Review: Bakugan: Rise of the Resistance (Nintendo DS)

Bakugan: Rise of the Resistance
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Magic Pockets
Genre: RPG/Tower Defense
Release Date: 11/08/2011

This is my third review of a Bakugan game on the DS. I can’t claim to be a fan of the show, nor do I own any of the toys. So, you may ask, why do I continue to play the video games?

Back in 2009, I went out and bought Bakugan Battle Brawlers at the insistence of Alex Lucard. He was urging anyone who’d listen to review whatever version of the game possible. Being the good trooper that I am, I obliged with my system of choice.

I actually enjoyed the game. There were a few problems, but the physical game translated quite well to a video game. Rolling Bakugan, collecting gate cards, and setting up strategies with slick stylus controls was well worth the price of admission. I keep playing these games in hopes that I can play an improved version of that game.

Rise of the Resistance is yet another game that lets me down in that regard. However, it did intrigue me. It promised a Bakugan themed tower defense game with RPG elements. I like tower defense games, and any attempt to deepen the experience is worth a shot. So, once again, I was ready to brawl with the best of them.

Story

This is yet another Bakugan game that assumes you know all of the characters and offers no introduction. Dan and his partner Drago are just lying around when suddenly Drago has a sudden impulse that his home planet is under attack. Without a second thought to bring supplies, call for help, or research further into the matter, they open up a portal and get to work.

Turns out, an alien race called Hurranians have invaded. Originally, they were going to study Bakugan, but they’ve discovered a way to clone them using a replicator and instead are building a massive army to conquer the known universe. Somehow during all of this, Drago loses his ability to open a portal and most of the game is spent finding ways to bring various characters (and their Bakugan) into the fray.

The lone character of interest is a cyborg named Eva. She was an underling of the mad scientist that created the replicator. She steals one of these for protection and works with Dan & Co. to put a stop to the evil plan. The sole character development in the game is her desire to prove herself and bond with a Bakugan partner. Even this, however, gets resolved quickly and without much fanfare.

Overall, the story is weak. It’s just good guys versus bad guys with only the tiniest bit of intrigue to keep you going. None of the show’s characters are used effectively, unless you want to count Dan being a bit on the dumb side. The plot is better than say, Battle Trainer, but not by much.

The only other mode in the game is the quick play option. This simply allows you to replay any of the story battles that you’ve completed. Sadly, you can’t gain experience from these, so you’re stuck with the same team you used before. At the very least, it gives players an option should they desire to play without making their way through the story again.

Graphics

Sometimes it was honestly hard to tell that the things I was seeing on screen were Bakugan. All of the detail has been removed so that you can place dozens of these things onscreen at once. The droves that are sent your way are even more nondescript, making it unlikely that any but the most diehard of fans will able to tell who’s who. On top of this, all of your Bakugan are statues that don’t move while the enemies have a simple walking animation. For a series chock full of battling monsters, this is disappointing.

One shining spot in the graphical department is the amount of detail put into the over world Clearly, this is where the most effort went, as all six of the explorable areas are rife with color and detail. Omicron is a desolate city , the forest is lush, and the lake area has plenty of falls for you to look at. The character models don’t look nearly so good on these backgrounds, but at least the game has a visual highlight.

Still, the most important part of the game is the battles. Having a few clips of bad guys throwing Bakugan is not nearly as important as having something interesting to look at for the majority of the game. The story sequences use the plain old static portraits trick, and overall the game is a bit dated. The DS is capable of so much more. It is really sad that the first game, which came out in 2009, is still the benchmark for the series in terms of graphics.

Audio

The music in this game was surprisingly good. I even found the main theme stuck in my head for days after I’d beaten the game. That’s not bad for a licensed game. The tunes are mostly high tempo with a rock influence, which struck the right chord for the series. However, the technical quality leaves much to be desired. It sounds slightly above the quality of a Game Boy title. It’s too bad, because I otherwise enjoyed myself.

The rest of of the audio package is your typical bombs and laser blasts. It’s generic, and worse off still sounds tinny. Also, when a wave of enemies is falling in rapid succession, the cacophony of noise that results gets downright annoying.

What we have here is a poor DS implementation, despite some solid music.

Gameplay

This game is pretty evenly split between two different gameplay types. You start things off in a typical top down fashion, like any other RPG, and then switch gears when you get to the tower defense stuff.

The over world is pretty basic. You move your character around a themed level in search of an objective. Along the way, you’ll find coins and gate cards to gather, obstacles to interact with, and characters to meet. It is pretty standard, especially in that you have to revisit areas with new characters in order to advance farther in the level. For example, Drago can learn to burn down dead plants. The most interesting it gets is when you need to figure out the correct order to press some switches in order to align them to form a bridge. There are six different locations, as well as a hub that pretty much just has a shop.

The tower defense stuff is also pretty basic. You have an object that you need to protect, and a path leading right to it. Enemies will come down that path from an off screen entrance, and your job is to place Bakugan there to take them down before they can damage your home base. Like any good TD game, there are several enemy and tower types. For enemies, there are basics, speedy guys, fliers, slow but hardy boss types, and variations of those. For towers, all of the classics are represented. The basic tower is cheap and shoots fast, but doesn’t do much damage. Then you have the powerful land based cannon, the freeze gun, the anti-air gun, the spread attacker, and the sniper of doom. You unlock these as you find more characters in the game. Most of the game is actually devoted to finding these characters and trying them out in battle.

