Beyblade: Metal Masters
DS | Hudson / Konami | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now
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10th December 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
In keeping with the theme of the show (which you may or may not be familiar with), Beyblade: Metal Masters has two players going head-to-head with a series of metal spin tops circling inside bowl-shaped arenas. It may sound like the subject of an afternoon activity to follow a friendly game of marbles, but seeing it in action reveals there's actually some competitive substance to it. Each top is comprised of various metal parts which, when put together, make up the whole thing. These include the movement-based Performance Tips and Spin Tracks at the bottom, the Energy Ring at the top, and the contact-focused Fusion Wheel in the center. All of the above features are fully customizable at the Garage, allowing you to tailor your Beyblade's attributes in six different capacities within the game.
Before heading into battle, you'll get three seconds to rapidly press the X, A and B Buttons to charge up your Beyblade's speed, power and timing. After seeing the trademark "Let it rip" phrase appear on the top screen, your Beyblade will land on the selected stadium for battle along with your opponent's. The control system is entirely button-based with no real use of the stylus. To spin your top in a given direction, you hold the buttons on the D-Pad to slowly get it turning in the direction you want. Other functions include a jump ability (mapped to the B Button), a basic attack button (A Button), as well as a shield for blocking those same basic attacks (Y Button). Those are the core mechanics right there, however as you spend more time with the game, you'll learn of advanced techniques that will give you more control over your Beyblade and, really, your possible outcome in battle.
Defensively, pressing Left or Right on the D-Pad twice will produce a dash in that direction, while pressing Down or Up twice will evade an attack coming at you head-on. On an offensive scale, there are plenty more options to avail yourself of. The basic attack button can be combined with the directional commands to produce more powerful variations, including a smash or an uppercut. Some of these ground-based attacks harness the core elemental powers of your Beyblade for increased damage, but they can also stun your rival's Beyblade temporarily. The options grow even further when you choose to execute button combinations in the air, with dives, stomps and drivers being used. Also available are Face Attacks, special moves mapped to the X Button that are dependent on the Energy Ring you have equipped and, again, what main element your Beyblade is forged with.
By landing attacks on your opponent, you'll slowly build up your Spirit Gauge, found along the top-left corner of the Touch Screen. You can fill up multiple containers using the energy you build up over time for a special charge attack. Pressing the R Button will send your Beyblade lunging towards your rival, and unless your target moves out of the way, a short sequence will show your Beyblade drilling itself into your opponent's piece. Another time when the game space will escape the visible stadium is during Dead Heat events. These occur when both Beyblades clash simultaneously, requiring both to press A repeatedly to push the weaker player out of the way. Making use of all these various control options is part of what gives battles that competitive feel I alluded to earlier.
Getting into mode selection, Beyblade: Metal Masters' principle option of choice is the Arcade Mode, which acts much like a Story Mode. You'll select three characters to accompany you on a championship that seems somewhat off. Engaging in five best-of-three rounds, you'll eventually come up against a final boss character before being given a stamp of completion. There are 35 characters in all, with only three unlocked by default. The idea is to clear this mode multiple times so you can unlock all the different parts and characters that are unavailable when you begin playing.
While all of the above is true, there are modes available that will service players much better when they're still getting used to the game. Just underneath Arcade Mode is Battle Mode, and inside that menu, not only do you have an option for continuous battles and local wireless play, you'll even find training, mission-based, and consequence-free battle options as well. The game doesn't make it clear, but this is where you actually should start. Thus, the game isn't set up in the most accessible way.
At this point, I have to make it a point of discussing Mission Mode, because while the objective is obvious, the execution here goes back to what I just said about the developers not organizing things in the most accessible way. There are 100 of these brief missions, designed to teach you the basics and even some pro tactics, and that's fine. But I do have to criticize the way they approached this. I mean, the very first mission is called "Move". As silly as that is, it's not just stuff like that. Because the missions are usually so short, you waste time cycling through menus and waiting for battles to start up as you go through the motions. Additionally, some missions are repeated unnecessarily, further creating a situation where you just want to leave and figure things out on your own. Would it have been that hard to have a checklist of the related combos instead of spreading them out across five or more missions? Considering this game has been created for kids, there was definite room for improvement here. What's of bigger concern, though, is the action itself -- or the lack of it in some cases.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that this handheld game just doesn't match up with everything Beyblade is, and that's probably the biggest and least sensible blunder of the entire game. First of all, I found the game gave a little too much control, breaking away from the fundamentals of Beyblade as they are understood within the contexts of the shows. Ironically, the game doesn't even do this correctly. Movement stays along a linear, horizontal axis at the start of every match until you press Up or Down. Only then will you start moving around in a small circle in keeping with Beyblade's foundations. But try and maneuver beyond that towards the edges of the stadium while still meeting up on the same linear path as your opponent can be more taxing than it should be. Furthermore, the speed and fast pace that made Beyblade fun to play as a toy is just not here, and to insult to injury, not so much as a bump takes place when two Beyblades touch naturally. That's not right at all. Some of these flaws stem from the nature of the stadiums themselves, which are supposed to be confined and affected by gravity, but are actually flat, wide and slow to move around.
The fact that the game fails to conform to established rules is not something I can commend, especially when the result is clearly inferior to the real thing. I honestly feel almost any Beyblade fan would be quickly turned off by the inaccuracy and slight monotony of the gameplay. There is a bit of depth through the combo attack system, but it isn't enough to disguise the fact that the gameplay is still underwhelming. The AI does make the game a little more enjoyable in the higher ranks of Survival Mode and during the final boss battle in Arcade Mode, to the point that the combo exploration the player will take on does help rectify the lacking gameplay mechanics. But none of this excuses what the developers have (or have not) done here.
Aside from the special attack sequences, the game uses very basic graphics and layouts. Textures on the stadiums look rough, and the animation that takes place when your Beyblade breaks apart looks lame. Animations for the attacks that tap into your Beyblade's key element are usually good in appearance, though. Sound effects are played when attacks are performed and the music itself is decent, but other than that, there's nothing else to say about the audio.
Content-wise, there's quite a bit to do, although I do have to question their idea of trying to encourage players to beat the otherwise-short Arcade Mode with each of the 35 characters. Beyblade: Metal Masters also gives you the option of entering product codes or grabbing data from the previous DS release under the Bladers' Network option, as well as aiming for 24 different achievements. If you were expecting me to go into detail about the game's online mode, I'm sorry to disappoint you. It seems like the game's boxart and even the first page in the manual had false advertising as there is no online to speak of. I figure it was originally planned (perhaps when Hudson Entertainment was still around), but they scrapped it later on in the game's development and neglected to remove hints that it did feature it.
All of the flaws present here prove that the developers lost sight of the big picture when they were developing this game. Unless you're completely obsessed with the show and care more for the mere idea of having a handheld Beyblade game than you are concerned about actual gameplay, you could easily do without Metal Masters. It's a dead average game that, quite frankly, doesn't do the Beyblade formula enough justice for fans to be happy with.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 5/10 - Attack system is pretty good, slow to move around, overall formula contains flaws that don't match up with what Beyblade is all about
Presentation 6/10 - Decent music, special attack sequences, visuals could look better, mostly good animations, not a whole lot of effort overall
Enjoyment 2/5 - Somewhat fun to explore attack possibilities, some challenge exists, missing key features like speed, underwhelming, not that accessible
Extra Content 4/5 - Unlockable parts and characters, bonus data, Survival Mode, missions, achievements, local battles, lacks the promised online features
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System