Judging a product like Bakugan: Vestroia Champions is no walk in the park . The new title of Spin Master, inspired by the popular franchise born in 2007 in imitation of many congeners (above all that Beyblade remained so jealously anchored in the hearts of its fans), is certainly a product aimed at very young groups of users, the same target on the other hand, which the original animated titles are aimed at.
Simple stories, with fairly stereotyped protagonists, but able to effectively take hold of a mostly childish audience. And so it is, or at least it wants to be, Champions of Vestroia . The problem is that the game, coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch, also tries to follow the lessons of other ” monster catchers. “”coming very close, creatively speaking, to the videogame incarnations of the various Pokémon and Digimon. In doing so, however, it falls victim to many naiveties, perhaps too many . A patina of inevitable sufficiency, and nothing more, that fails to reward the ambitions of the project.
The Champions of Vestroia is not an adaptation of the events narrated in the original anime series. Obviously the references to the history we all know are there, as well as to the general imagination of the brand. However, the Spin Master game wants to tell us a totally new story, set in the world of Vestroia, and in which the player’s identity will be embodied by an avatar created more or less “from scratch”.
Quotation marks are a must, because your alter ego will be customizable only in terms of complexion, hairstyle, eye and hair color and first name. The customization options, during the adventure, will then also extend to the clothing of our owner of Bakugan, who from the very first bars will be catapulted into the vortex of battles to the sound of giant monsters.
The campaign begins when the protagonist, at the end of a football match on the school pitches, attends an extraordinary event together with his friends: a Bakugan capsule has landed in the woodsbehind the building, and as per the canon, the creature hidden inside will choose our hero as his personal battle companion. The meeting with our first Bakugan took place in a very similar way to the choice of a starter Pokémon: we were able to select the type of monster that was most congenial to us, but in this sense, do not worry. Whichever creature you choose, during your journey you will be able to capture new ones, and of each class compared to the elemental types available.
The narration, in any case, shines very little in terms of writing, devoid of real cinematic sequences and relegated to some contextual dialogues through static screens. After the first assignments, the campaign immerses us in the heart of the experience: our alter ego will be called to build a team of very powerful Bakugan to participate in the Vestroia tournament, which will elect the strongest Bakugan fighter ever.
The game, therefore, will require you to move through the numerous areas that make up the world of Vestroia, and explore them to complete missions of the main story, now optional quests that will allow you to collect numerous elements, both aesthetic and collectible and upgradeable. . The structure of the quests is obviously very simple, and most of the time you will be required to face other fighters, recover lost items or deliver missives to a person concerned.
The quantity of missions, which, net of the repetitiveness, can be considered pleasant overall within the limits of the play structure, does not go well with the quality of the exploration: the fixed, isometric camera does not leave enough breath to the view of the whole map, and the absence of a radar on the screen makes everything even more complicated, as too often it will be necessary to open the map to understand in which direction to go. A design choice that we find frankly inexplicable, and that considerably dampens the pace of the adventure.
The beating heart of the experience beats, of course, in the fights between Bakugan, which take place in an arena that can be crossed by the two opponents while their monsters come to blows. The goal of each player, both online users or players against CPU, is to recover the Bakucore scattered throughout the playing field. These energy sources, which appear randomly on the battlefield, will energize the Bakugan and allow it to accumulate power to release one of the 4 Baku Skills present in the roar of skills.
Each ability differs in terms of effects (active or passive) or amount of damage dealt to the opponent, and are the only hits that will cause a drop in HP for their respective creatures.
It goes without saying that the secret of every fight is to physically get to the Bakucores available on the ground first, so as to speed up the charge of intrinsic energy to launch a certain move. Unfortunately, from the point of view of mere gameplay, the challenge imposed by Bakugan: The Champions of Vestroia stops here, but to liven up the pace of the game a little bit of strategy and rolistic progression intervene , even if these latter elements are in reality just mentioned.
Each fighter can only have 3 Bakugan per team, obviously choosing which monster will be the starting monster once the fight starts. It will also be possible to exchange the creatures on the field according to the rules of a common tag team, an element that proves extremely valuable in terms of strategies related to the elemental weaknesses between the various Bakugan. In this regard, the variety of monsters available in the “roster” of the Spin Master game did not particularly exalt us, because to a large extent they are “reskin” of creatures already existing and transposed into another elemental type.
Furthermore, the 4 Baku abilities are interchangeable with new powers through cards that can be assigned to monsters, always for a maximum of 4 and as long as they correspond to the element of belonging of the giants. A customization system that goes well with the progression of levels of each Bakugan , perhaps the only prominent element in a fairly modest production, also and above all on the technical and artistic profile.
From the visual point of view we have in fact appreciated the modeling of the environments, colorful and lively, and the polygonal models of the Bakugan can be considered satisfactory, even if excessively plastic. A creative choice that, we suppose, winks at the gadgets and toys of the franchise, and that in the general economy of production can be said to be quite convincing. Much less prominent, however, the character design of human characters, both protagonists and NPCs, afflicted by the rather disappointing textures. The eye, on the other hand, wants its part, as well as the ear: and in this sense, in the last resort, Bakugan: I Campioni di Vestroia was not able to fully convince us even for its sound counterpart, with good music during the battles but completely insufficient in the moments of exploration, during which (sometimes) the background OSTs disappear, leaving room for a rather unsettling void.
If you loved the Bakugan franchise at the time and you are a fan of the animated series, Champions of Vestroia will be a nice dive into the past, but it is worth knowing what its playful, narrative and structural limits are. Spin Master has given life to a title conceived mostly for a very young audience without important role pretensions, but even in its “monster catcher” soul, the new Bakugan video game is far behind other and more famous congeners. A licensed product that creates the right atmosphere for anyone who knows the main brand, but nothing more.
If you love the Bakugan series, then you might find some fun in this otherwise bland representation of a catch’em all RPG.