It’s amazing how easy it can be for a game to give you a sense of deja vu. But then, when it comes to creature-collecting games along the lines of Digimon, LBX: Little Battlers eXperience, Pokemon and Yo-kai Watch, I suppose it is something of an inevitability. Especially if the game is one like Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia, the Wayforward, Spin Masters Studios and Warner Bros Entertainment game positioned to bring people that sort of experience, only with Bakugan as the characters you are hoarding, training and battling.
Though if I could only compare Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia to two other games, it would be Yo-Kai Watch and LBX: Little Battlers eXperience. There’s something about the aesthetic and attitude in its introduction that feels like it fits in the same camp as both titles.
For example, your character begins as an average middle-schooler. (You choose your appearance during character creation.) After your soccer game, you and your best friends happen upon a strange crater and sphere in the forest shortcut that leads to your clubhouse. You venture up to it and choose your starter Bakugan. (There are five options, one each from the Aquos, Darkus, Haos, Pyrus and Ventus factions.)
The creature you pick is immediately talkative, taken with you and eager to begin battling. After going to your base and watching some forced tutorials (disguised as a YouTube video series), your friends suggest you start exploring, talking to other students who battle and getting used to your new life as a brawler. This means going around town, taking quests and earning rewards like Bakugan, Bakugan Ability Cards, clothing and money.
The atmosphere from there very much has a Yo-Kai Watch feel in these early moments. This is a game set in modern times, and you’re walking down city streets, around your school and at urban centers. NPCs are all about, and talking to them can trigger side quests that can involve picking up errant soccer balls, delivering homework or essentially playing tag with another character. Objectives appear on a modern map. Your starter Bakugan will occasionally comment on the current happenings, often mentioning how it wants to brawl. It very much felt like there was always something to do in these early moments, both involving Bakugan brawler-life and daily life.
As for the Bakugan brawling and building, it involves a more active battle system along the lines of Yo-kai Watch, but relies on the typical four ability moveset of Pokemon games. Once a fight begins, your team of up to three Bakugan face an opponent’s up to three characters. While the two gigantic creatures fight in the background, you and the other person run around the field to get energy discs. You automatically fling these at your characters once you run up to them, charging the energy gauges that allow you to perform moves. Moves can be defensive, offensive or supportive, and have a cooldown period after being used. (There are also team attacks, if you build up enough points and have a full team of three.) You win if you whittle down an opponent’s health, as you might imagine.
It’s the battling and building element that reminded me of LBX: Little Battlers eXperience, to be honest. Instead of learning moves as they level up, you buy or collect Bakugan Ability Cards. These can be slotted into one of the four slots, with players only limited to loadouts by the overall energy cost and how many of that ability they have. With experience, you basically level up after each fight and get one point closer to the Evo. (If you have the applicable Evo item, that is.) Given the technical aspect involved and the competitive nature of the Bakugan world, it reminded me a little of the LBX experience.
It’s something I didn’t really expect from Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia, to be honest. I suppose I expected something more straightforward or along the lines of the Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon Trading Card video games I’d played, where the emphasis was on a more competitive (and inanimate) collectible game. But it’s clear the vision everyone had in mind while making this, and the result is something that attempts to blend daily life elements alongside brawling and collecting.
Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia will come to the Nintendo Switch on November 3, 2020.