Years ago, spinning tops were one of the most popular children’s toys around. Their well-balanced designs led to tons of enjoyment, although the fad eventually wore off like so many others in popular culture. At least, that was true until just over a decade ago, when the Beyblade manga and anime series debuted in Japan. Spreading its wings for North American airwaves later on, the show has received great ratings and monetary success, releasing different series throughout the years. The most recent is Beyblade: Metal Masters – a property which Hudson Soft and Konami have turned into a video game for the Nintendo DS.
If you’re the parent of an adolescent, then you’ve most-likely heard about this property and its established children’s battle toy line, developed by Hasbro. For those who haven’t, Beyblade focuses on spinning top battles, with characters known as Bladers. Throwing their customized creations into the ring, the kids use momentum, balance and environmental special attacks, in order to destroy the competition. Think of it as being a Pokémon-esque idea, where the heroes earn new parts as opposed to living beasts. Considering this premise, it’s no surprise that a successful toy line has launched, allowing kids to battle their friends in ring-based action. Now, the game complements that by allowing fans to take the battles into digital space, while on the go.
Although primary plot-lines strewn throughout each version of the show include dramatic rivalries, the main goal is usually to become number one on the World Championship Circuit. After all; why go to great lengths to win exciting new parts and abilities, when you’re not going to use them professionally? As a result, this premise is echoed in the Beyblade: Metal Masters video game, which is all action with limited story. In the grand scheme, that lack of a driving and elongated force is something which really affects the experience in a negative way.
Going into this experience, I only knew the basic Cole’s Notes aspects of the series’ premise. With the game, I was hoping for a rather robust, story-driven game. However, that isn’t the case. Beyblade: Metal Masters is a very succinct and unfortunately uninspired title. Its content is very minimal, with an obvious hope that kids will keep replaying the same storyline over and over again without noticing. Having the ability to play as more than thirty different characters from the show will certainly make this detraction a tad bit easier to overlook for the younger crowd, but they will notice the obvious repetition.
Every single character has his or her own reasons for wanting to enter into the World Championship – a surprisingly brief tournament which is just about to begin at the onset of the game’s ‘campaign’ mode. A brief cut-scene plays prior to the action, showing our chosen hero’s curiosity being piqued. They’re all attracted to the strange events which seem to be happening at the local arena, where a foreboding purple storm cloud is positioned high above. Something isn’t right and it’s obvious. However, the enemy and his special powers are never really addressed in story form, leaving outsiders like myself scratching our heads while thinking about who or what the dinosaur-loving baddie really is.
This competitive mode lasts approximately thirty minutes tops, without much in the way of interesting replay value (other than unlockable parts which we’ll discuss later.) There are several rounds to battle through, employing a best two out of three structure. Your character and his two chosen friends must use their individual Blades to cause damage in fighting game-style rings, each of which have their own attributes such as low gravity or a rocky surface. The resulting action is relatively methodical, requiring a mixture of attacks, defensive moves and evasion, in order to get to the final encounter. At that point, the game’s incredibly easy difficulty setting becomes quite a bit more challenging, when one-hit kill special moves become a utilized factor.
Other than this very brief, formulaic and surprisingly consistent single player mode, there isn’t a lot of gameplay action to be found on the black cartridge. The only other modes present involve practicing or surviving against every character in the game – something that is an all right challenge, although it’s not going to have people coming back for months. It could create some rivalries between friends who try to see how far they can get before succumbing to the powers of fellow Blades, though there really isn’t a lot of depth to be found within. Then again, those folks could play local, two-unit battle multiplayer with friends. The advertised Wi-Fi accessibility is used to download new set-ups from others, though there isn’t an online game mode.
Surprisingly, the lengthiest mode in this game is its in-depth, one hundred mission long tutorial. Compared to other games’ tutorials, this one is rather extravagant, though its length is aided by the inclusion of one mission per every maneuver. The first several encompass every little detail of movement, prompting fans to press one button before being congratulated. Completion occasionally will award new Blade pieces, with every set of several challenges concluding in a practice battle. It’s too bad that this longevity wasn’t attached to a more interesting mode.
No matter which mode you play through, awards are prevalent. After several victorious battles, challenge attempts or survival tournaments, the game will gift its button-pushing friend with new materials. These can be utilized in the edit mode, where three different Blades can be upgraded and fitted to your specific needs. Statistical changes must be taken into account, as each part falls into a different category. If you want to be proficient in one skill, while forgetting about others, it’s more than possible. Though, some prefer the more balanced approach.
Gameplay action consists of action versus reaction maneuvers, as mentioned previously. Inaugural momentum is built up by pressing three different buttons rapidly, to upgrade the toy’s speed, power and timing abilities for a the battle’s short onset. The faster and more powerful Blade will damage its opponent slightly during this opening meeting, sometimes setting the tone for what will come next. Of course, it all depends on how you play, avoiding enemy attacks while dishing out elemental ones of your own, using only button-based commands. Depending on the specific spinner you’re using, different attacks will be available. Examples include unleashed waves, goat horn rams and fireballs, alongside some gravity-based squash attempts. Super special moves are exaggerated versions of these elemental powers, requiring stamina and a direct hit to pull off.
The development team behind this release obviously put some thought into creating varied skill-sets and abilities, which they deserve to be commended for. However, the core gameplay and its attack/evade structure is underwhelming overall. Despite the elemental power and skill variety, each battle boils down to very similar and eventually repetitive mechanics. There’s potential here for a much more rich experience, but what was released is rather mundane. Kids will enjoy it for a bit, but they won’t be blown away by this title. If things were more fleshed out and additional variety was featured, this review would be more positive. It would also be more favorable if the movement controls were more refined.
Although the game is underwhelming as a whole, its presentation is relatively solid. A strong colour palette is combined with relatively detailed models, environments and ability animations. Granted, the playable characters’ story segments are very stoic, using still images over top of text-only dialogue. It’s hard to fault the visual presentation too much because it does the job, although its environments are noticeably limited. Metal Masters‘ music and sound effects also tend to be predominantly forgettable. Though, there are a few decent audio elements to be found within.
In the end, Beyblade: Metal Masters is only for the series’ most devoted fans. The game itself is unfortunately succinct and underwhelming overall, presenting a very limited amount of game action that is hard to recommend at a thirty dollar price tag. If it had been released as a downloadable title or something cheaper, then this lack of content would be easier to overlook – as would its faults. However, this is a full retail release that doesn’t do much to showcase the quality which some licensed titles feature. It’s too bad considering this license has potential to become an interesting game. Changing the game’s story mode to a full role-playing game (similar to Pokémon,) would be a great start.
This review is based on a Nintendo DS copy of the game that we received for review purposes.
There's hardly anything to this overpriced game and it's absolutely not worth your money.