This new Switch release takes us on a trip down memory lane to the world of Zoids, Tomy's massive mechanical animals and their mad human riders who've been doing the rounds since all the way back in 1984. Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed, which originally released as Zoids Wild: King of Blast in Japan last year, ties into the long-running series' most recent anime outing – 2018's Wild – and is intended as a fighting game skewed towards a younger audience. As such, the action here is easy to grasp, heavily repetitive stuff and, while it certainly looks and plays well enough – especially in docked mode – there's a paucity of modes that, when combined with the overly simplistic nature of the gameplay, means this one grows old pretty fast.
Jumping into Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed's tutorial mode and getting acquainted with the ins and outs of how these metal beasts and their human pilots operate is a brief and rather tedious affair. Over the course of a handful of chapters you'll learn you how to attack using light and heavy variants, dash around the screen, block, feint to left or right, activate your special attacks and unleash your character's titular Wild Blast technique. It's all super straightforward stuff that can look pretty spectacular at times, but don't be fooled; in practice, this is one of the most button-mashy, braindead fighters we've played in quite some time – a problem that's exacerbated no end by ludicrously simple enemy AI who are a cinch to pummel into perfect submissions.
Fights here see you choosing one of a total of sixteen Zoids and then jumping into either the game's main story mode (a dreadfully dull set of missions that tell their tale through static screens with minimal voice-acting and repeated use of the same handful of irritating soundbites), a Continuous Battle element that pits you against seven random opponents or Battle, the game's straight-up arcade mode that allows you to fight either the CPU or a single friend in local multiplayer. And that's your lot! There's no online aspect to proceedings and each and every one of the modes included plays out almost identically in practice.
The main meat of this game, the pretty chronic story mode, is set out across a rather ugly map composed of interconnected blocks that represent the roughly 13-part narratives of each of the characters that make up the core roster of fighters. Every single one of these narratives plays out as a series of bog-standard battles with nothing in the way of special boons, boosts or twists to mix up the fighting action, and these are then strung together by multiple tediously dull conversations and a handful of loading times to wait through in order to get to the next scrap – scraps that last somewhere in the region of around a minute or so due to the incompetence of the AI.
Starting out in any one of the three modes on offer, you'll only have access to a handful of pugilists, including the star of the show Arashi and his metal steed Liger. In order to unlock the full roster, you can either battle through the arcade mode or simply complete the first chapter of each character's story arc, a feat that will take you somewhere in the region of around twenty minutes. As well as unlocking characters you can also gain access to a handful of skins for each Zoid which threaten to add some strategy to proceedings by affecting the base stats of your chosen pugilist when you equip them.
Of course, in practice, the button-mashing simplicity of the combat means varied stats make little to no difference to how things play out. As an example of just how easy this game is, we blasted through its tutorial mode and the entire story arc for every character, earning an S-rank in all but one or two of these battles by simply mashing attack and immediately initiating our Wild Blast attack as soon as it was available. There is, it should be noted, a hard mode to unlock for the story further down the line, but honestly, if you get to that point, if you can sit through hours of tediously simple action in order to reach that far... well... you're more patient than we are. Local play offers some longevity, provided you can find another person in your house to fight against – and even then, the mechanics of Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed are hardly refined enough to challenge the best examples of the genre.
Of course, as we noted right back at the start of this review, this is a game aimed squarely at young kids and so we shouldn't expect it to be some deeply technical, hardcore fighter. Still, we reckon young kids who can get their heads around the fast-paced insanity of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – or absolutely pummel us at just about any other game we challenge them to – can definitely deal with a lot more than what Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed is giving them to chew on. This is also – considering just how little content is on offer – a pretty expensive offering, for the price we absolutely would have liked to see an online mode where we could at least test the waters to see if the underlying mechanics here hold up when put to the test by talented human opponents all over the globe.
Overall, Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed is a real disappointment and one that hurts even more because, on a technical level, the developer has done a stand-up job of delivering really solid performance on Switch. We didn't experience a single drop in the frame-rate here and this is also a game that looks pretty spectacular when you're firing out one of your special attacks or delivering screen-shattering explosions via your chosen Zoid's Wild Blast. The resolution does take a noticeable drop in handheld mode but it still looks fine; the characters are big, bright and colourful... if only the fighting was up to scratch, if only some effort had been put into the story mode or there'd been a proper online aspect. As it stands, this one is a pretty tough sell to anyone other than absolutely hardcore Zoids fans.
Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed is a button-mashy, overly simplistic fighter that's aimed at young kids but doesn't even manage to lift its game enough to satisfy a junior audience on any level outside of very basic fan service. There's a serious lack of modes or variety here, especially for the not-insignificant price tag, and what is included is let down by a lazy story mode and some shockingly simple enemy AI. Serious Zoids fans may derive some fleeting pleasure from seeing their favourite characters battle it out, but, for everyone else, this is a mega-hard sell and a fighter that absolutely fades into insignificance when compared to other examples of its genre.