It is absolutely astonishing how many of these collectible phenomena crop up over time. First it was Pokémon, then it was Yu-Gi-Oh and now we have Bakugan. It never ceases to amaze me how much these things take off. Bakugan has not only spawned the original game, but also a cartoon and now of course the quintessential videogame. Bakugan: Battle Brawlers takes the premise from the show and throws it into digital form and remains very faithful to the source material. While it may not be the most exciting or original title, it is sure to appease fans of the show.
The idea behind the game mixes a little bit of Eye of Judgement and of course the ever-popular Pokémon. Players lay down cards that have a magnetic backing to them on the playing field. Then they attempt to roll their Bakugan onto the cards in order to spring them from their encasing. Once that is done then players lay down a series of battle cards similar to Magic, and eventually a winner is chosen. The premise is simple, but the amount of depth rivals that of Yu-Gi-Oh and somehow still manages to keep children addicted. All of this has been translated into the game fairly well, and like I mentioned should truly satisfy gamers hungry for a virtual Bakugan battle.
The bulk of the game will be played out through the single player story. Here you take control of a no-name Bakugan player that must work their way up through the ranks and reach the ultimate battle. Along the way players will interact with the characters from the show, purchase new Bakugan and even new G-cards to increase their chances for success. The problem that lies here is that the story mode just feels flat. There really isn’t any incentive outside of earning battle points and purchasing new cards and Bakugan, which are extremely limited within the game. The actual plot revolves around the emblematic stop the evil player motif, and rarely shows signs of excitement.
The actual battles are also somewhat lackluster in design. The Wii version (which was the leading platform for obvious reasons) allows players to roll their Bakugan onto the field with a flick of the Wii remote. Once the battle begins you are thrown into three various mini-games that will determine the winner. They consist of a rhythm, shooter and violent shaking mini-game that all boil down to feeling vaguely familiar to every other of its type. Surprisingly none of these ever manage to feel satisfying, thus making the entire career mode feel more like going through the motions. It would have been nice to add in a few more mini-games or perhaps flesh out the existing ones beyond the traditional setup, but as it stands the game grows tedious long before the short campaign comes to a close.
In addition to the single player game there are also a host of other modes to play around with. The battle arena allows you to duke it out with up to three friends on the same console. As with most Wii titles the lack of online is disappointing, but not unexpected. The tutorial mode lays down all the basics of battle quite nicely, and is one of the more in-depth aspects of the experience. If you know nothing about Bakugan then this is definitely the first stop you will want to make. Of course in all fairness if you know nothing of the show, games or likewise, there is little chance you even bothered picking up this title. Finally the My Room section allows you to keep track of your collections and accomplishments and serves as a nice place for fans of the show. It may not be the most innovative title, but it does manage to service its fans.
The visual style is very comparable to the show, and actually turns out to be one of the highlights of the game. Character models are nicely detailed, and the animations are actually impressive for a licensed title on the Wii. There is also a nice selection of Bakugan models in the game, something the fans should appreciate. However, the voice acting is atrocious. The actors and actresses they got to play the various characters are near headache-inducing. The writing is also something less than desirable making the mute button more your friend than your enemy. The music is ripped straight from the show, so whether you enjoy it or not is entirely based on how much you like it in the show.
Bakugan: Battle Brawlers suffers a lot of the typical licensed problems for a series that seemed ripe for gaming translation. There is just not enough actual game here to satisfy anyone outside the Bakugan fanbase. If you are however a huge fan of the show and have been dying to get your hands on the digital interpretation then by all means do not hesitate. There is enough here to keep you interested, and interacting with the characters and engaging in battles will be more than worth it for you. Anyone thinking this is the next Pokémon title though will likely be sorely disappointed.