- John Bush
Game Review #546: Zoids Wild Blast Unleashed (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: John B Developer: Codeglue
Publisher: Outright Games
Category: Fighting, Action
Release Date: 10.16.2020
Watch the Trailer
Buy Zoids Wild Blast Unleashed from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Man I miss Toonami. I know it’s still technically around late on Saturday nights, but anyone who watched it every afternoon in its original form knows it’s not really the same feeling. I saw so many great mecha series every day after school; Gundam Wing, Big O, Robotech, and tossed somewhere in there were two vastly underappreciated series set in different timelines from the Zoids universe, Zoids New Century and Zoids Chaotic Century. I remember being enamored with the outstandingly cool animal-based mech designs and enjoying exploring the different worlds each series presented – New Century had the cooler Zoids and Chaotic Century had the better story, if you’re interested. So, when the chance to try out a new game based on a new Zoids series I wasn’t familiar with came across the JP’s Switchmania code desk, I decided to check back in with the series.
Wildly Different Setting, Same Great Zoids
Zoids Wild Blast Unleashed for the Nintendo Switch is a 3D fighting game set in the world of the newest entry in the Zoids universe, Zoids Wild. I’ve never seen the show, but it’s on Netflix so maybe I will later. I dunno. I’m kind of thrown off by the fact that Zoid riders literally ride on top of their Zoids, instead of piloting them from inside a cockpit like in previous series. It seems pretty dangerous and not especially smart when you’re talking about putting yourself in the middle of a fight between giant metal animals launching heavy ordinance at each other, but what do I know? Anyway, there’s this kid Arashi and he’s on a quest to find Ancient Treasure Z, which is apparently something that will help him in the fight against the nefarious Dark Metal Empire. The game’s roster is drawn from Arashi’s group of allies, Team Freedom, and the Dark Metal Empire’s elite troops. In keeping with proud fighting game traditions, the storylines are pretty light, but Blast Unleashed at least has enough of a storyline going for it that the campaign mode stays interesting, if not outstanding.
Keeping It Simple For The Kids
The series, and therefore this game, seem to be more targeted towards kids, and as a result the gameplay is fairly simple. Each Zoid has three attacks; a light attack, a heavy attack, and a guard break attack. Light attacks are fast but don’t do much damage, heavy attacks are slower but have some invincibility frames and do plenty of damage, and guard break attacks are meant to, well, break an opponent’s guard if they’re blocking. Each of these attacks has an alternate move that can be activated by holding a trigger down while pressing the attack button, and that’s basically the game’s combo system. No quarter circle forwards here, my friends. The alt moves are generally a lot more powerful, but they can’t just be spammed; each one has a cooldown timer.
Defense consists of a dash move and the ability to guard. The dash button lets you jump around the 3D arena at will, and maintain or close the distance between yourself and your enemy fairly effectively. Guarding will block incoming attacks, up to a point; the shield that surrounds your Zoid gradually turns a darker shade of blue every time it gets hit. If it gets too dark, your shield will break and you’ll be stunned for a time. Your shield will regenerate over time, but it’s best not to let it get too dark to begin with. To that end, it’s a good idea to use the game’s counter system, which is kind of more of a dodge-then-counter system, but whatever. Hitting a dodge button during an enemy attack while guarding allows you to doge to one side, and then hitting an attack button immediately after will launch a counterattack and stun an enemy for a short period. The dodge window seemed kinda finicky to me; I never really figured out how to consistently hit the dodge window. Maybe I just suck, though.
Having a Blast
While Zoids Wild Blast Unleashed keeps its gameplay simple, no fighting game would be complete without some sort of ultimate move for each of its fighters. To that end, each character can activate either their Wild Blast or Dark Blast. Arashi and his friends’ Zoids all have a Wild Blast meter surrounding their character portraits that fills as they land attacks or take damage. When it increases, you can hit both triggers at the same time to activate a Wild Blast. During a WB, a chosen stat, such as attack or defense, will temporarily increase and the meter will gradually deplete. The bonus is over when the meter is empty. Once per round, players can hit both triggers again during a Wild Blast to activate their ultimate move – like most ultimate moves, they are all very powerful attacks that look totally awesome. Blasts are a great way to turn a fight around if you fall behind, or an awesome way to finish an opponent off.
The bad guys of the Dark Metal Empire use a Dark Blast instead. In place of a meter that fills as the fight progresses, the Dark Blast meter is full at the start of the battle. It gives you the same selection of stat boosts and access to an ultimate attack, but it has some drawbacks to counteract its immediate availability. For one, your health meter gradually depletes when Dark Blast is active, and second, it can only be used once per round. Once you use your Dark Blast, you can’t use it again if you get in trouble, whereas you can use Wild Blast as many times as you can fill the meter – although even doing so twice in one round is pretty difficult. I played the game for hours and only did it once.
A Decent Collection of Fighters and Game Modes
For any fighting game, the first thing you look for is a deep roster. At 16 Zoids, Blast Unleashed has a decent roster, but I’d have preferred to see more, cuz I’m greedy. Despite the limited movesets, each Zoid plays differently enough to feel a little distinct, but the strategies to win don’t really change much from Zoid to Zoid. The second thing you want to see is a lot of game modes, which I suppose we see. Battle mode lets you set up individual matches, either local multiplayer or 1 on 1 versus the AI. There doesn’t appear to be any online mode, which was kind of a bummer until I remembered I always lose against real opponents anyway.
Mission mode is broken into three sub-modes. Continuous Battle is the game’s arcade mode, where you pick a fighter and progress through seven matches following a short, light storyline for each character. Story mode presents players with a big tree of story-based missions; beating one mission opens news branches on the tree. Each main branch follows one of the game’s characters as they search for a subspecies of their chosen Zoid. Finishing a branch unlocks the subspecies, which basically just means you can use more alt skins in Battle Mode. Beating missions in story mode also unlocks entries in the game’s many galleries; pictures, music, Zoids, and cutscene dialogue. Finally, you’ve got practice mode which is a series of tutorials that teach you how to play the game.
Cool Zoids in Decent Backgrounds
Graphically, Zoids Wild Blast Unleashed is a mix of stunningly detailed, really awesome Zoid character models and presentable but fairly lackluster backgrounds. The Zoids are as cool and as fluid as you could want, but while the backgrounds have some decent Easter eggs in the form of non-playable Zoids, they’re not as high resolution and lack any real personality. Unfortunately, you also lose some resolution if you play undocked, which kinda sucks. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but I always hate to see it. You’re also treated to some great voice work from the show’s cast, but the game’s dialogue isn’t fully voiced; mostly you just get some generic lines that play whenever a character’s dialogue is displayed on screen.
Go Wild, Have A Blast, Unleash Some Zoids
In a lot of ways, Zoids Wild Blast Unleashed lacks enough depth to make it truly stand out from the pack. The roster is fine, but I would have liked more. The controls lack diversity; every character has the same limited combo structure. The graphics are a mix of awesome character models and meh arenas. Despite that, however, the game is still really fun to play. While I would have liked to see some more Zoids represented, the ones we get just look amazing. And while the controls are maybe a little too simple, they’re also very easily accessible, which is the right choice to make when you’re dealing with a property that is intended to appeal more to younger players. While Blast Unleashed probably won’t make the cut for the next Evo, it’s still a lot of fun to sit down and enjoy for a while.
Buy Zoids Wild Blast Unleashed from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*A game code was provided for review purposes