Review – Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle
I have to say I’m impressed with the juggernaut that is Japanese developer Cygames. Sure, their bread and butter is making mobile games infested with gacha mechanics. But whenever they decide to make a game aimed solely at consoles, they actually put a ton of effort into their titles, porting their existing mobile franchises into full-fledged console experiences with little to no microtransactions. Not to mention decent visuals and gameplay. A good example was when they teamed up with Arc System Works to release the excellent fighting game Granblue Fantasy: Versus. Now, history repeats itself with their surprisingly good card-based RPG, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle.
In a normal world, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle should have been a disaster. A video game adaptation of an anime based on a F2P gacha-esque card game? Any other developer/publisher combo would have created a simple console port filled with microtransactions and loot boxes based on such an easy target of a premise. This game isn’t the case. There was a lot of effort put into it, be it from the great tutorial system, generous in-game economy, and lengthy runtime. Plus there’s the fact that while it’s far from great (or even barely interesting), there is a story in here, complete with lots of chapters, sidequests, characters to talk to, and a lot of above-average voice acting… in English!
Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle‘s setting is actually quite good. It isn’t the utterly ridiculous cliché of attending a school focused solely in teaching kids how to play whichever game is the hottest trend right now, just like one of the various Yu-Gi-Oh spinoffs released over the years. You are a normal student who just moved to a prestigious (but normal) boarding school. You stumble upon the titular Shadowverse game when talking to one of your classmates, who teaches you all about its rules, its importance, and even gives you your first deck. This all happens after class by the way, but without time constraints like how the Persona games love to implement.
There isn’t a lot to do in the overworld other than doing the bare minimum of exploration, talking to NPCs, and interacting with a few terminals in order to buy new cards and booster packs, but I like that the developers have bothered implementing these RPG elements in the first place. Instead of feeling like a cheap cash grab, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle ended up feeling like a more high quality card game like the criminally underrated Game Boy gem, Pokémon Trading Card Game, as a result. Sadly, while the overworld visuals are adorable, they do run at a somewhat clunky framerate.
Now, you must be asking yourself, what the living hell is Shadowverse? That’s something I was also asking myself once I first booted up this game. In very broad and simplistic terms, it is a virtual card game clearly influenced by Yu-Gi-Oh and Hearthstone. Its matches are nowhere near as long as those seen in Magic: the Gathering, usually lasting for just a few minutes, since its rules and deck sizes emphasize quick attacks and strategies to overwhelm your opponents in a swift manner. The main objective is to reduce your opponent’s life points to zero. Each player starts off with twenty life points.
There are only two types of cards in this game. “Followers” are Shadowverse‘s equivalent to your standard monster card. They all have an attack stat, a defense/life stat, a cost, and an ability. Attack and life are pretty self-explanatory, with the added benefit of a follower also counter-attacking any enemy attack, meaning that they will never stand still during your opponent’s turn. A cost is defined by how many play points are required to play the card. You start off with only one point at the beginning of a match, but will eventually earn an extra point on top of your previous limit with each new turn, allowing you to summon even stronger cards in later stages of the match. A recently summoned follower cannot attack in its first turn, unless it has an ability that allows it to do so.
After a few turns, you will be allowed to evolve a certain limit of your cards, improving their stats and possibly unlocking new skills in the process. You can also use “spell/amulet” cards with the same cost pool in order to activate certain passive or active abilities in battle, such as dealing extra damage to an enemy follower, or sacrificing a few of your life points in order to draw a few more cards. You can always attack your opponent’s life points directly, unless a ward-type follower is summoned, which diverts all attacks towards it. Those cards usually have higher defense stats as a result.
Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle does a great job teaching these mechanics in a swift and comprehensive way, and also does a great job at streamlining the boring and arduous process of creating decks when you’re still a newcomer. You can collect deck presets which allow you to assemble them with ease, as long as you have the necessary cards. The nice thing about these deck codes is that, once you acquire one of them, the game will inform you whenever you’ve managed to acquire a card that’s required in order to build it, whether you get it from a booster pack or if it’s available as a standalone card in one of the school’s shop terminals.
I like that booster packs are cheap, and that you’re greeted with an additional set of cards whenever you beat an opponent in battle. It never feels like you’re grinding for cards, since matches are so quick and entertaining. In fact, even though I have previously stated that I like the fact that Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle has a full-fledged campaign, its story was the one element I certainly ended up caring about the least. I would often stop progressing through it for a while just so I could battle a few more NPCs around the boarding school.
All in all, against all odds, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle ended up being a pretty robust card-based RPG. It has a lengthy campaign, a ton of cards to collect, and most importantly, a fast-paced and entertaining gameplay loop that made me want to keep playing it for long periods of time. Sure, its visuals could have been a bit more polished, and I certainly did not care about its plot (even though I liked the fact the developers bothered to include one in the first place), but I had way more fun with it than I could have ever imagined from a console spinoff based on an anime inspired by a gacha card game.
The overworld graphics are adorable, but run at a clunky framerate. The card game visuals are simplistic, but they run at a much better framerate as a result.
Not exactly the most complex of card games, which means it’s easy to learn its mechanics. I would have appreciated a bigger emphasis on touch controls, as they are half-baked at best.
Not only does Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle feature an actually decent soundtrack, but it also features a ton of (dubbed) voice acting. And it’s not half bad, either!
Fun Factor: 8.0
By all means, this game could have been a disaster. That wasn’t the case. I couldn’t care less about Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle‘s story, but its mellow nature and gameplay loop ended up being a perfect fit for a portable like the Switch.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle is available now on Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle was provided by the publisher.