So... how can you make a game out of a show that's based on throwing balls onto the ground and out comes a monster ready to fight? Well, you could make a turn based RPG on it. But nah, that'd be too easy and maybe too fun. Ooh, I got an idea! Why not make a mindless button masher with some fifth rate Metal Gear Solid knock off segments for shits and giggles? It'll sell like hot cakes! Now, yes, I am aware that this is technically a kid's game, but that shouldn't really excuse gameplay that would insult your intelligence. It probably doesn't help that I really cannot stand that godawful anime and anything that it stands for - in fact, the only reason I've even been bothered enough to play this was because my little sister insisted that I just do it. Oh, I played it alright, and I'm such a sad human being... because I finished it, and so much of myself had died inside, that it's just insane!
One day, the Bakugan Interspace, a contraption that allows people to practice Bakugan battles instead of waiting for enemies to come by, malfunctions, and somehow sends you, the player, to an alternate Earth where the Vexos, the major enemies of the second season of the anime, have destroyed New Vestroia, home of the Bakugan, and have invaded Earth. The Vexos have fired beams at brawlers (oh god) that prevent them from battling. All but the player have been affected, meaning... well, it's up to you to stop them.
Just like the anime, the plot is anything but interesting. The only sense of progression to be found is that the bad guys are becoming fewer and fewer in numbers, and that your Bakugan is getting stronger. Other than that, the plot stagnates for a long ass time. It's as if they forgot that stories need a satisfying conflict, or at least something more than some bare boned “there's the bad guy, beat him up” sort of plot. Also, if you're above the age of 12 and have taste, you probably wouldn't even acknowledge that there's a second season (how does that work when a good show like Bromwell High got only one goddamn season), and therefore, you won't know what's going on. Basically, it'd pay to watch a few episodes of said second season just to get an idea of what's going on, because nothing is really explained here. This is not good storytelling! Suffice it to say, I found to story to be pretty dull and without any real content, rhyme or reason, but given the franchise this is linked to, I'm not surprised.
But why concern yourself with the story when there's gameplay to be had? Well, a good story would've made extraordinarily mediocre gameplay seem at least a little better. Actually, mediocre would only describe the brawling – this other side of the gameplay where you have to sneak around towns to catch the bad guys is just deplorable. Seriously, let's just take Metal Gear Solid, and strip it of all but the bare essentials. No gadgets (except some Bakugan balls), no guns, guards that wouldn't look out of place on the short bus, uncontrollable camera, questionable camera angles, and there you have it; a fifth rate Metal Gear Solid ripoff, complete with incompetence and bullshit!
Don't worry, the reason you play Bakugan is not to play a fifth rate Splinter Cell knock off; it's to watch balls that turn into dragons, leviathans and other creatures fight! Now, where they could've just made it like the game itself, they decided that games like Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi and Hulk: Ultimate Destruction are worth copying! Oh, and for shits and giggles, let's just add some half assed tower defense elements. That ought to get the kids onto their game pads!
At the beginning of each battle, you can select your Bakugan and ability cards. Ability cards act as your stronger attacks, and the only way to use them is to charge them up via beating the opponents up, or getting yourself beat up. You'll only ever have a choice of twenty Bakugan (including evolutions!), though it's not a big problem – that's how many you'd use, even if all the Bakugan ever conceived were available for choosing.. at least for a game like this!
What could've been an exercise in tactical warfare is instead an exercise in tedious button mashing. Seriously, all you need to do is hammer the Square and Triangle buttons in a cohesive manner as to perform some combos in order to take down your opponents. That, or hammer the Circle button to shoot at them. Technically, the objective isn't to just defeat the opponent, but to also defend your tower and destroy Vexos crystals, and that could've made for... oh forget it. No matter what way you twist and turn it, the gameplay is ultimately uninteresting. Like I said, all you really need to do is hammer buttons and you'll win! They try to make it interesting by giving you holographic towers so that you can distract all opposing Bakugan, and the point was to attract them to it, but due to either them being smart or just some shady programming by Now Production, only maybe half of them fall for it while the rest march for your building. Hmm...
There are a couple of BIG issues when it comes to the fighting engine; the combo breaking and targeting systems. The combo breaking system allows you to stop your opponent dead in his tracks by pressing L2 at the absolute right time. However, this only works half the time. There seems to be something off with the timing, because... well, you'd think to do this just as they attack, but you have to do it a bit earlier than that. This isn't good game designing; this is just a huge mind*bleep*. To add insult to injury, the game prompts you to do it at a much later time than what actually works! I don't know what they were thinking, but I guess they just overlooked this because they thought kids would be hammering the button. Poor show.
The targeting system is *bleep*ing atrocious, and it's backed up by that same stationary camera from the 'baby's first espionage' segments. You can't really target anything behind you until you're gone through everything in front of you and to the sides. Also, when there are lots of targetable objects on screen, it takes a long time to cycle through them, which means you'll be on that button like a madman. Alternatively, you could just blindly rush in there and mash buttons – it works pretty well, since the game is actually pretty easy. The AI is pretty inconsistent – either they act like berserkers, or they act like headless chickens, but either way, it should be easy to destroy them.
Upon victory, you'll be given a letter ranking, from S to... I'm not sure, because to be honest, I always found myself getting S's and A's. So if it's not the stupid AI, it's the generous grading system that'll make the game seem really easy. Based on your ranking, you'll be given x amount of XP or “core energy”, which can be used to power up your Bakugan. Customization here is very bare boned. You can either power up an individual stat, or an attack, or something. There isn't much to it, and after a while, it just feels really dull. It's as if they didn't try! What's funny is that we can customize our character at the beginning of the game to have different clothes, hair and colors... Something tells me that Now Production had enough steam for the beginning, and afterwards, they just went with the motions, producing utter mediocrity that, in the end, became absolute crap!
The graphics aren't too bad. The character models look like they've been ripped right out of a PS2 game, but maybe it's to go with the fact that it's based off of the anime of the same name... who knows. The surroundings fall under the same category. Really, if you're looking for a technical spectacle, you should probably look into another game, because this game is just a PS2 game with HD capabilities and rather colorful graphics.
As for the sound, it's not very good. The music never enhances a mood, nor is it every really memorable. Hell, it doesn't even sound good. It's just all bland and derivative. The voice acting is just horrible, like all of the actors are overacting, and as a result, it just feels wrong. The dialogue is never cheesy or corny, so the overacting doesn't work. Watching the cutscenes is *bleep*ing painful, as a result of such characterization. Then again, why am I not surprised, considering what this is based off...
Did I say that this is a mediocre game? I was meant to say that this is a bad game. I suppose it's an accurate reflection of the source material; now if only it played like it did in the anime! That might've been a little more interesting than this sixth rate action game! What made Now Production think that people would be interested in a piece of garbage like this? Oh, right, because kids like Bakugan, and if the name is on it, they'll buy it. In fact, I feel as if I wasted my time writing this review, because deep down, I know that fans and parents will ignore it because I'm supposedly not in the correct demographic, but really, I just wanted to vent, because I subjected myself to severe torture via playing through this game. If this is what kids want, then let them at it, but I'd like to think that kids would prefer to play some Mario, Zelda or Ratchet And Clank – you know, FUN games, not shit like this!