Developer: Now Production
Release date: Available now
As a 37-year old dude, I pride myself on my ability to stay hip to what the kids are playing these days. While some of that may come from the fact that I’m a parent, I also stay up-to-date on all the latest fads simply out of pure interest and curiosity. No matter how old I get, that boy in me who first geeked out over collectible Star Wars cards knows that “Force” will never die. That said, I admit that when my son first threw down a Bakugan on a Gate Card, he had his old man stumped. Would this new collectible critter craze be the one straw that broke this camel’s back? Alas, I’ve rolled with the best of them, racking up scads of G-Power cards so when Activision decided to take the Bakugan Battle Brawlers into the digital realm, I was ready to enter the ring.
Bakugan Battle Brawlers functions as a digitized version of the card game, following the same rule sets that have made this a popular playground frenzy; arguably a top challenger to the Pokemon throne. In Brawlers, players take control of a customized character that enters himself into the Ultimate Battle Tournament. Through a myriad of tournament battles and side skirmishes, the player will amass victories enabling them to purchase more powerful Bakugan creatures and G-Power cards, and utilize experience points to upgrade their stable of brawlers. As in the card game, players need to utilize real strategy to build out their card decks and Bakugan army to best attack their next opponent.
The objective of the game is to win three gate cards. At the beginning of each battle, players will set a gate card in the arena. The goal is to throw a spherical Bakugan and try to land it on the card. A successful hit will spring the Bakugan into action mode and if another player’s Bakugan lands on the same card, the two will battle. The unique gate card they are standing on provides enhancements to their abilities that can help turn the tide of battle. In essence, the cards work similarly to attributes in a role playing game. The game rules afford more complexity which can change battle conditions but that’s essentially the crux of it and the strategy comes from employing the right mix of Bakugan and cards to beat your opponent.
Bakugan Battle Brawlers does a decent job of replicating the real world card game with the rules set adhering to the tried-and-true game tactics. Battles are given more flair through the addition of minigames that trigger when two Bakugan meet on the same card. That said, these minigames do suffer the same pitfalls of other Wii minigame collections, with their small assortment falling prey to varying degrees of gimmicky waggle motions. After a handful of battles, your hand will tire from the vigorous wagging of the Wiimote. Where the Wii controls do compare favorably is in the initial Bakugan roll, where you can use the Wiimote to guide the Bakugan’s path and a simple flick of the wrist can allow you to jump or slow down in order to aim for the target card.
The title offers a surprising amount of content, and Bakugan fans will likely find the card collection aspects as addictive as their real world counterpart. Sporting some nice stylish visuals, it effectively represents the source material. The game also employs attractive anime cutscenes that further the story and should please fans. My only knock is at the barrier of entry as this title should play well to established Bakugan fans but is unlikely to lure new gamers into the fold as the complex rule sets of the card games are fully represented in this version, meaning the learning curve can be steep. Kids seem to pick this stuff up with relative ease so it’s likely that the target demographic should have no problem, but their parents may flounder.
Bakugan Battle Brawlers works because it represents its source material so well. By sticking close to the original game design and providing a surprisingly deep game play experience, it effectively recreates the table bound experience on the big screen and awards fans with a stylish aesthetic. While the minigames grow tiresome and the barrier of entry is pretty high for non-fans, experienced Bakugan players should have a great time with this title.