Review: Beyblade: Metal Masters (Nintendo DS)
by Aaron Sirois on December 2, 2011

Beyblade: Metal Masters
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Hudson Soft
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 11/15/2011

A few weeks after Bakugan, I’m back with another kid’s game/anime to video game conversion. This time I try my hand at my first Beyblade title. Beyblade, for those of you not in the know, is a franchise built around customizing and battling spinning tops. It isn’t the most exciting topic in the world, but the show has been running for approximately a decade and the toys were quite popular at one point. There have been a number of video games in in the past, and the DS is the normal breeding ground for this kind of product.

So grab your string launchers and get ready to let it rip as I see if Hudson Soft can deliver a Beyblade experience worthy of fans’ money.

Modes

The first mode up is Arcade. This is the “story” mode of the game, and it runs very similarly to most fighters, albeit minus any bells and whistles. It starts with you choosing three characters, one of which will be your leader. Said leader hears about a Beyblade tournament being held in a nearby cemetery. There are generally two reactions to this. Some are stoked to compete against the best, while others decide this is odd and go to “investigate”. (Side note: I really hate the characters in these types of shows that take their game too seriously, and go on “investigations.” It’s just too much.) Either way, all of that is forgotten while you go through a gauntlet of best of three matches. You can reorder your competitors beforehand if you want, but when you get to the final two rounds, you must use the leader. In these battles, you discover that a boy named Agito is trying to steal everyone’s life energy through Beyblade battles (?) and resurrect dinosaurs. After you defeat him, it turns out he was being controlled by the Beyblade he wielded. Each character ending is then one of two things. Either the character is excited to battle again, or getting ready to further their investigations. There are around thirty characters in the game, and the repetition gets old quickly. Apart from one liners between rounds, there is no story here and the mode just doesn’t hold your interest. The only reason to keep playing is to unlock parts and players.

In Battle, you have several options at your disposal. You can practice, compete in free battles, and complete objectives in Mission Mode. However, “mission” in this case is nothing more than a fancy name for “poorly conceived tutorial.” Though there are one hundred challenges to get through, most of these only cover a single command. For example, the very first mission has you merely tapping the directional pad, and then it ends, saves, and puts you back into the menu. The next mission is merely to perform a dash. Almost every mission is like this, and they go by quickly. There are a handful of battles, but the only challenges you’ll find are a couple of battles where you’re not allowed to take a hit. It was a disappointment to say the least.

There’s also multiplayer with boy single and multi-card support, though there is no online battles to be found. You can compete in one on one battles with your customized spinners. Without this mode, the game would be a dud.

Finally, you get the garage. In here, you can customize up to three of your own Beyblades with any of the parts you’ve unlocked. These can only be used in free play, survival, and multiplayer matches, however. There are hundreds of parts to work through, and sadly, there is little to no information about how your combinations will work. You can view stat changes and see the appearance well enough, but you won’t know the move list until you try it out. This seems like a pretty big oversight, and hampered the fun of creating your own top of doom considerably. This section also includes a gallery to view what you’ve collected, as well as a list of achievements, so at least there’s some niceties to distract you.

Overall, the modes are there, but the quality is not. Normally, a fighter with this many modes would be sitting pretty, but with lackluster attempts at stories, a tutorial masquerading as a full mode, and lacking customization feature, the sum of the parts is actually less than the whole. That’s not a good start.

Graphics

The battles in this game are some of the most boring looking things I’ve ever seen. These are spinning tops you see, and in terms of combat moves, all they can do is bump into each other. There are special attacks that add some effect, but these are visually similar to each other for each spinner, and they don’t look all that. The laughable explosion of parts whenever a spinner loses is another blow as well.

As for character models, it’s all 2D portraits with maybe two or three per character. The designs are faithful to the show, but they’re horrendous. Ginga’s hair is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen, while Ryouga seems to think looking badass involves not putting your arms in your coat sleeves. Were I ever to meet people who looked like this in real life, I’d be running away quickly, wondering how I ventured into hell.

