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- Beyblade: Evolution
The best multi-part-spinning-top battle simulator that money can buy.
Okay, so I should start this with the caveat that I know nothing about Beyblade. I remember years back when I first saw that the animé series was getting an American release, and I watched a trailer and decided that spinning-top battles were the limit of was willing to go with children's animé.
Cute monster cock-fighting? Sure, let the little suckers battle to the (not-)death. Card games with holographic projections of the card monsters that can somehow actually send people to hell dimensions? Sure, whatever, go nuts. A guy with the power to turn garbage into trees? Awesome! Keep it up. But spinning tops? No. Who knew that would be my limit?
But the fellas from Rising Star are excited about the game, and why shouldn't they be? Beyblade is a franchise tied to a novel toy concept, spinning top battles (the beyblades) made up of interchangeable pieces. The Rising Star producers told me that they were startled by YouTube videos of kids with toolboxes full of parts. It helps that the collector's edition of the game comes with a prebuilt Wing Pegasus 90WF top, never before available in America, with several metal parts, that will help give an edge to real-world top battlers. Prior to the game's release, this model was being imported from Japan at a higher cost than the price of the collector's edition itself.
How does the game fit into this? Beyblade: Evolution has a JRPG story and setting, but at its core, seeing the way the battles play out isn't like Pokémon or other handheld JRPG entries. It's more like a perfect Beyblade real-world battle simulator. Sure, you have the option of buffing your top with spirit the longer it's in battle, and the game makes use of AR cards for arena placement, but at the end of the day, you're launching spinning tops at other spinning tops with the same specs as the real ones.
Beyblade: Evolution is a spinning top battle simulator. It allows you to access the 500+ parts from the real toys and mix and match to find the best combinations and strategies. Rising Star execs pointed out that this was a hell of a lot more fun than watching YouTube videos that did the same, but didn't let you play the game itself. In this sense, Evolution gives the player a chance to try out the parts without having to commit to buying them.
Not that the game itself is unwelcome to Beyblade fandom. It bridges the gap between the last animé series, Metal Saga, wrapping up loose ends, and the upcoming series, Shogun Steel, including a sneak preview of the series as well. So storywise, it serves as a bridge from the old to the new.
Beyblade: Evolution is, on the one hand, a JRPG with a fairly traditional look attached to a mainstream animé series. On the other hand, for fans of the toys, it acts as a simulator that cuts out the middleman in finding out which parts they need or want for their real-world gaming. It's an interesting combination. It's also a 3DS exclusive that uses oft forgotten features for the platform, like AR cards and the gyroscope, to further immerse the player in the game.
Beyblade: Evolution releases for the 3DS on October 22nd.