Interview with Tim May, Producer of Activision’s Bakugan Battle Brawlers


Although Pokemon started the “Catch ’em all” and “Kid travels the world on a quest involving fantasy dueling” genres, there really hasn’t ever been a franchise that could keep up with it. Digimon went the way of the Dodo and Yu-Gi-Oh has gone from mainstream kid craze to a niche product with a pretty zealous fanbase. Then there’s Bakugan. This toyline, developed by Sega pretty much exploded overnight and has become one of the hottest toy and cartoon lines today. I first encountered Bakugan when doing some Pokemon events and the kids asked me if I had ever played or even knew what it was. I didn’t, but in the interest of learning about competition I sat down and let them teach me and then played a game or two. You know, it was actually pretty fun. I can’t really get into the cartoon but the toy is one of the best miniature strategy games I’ve ever encountered, even surpassing Heroclix and the crappy Pokemon TFG game. So when Activision announced they were doing a Bakugan video game, I was pretty excited and let my staff know I really wanted to give this some big time coverage, especially as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh have proven to be quite popular with you, our readers.

Last week Mark B. got to visit Activision in New York City and get some hand’s on time with the Wii version of the game. Mark walked away feeling pretty positive about the game, which impressed me, as Mark is definitely outside the target demographic for Bakugan. You can read his comments on the Wii version here. Now it’s my turn. I sat down with Tim May, Producer of Bakugan Battle Brawlers and shot him twelve questions about the upcoming game, which is released on all current systems save the PSP on October 20th. Let’s see what he had to say.

Diehard GameFAN: For those unaware of Bakugan and what it is, could you give us a brief synopsis on the series/toy line and how it differs from the other “Catch ‘Em All” franchises like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Beyblade and so on?

Tim May: The Bakugan toy line differs itself by combining interactive battles, character development and strategic gameplay. If you’ve never seen Bakugan being played, we like to compare it to a very advanced game of marbles where you roll your Bakugan onto gate cards that cause them to unfurl into monsters. When two Bakugan land on the same card, they battle!

The cartoon series focuses more on the individual relationship between the Bakugan Battle Brawlers and their respective Bakugan guardians instead of simply catching, collecting, and growing with them all. These Bakugan Battle Brawlers have a unique bond with one Bakugan and together they express a variety of emotions and behavior essential for protecting each other and their home worlds — Earth and Vestroia.

DHGF: As the Bakugan toy line was actually developed by Sega, I think a lot of us were surprised that it was Activision that would be doing the game. What about producing and publishing a video game based on the Bakugan series appealed to Activision?

TM: Primarily what attracted us was its depth, and the challenge of bringing all the details of the Bakugan universe into a video game. So along those lines, we’ve treated the video game as the ultimate combination of the toy line and the cartoon series – and we’ve gotten the full support from everyone involved in Bakugan from Spin Master to Nelvana, to get every detail correct. Fans will notice that all the voice over for characters in the game is from the same actors in the animated show. We’ve also created a gameplay style that has everything someone who knows about the toys would expect, but we’ve added a lot of interactive elements since it is a video game. It’s a fun game with serious replay value that can stand on its own as a valuable part of the franchise.

DHGF: Nothing is really known about the gameplay for Bakugan Battle Brawlers right now. How closely does it follow the collectable game? Will this be akin to say, the recent Magic: The Gathering game for the 360 where it basically a port of the tabletop version, or will it be more like the Yu-Gi-Oh games where there is some noticeable differences between the video games and the card games?

TM: I would call it a faithful translation of the tabletop version with many additions that help make it appealing to video game fans. You’ll be able to find and collect all the Bakugan and cards that you know, plus there’s never before seen ones that were created just for this game. Battles go down as the tabletop players would expect, but we’ve added in the ability to control the ball as it rolls, interactive arenas that smart players can use to increase their odds at winning, and mini-games that allow you to edge out the competition.

DHGF: I’ve been told the writers of the anime series are also the writers of the Bakugan game script. Does that mean the game will be tied heavily into the anime continuity. If so, how accessible will it be to people who have never seen the anime or played the game? Also, for those that are big fans of the show, could you give them a teaser of what to expect in this latest adventure for Dan and friends?