There’s also a complete lack of effort here. The arenas are barren of detail and personality, with black backgrounds and no attempt to put in a crowd or even a background. Too many characters use the same fire attacks. It just feels lazy, and the game looks incredibly dated.

Audio

The main thing in the aural department is the music. The tunes are pretty generic Midi stuff, with a lot of high tempo music that you’d generally find in fighting games back on the SNES. It’s not bad, but there is a lack of variety. Only the boss fight gets its own battle theme, while the most diversity is found from one menu screen to the next. What this amounts to is hearing the same few tunes repeatedly throughout the experience. They’re nice enough, but the get old.

The best sound effect in the game is the sound of the two tops hitting each other at the beginning of each match. After that, it gets pretty mediocre. A lot of sounds are repeated among different spinners, even if the effect doesn’t match the visuals. Not every animal has the same roar, after all. With that in mind, there was only so much they could do with tops, so it isn’t like you could expect much from the rest of the package.

Thankfully, there is no voice acting in the game, which can only serve as a plus, as five minutes of the show’s voice acting gave me a headache. In this regard, a lack of attention to detail actually paid off.

Gameplay

Before every battle, you start off with a mini-game. You need to tap three buttons in order to boost your speed, power, and timing. The window to do all of this button mashing is a few seconds, and any time you hit two buttons at the same time, it doesn’t count. Failing to perform this game is not good, as you’ll be handicapped in the fight to come.

As for the battle to come, it will be one of the most simple fighting experiences out there. You can move with the d-pad, and use an attack button to launch into basic three to four hit combos. Using various directional inputs in conjunction with the button presses changes up the attack, but you can’t string something like a ten hit combo or anything. Another button is reserved for face attacks. These are special attacks that add some sort of elemental edge to the attack, such as a giant electrical spike or flaming wings. Every spinner has one, though there are some problems.

You see, you need to use a directional button with the attack to perform the move. There are also moves that must be performed while jumping. The issue is that each spinner has a different set, and not the same number of moves. One might have three face attacks, while another has only one. Since there are no move lists, you have to spend precious time in battles figuring out which inputs will result in an attack. It also wildly unbalances the game, which I’ll get to later.

The game does much better when it comes to defensive actions. You can double tap up or down to dodge in that direction, activate a shield with a short lifespan, or even jump over some attacks. The most satisfying moments in the game come from perfectly timing a dodge so that the opponent almost runs off the side of the arena, and then using a power move to force them out. You can also win by depleting your opponent’s life, but that isn’t nearly as fun.

Each blade has three energy bars that fill up as the fight progresses. These power a super move. Each spinner has one that costs one to three bars and is activated with a button press when enough bars are filled. These do varying damage depending on the level. A cheap move doesn’t do as much damage, but can be done more often, while a three bar move is hard to come by, but will usually end the match in a single blow. These can be easily dodged or blocked via a shield, so they need to be timed so as to be effective. Even still, the system is overly simple. The bars can’t be used for anything else, which kind of makes them an afterthought until you finally have enough to launch an attack.

Overall, this is a pretty weak fighting game. The basic combat is shallow, it’s unbalanced, and even decent defensive moves can’t keep the experience from getting boring. At least the fights are often short, which is merciful. It turns out that even if throw in elemental attacks and supers, battling tops is still just battling tops. It isn’t very exciting to see or play.

Replayability

If you really want to go for everything in this game, including unlocking all of the characters and/parts, you’ll likely get close to ten hours out of the. If you manage to find friends who want to battle with you, than the customization aspects will definitely prove more useful and thus eat up more of your time.

If you don’t find the urge to get everything, and you likely won’t, then the game isn’t likely to last more than a few hours. I spent a bit more than that, but I decided to play through all one hundred missions to see if anything interesting showed up. It didn’t, and my time with the game was near it’s end. For thirty dollars, this game doesn’t offer much, which is sad.

