until a move is ready to pull off.
Battles start when you walk up to a character and initiate a brawl. Here you can see what Bakugan they have in their roster so you can kind of get your team ready to face them. Every battle is the same. You run around collecting BakuCores and toss them at your Bakugan. These cores power their abilities and when they are ready, they can be pulled off. Later on in the game when I evolved my Bakugan, I could also find orange BakuCores that enhance the resistance to a specific element, greatly helping during those fight when I only had weaker Bakugan with me.
The combat system is fun for about two battles. It then becomes a real chore. Who wants to run around a battlefield picking up discs to throw at their Bakugan for hours on end? I cannot fathom why Wayforward would go this route when they could have just implemented a decent turn-based combat system. Even if it does blatantly copy Pokemon, it would have been entertaining. Not to mention that later in the game these fights last over ten minutes when your opponent has three Bakugan to fight. So it is ten minutes of running around, picking up a disc, throwing it and every now and then, being interrupted when the monster pulls off a move.
It hurts even more due to the fact that there’s no real hype behind any battle whatsoever. Pokemon’s battle system can also get little tiresome after a while but the great soundtrack, monster variety and steep difficulty curve keep things going. Let me just make it clear again – you spend ten minutes walking around picking up discs and throwing them at your Bakugan…. No.
There is still a lot I could cover in this review including the multiplayer mode but do I need to carry on? I did not finish this game and I can admit this openly. 15 hours in and I could not go on anymore. Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is painful to play through and even kids may find this dreadful. The stuff you experience within the first two hours is the pace you have to face for the rest of the game. I have better things to do and better games to play. Sorry.
This Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia review was based on a code sent to us by Warner Bros. Games
Available On: Nintendo Switch | Price: R779