It’s rather shocking to consider how few card games there are on the Switch today. Sure, there are quite a few deck-building roguelites that incorporate elements of card games into their design, but these don’t quite manage to scratch that same itch. Luckily, Cygames has seen fit to bring over its popular Shadowverse mobile game in the form of Shadowverse: Champion's Battle, a full-fledged RPG that’s built entirely around the card game. Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle is a resounding success in what it sets out to do, providing a compelling and enjoyable take on the genre that we’d strongly encourage you to check out.

Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle follows a typical Shonen school drama narrative about an anonymous, mute new student to Tensei Academy. In both the school and the surrounding town, a card game called Shadowverse has completely taken over the zeitgeist, and your character of course has an uncanny natural ability to play the game amazingly well. One thing leads to another and your character finds themselves joining the school’s mysterious Shadowverse club, which is weirdly unpopular and underground considering the prevalence of the card game literally everywhere else you go. As a result of its decline, the school’s class president wants to close the club down for good, but she agrees to let it go on if you and your friends can win the Shadowverse world championship.

Sure, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle doesn’t net any points for its extraordinary storytelling, but the narrative here nonetheless proves to be surprisingly solid. Your gang of fellow Shadowverse enthusiasts all have quirky and well-defined personalities, and there’s a fair bit of character development that takes place across the board as you and the crew overcome obstacles keeping you from glory. It’s the kind of story that just feels good with its unflinching sense of optimism and hope, and you’ll likely find yourself attached to this world and its characters once you reach the end of the narrative. It does feel a little bit odd that Cygames opted to forgo drawing from all the rich lore of the existing dark fantasy universe that the real-world Shadowverse has built in favor of this more kid-friendly anime storyline, but it makes sense considering that this approach likely appeals to a much broader audience.

The main draw of the gameplay here is, of course, the titular Shadowverse card game, which has been fully adapted without being watered down or simplified to match the friendlier aesthetic. The basic rules are a little bit akin to a game of Hearthstone, with the main goal being to reduce your opponent’s health to zero before they can do the same to you. Each player accrues ‘play points’ with each passing turn, and these are then spent to play whatever cards you’d like from your hand, with the better cards almost always having a much higher play point value. Most cards have an attack and defense stat which governs how much damage they can give or take, while Spell and Amulet cards are used as one-offs that cause some sort of effect to immediately take place.

As you’d expect of a CCG, there’s an absurd amount of strategy that goes into how you play. For example, cards often have additional effects that slightly change the rules of their use, such as how a Fanfare allows a card to have a passive effect that triggers as soon as it’s first put on the board, or how Ambush prevents a card from being targeted by enemies until it acts first. Additionally, you’re allowed to Evolve cards after a few turns, which lets you power up a card of your choosing to bolster its stats and sometimes give it extra effects. It feels like there’s no end to how many ways you can choose to build and execute a given deck, which effectively gives Shadowverse limitless replayability.

Things are made much more interesting when you take into account that there are seven different classes of cards, each of which plays radically different form the next. Forestcraft, for example, is built around you having a swarm of low value fairy cards in your hand. Higher value Forestcraft cards often have extra powerful effects if a certain number of cards are played first that turn, which incentivizes you to build a deck around keeping your fairy supply topped up so you can keep feeding your juggernauts.

Bloodcraft, on the other hand, incentivizes a riskier strategy wherein cards become inherently more powerful as your character takes more damage. Here, cards are often centered around safely inflicting damage on yourself so you can quicker get to the massive benefits that low health can offer.

You’re not allowed to mix cards of differing classes in the same deck, meaning you’re best served picking a class that fits best with your playstyle. At the same time, however, you’re expected to have at least a general understanding of how other classes work and how best to counter them. For example, if you’ve built yourself a deck that only really comes into its own in the late game and you’re preparing to battle a class that generally peaks early, tweaking your setup to better counter that early game play could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Suffice to say, there is a ton of depth to Shadowverse. 600+ cards spread across seven classes ensures that no two matches are ever the same, and the extent of this depth can occasionally be intimidating to newcomers. Fortunately, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle understands that barrier to entry, and begins with extensive tutorials and explanations of the finer points. You’re not just thrown into the deep end and expected to figure it out; things are introduced to you layer by layer and shown off in a way that anybody can understand.

This sentiment applies to the deck-building aspect, as well. While you can of course build a deck from scratch if you know what you’re doing, winning battles often sees you gaining deck codes that offer up pre-built deck templates for you to use in future battles. Clearly, Cygames understands the difficulty of learning a new card game, and all these features are a welcome inclusion. And don’t worry, the difficulty definitely ramps up once you’ve proven that you can handle yourself.

When you’re not engaged in yet another card battle, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle unfolds exactly like a standard JRPG, adding an interesting layer of a ‘game around the game’. There’s a big, gradually expanding world for you to explore, packed full of treasure boxes to find, NPCs to challenge, and shops to peruse. Collecting every card in the game is a major secondary objective here, and there are a lot of avenues to get it done. You can spend money won in battles at various vendors around the world and buy card packs, which contain an assortment of randomly selected cards. Then there are some cards that you can only obtain by completing sidequests for characters or beating particularly difficult NPCs.

Battling with a deck based on a certain class will allow you to level up that class, which usually rewards you with more money and rare cards that you can’t get anywhere else. Additionally, your character has an overall rank that goes up as the story progresses, and higher ranks allow you access to tougher opponents and better cards. There is a very clear sense of forward progression that’s always present in Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle. No matter where you go or what you do, something is leveling up or being improved upon, which helps to prevent any feelings of stagnation or boredom.

When you’ve inevitably exhausted the mountain of content that single player has to offer, you’ll be pleased to know that Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle offers a full multiplayer suite with its own separate progression. Your rank here is independent of the main game, and you can only improve by battling players around the world and coming out on top. There’s a season system in place too, with daily and seasonal missions available that move your progress along a Battle Pass which has the typical dual track of free and paid routes. Most notably, there are no microtransactions as far as we can tell, which is a nice break from the overall design of the main game on mobile. You can unlock all 600 cards from diligent and thorough play across either multiplayer or single player, and while the Battle Pass appears like it’ll be an ongoing additional charge, the rewards offered there are largely cosmetic in nature.

In terms of presentation, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle absolutely excels. The overworld and character design calls to mind the visual style of Yo-Kai Watch, with brightly colored anime visuals and peppy music. In card battles, the card art is suitably detailed while the neat effects when powerful cards are played help to imbue the gameplay with some much-needed energy. Voice acting is top notch across the board, too, with both storyline characters and each card being just hammy enough to keep things interesting without being too groan worthy.

Conclusion

Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle is without a doubt the greatest card battling RPG on the Switch yet; an addictive and incredibly deep card game wrapped up in a heartwarming and enjoyable RPG that supplements and supports the potent core gameplay in all the right ways. Dozens of hours of content in single player alone, combined with a full-fledged online multiplayer, ensures that you’re getting plenty of bang for your buck, while the anime presentation and detailed card art and animations keep everything looking and sounding nice all the way through. If you’re at all into card games, don’t waste your time deliberating: go buy this game immediately. Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle is an extremely easy game to recommend, and absolutely worth your time.