Bakugan: Defenders of the Core is the second installment to the game series based off the anime and card game that has been sweeping across America. Following in the footsteps of similar series such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh, Bakugan tries to take the formula of an anime-style video game, and use the core material to make a fun, fast paced action game. Unfortunately, the game fails miserably. I really wanted to enjoy it, but with lackluster graphics, clunky gameplay and downright boring cutscenes, Bakugan: Defenders of the Core does more harm than good.
The first thing I will say about the game is that I never was able to understand the story at all. Yes it had one, and the bulk of your time will be spent in “Story” mode, but the game gives no indication of who the characters are, what you should be doing, and what exactly is going on at all. It simply thrusts you into the world headfirst, and often comes across as a loosely hung together mess. If I had to pinpoint what the story actually is, I would say that you, an unnamed customizable character, fight alongside fellow Bakugan brawlers after the Bakugan Interspace (a place where you train with your Bakugan) malfunctioned, sending you to an alternate Earth. Here, you must stop the evil Vexos from destroying the Earth by the way of Vexos crystal, as well as find a way home.
However, as I have mentioned the story does not make much sense, and certain characters are introduced without being explained who they are or why they are there. Yes, you start off the game with creating your own character, and that character looks how you made him in all of the scenes, and there are quite a few options to how you can create one. The only way you can truly figure out what is going on in the game is if you closely follow the TV show. It is nowhere near accessible to everyone, which I feel that games with this niche of an audience should not just go after just the diehard fans, but should perhaps try to open up to everyone. The majority of the cutscenes don’t really tell you anything, and you are left with just not caring until you get an objective and actually have to play the game.
But the problem with that is the game doesn’t play very well. There are two sections of the gameplay; first there are sections where you explore an area, collecting core material (which is used to power up your Bakugan) and avoiding traps and enemies and making it to a certain goal. All of the enemies have a cone of vision in which if you enter, you automatically fail and go back to square one. However, there are items that you can find in crates around the level, and in some of these give you an extra chance if you get caught. In these sections you are able to utilize a few skills to try to make it to your goal in one piece. First, you are able to throw your Bakugan ball at walls to distract enemies, or at items that are slightly out of reach. Also, you have goggles which can help observe hidden traps, and an invisibility cloak to get through impossible sections. These sections are usually very simple, and start and end with a cutscene.
The other main section of the gameplay is the Bakugan Brawls. These are huge set piece battles where you are able to take control of a Bakugan and battle with other ones, while either defending your objective (which you can set up holograms to deter your opponents), attacking a Vexos crystal, or managing both at the same time. These battles are the highlight of the game, and can be some fun at times, while others will send your controller flying across the room. The main drawback from these battles is the horrible camera angle, and there are some instances where you are left scrambling trying to locate an opponent or objective.
You are able to equip your Bakugan with certain abilities with up to two total equipped at once, and each one unique to that specific Bakugan. Also, you have to manage what element they are, as each one is strong against one type, but weak against another. The battles however, mostly boil down to use of combinations of attack, blocking your opponents attack, and use of special abilities. They really do not require much skill as long as you can time your special abilities right and block when your opponents use their abilities. After each battle, you are scored on how well you did, depending on your health left, highest combo amount, and number of buildings destroyed. These battles can also be played split screen, which again can be fun, but doesn’t help the overall gameplay quality.
The game is very poor in the presentation department as well. The anime art style works well, and looks fairly decent in some parts, but not so much in others. Where this game really falls into mediocrity is the cutscenes. With long winded animations, horrible voice acting, and nothing going on, this game just falls completely flat here. There is just nothing aesthetically pleasing about the games graphics and style, and it just falls into the ranks with other games with a similar style. There really is nothing interesting to be seen here.
Overall, there is almost zero fun to be had in Bakugan: Defenders of the Core. The gameplay is fun at times, but as a whole is boring. The graphics are lackluster, and the voice acting and story are terrible. The game has next to no redeeming qualities, and is only here for diehard fans of the series. I cannot recommend it to anyone who has never seen the show or played the card game, because you will not know a single thing that is going on. I suggest looking elsewhere to spend your forty dollars.
Review copy provided by publisher.