I missed out on the Beyblade craze while I was growing up. I was around for Yo-Yos, Pogs, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokèmon, but Beyblade came around after my time. Playing the latest game in this long running series, Beyblade: Evolution for the Nintendo 3DS, has made me realize just how lucky I was to have skipped this particular childhood fad.
If you are totally unfamiliar with how a Beyblade functions, here are the basics: two challengers each spin a top in a small arena, and whichever top is left standing at the end wins. That’s pretty much it. You are able to build different configurations of Beyblades using parts bought with in-game currency. Each Beyblade has three stats to consider when building and battling: attack, defense, and stamina. Stamina functions as the top’s health; if your top isn’t knocked out of the ring, the winner will be determined by whose stamina lasts the longer. Attack and defense are self-explanatory.
Once you are fully prepared, you launch your Beyblade into the arena and do battle. The game tries to utilize a rock, paper, scissors play style using the three stats. If you want to focus on attacking, you launch higher on the outside edges; for stamina or defense, you aim in the middle, and to balance them all, you launch in the middle of the ramp. To determine your launching position, you use the 3DS’s gyroscopic functionality for aiming. While aiming works fairly well, the actual launching mechanic of jerking the system is entirely broken. If the system is anything but completely horizontal, your Beyblade will launch of its own volition as soon as it can, making you fire too early. If you do hold it horizontally and shake the system at the right moment, you end up being too late. This whole thing would have been fixed if the developer had added the option to launch with a button, but apparently they wanted to recreate the feel of launching a spinning top and ended up breaking their own game.
Once your Beyblade is launched, you have almost no control over the outcome of the match. Your only ability is the “spirit meter” that fills up on the bottom screen. Once it is charged, you can fire it at your Beyblade to power it up for a short time. I cannot recall a match with an outcome that was altered by this mechanic, so it is really just trying to give you something to do while you watch two tops spin around each other for a few seconds.
This all might be a passable flaw if Beyblade: Evolution featured some other redeeming quality such as stellar visuals or an interesting story. Sadly, it does not. The game’s visuals are simply 2D drawings of characters and simple 3D models of the Beyblades and arenas. The models for the tops are OK, but nothing really exceptional, and the 2D drawings are decent but overused. And as for the story, it is basically non-existent.
You begin the game as a new “Blader” in town and are told that in 50 turns you will be competing in the Beyblade World Championship. Using your 50 turns, you can practice your battling or try to earn money to build up your Beyblade. The game features a totally static map where you pick from the available characters to interact with. These are usually quick and simple battles which will sometimes pay out some money. Randomly, there will be a mini-game available, some of which offer a modicum of entertainment, but overall are totally forgettable. Finally, on the 50th turn you are hurled into the final competition, and if you win, great. If you lose, you keep a portion of your money and start all over again.
Repetition is Beyblade: Evolution‘s biggest flaw. Every battle seems to feel the same, with only minor deviations depending on the opponent’s configuration and your use of the “spirit meter.” I have no idea how many times I sat watching my top spin, while the opponent’s drifted lazily around it, simply waiting for either of our stamina meters to run dry. The fact that these battles were interrupted with nothing but 2D sprites speaking the same dialogue over and over is all the more insulting. Local multiplayer is also available, but you’ll just be playing the same sorts of battles with your friends. If you have two people dedicated enough to Beyblade to both own this game, you would probably be better off playing with actual Beyblades instead.
I get that this is a game largely targeted at children. Admittedly, they might get more out of the experience than I have, especially if they are familiar with the Beyblade universe. However, on a system such as the 3DS, which has standout titles like Pokèmon X/Y and Super Mario 3D Land, I see no reason to subject your children to such a boring, repetitive game as Beyblade: Evolution.