Balance

Like I mentioned earlier, different tops have different numbers of attacks. They also have different stats, but you’re not privy to them unless you decide to recreate the blade in the garage. The point of fact, however, is that the game is wildly unbalanced. Speedy blades with straight forward face attacks are the kings of this game, while some are slow moving losers with one ineffective special attack. I found myself never beating the game with Masamune, because his blade was so powerful that it made no sense to use anyone else. I was pretty much able to get a perfect with him every time, or simply knock someone out of the arena in a matter of seconds. It was insane.

The game is pretty easy. It is the first fighting game where I’ve been able to pull off every combo, where the super powerful boss could be tossed out like garbage, and I could pretty much sleep through the matches. Even with crappy blades, a tiny amount of skill goes a long way in this game. I mentioned that I had to spend the first half a minute of each match figuring out which combinations led to special moves. I was able to do this with impunity because of how dumb the AI was. The only fighter I ever had trouble with was Ginga, because he kept spamming the same move and it had a crazy hit box. Getting hit once was likely to lead into a never ending cycle.

This is probably the least balanced fighter I’ve ever played, and that’s saying something.

Originality

As far as I can tell, this game is a carbon copy of the last Beyblade title for the DS, Metal Fusion. The only difference is that this game eschews touch screen controls for button presses. I guess they realized that they couldn’t get touch controls to work and simply gave up.

Beyond that, this game is a basic fighting game with a customization tint. But since this has been what the entire franchise has been like, one can hardly call this original.

Addictiveness

Normally, when a game is constantly throwing new items at you the way Metal Masters does, it becomes addicting. However, most of these are earned through modes that don’t allow you to use customized blades. This means that you don’t have to tinker with your creation, and can instead grind for parts until you unlock the best. If you bother, than you’ll already have a great spinner with no need to ever try to improve it. That defeats the purpose of this kind of thing entirely.

This game was easy to put down. The combat just isn’t fun, and there isn’t a single mode worth playing for more than a few moments. A lot of things could have helped, such as a more diverse storyline, better visuals, a varied soundtrack, and of course, a better fighting engine. Alas, none of this was to be, and so the game was lucky if I’d play it for more than half an hour. Even then, I was pushing forward for review purposes. The game does nothing to entice players to keep playing. A fighting game you can master in a few minutes just isn’t what people are looking for.

Appeal Factor

Speaking of what people are looking for, I hardly doubt this will appeal to anyone but perhaps the youngest and most dedicated of fans. Or, if you can’t afford to constantly buy new toys, this game could serve as a substitute. It also takes up much less space than all of those tops, the launchers, and arenas. I suppose that’s a plus.

For those not initiated, the game has nothing of value to offer. There are plenty better fighters on the system, and they can all be gotten cheaper at this point. Also, battling tops are simply not a great spectator sport. You have to be already invested in them to care.

This means the game has niche appeal at best. With its overall quality, even that takes a pretty big hit.

Miscellaneous

The back of the game’s cover is quick to laud six codes that you can use to unlock exclusive blades that are printed on the manual. Naturally, I tried these out. It was going great at first, but the final two codes simply did not work. That seems like a pretty big goof up to me. Even worse, all of the parts you unlock are numbered, and clearly were just a part of the game that Hudson or Konami decided to unlock unless you had the manual handy. There are options in the game to use codes and download new parts, which gives me the impression that the game is simply a tool to get people to show up at toy stores to get codes.

I wasn’t expecting much when I volunteered to review this game, but I wasn’t completely sullied on the idea until I started playing the game. I played a little Battle Tops when I was a kid, but I guess I simply don’t get the appeal of making a full fledged video game based off of them. Even with hundreds of parts to chose from, there is simply no fun to be found here.

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

Short Attention Span Summary


Beyblade: Metal Masters is playable, and dedicated players will get some time out of it. That’s all the good I can really say about it. The game does nothing worthwhile with its license. At worst, it is an unbalanced mess with no lasting value. For a fighting game, that is simply unacceptable. Younger children and diehard fans might something in the game, but for everyone else, this is yet another licensed game that should be avoided. There’s nothing for you here. Move along.



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