We live in a time when anime-inspired games actually get localized. As someone who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, I still find it shocking to not only see games like My Hero One’s Justice or Fate/Grand Order not only appear prominently at stores, but be played by larger audiences. This also means that more niche titles get chances they might not have had, like Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed. While this doesn’t mean we’re blessed with a hidden treasure, it is a pleasant surprise and something a younger player may enjoy.
Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed is a cursory fighter based on the Zoids Wild anime series. It follows a lot of the typical anime staples, as there’s a young man named Arashi who is not only blessed enough to happen upon a partnership with the Best Zoid (Liger), he’s also a natural leader, is great at overcoming obstacles and is pretty much destined to be your average save-the-day-er. Though you hopefully already know all about him and his Team Freedom allies like Analog, Battalia and Salt, because the Mission mode’s Story option is very light on details. (Don’t worry—the show is on Netflix.) It picks up in medias res, assumes you know who Arashi, his allies and his enemies are, and lets you focus on the fight.
It’s superficial, to be honest. You get minimal motivations for characters before most Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed fights, as it assumes you know everyone. You follow Arashi’s (and other characters’) journeys from node-to-node, fighting enemies that aren’t very challenging. After facing certain notable foes, for example Drake and Analog are Arashi’s first real challengers, Arashi’s path branches off and offers nodes where they are the playable characters too. And you have to play through it if you want new characters, because even though the whole roster only amounts to 16 options, most of them are locked. (Though, once you beat all 100 missions and unlock the hard mode of the story, you’re pretty much fine to stop.)
Continuous Battle and Practice are the other options nestled in the single-player Mission section. The former is your typical fighting game Arcade mode. You pick a character and fight seven fights, with you choosing a reward like a buff to your attack, after each one. Practice is a Training mode where you get a feel for the character. As for the Battle segment, it gives you 1 Player and 2 Player battle options, where you fight the computer or another person locally with the characters you’ve unlocked.
Yes, it is as barebones as you get.
That simplicity extends to the actual fights. You have basic quick, heavy, and guard break attacks. If you’re on the defensive, you can dodge or guard. You can also perform a wild action. On screen, it constantly shows you some special moves you can pull off, which often involve things like holding a trigger and a button, rather than a more complicated input. A gauge at the upper left clearly shows when your Beast Bond could be activated and you could go for something more devastating like a Final Blast attack.
It works. It is clearly designed for kids for whom Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed might be their first fighter. You can feel accomplished without too much effort. Also, Eighting did put in the time to make different Zoids feel like they have different weights to them.
Still, the thing about Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed is that its background holds quite a few surprises. It was made by Eighting, a company known for making some surprisingly good games. It developed the fighters Tatsunoku vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars and Battle Stadium D.O.N. (It is also the studio behind the delightful Kururin Nintendo games.) The localized version has major roster update that added more playable characters and stages. So we’re getting the largest and most advanced version of the game.
Which helps make me feel like there is a place for Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed. We all get started somewhere, after all. I remember being delighted as a child and teenager when I realized there were actually Sailor Moon games. (Granted, a lot of those are shockingly amazing—shout out to Sailor Moon: Another Story!) This feels like it could be one of those sorts of games someone younger gets excited about when they realize a series they live is available in a more interactive format. Something they might have thought they’d never get to play, due to the obscurity of it, is actually here.
So yes, Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed isn’t setting any records or making innovative strides into the fighting game hall of fame. We’ll never see it any sort of formal competition. But even so, there’s heart to it. It tries to stay true to the the source and does offer some degree of variation to it. It is just made for a very small, narrow audience.
Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed is available for the Nintendo Switch.