Unlike a lot of TD games, you actually control a playable character during battle. Depending on which character you chose, you’ll play as the corresponding Bakugan partner. If you choose Dan, you’ll get Drago. Each Bakugan has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as a unique attack and boost. For example, Eflin has a long ranged attack and slows down any enemies she’s near. Using these guys are important, as they are essential in the early game.

The aspect of the game that allows it to be called a RPG/Tower Defense hybrid is not actually the over world wandering. Instead, it is the leveling system. By gaining experience, not only will your Bakugan get more powerful, but so will the towers you can place. The interesting thing here is that you can chose which character to use, and also what towers to upgrade by default. Each time you level, the corresponding tower will be able to be upgraded more in combat. This is by far the most interesting and important feature of the game.

As per usual for this type of game, you earn spending points by defeating enemies. With these, you can build new towers, or upgrade the ones already on the battlefield. This is standard, the upgrades do nothing special. They merely add to the range and/or power of your tower’s attack.

Overall, this is as generic as a Tower Defense game you get, minus the ability to raise your max level of your towers. You’d think the Bakugan license would allow them to do something special, but the best they could come up with is letting you use a gate card as a one time boost at the beginning of each level. Oh, and each character has a special attack that you can use after a meter charges up. It’s so unimportant, I forgot it was there until the end. It has everything that should be in this type of game, and it controls well, but it isn’t very fun. That has more to do with some other problems I’m about to get to.

Replayability

It will take you less than four hours to complete this game. After that, you’re done. You can search around for more coins and gate cards, but the battles are over. You can’t further level your Bakugan or towers, and there is no significant content to play through.

The only good thing here is that you can replay any battle you’ve already completed. Battle Trainer didn’t offer that, and it was a shame. Still, it would have been much preferable if you could continue leveling your characters in this mode. In any case, this game is good for only one play through, and that one play through won’t last very long.

Balance

This game is a cakewalk. There’s no other way to put it. There are thirty two levels in the game, and I only found one of them remotely challenging, and that was because the pathways were short and there were three entrances to guard. Even then, I only came close to losing because I started selling stuff too quickly.

You see, you gain extra experience depending on the number of unused points you have left over. So, if you sell towers during the victory screen, you can artificially increase your level quite easily. This is cheap, and allowed me to gain something like three or four levels in a single battle.

With no harder difficulties or game changers to worry about, you’ll have an easy time with this game.

Originality

This kind of tower defense game has been done to death. Worst of all, it has been done better by games that are less than ten dollars and widely available for download. This is a full DS title, and it can’t compete.

Now, combining the exploration of an RPG with a TD game and adding in multiple characters and the ability to level up towers is an interesting addition. However, by not integrating these gameplay mechanics in a significant way, the game doesn’t do the concept justice. It feels like two separate experiences instead of one whole one.

Addictiveness

On one hand, moving forward to unlock all of the Bakugan is something that could keep players going at the game for hours at a time. On the other hand, there’s nothing interesting enough to make finding all of those new toys worthwhile.

I played through this game in a few extended sittings, mostly because of how short it was. Were I not determined to beat the game, I would have put it down more often. The one Bakugan game that I haven’t reviewed, Defenders of the Core, is the only one I have yet to beat, even though I own it and have played it. This game would have shared the same fate were I not reviewing it.

With a more interesting story or a shake up in how the game plays, this game would have been a lot more addicting. Sadly, it has neither.

Appeal Factor

Once again, Bakugan fans are getting the short end of the stick. We were given the game we wanted the first time around, but instead of improving upon that well received formula, we’re given yet another spin off that doesn’t satisfy. Bakugan would seem like a pretty solid fit for Tower Defense, but that isn’t what players are pining for.

For TD fans, there are much better examples of the genre available for far less money. More to the point, you can play free online versions that are far superior. This kind of game needs to offer something that the flash games can’t. While Bakugan does have a story and a license, it doesn’t do enough with either to make it worthwhile.

For younger kids and hardcore fans, this game is perhaps recommendable. For anyone else, the game is an easy pass.

Miscellaneous

There are no extras with this game, and there isn’t even a collector’s edition that offers an exclusive toy. The franchise has existed in video game form for a couple years now. You’d think that something special would be offered, but that isn’t the case.

I think the experiments should be stopped now. They’ve tried a strategy game, a brawler, and now a tower defense game. None of these has come close to matching the quality and success of the proper table top conversion that was seen in Battle Brawlers. Hopefully that will become clear, and we can get a proper game next time around.

The Scores
Story: Below Average
Graphics: Poor
Audio: Mediocre
Gameplay: Above Average
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Bad
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Very Poor
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Very Poor
Final Score: Very Poor Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

The best you can say about Rise of the Resistance is that the gameplay is solid and plays well enough. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to carry the game. It suffers in every other facet. The graphics are outdated, the audio quality is some of the worst on the system, it has no replay value, it’s too easy, and only the youngest of crowds or biggest of fans are going to find much worth in it. The game isn’t bad at all, but there’s just nothing of interest in here. I really hope they get back to what make’s Bakugan fun and give up on all of these spin offs.

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