Multitude of customizable options; fighting-game flavor instilled in crazy concept
Arcade Mode experiences are mostly the same; anime influences are relatively weak
On a trip to Taiwan a few years ago, I was lazing around after a too-good-to-be-true meal when one of my younger cousins brought out a circular piece of plastic. Built with raised edges and steep curves, it resembled the Colosseum in all but its bright yellow plastic, which admittedly made it a great deal less daunting. Expecting some action figures to come out any second now, I asked my cousin what he was up to. In response, he took out a pencil box full of metal and plastic, and after a few seconds of rummaging through them, came up with just four pieces, which he crafted easily into a top. Then he made another one. And after giving that one to me, he attached his top to a launcher, pulled a long string of plastic, and fired his top into the arena. What could I do but accept his challenge?
The tops crashed together one, twice, too many times for me to think of them as tops. Rather, they were a living embodiment of the laws of physics, threatening to topple even as they kept spinning, yet naturally attracted to each other. Like a twisted Romeo and Juliet, I thought. The analogy became even more apt as the metal parts of the tops smashed into each other, causing sparks to fly. The analogy fell apart when my cousin’s top rammed into mine one more time, and permanently shuttered all its hopes at being the first ballet dancer to be a top. My cousin raised his fist in victory. I wondered what the hell just happened.
Like the real-life game it’s based on, Beyblade: Metal Masters revolves around (ha ha) a weird, but simple concept: two or more people make some tops out of a variety of parts, and then smash them at each other. But lest you think this is a utter waste of time, keep in mind that, hey, physics matters: choose a heavy metal disk as part of your Beyblade, and you’ll hit harder, but be, uh, top-heavy; go light plastic, and though you’ll have a nimble top in the arena, you better hope you outlast the heavyweight competition. It’s like any good customizable racer, except without the wheels. Specialized spinning 4D Bottom? Check. Indented Core? Check. A damaging Metal Frame? Check. Shock-absorbing PC Frame? Check. Keep-it-together Facebolt? Check, check, check. In Beyblade: Metal Masters, the game starts even before your first round in the arena, and considering the ridiculous amounts of parts, it’ll probably last longer than that round, too.
Countless customization options boost replay value tremendously.
Once you’re in the arena, it’s like the race has begun– and you don’t get a pit stop. You’ll watch your personalized top, though unlike in real life, you’ll get to control it with the face buttons. (No stylus use here– hey, you don’t get to touch your top while it’s in the arena, all right?) Health bars and special bars (we’ll get into it later) appear on the top of the screen, while the D-pad is mapped to movement and buttons to actions. And here’s where the anime part of the equation comes in. Yes, Beyblade is mainly about spinning tops, but it’s also got a story full of charm and heart, gosh darn it– and dragons and unicorns and all sorts of crazy beasts that live in those tops. And with a button, you too can invoke the power of Pegasus or Hydra. Er, buttons– while you might be able to do just fine by mashing B, special attacks, performed by hitting the D-pad and a button combination, inevitably dish out a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in a Street Fighter game with tops in it. While some of these combinations are a little difficult to pull off, practice makes perfect– and when you build up that special bar, just like in any fighting game, you can prepare for a sweet little number that’s guaranteed to knock half your opponent’s life bar down. (If it hits, that is.)
If you’ve been a fan of the anime series for a while now, Beyblade: Metal Masters should definitely whet your thirst, though by no means is being a fan necessary. Arcade Mode gives fans a chance to play through characters’ personal storylines and unlock their own personal Beyblades (as well as new characters), though the fundamentals of each playthrough are essentially the same; for non-fans, playing Arcade Mode also grants new parts with every victory, for single-player mashups or versus-mode show-offs. And since it’s online-enabled, players can fight their own cousins in Taiwan if they wanted; while real-life Beyblade is deep enough with its own collection of Beyblade parts, here those parts are coupled with skill. Think Custom Robo, except with tops. (I guess.)
The nice thing– or problem, depending on how you look at it– about Beyblade: Metal Masters is that it holds no pretensions as to what kind of game it is, or who it’s for. Buy Beyblade: Metal Masters and you’re buying it for the top-fighting experience that is probably the only one of its (video game) kind. The anime references are nice, but considering what they’re used for (and comparing it to the overall play experience), they’re simply that– a nice bonus. Which makes it a good thing that the Beyblade experience, with its customizable special attacks and actually meaningful parts catalogue, is so well-executed, even if it’s a game “for kids.” No, Beyblade Metal Masters does what so few licensed games do– take the original material, faithfully replicate it, and then cunningly adapt it to the video game form. Fighting with tops still sounds strange in my head, but give me the chance, and I’ll do it any day of the week.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.