As they say in the business, Bakugan is ‘hot’ right now. More than 55 million Bakugan toys were sold in 2008, meaning that every four seconds; one Bakugan toy is bought in the US. Just like any other popular playthings, Bakugan has its own cartoon show as well. Right now, Bakugan toys are in McDonald’s Happy Meals and it’s the top game for boys ages 6 to 12. So what IS Bakugan, anyway? Well, it’s like a cross between a collectible trading card game such as Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon, mixed with the classic playground game of…marbles?!? Yup, marbles! Marbles that turn into…monsters! No wonder why it’s so popular with the kids. And now you can enjoy the fun of Bakugan with the recent release of the video game for all major consoles (Wii and DS versions reviewed here).
Anyway, here’s the basic gist of how you play. Each player puts a “Gate Card” on the battlefield. These cards have a little magnetic strip inside, and when you roll your Bakugan ball over the card, the magnet will make them stop and fold out into a monster. Actually it doesn’t really look like much of a monster, you just have to think like a kid and use your imagination. If you and your opponents’ Bakugan balls roll over the same card, a battle starts. Flip over the “Gate Card” to see the rules on how it’ll affect your marbles’ numbers, and you can also use “Ability Cards” to increase your stats as well. Whoever’s monster has the highest number wins the battle and keeps the “Gate Card.” You can also win Gate Cards by rolling two of your own marbles onto one card. Whoever wins three cards first in this fashion wins the game.
In the Bakugan video game, you first create your own anime character that would fit right in the cartoon show. You can customize everything from hair style, skin and eye color, and what clothes they wear. Your new avatar will befriend, interact, and compete directly with characters from the cartoon, so it’s like you’re in the TV show. For fans of the cartoon, I imagine this would probably be considered “totally rad,” or whatever the kids say now. There’s only one problem. You can only pick and design a boy character. I know the toys are targeted towards boys, but I’m sure there are some girl Bakugan fans out there, and this game kind of puts them out. At least there are plenty of girl characters for you to compete against
After making your character, you can battle with your cartoon rivals in the park, or compete in tournaments. Winning battles earns you experience points to level up your monsters, and battle points which you can exchange at the store for new cards, different Bakugan balls, or upgrades for your monsters. Up to four players can compete at the same time on one screen on the Wii version, or through local wireless on the DS.
To throw your Bakugan ball on the Wii version, point to aim where you throw, and then make a throwing motion with the Wii remote. While the ball is rolling, you can tilt the remote to help it steer left and right, and speed up or slow down. During battles, play a mini-game where you must wiggle or shoot icons on the screen with the Wii remote to help increase your G-Power numbers and decrease your opponents’.
The DS version of Bakugan is practically the same as the Wii game, except you’ll be using the stylus and touch screen instead to control your marbles. The throwing controls aren’t as good as in the Wii version, but the game makes up for it with more responsive steering and rolling controls. In fact, the steering controls are so much better in the DS version that you can pick up scattered power-ups on the field before finding a card to stand on, making gameplay a little more interesting. Plus, the touch screen mini-games you play while battling are more fun, too. There’s also a “Collector’s Edition” DS game, but I don’t know if it’s any different from the regular title. I’d have to say I enjoyed the DS game a little more, but any fan of Bakugan will have fun with any version of the video game.
Bakugan: Battle Brawlers is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Fantasy Violence (Mild Fantasy Violence on the DS). The violence is definitely very mild and minimal. Monsters make attacking motions and shoot out blasts of energy and make wincing motions and fall down when defeated, but that’s it. Reading skill isn’t necessary on the Wii game, because all the text is followed by voices from the cartoon. But the vocals are missing from the DS version, so players will need to know how to read for that one.
The tutorial mode gave me a good grasp on how to play the game. It’s a lot simpler than other trading card games, so even novice or younger players can understand it. But it does get more challenging later on. I’ve reviewed lots of Yu-Gi-Oh video games in the past, and the game was so complicated that I never really figured out fully how to play it. But Bakugan is simpler to grasp and certainly better for younger kids because of it.
The Bakugan video games probably won’t replace the popular toys anytime soon, and I doubt it’ll draw in too many new players or older gamers. But for young fans of everything Bakugan, this video game should make them pretty happy.