Back in July, at the end of a special Paper Mario-themed Treehouse event, Nintendo teased a special announcement from WayForward, the developers of the Shantae series and tons of retro-inspired titles like Contra 4, DuckTales: Remastered and many more well-loved games. This had fans cooking up ideas and theories of what it could be. Was it a new platformer for Disney, maybe it was a brand new 2D Castlevania game, we know the team has worked with Konami in the past? What could it be?
Well, it turned out to be the last thing anyone would expect: a brand new entry in the video game series based off the popular line of kids toys, Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia. This threw off a ton of people. It felt strange of Nintendo to tease the reveal of a new game that seems designed for kids on Twitter, a platform that requires you to be at least 13 years old to even have an account.
But we digress. Look at how much we all love Pokémon, and it has a very similar demographic, so what should be any different about Bakugan? The main fact is most adults and core gamers just don’t understand Bakugan, or even know anything about it. That's where we intend to help out.
Recently, we sat down (digitally, at least) with a few of the developers of Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia to find out more about the game, and why we shouldn’t just dismiss it as another licensed bargain bin stocking stuffer for the holidays.
Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is a 3D action RPG of sorts, with a focus on collecting and battling creatures known as Bakugan. It shares many similarities with the anime, Bakugan: Armored Alliance, which started airing here in the United States on Cartoon Network earlier this year.
The first thing we took away about this new Bakugan title is that it features a brand new story. You don’t already have to be a pre-existing fan of the series to enjoy Champions of Vestroia. The main narrative starts you out fresh in a city near the main backdrop of the anime, with your own created character, and you’ll eventually gain your first Bakugan; from there the story unfolds. Recognizable characters from the anime will appear periodically, but they’ll have their own introductions so to not leave new players confused. There are also nods to the anime laced throughout the games as well, like the inclusion of the fan-favourite Bakugan, Leonidas, who we’ve been told will play a critical role in the main story.
The devs stated that the game doesn’t feature a true open-world like you’d find in a traditional turn-based RPG like Pokémon, but the central city is fairly expansive and will open more as you progress with the campaign. There will be NPCs to chat with, side missions to take part in and most importantly, brawls to compete in.
Brawls are 1v1 battles between two players (or brawlers) each equipped with a team of three Bakugan at the ready, and the first to wear down the HP of their opponents Bakugan is the winner. Players are tasked with running around the battlefield in real-time to pick up Baku Cores (which essentially equates to Mana) to power your Bakugan and their abilities. Each Bakugan can use a total of 4 different abilities in battle (each of which are accompanied by a flashy attack animation) but new ones can be swapped in and out before or after a battle. So, unlike in a game like Pokémon, it’s easy to quickly customize your Bakugan’s attack loadout. On the surface, the combat can look a little shallow, but it seems like there is quite a bit of depth to curating your team of Bakugan and abilities.
New abilities can be gathered by levelling up your Bakugan, earning them from quests or discovering them in the overworld, and each ability belongs to one of five particular factions, meaning Bakugan can only use abilities that belong to their respective faction.
The developers say you can expect to spend around 20 to 30 hours in the story mode of Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia, but it’ll take you a lot longer to collect all of the 80 plus in-game Bakugan and complete any additional side quests.
All of your Bakugan progression, abilities and collectables you earn in the main story will also carry over into the online multiplayer, which defeats any worries of a pay-to-win aspect or microtransactions. Online battles play out just like they do in the campaign, but can be played with your friends or random players across the globe.
Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia seems to be heavily geared towards kids with the flashy animations and more simple combat, but does seem to have a layer of depth that could interest a wider audience. Especially with the writers working at WayForward, we’re hoping to see quite a witty storyline full of comical characters from the campaign.
Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia launches exclusively on Nintendo Switch on November 3rd.