Bakugan makes its first appearance on Nintendo Switch in Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia. The open world RPG puts players in a colorful city where they gather powerful creatures to fight with other Bakugan.
Bakugan may already sound familiar to you. It is one of the many animation series we used to watch on TV. In addition to Pokémon, Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Beyblade also competed Bakugan as a hit series with all kinds of merchandise. Although it may be the least popular of the list, Bakugan also managed to tell an interesting story and it turns out that after all these years the franchise is still popular. After all, we get a completely new story based on the TV series, but can take care of it ourselves on Nintendo Switch.
A mysterious earthquake
Bakugan starts with a short and powerful intro in which it playfully explains how the game works in about an hour. Here you will learn how to use your map to track missions, how battles work, how to give your Bakugan different attacks, and how to move around the world to tackle different challenges. Without too much fuss with a good connection to open the story where you mainly learn while playing instead of reading how everything works before you tackle it in practice. A positive opening, accessible, but you can expect that from a game that mainly focuses on a young audience. Something that you also notice well in the development of the game.
The story begins with your character on the soccer field next to the school. You decide to take the route through the park with your friends to go home. In the park you are then greeted with a crater in the ground where a kind of ball is at rest. As the chosen one that you are it is up to you to investigate this so you decide like any smart person to approach the strange alien orb from space. What seems? It's a Bakugan! And one that you choose. You will get a small window in front of you with a menu from a number of different Bakugan. Which one is it? Of course my choice went to Dragonoid, a fire-breathing dragon!
Time for action!
Now that I have my own Bakugan it is of course time to fight with it. My character is unfortunately not an expert so I have to learn it first. Fortunately, there is someone at school who can explain it to me. In a few practice fights with other Brawlers I learn how fighting in Bakugan works. And how it works is actually not very different from what you are used to from these kinds of games. You collect monsters, in this case Bakugan, and each monster has its own type. Each type has its own attack types and you can switch these attacks using cards that you can give to your Bakugan. Each Bakugan can have four attacks active, this is how you will ultimately shape the game to your own playstyle and tactics. Attacks come in different flavors.
There are attacks that deal damage instantly, as well as attacks that deal damage over time. There are also attacks that deal more damage when a certain buff is active. So there are also attacks that activate a buff, or debuff, such as higher defense, more or less strength or a higher agility so that you can dodge attacks.
In combination with the different types of Bakugan types, you put together a team with different attacks and different types so that you can always take advantage of as many weaknesses as possible.
Good preparation is half the battle, they sometimes say, but in practice this is not so bad in Bakugan. It's much more about how you work in the field. You can also make necessary preparations for this that will have a greater impact on the battles you fight.
Soon into the game you are introduced to the shop where you can buy new attack cards, as well as special modules. These cost 2000 coins each and purchasing such a module I think your first priority is to make the fights a lot smoother to your advantage. These modules ensure that you collect energy much faster to carry out attacks. Depending on the module that best suits your playing style, the mutual functioning does not differ much from each other. You can also only have one of such modules active at a time.
You need energy in combat to launch attacks with your Bakugan. Energy is obtained by stepping over luminescent hexagons in battle with your character. There are different types of hexagons, if they give more light, they give you more energy. The opponent does exactly the same, so your goal is to always pay attention and spot and pick up the most luminous hexagons. One particular module makes you pick up such a hexagon of energy faster, so you lose less time in the animation to collect the energy. You get less energy in return this way, but you are a lot faster.
On the road with your Bakugan
So at its core, Bakugan is a collectathon with quite a unique combat system. Collect Bakugan, collect attacks and fight in tournaments while also doing research and following the story, which isn't really that exciting. It is and remains a game where the focus is mainly on a young audience. There is not much depth, although it is enough to entertain the enthusiastic players. Outside of following the story, there are various side activities in the world such as side quests. again, these are not very exciting, but at least give you money, Bakugan, attacks and cosmetic adjustments.
I opened my review with a look back at my childhood where Bakugan competed on TV between Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Concerning the games, I'm afraid Bakugan won't quite succeed in competing with the big boys, in this case only Pokémon. Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia lacks the depth that Pokémon can offer, while Pokémon can also offer that low-threshold that Bakugan also has. The game looks nice and colorful and it plays very smoothly, in that respect it's not that bad, but while playing you notice that apart from the combat system there is little innovation or novelty in this game. In addition, the combat system is far from perfect and often even frustrating.
Every attack, from both your own Bakugan and the opponent's, is accompanied by a, for what it is, very long animation. And you see this over and over again. No option to skip this one. Battles are very long and although the animations are fun to watch the first few times, you quickly get tired of them.
Because of this I went to the settings to see if there might be an option to turn off attack animations, but there is no settings menu at all. What you see is what you get and that 's what you have to do with it. You also can't change the language of the game, so you always play in English, something that also makes Bakugan fall through the basket, since there is quite a lot of text to read and understand the game.
Bakugan doesn't really offer the optional depth to provide the unseasoned fan with a long-lasting entertaining adventure. Bakugan also lacks the accessibility, at least in the Netherlands, to provide young Nintendo Switch players with a playful adventure from one of their favorite animation series. It is therefore quite difficult to determine who Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is intended for. I think it's unlikely that the die-hard fan base will be significant and I'm afraid that the game won't attract many other players besides the young audience. A future update with Dutch support may bring added value to the game in a family with young players, but at the moment it is only reserved for children who voluntarily watch Muzzy.
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