Reviewed: November 3, 2005
Released: October 11, 2005
ďEvery 1000 years, a battle beginsÖĒ Zatch is an amnesiac mamodo from the mamodo world that has come to earth with a hundred other mamodo. He is sent to Kiyo, the son of the archaeologist that found Zatch in a forest in England, to be his mentor. With all of the mamodo battling to become king of the mamodo world, Zatch and Kiyo must defend themselves against the huge array of rival mamodo.
Zatch Bell!: Mamodo Battles is published by Bandai, also associated with games of other anime such as Digimon, Ghost in the Shell, Gundam, and Inuyasha. Known for keeping games true to the anime series, which they portray, Zatch is no different. Based on the popular anime by Toei Animation, it loosely follows the early part of the anime. Although some aspects, such as certain spells, are game-specific, the rest of the game is fairly similar to the series. Even the voices of the characters are by the same people as the show.
If youíre trying to satisfy your appetite for an awesome fighting game based on a well-known anime, youíre going to be left rather hungry. The ultimate battle has begun, but your spell book is missing a few pages from the fun chapter.
Zatch Bell! Mamodo Battles gives you a chance to experience the anime firsthand. However, unless youíre an avid follower of the series, that probably isnít enough to coax you into buying this game. Unfortunately, thatís roughly the main, if not only, reason to buy the game.
As fighting games have evolved from the 2D style of Street Fighter to the 3D style of Soul Caliber, the fighting genre has become more complex and skill oriented. Zatch has moved in the direction of 3D orientation, in still retains the simplicity of nostalgic fighters.
You could put this game on the original Nintendo have nearly the same game in terms of gameplay. All of your attacks follow the button-mashing principle. Just keep pushing the B or A button to win. There is some control over the type of attack, but not much. Your spell changes by simply pushing A simultaneously with a direction on the control pad. Combinations are comprised of simply hitting the B button more than once. You canít jump or duck. Granted, you can sidestep, but most of the spells appear to home in on you, so sidestepping doesnít appear to be very useful very often.
The game has a story mode, time attack, and a versus mode. Time attack consists of winning eight battles as fast as possible. Versus mode is the mode found in virtually all fighters. Story mode allows you to experience the story of one of six characters. Some creativity is used here in allowing you to choose where you go next in your story. Some of the places you go to, though, are deserted. If youíre lucky, you may find some points that you can use later. Normally your character just makes some comment about no one being there, and you have to go back to the map to choose another area to go to. Although the empty arenas give rewards at times, they turn out to be more of a nuisance than anything.
You canít have a fighting game without a versus mode. But a lot of fighting game usually has some sort of skill to it. Whether itís timing or combos, normally someone that has been playing a certain game for a while is noticeably better than a novice. This game is much different. You could play for weeks and still get whooped by someone that picks up the controller for the first time. Winning basically comes from whoever gets the first shot in and keeps pressing the B button. Once you get in that corner and youíre getting pummeled, donít expect a comebacks to be thrown to you.
Time attack is simply beating 8 characters as fast as possible. A lot of unlockable features can be achieved through this mode. Itís also the easiest way to earn points for cards and building stats. But after about 50 times through (300 battles), it becomes really tedious.
To make the game a little more than a button-masher, Eighting added a variety of things that you can customize, unlock or collect. From characters and levels to unlock, to a large amount of cards that you can collect, to various character stats to develop, fulfilling all of these will take a while. Unlocking everything and collecting all of the cards could be done in about 6 or 7 hours. Earning enough points to max out all 14 characters will probably take you another 6 or 7 hours. If you really wanted to, you can have this game thoroughly beaten within a few days. After that, youíll probably set it aside and move on to some other fighting game, if you even get to that point that is.
I admit that sometimes games become overly complicated. But a game can come off as being overly simple, too. The gameplay would be great if you were a little kid who had a hard time playing more advanced fighters. But you tend to get bored with a game that really doesnít challenge you.
Bandai did a great job with the graphics in terms of staying true to the show. The arenas are fairly authentic, looking as they would on television. The characters are also drawn with accurate detailing. Relative to other anime-based fighting games, the graphics are roughly the same. The colors are nice and vibrant. The display is fairly straightforward.
Although the game bears a striking resemblance to the series, thatís basically where the visual appeal stops. In story mode, any supposed action sequences the story hints at are displayed using four or five different character drawings. You see the same image from story to story. Sometimes the expressions just do not seem to work with the context. It is like trying to tell someone a story using a slideshow of five facial expressions. There isnít much else to game in terms of sound, gameplay, or storyline, so youíd think that more effort would be put into the animation.
Once again, authenticity plays a key in the sound of the game. They even had the same people that do the voices for the show do the voices for the game. The sound effects are comprised of your typical fighting genre effects: grunts, hitting sounds, landing sounds, crackling electricity, and so forth. The music also complements the stages fairly well. It isnít too loud but still noticeable. Overall, the sound factor is pretty decent.
If you really wanted to, you could have this game finished within the first day or two of owning it. Once you finish the game, though, you probably wonít touch it again. Even versus mode does not seem to bring out any sort of true competition since there really is no skill involved in a win. Replayability diminishes real quickly.
In terms of value, it did a good job being true to the show for its fans. But at $39.99, the fans are probably going to be the only ones who are going to appreciate it. Even that might be arguable, though.
Zatch Bell! Mamodo Battles is a nice visual and audible replication of the anime, but it still lacks the in-depth story of a true anime. Being authentic does not say much to people that have never seen the show. Some aspects of the game may not be understood by someone just playing the game for fun, since a complete understanding would require you to understand the show to some degree.
If youíre a parent looking for a simple game for a 5-year-old and you donít mind animated cartoon violence, then this may be a decent game once it drops around $20 or so. The simplicity in controls and gameplay work for the younger crowd. If youíre a fan of the show and like to have things related to it, you might also want to wait for a drop in price. The lack of replayability, essential for a fighting game, is one of this gameís greatest downfalls. If youíre neither of the aforementioned crowds, you will probably be disappointed in this game. In the last case, you might not even want to rent the game.