I was always more fond of the dreidle.
The Beyblade manga and anime both ended in 2003 (a new series is in the pipeline, though), yet remarkably the franchise has had the staying power to still remain a contender in the toy aisle 10 years later. Using a launcher, two players shoot a top composed of five specific parts into a “Beystadium” (in real life, a big plastic bowl-shaped item similar to a football field) and do battle. If one of the tops is knocked out of the stadium, the remaining top is the winner. If one of the tops stops spinning, then the last top standing wins.
It’s a fairly simple premise that gains some depth thanks to the ability to customize Beyblades by swapping the five parts. Want your Beyblade to be an attack-oriented rig with little stamina – set your sights on winning in the first 10 seconds and go for it! Would you rather have a defensive rig that can stand up to multiple clashes with the opponent’s Beyblade – build it! The true game taps into the imaginations of its target audience, allowing them tons of toy-building versatility, so it’s really not too surprising to see the series still so heavily-represented on Toys ‘R Us shelves.
How does that deceptively genius formula translate to video game form? In a word, terribly.
The interface of Beyblade Evolution calls to mind the Nintendo DS Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship game series. You begin the game with a quick tutorial, then are given a group of areas from which to select which will most often result in a key battle with one of the show’s characters. That’s the exact way those old Yu-Gi-Oh! games worked, and it’s a formula that’s easy to tire of (unless you really love playing the real game) since there’s no room to explore or do much outside of actually playing Beyblade. You click an area, play a quick key battle, repeat. Additionally, there are additional mini-games in some of these areas to help you earn BP to buy new parts (for whatever reason, you usually don’t gain ANY battle points from key battles that don’t occur in a tournament), but those too get repetitive and seemingly have little in common with the game of Beyblade outside of featuring the tops in their gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, there’s unfortunately not much to address. The player enters a key battle and, using the 3DS’ internal gyroscope, has to position the spot where their Beyblade enters the arena of play, then pulls back their 3DS system to “rip” the launch cord and send their Beyblade on its way. On paper, this is idea is excellent in so far as representing an aspect of the true game in video game form. However, there are many instances in other games where the 3DS gyroscope becomes more of a hindrance to the gameplay than a valuable component, and this title seems to take the cake in that department. The aiming system is clunky and difficult to nail down, making the task of putting your Beyblade where you want it to go no easy task. The ripcord motion is actually very responsive and a nice implementation, but after fiddling with the aiming it’s more a formality than a fun addition.
When in battle, you mostly just sit around and wait for your Beyblade to either stop spinning (resulting in a loss for the player) or win its battle by knocking the other Beyblade out of the arena or having it stop spinning. Stamina meters for each Beyblade are on the top screen to help the player gauge how much juice each rig has left. On the bottom screen are Spirit Meters, which fill with energy that the player can aim (using the same flawed system as when launching) to throw at their Beyblade using the A button to give it an extra boost in the battle. If you can’t master the Spirit launching, you will lose many a key battle very quickly. And, thanks to that mediocre aiming system, mastering said Spirit launching is a P-A-I-N. Since you have to have your Spirit crosshairs over or at least really close to your Beyblade, being able to watch the screen without impedance would be nice. That’s hard to do since moving the 3DS creates a constant battle between your eyes and hands to find the perfect conditions, which when found may no longer be perfect since your Beyblade may have been knocked out of the stadium! *sigh* The worst part of all is that developer Intergrow knew this might be an issue, since the proceeding text is featured prevalently DURING every battle:
“When the movement functionality is unstable, please place your Nintendo 3DS system on a flat surface for a while.”
The game’s most fun aspect (or at least its least fluky), and its biggest provider of any depth, is the Beyblade builder. Players can take the parts they purchase and assemble a Beyblade rig they can proudly shoot into battle. Learning how these parts work together would probably have been even cooler had I possessed any knowledge of the show/toys coming into the game, but the animations of each seem faithful to their real-life counterparts. Included in the game’s main menu outside of story mode is a Beypedia that tells players about each component they encounter, though this feature isn’t any more extensive than the information presented to the player when they’re actually building their rig.
The game also features a multiplayer mode, so would-be Beybladers can combat their pals using the game’s local wireless connection with another 3DS and another copy of Beyblade Evolution. There’s no online mode available, which is pretty lame given that a.) It’s difficult to imagine too many people getting together in-person to launch digital Beyblades against each other and; b.) This is the 21st century – if you’re going to make a repetitive game with no semblance of depth, at least give fans a reason to pick it up.
Aesthetically, the title is influenced by its anime counterpart of yesteryear. The gameplay animations aren’t spectacular, lacking a crispness that can be seen in the Beyblade builder. Again, the game’s best graphical portions come in the mode, giving the user a pretty nice look at each part as they assemble a machine they like. The game’s soundtrack is predictably jolly, inspired by every similar title that’s ever preceded it.
Summary…LET'S RIP IT!