TM: The editors of the North American version of the anime series played an essential role in creating an exclusive story for the game that blends perfectly with the known Bakugan universe. The game will be fully accessible for all players because you start the game by creating your own character that meets and interacts with all the characters from the show. I don’t want to give away the story since it’s something fans will want to discover on their own. However, I will say that playing it is like living your own season of the animated series.

DHGF: Currently Bakugan Battle Brawlers has been announced for the Wii, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 2. Why no PSP love?

TM: One of our biggest focuses for every system was getting the controls just right. It would have been easy to use something similar for each console, but we wanted to use each system’s unique controls to create an experience as true to playing Bakugan as possible. Unfortunately, we could never get to where we wanted with the PSP.

DHGF: From looking at screenshots, it appears that there are some big differences between the Wii version of Bakugan Battle Brawlers, the 360/PS3 version and the DS version. Could you explain what some of the differences between the variants so gamers can decide which version sounds the most appealing to them?

TM: No matter which version someone decides to get, they’re going to have the full experience of living the life of a new Battle Brawler trying to rise through the ranks to become the best in the world. The major differences between the versions are the controls during battles. The Wii version uses the Wiimote and motions during battles, while the DS uses the stylus and the microphone, and the 360 and PS3 are controller based. There’s really no wrong choice, it’s just more a matter of personal preference.

DHGF: How many popular Bakugan characters will be appearing in the game? Will there be any newly created characters or Bakugan just for the game?

TM: All of the characters and Bakugan that fans know of will be in the game. In addition, there are new characters and Bakugan that were created just for this game, and of course, there’s the character that you create to take on all challengers.

DHGF: The collectible version of Bakugan can be played by up to four players at once. Will we see a multi-player option available for the game, and if so in what manner?

TM: Absolutely. Four players will be able to battle each other or teams simultaneously within Battle Mode. Players will also be able to customize battle rules and select any unlocked characters.

DHGF: Besides the usual three on three mode of Bakugan in the collectible game, there’s also Big Game Style where you have a six on six battle. Will this option be available in the game?

TM: Unfortunately, the maximum number of players we have in a battle is four.

DHGF: Will the game be using any of the music from the anime, specifically the pieces by the J-Pop bands Psychic Lover, Za Bon and/or Elephant Girl?

TM: I am unable to share those details currently. However, I can share that the music will be representative of the game environments and gameplay atmosphere.

DHGF: With Bakugan winning the 2009 Toy of the Year Award from the Toy Industry Association , is there a chance we might see an exclusive figure as a pack in or pre-order bonus with the game? Maybe an episode or two of the show on the PS3 and 360 version as an unlockable?

TM: Of course! We have a lot of amazing promos going along with the game. There is the Nintendo DS Collector’s Edition that includes an exclusive real Bakugan Naga ball. Only a limited number were made, although it’s not specific to any one retailer. Best Buy’s version of the game comes with an exclusive DVD that contains the “Showdown” episode from Season 2. Toys R Us has a Wii and DS version that has exclusive in-game characters, Ravenoid and Manion. Amazon is selling the Ultimate Brawler Collector’s Gift Set, which has the game, a custom designed Dan statue, certificate of authenticity and a Bakugan lunchbox. GameStop has a Bakugan DS case you can get if you preorder the game, and Wal-Mart’s version has an exclusive in-game character. Game Crazy has a Bakugan pillowcase as a preorder! So much crazy unique stuff for Bakugan fans to choose from.

DHGF: Finally, series like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh may be primarily geared towards kids, but they’ve been around for a decade now and so many adult and teen gamers have grown up with them and are loyal to those franchises. As Bakugan Battle Brawlers is both new and primarily aimed at a younger audience, what about the game do you think will be appealing to an older audience?

TM: Bakugan is simple enough that it can be played by a younger audience, but most adults that check it out are surprised by its complexity and depth. Generally, players get into the deeper parts of the game the older they are, and I expect Bakugan players to grow with the game rather than abandon it after they reach a certain maturity level. I find myself daydreaming about new strategies to use in the game all the time, and I’m definitely far beyond the target audience, so if I can enjoy it this much, there’s definitely something that will appeal to someone of almost any age.

Bakugan Battle Brawlers will be released on October 20th and is available for all systems save the PSP. I know I’ll be covering either the PS3 or NDS version and Mark will be covering either the Wii or 360. We’re going to try and cover all the Bakugan Battle Brawlers variations here at DHGF to help you decide what one, if any, is the best bang for your buck. See you then!

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