When the signature phrase of a show or game is, ‘Let it rip!’ you know that the writers are either confident, or attempting a tongue in cheek piece of irony. On one hand, it’s rather ingenious that the characters of Beyblade use, ‘Let it rip’ as the signature phrase because they pull a ripcord to launch their Spinfighters, while on the other hand…Similar phrasing is used to describe when one passes wind. Is Beyblade Evolution a marvel of imaginative design, or does it reek of the flatulence so eerily evoked by the aforementioned catchphrase? Let’s find out.
Upon initially starting Beyblade Evolution, players will be met by menus that look extremely busy and messy by any modern UI standpoint, but the menus and lack of animations are really of no consequence when you can jump right into the story mode, get some tutorials under your belt and go to town. Which, you actually begin the game by going to town since you’re the new kid wanting to make friends, and what better way to make some new buddies than to select locations to visit from an overworld map and randomly challenge everyone you meet?
In any event, many of the locations of the town are locked initially, and players have a series of tutorials to go through that teach them various mechanics of the game. For the most part, the very first battle instructs you to hold the 3DS level and then pull it back towards you at the right time to launch your Bey, the tops that players will do battle with in this game. The snapping backwards of the 3DS is most likely done to signify the iconic, ‘Let it rip’ phrase that’s so pervasive in the anime, which is a great way to incorporate a gameplay element in the game that matches the Beyblade show.
Outside of launching the Bey, players will be instructed on where to launch their battle dreidels, with power types doing best when launched toward the outer edges of the arena while defensive types are best launched toward the middle, that kind of thing. Beyond that, there are Spirit powers that the player can aim at their top to help win matches if used at the proper time, and opposing tops have access to this power as well. Interestingly enough, players don’t even have vertical control over where to launch their spinfighters when the matches begin, you can only aim on the horizontal axis, which seems like an oddly limiting design choice. Which, while on the subject of limiting design choices, outside of using the 3DSes accelerometer to aim Spirit power there’s literally nothing else a player does after launching his or her Bey. That’s it. So, if you’re looking for a game that will engage you at all times, it may be best to move along.
Though, initially, the battles in Beyblade Evolution do seem entertaining at first due to the light elements of strategy in it: Improving the attack on your top and aiming toward the edge isn’t a recipe for guaranteed success, and the only real way to influence combat is through the Spirit power, but your foes have access to Spirit too so your big move to spend your opponent’s top flying out of the arena can backfire dramatically sometimes.
The sad part about this is that since this is essentially all you do in combat, you’ll be forced to do it again and again and again since that’s almost all of what the story mode consists of – Select a place from the mini map, watch the tops for a few seconds while your Spirit charges, fire it at your top and win. The best part about the story mode seemed to be the minigames that momentarily break up the monotony, such as a fairly amusing one that uses an AR card to fire tops by moving the 3DS, to simple things like quizzes that aren’t really that exciting at all but can test the knowledge of even the hardiest Beyblade fan.
The big thing that moves the story mode along would be the tournaments that pop up every now and again, which also have some pretty decent prizes usually in the form of better Beyblade parts should you win the whole event. Story progression is basically timed, with you having access to a set number of random battles to go through until it’s time for the next tournament. You can go through the story mode a second time to see what you missed, as well as to grind BP to unlock more Bey parts.
By and large the most addicting feature of Beyblade Evolution is the ability to buy a plethora of Bey parts to make your own perfect little Dreidel of Death, either by finding configurations of other playing via StreetPass should someone else in your area have the game or collecting enough BP to buy the parts that you want (gotta buy ’em all – A catchphrase for Beyblade that doesn’t sound like pooting). All of the parts are pretty intricately detailed, and that’s where the visual appeal of this game is at its highest: The menus are sloppy, over-designed messes while the character dialogue boxes and stills are low resolution and tiny. The saving grace is that the Beyblades, the focus of this game, are all extremely well designed and laboriously rendered because there’s a boatload of parts and they all look different. So, while in battle, the graphics are quite pleasing, but outside of that it’s not hard to find Nintendo DS games with better looking user interfaces.
Beyond the story mode, players have access to a versus mode where you can play against your friends in local wireless, survival mode where you see how matches you can win in a row, and more. Winning battles rewards you with the aforementioned BP that you can use to purchase new Bey parts, and with easily over 400 parts to choose from there’s a lot to keep people replaying the game should they wish to collect all of the Spinjas.
The 3D effect of the 3DS is utilized really well in Beyblade Evolution, especially in the battles…. except for the fact that almost everything is controlled via the accelerometer so players will be moving their handhelds around a lot, unable to stay in the sweet spot for the 3D. Outside of battle, the 3D mostly just makes the character art pop from the background art, which can be seen in bunches of 3DS games, from Project X Zone to Fire Emblem: Awakening. Beyond that, the music in the game isn’t terrible by any means, but the soundtrack does severely suffer from a lack of substance since there are very few tracks overall, meaning players will hear the same ones time and again.
To summarize: Beyblade Evolution seems to be more of a Beyblade Simulator than it does an arcade style game, as it tries so very, very hard to recreate the experience of launching a top and then… waiting to see who comes out on top. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for a very engaging video game and while it can find its niche with those who really, really like the franchise and want to see all of the differences among the parts, for most everyone else it will wind up being a very repetitive, very mundane experience overall. The simplicity of the battle system makes it easy to get into, but it is extremely WYSIWYG- there’s just not enough depth in the combat to keep things interesting for long. Lovers of the Beyblade anime and games may find something to enjoy here, but that’s specifically in the niche for which this game was created, but for those who actually want to, you know, play a game, it may be a good idea to spend your $30 elsewhere.