Beyblade Evolution is a game that may have a dedicated audience, but is unlikely to welcome newcomers into the series. For the uninitiated, Beyblades are toy spinning tops that are constructed from various different plastic and metal parts. Players use a rounded ‘Beystadium’ arena to launch the two Blades into, with the last one standing being victorious. There are also numerous anime series that essentially exist to promote these toys, much in the same way of a lot of other huge Japanese franchises.
Apparently tying up the loose ends from the anime series’ ‘Metal Saga’, Evolution follows a young Blader as he attempts to conquer the Beyblade World Championship. The narrative is pretty light and unintrusive, told in visual novel-style static screens as characters talk in simple speech bubbles. It’s not the most intricate storytelling method but for this kind of game it really doesn’t need anything special.
The player is given fifty ‘turns’ to prepare for the grand final of the tournament. Each activity the player participates in registers as a turn, even visiting a shop to buy items. While it is a vaguely interesting way to move the game forward, there is very little variety in what the player can do as it largely consists of either participating in a battle or shopping for new Beyblade parts. Characters from the series make an appearance, although they don’t really add anything beyond showing their face and disappearing after a brief conversation before and after a battle.
Battles don’t have the added spectacle of the anime series’ dragons and demons bursting from each blade and dueling in conjunction with the riveting action of two spinning tops locked in a neverending back and forth until one finally overpowers the other, while the characters incessantly commentate on the proceedings. Stripped down to just the arena and the two blades, battles simply boil down to aiming your blade into the arena using the 3DS’s gyroscopic controls and tapping a button to launch it.
From here on there is very little control as most battles seem to end fairly quickly as one of the blades runs out of steam or knocks the other one out before the player has the chance to make use of their Spirit Meter that slowly builds up. Once the meter is filled the player can then aim using the gyroscope to shoot boosting effects onto their blade, if the battle lasts that long. Three main stats govern a blade’s capabilities: attack, defense and stamina. Blades with lower stamina might simply just slowly
The battles get old shortly after you finish the first one, and not even the sizeable Blade customisation aspects are enough to stave off the inevitable boredom. The monotonous battles never offer a real challenge and even with the different offense and defense attributes in play are often simply devoid of any interactivity beyond choosing where to launch the Blade. Fortunately it is not required to win each successive battle to progress as the grand final marches ever closer.
For Beyblade fans the real meat of the game comes in between the duels, as they purchase and swap out new parts for their Blade, creating one more to their playstyle. Beyblades that have higher defensive attributes work best when staying in the middle of the arena while those with stronger attacks perform better circling around the outside. The stamina of a blade also comes into play if the two just circle around one another, as the weakest blade will simply burn out. Combined with the Spirit Meter this does add a little bit of tactical thought in each battle, but not enough to counter the tedium of constantly facing new opponents.
There are the the occasional simple minigames such as Beyblade quizzes and simple obstacle courses but they fail in jolting any life into the game. Outside of the story there is a Local Multiplayer mode that fans may appreciate for a limited amount of time until the monotony sets in once again.
Visually the game has two distinct styles with the story and dialogue sections retaining the anime aesthetic while the battles opt for a slightly more realistic look. The stereoscopic effects are quite well utilised in arena battles but the forced motion controls mean that the image constantly breaks up when aiming. Static character portraits look as though they’ve simply been pulled from promotional material for the anime series and pasted into the game. The sound effects and music are also similarly limited and repetitive.
Beyblade Evolution is a game that’s difficult to recommend to anyone, even die-hard Beyblade fans. After just a couple of rounds the game already bores as the monotonous, awkward bey-battles lack any atmosphere or real challenge at all. Perhaps very young fans may appreciate the representation of setting up a physical Beyblade set-up, but even then it will more than likely get old very fast.