As per usual when covering anime based games, we watched the anime. Since most of these titles tend to be carbon copies of their source material, it was a pleasant surprise Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle was different. As it turns out, the game loosely follows the events of the anime or should I say it puts it’s own spin on things. It’s the same characters however they are introduced in a different order within altered events. Sometimes slightly, other times in significant ways. Such an approach allows for equal consumption of both the anime and game. It’s probably the best aspect about the game and hopefully other devs are taking notes.
So, what exactly is Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle and who is it for?
The game’s plot seems to have been created specifically for the game using the characters and events from the anime. Approaching the plot of the anime as a framework, it tells its own unique tale, even going so far as to add new game specific characters. These characters include the main character, Kagura Kirisame and Rei Saotome. Oh and they all look like they were ripped straight from the anime but so far I’ve not seen them in it. Both Kagura and Rei are well developed, detailed and interesting. They serve as plot devices to introduce the protagonist to the world of Shadowverse and they serve their role well.
Initially Kagura in her role as student council president seeks to close the shadowverse club run by Rei due to its lack of members. This places urgency on the player to recruit new members and win the national Shadowverse championship to save the club. However as you progress, you’ll learn more about her motives and maybe even sympathise with her.
Take notes anime games
The whole thing is well thought out and the way they introduce characters and events from the source material is excellent. Take for example the introduction to Hiro. He’s the main character in the anime but in the game he serves a supporting role. So instead of him being a Shadowverse noob with a new mysterious phone. He’s just a tardy student addicted to Shadowverse. This removes the urgency from him and places it on the player. In fact Hiro constantly steps aside to let the MC take the spotlight. Something he’d probably never do in the anime.
Nonetheless Despite the slight alteration to his depiction, Hiro is still mostly the same character. He’s even got the same voice actor from the anime and he’s not the only one. Every other character is also voiced, even minor ones. Yes you’ll have moments when you’re required to read text bubbles but for all main and side missions you’ll get quality voices. The only thorn in this otherwise splendid audio presentation is the lack of voice lines for the main character. Yup we have another one. Another MC suffering from silent protagonist-itis. This serious condition has been a pandemic affecting modern JRPGs for ages and sadly it rears its ugly head here too. The only voice lines you get from the MC are a few during battle and that’s it.
Excluding the silent protag
I’ll say this over and over again till someone starts listening and that is: When you have a fully voiced game with a silent protagonist, it breaks the immersion. Once that’s broken then out goes the emotional investment and sadly that is the difference between great and perfection.
Plot and characters aside, this is still a game so let’s talk about the gameplay. Shadowverse is a mobile Card Collection Game or CCG developed and published by Cygames. Originally released for IOS and Android in June 2016, it then made the move to PC and Mac later that year. An anime adaptation of that game by Zexcs premiered in April 2020 and now we’ve got an RPG based on that anime.
So it’s a game, based on an anime, based on a game.
The game, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle was released on the Nintendo Switch in Japan in November 2020 and plays like most modern card games. In that it has battling cards and spell cards. Think Yu-gi-oh but much more simple. Oh and speaking of Yu-gi-oh, this game borrows a lot from that series in some less than subtle ways. Rei for example is an almost direct clone of Bakura but the way it plays isn’t as similar. In Yu-Gi-Oh you can only attack a player when there are no monsters in play but not the same for Shadowverse. In Shadowverse you weigh the opportunity to attack the opponent directly or take out their followers. Each follower has an attack and a defence number. When they attack another follower or player their defense is subtracted from the attack of the opposing follower. When that defense hits zero the card is destroyed.
Outside of the fundamentals, there are also spell cards, amulets and tokens. Spell cards are special effect cards which once used are sent to the shadows. Amulets are similar but instead remain on the field and cannot attack or be attacked by followers. Some have effects which activate each turn while others have countdown timers which activate an effect when the counter hits zero. Each turn players are given a single play point which can then be used to play cards. This accumulates to 10 then stops. Should you desire to play a card you’ll need to meet it’s play point requirements. This number is represented in the top left corner of each card with the more powerful ones requiring more.
Simplicity with hidden depth
Shadowverse also has a unique way of balancing itself. It does this by forcing players to play within 7 different classes. Certain cards are locked to specific classes so despite having the ability to create your own decks, you’re limited by what can go in them. This helps prevent overpowered decks but also encourages the use of multiple decks to suit the situation. The only time this didn’t hold water was with the first real boss battle against the phone snatcher. During that battle your opponent draws the same cards in the same order every time. This means that you’ll need the perfect deck with the perfect hand to win. This seemed to be a one off thing but hopefully it’s patched out in the finished product.
Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle plays exactly like it’s mobile version but with only three of the main card packs. This works out to a grand total of 600 or so cards. As for modes, there’s online multiplayer which requires a Nintendo Switch Online membership as well as local multiplayer to test your cards gained in the campaign. Players can also add more individual personality to their game by changing their emblems, flair, deck sleeves and deck designs. The more you complete missions and earn trophies the more of these you’ll have at your disposal so go wild and complete everything you can.
Not much more than a card game
Outside of battles you’ll be able to explore the town and interact with NPCs. To say this is an easy experience is an obvious understatement. The game highlights quest points for every mission and interaction (excluding the ones with the waifu of dreams – Kagura). Which is somewhat excusable for mainline quests but unacceptable for side quests. It takes the challenge out of the roleplaying aspects of the game. By offering no challenge to the exploration aspects it makes it accessible while at the same time forgettable.
Worry not though. Despite failing to offer any kind of challenge with the roleplaying aspects of the game, it does wow from a visual standpoint. Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle is a good looking game by any margain. From it’s sleek menus to it’s smooth animation, this game is dripping with visual appeal. It does reuse a lot of character models and could potentially look better on more powerful hardware but those are just minor gripes. With the game having mostly solid frame rates, eye-catching special animations for signature cards, original anime cutscenes and an overall vibrant look to its world and characters. It’s difficult not to like.
Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle is a simple yet fun JRPG which somewhat captures the charm of greats like Yu-Gi-Oh Sacred cards on the GBA. It’s much easier than those games and features less cards but it makes up for that in other ways. The unique story, voice acting, and overall presentation take centre stage. They’re so well delivered that it’s difficult to not recommend this game even with the knowledge that it can be underwhelming at times. In short, this is an easy experience that wins because of how fun it is most of the time.
The copy of this game used for the review was provided to us by its publisher Marvelous Inc.