Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: November 18, 2004
Although the Beyblade multimedia franchise finally spun to an end in Japan last year, the fad lives on in the US and Europe. Kids can watch a dub of the G-Revolution anime on ABC Family, head to the local Wal-Mart to pick up one of the Beyblade toy tops for about $10 each, and keep their eyes peeled for all manner of tie-in merchandise. Atari’s Beyblade: G-Revolution is likely to be what they will start demanding after they visit any department store’s video game section, but parents would do well to be cautious with their money.
In this game you take up the role of Beyblade protagonist Tyson Granger and travel the world with your trusty Beyblade at your side, righting wrongs and improving your skills by defeating the rivals that stand in your way. Victory is achieved when you’ve won all of the in-game tournaments and established yourself as unquestionably the best “Blader” in the world. At some points the storyline seems to follow the plotline of the G-Revolution anime, and all of the major characters from the show put in appearances. The format is action RPG, with your character gaining levels and exploring the world in RPG-style and fighting battles in a more interactive action-game mode.
The RPG half of G-Revolution is pretty clearly derived from the old Pokemon Game Boy games. The game controls are simple, with the D-pad used for moving Tyson around and the A button for talking to people and investigating things. The start button triggers a drop-down menu that lets you save your game, while R-button triggers one that deals almost exclusively with managing your Beyblade collection. You can save your game at any time, which does a lot to make the gameplay less tedious than it could be.
Most of your time in RPG mode is spent talking to people and triggering story events. Battle sequences are triggered by talking to rival Beyblade players, and the dialogue in these sequences is randomized so that your opponents don’t say the same things every time you challenge them. You’ll spend the limited amount of time you have to explore collecting items, including stat-boosting food items for Tyson, Beyblades, and all manner of customization parts. You can also buy some Beyblades and parts from item shops.
In theory, amassing a ton of Beyblades and top parts will allow you to build a top with stats optimized for whatever sort of tactics you like to use during top battles. In practice, there’s only a vague sense of what any particular part actually does, and what top or parts you pick doesn’t seem to matter all that much. Raising Tyson’s stats and experience level does demonstrably improve performance in battle, and the quality of his Launcher and Ripcord will also factor in. These items take damage over time, so you’ll spend a lot of time running to shops to buy more. Items are purchased with “BBA credits”, which you earn by defeating opponents. They’re never in short supply, since - just like Pokemon - pretty much everyone in the world is willing to let you kick the crap out of them and take their money.
For the action portion of the game, you’ll control your own Beyblade as it faces off with an opponent’s in an arena called the “Beystadium”. First you’ll launch your top, which will spin into the area at a certain number of revolutions per minute, or RPMs. In the game, your top’s RPM gauge functions basically as an HP gauge, albeit one that will decrease over time even if you aren’t being attacked by an enemy. How good your launch is depends totally on timing, as you have to tap and hold the A button in a certain sequence to simulate pulling back on your top’s Ripcord to give it spin in the Launcher. While there is an in-game launching tutorial, it doesn’t actually teach you what you need to know to achieve a perfect launch. In fact, if you follow the tutorial’s description of the launching process, you’ll probably be unable to beat even the basic opponents. While the only consequence of losing a battle is having your top taken away from you, you also can’t advance the plot without eventually being able to beat somebody.
Once both of the dueling tops are spinning in the arena, you’ll be able to control its movements to a certain extent with the D-pad. You can hit the A button to charge up attacks, hold B to defend against enemy attacks, and evade pursuit by using the L button to jump or the R button to dodge. When an attack connects with the enemy, it’ll reduce his total RPMs by a certain, fairly small amount. Some combinations of direction commands and the A button will let you chain a basic attack into a combo, and hitting L + R together when your energy meter is high enough will unleash your Beyblade’s “Bit Beast” for a heavy-damage super combo. Bit Beasts are stored in the “Bit Chip” part of your top, and while they tend to have florid names like Ultimate Frostic Dranzer and Eagles Talon, functionally they appear to be identical. Energy for the Bit Beast meter builds slowly over the course of a battle, and usually the only way to make sure you get to use one is through the boost a perfect launch will give to the meter.
There are supposedly three ways to win a Beyblade battle: breaking the other guy’s top, knocking him out of the ring, or running his RPMs down to zero. In practice, the first two never happen. While all attack combos damage the enemy’s Beyblade somewhat, battles rarely last long enough for a top to break. Damage can build up in the player’s top over time, but only if you forget to go into the Beyblade management menu and repair it between battles. Ring-outs seem to essentially be fluke events, or the result of someone accidentally jumping their top out of the arena. Expect every match to be decided by whose starting RPM number the biggest and how many Bit Beast combos you can pull off. Attacks have some influence over the course of battle, but it’s usually limited.
Visually, G-Revolution is an inoffensive but not spectacularly interesting title. In the RPG portions, the color palette for the game is bright and vivid. Character dialogue is accompanied by well-rendered character portraits, and the map areas for individual locations on the overworld map are expansive and fairly well-detailed. The individual character sprites are rather cute and work decently well as representations of the anime character designs. The overworld map itself is a bit inexcusable, as it resembles something from an NES game and doesn’t allow the player to move freely from location to location. Instead, you have to follow preset paths and can’t open up new ones without completing storyline events. There are a few attempts at adding graphic variety, like random showers of rain in outdoor locations, but this is offset by the limited number of “generic child” sprites and a resultant over-reliance on palette-swapping.
The actual Beyblade top battles look pretty spiffy the first time you see them. The battles take place in a round, beige arena, with the camera zooming in and out as it tries to keep both tops on-screen. Charging up power for an offensive rush or to defend is depicted as a circle of flaming power around your top, and this makes it easy to read the enemy’s moves ahead of time. Unfortunately, no matter how far in the game you’ve gotten or where the battle is supposed to take place, the same arena background is always used. This makes watching the top battles progressively duller as you get farther in the game. It doesn’t help that the top-down perspective makes all Beyblades look basically identical aside from color, and that all of the combo attack animations are identical. Even the Bit Beasts, regardless of how florid their names sound, all share the exact same attack animations.
The repetition in the soundtrack becomes maddening during long play sessions. The music isn’t especially bad, but the variety is severely limited. There are only a handful of tunes for the RPG portion of the game and only one song for combat sequences. Sound effects are only present in the game at all during combat, and are not especially interesting or offensive. I imagine most players will eventually just turn the game’s sound off and listen to something else as they play; I know that’s what I did.
As I’m sure any reader has gathered by this point, G-Revolution is a well-intentioned game that still suffers from shallow gameplay and a few major design flaws. It can be amusing in short bursts but grows tiresome rapidly. I suppose its problems can be chalked up to the constraints of producing a tie-in title, especially with such a strange license, but it’s still regrettable. I can’t really imagine any gamer wanting to pick this title up, unless they were an absolutely rabid Beyblade collector. If you’re in the mood for an RPG, you can just play the Pokemon titles, and… I don’t know, has anyone ever been in the mood for a top-battle sim?
Granted, I’m pretty sure gamers weren’t really the intended audience for G-Revolution at all. Just about anyone who buys it is probably going to be the parent of a young Beyblade fan who wants the game so they can play it and pretend to be Tyson. As far as that goes, I have to say that G-Revolution delivers. I’m sure any little kid who played this game would be overwhelmed by the feeling of being actually in the Beyblade series for as long as their attention span held out. Of course, the game’s $30 price tag is worth at least two of the top toys, and I suspect most young Beyblade fans could have as much fun with them and their own imagination as they could with G-Revolution.