Every generation, a property will come along that is so rich in lore and intrigue that it is hard to ignore. With growing popularity, Shadowverse is finally ready to debut on consoles with Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle. Based on the hit anime, this title introduces us to a colorful cast of characters, offering a new way to play the addictive card game. Is this going to be the next big thing, or are we looking at a licensed title that doesn’t translate well to audiences on consoles? Let’s find out.
The story in Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle is obviously focused moreso on the anime, rather than the card game lore that already exists. Players take the role of the main protagonist, who can be either male or female. You are a new student at a school who quickly realizes this place is infected with fans of the hit game Shadowverse. Tensai Academy is the kind of school where everyone (including staff) happen to be a Shadowverse fanatic, and you are swept up into an adventure almost immediately where our cast begin to try to bring back the Shadowverse Club, while forming friendships and finding out secrets out how it disbanded along the way.
I went into this review trying not to make the Pokémon comparison, but it’s really hard not to as there are a lot of parallels between the two namesakes. Every character is ready to battle at a moment’s notice, and even if you don’t know a thing about the game (as I didn’t prior to Champion’s Battle), it can be really hard to ignore the efforts here as the world feels bursting with energy and excitement, making the narrative a great gateway for anyone looking for an RPG that comes weighted with depth and character. There is a bit of cheese in the writing, but considering the targeted demographic – that is something that can be forgiven as the subplots and interesting tidbits scattered about make this world worth exploring, with what feels like a never-ending number of things to do and accomplish. There may not be as many locales to explore compared to other RPGs with a similar format, but there definitely is an atmosphere here that is unmistakable, where I got instantly nostalgic due to how fleshed out our in-game universe actually was. The cool thing is, this title is just one section of the property and not even fully diving into the actual Shadowverse lore that already exists, meaning there will be a lot of rabbit holes to go down if you want to know more about the characters on the cards outside of this offering.
When it comes to gameplay, there are a few different elements to speak about. The first is the general control of your character, where you can freely move around from place to place, speaking to fellow student and making standard decisions to move the plot forward. We will call this the “story” or “anime” portion to make it make more sense. Players will be able to utilize a currency system in-game, where funds are provided by completing quests or partaking in battles, which can then be utilized to buy cards from one of the many electronic kiosks. I never had any issue with control and the menus are all clean and make navigation of this part of the experience quite easy and accessible. Most of the time, you need to find something or someone, which will open dialogue sequences for battles that progress the game once complete.
Where I am a bit on the fence about is how long it took for this newcomer to understand how to actually play the game itself. It goes without saying that this is a card battling game within a game, but Shadowverse itself took me a bit to understand. The battle portion has many tutorials and such, but never really focuses on the WHY portion of the ruleset. I kept asking myself “why does this card have that ability?” and “why don’t I just only attack the opponent instead of his cards if that is the objective?”. Needless to say, I went on Youtube and spent hours watching online tutorials, and even started an account on Steam to practice. Within a few hours, everything clicked and it completely changed my perception as I became addicted to the game of Shadowverse. There is a lot here to just the card game meta, and while I was happy to know how much Hiro and friends loved Shadowverse, I think I would have preferred to have it broken down a bit more so the entry would have felt more accessible.
I don’t know if that is really a flaw with myself or with Shadowverse: Champions Battle as at the end of the day, the main game is just a clone of Hearthstone, with enhanced and tweaked features that keep it distinct. The story portion here does a good job of setting you up to learn about the game and tutorials do enough to teach you how to play, but without much provided when it comes to the ruleset other than how to play, I see newcomers having a bit more of a learning curve as I felt this game expects everyone to already know about Shadowverse. It’s a weird feeling knowing less than our protagonist who is also new to all this, and again – maybe this is just my age finally catching up with me. All that said, the battle portions are a ton of fun and I spent a ton of hours battling and re-battling everyone, farming funds, buying cards, and crafting decks. I could spend hours explaining to a new player now how to play, but as far as this review goes, I will tell you just do some research and you will be just fine, new or not.
Those wanting to do more than just battle NPCs will be able to also connect online and fight the world, with several lobbies offering live ranked and free battles. Another fine feature is the ability to share deck codes, which is great for introducing others to the experience.
Shadowverse: Champions Battle looks fantastic. The animation is all fluid and crisp in the main story sections, and battle portions even feature little animations for attacks (which sometimes evolve into a full cutscene). There are even some sequences that borrow directly from the anime, where a simple dialogue sequence suddenly becomes cinematic with a seamless transition. Cygames obviously put a lot of effort into making this game feel polished and true to both the anime and the storytelling as well as the card game the whole experience is inspired by, which I think is truly the shining feature. Despite the silliness, this title has such an interesting world to explore and each character’s personalities shine bright as you get to know more about this new club and all your schoolmates within Tensai Academy.
Being inspired by the anime, the voice cast do a great job of making this narrative feel alive and endearing. The soundtrack is also catchy and pleasant, which is nice considering how long one may want to stay and play during a long session. I say that because this is a game that I would go into expecting to play for an hour, and end up turning off my Switch to charge after noticing I had spent almost six to seven hours in one sitting playing. I do have a little gripe with the card game’s voice sections, as some of the characters there are grating and annoying to hear as they make the same tedious dialogue bits over and over. That can be adjusted accordingly, but it is something that could be enhanced if this title manages to see a sequel.
I will go ahead and say it. Shadowverse: Champions Battle may be the next big thing for the Switch. This game is booming with content and personality, where a newcomer can be introduced to a world within a world, where both are equally entertaining throughout. The card game itself is insanely addictive and rewarding to both learn and play, and I see the competitive elements being a huge thing due to how well incorporated the card game was implemented here. Sure, there is a learning curve and you may even have to do a bit of research to truly feel at home, but those ready for an excellent adaptation of Shadowverse are in for one of this year’s most pleasant surprises. Shadowverse: Champions Battle is fantastic and easily one of the best new properties to come to Nintendo’s portable since its launch.