Despite my bewildered reaction to Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia‘s announcement this past summer, I was actually sort of looking forward to the game. I was just slightly too old to grow up with the franchise, but as someone who still delights in a good Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! marathon, I felt that I needed to give it a chance. However, having played Champions of Vestroia in depth, these hopes have given way to confusing and somewhat conflicting feelings.
The story of Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is nothing to write home about. Upon leaving school one day, you come across a Bakugan, a mysterious creature from another dimension that loves to fight other Bakugan. As you get used to brawling others with your new companion, a series of earthquakes hits your town, and you and your friends take it upon yourselves to investigate. As a distraction from these investigations, you’ll also find yourself competing in Bakugan tournaments, though this aspect of the story seems to be nothing but filler content.
The majority of your time in Bakugan will be spent in these brawls. Combat revolves around your character running over energy cores that spawn at random around the arena. As you pick these cores up, they get transferred to your Bakugan, and when you’ve collected enough energy, you can launch one of four attacks against your opponent. Battles take place in a 3v3 format, allowing you to switch to the other Bakugan on your team as long as they aren’t on cooldown. The AI here isn’t the greatest, and even in the late game, I had no problems just tanking everything and brute forcing my way through fights, not that I needed to.
There are 81 Bakugan in the game, though most of these comes from the same species. This is because there are five factions of Bakugan, and all but one species can be found in each faction. These factions determine weaknesses and resistances, as well as allow use of a specific subset of moves, and thus each combination of faction and species is treated as a distinct character. Much like in Pokémon, despite this vast roster, I didn’t really find a good reason to switch up my team throughout the game. I found a combination of Bakugan I liked early on and just kept going with it.
Outside of battling in Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia, there are seven areas to explore, each filled with a number of side quests to complete. Sometimes you can get useful rewards for these, such as new Bakugan or abilities, but most of the time, I simply received clothes. Furthermore, these side quests only seem to come in a small handful of types, which means you’ll be tracking down someone’s kids or playing tag far too often. The lack of significant rewards and the repetitiveness of these quests leads me to believe these are here solely to pad out the game’s length.
Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia also features an online multiplayer mode, wherein you can battle friends and other brawlers around the world. Given how easy the AI can be, any challenge you’ll find in the game will be found here. Your progress from the story mode is shared with multiplayer, so if you attempt to go into this mode early, you’ll likely find that you’ll be paired up with opponents who have a natural strength advantage. This was the case in the few games I played against a WayForward staff member, but despite the unfairness of the fight, I had more fun with it than any battle in the single-player mode because my opponent actually knew what they were doing.
Though the tedium of Bakugan and its filler content make up my main complaints, there are a few noticeable performance hiccups throughout the game worth mentioning as well. These notably come during battles, as when launching certain attacks, there’s a brief but distinct slowdown. The only other technical problem I ran into was a pretty big bug towards the end of the game. I wound up getting locked into the beach area and was unable to travel anywhere else in the game, thus preventing me from being able to finish it. However, WayForward is aware of the problem, and I’ve been assured that it will be fixed in the launch build.
Despite my favorable early impressions, Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia grew tiresome and repetitive fairly quickly. That’s not to say the game is bad — what is there is competently made, and I did get a bit of enjoyment out of it. There’s just not a lot to keep players engaged, especially in the later sections of the game. The story is light and is broken up by tournaments that seemingly serve no purpose other than to introduce even more battles into the game. Combat is quite fun at the beginning, but after a few hours, you’ll find there’s little to nothing to spice it up. There’s a good bit of side quests to do, but even here, you’ll run into the same handful of mission types over and over again.
It seems then that the vast majority of the content within the game serves no purpose other than to prolong the game’s length. Younger fans may still want to check out Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia, but for older fans or those not already interested in Bakugan, it’s a much, much harder sell.
A review code was provided by the publisher.