Yet another show in the Cartoon Network's anime lineup has crept into the realm of video gaming. Zatch Bell: Mamodo Battles is an easy-to-pick-up fighter that pits the cartoon's many characters against one another to test their abilities. At a recent Bandai press event, we were able to scoop up some time with the game to check out how the action-packed battles fare on the PlayStation 2.
The Zatch Bell series revolves around magical beings called mamodo. Every 1,000 years, 100 mamodo are sent to Earth to battle one another until only one remains. That one is crowned king of the mamodo world, and that one rules over all the others. They'd be able to duke it out in their own universe, but for one thing: to fight each other, they need a human to control the spell books that grant them their awesome powers. The mamodo themselves mostly seem unassuming to outward eyes, because in most cases they appear to be normal, wide-eyed children. Many characters from the show are here, like the titular, lightning-belching Zatch, his friend Kiyo, Sherry, the dark and sinister Brago, the adorable pair Tia and Megumi, and a number of others.
In Mamodo Battles, you'll actually fight in pairs, with each side fielding a mamodo and a human friend. While it's mostly the mamodo you'll be directly controlling in battle, their companions will also be able to lend a fist or two on occasion. The X button throws your melee attacks, which you can chain for some juggling combo action, and the square button lets you use that particular mamodo's magic attack. On the defensive side, the circle button blocks, while the triangle button, when used with a directional press, will let you counterattack in that direction. As you roam the 3D battlefields and trade blows, you'll gradually fill a blue meter that lets you perform a spectacular over-the-top special attack to roll over your opponent. One thing you'll have to keep in mind, however, is that using such abilities greatly depletes and limits your magical ability, and your health and magic bars carry over into the next round. If you're not careful about when you use your special attacks, you'll end up weakened, making yourself easy meat for your opponent.
There are several modes in the game. Story mode lets you select a particular mamodo through a number of narrative battles, giving you a number of areas to select and letting you run into other characters. Two-player mode lets you fight your friends, while time attack mode lets you fight the clock. Bonus mode grants you trading cards as you play, which will let you unlock additional mamodo to add to your collection. Developer mode lets you use points earned while playing story mode to augment attributes of your fighters. When you choose battles, you have the option of using either normal fighters or your developed ones.
The cel-shaded characters are all tooled to look like their anime counterparts, and they certainly do. The various 3D environments are mostly wide open and are easily navigable. Furthermore, they sport a decent amount of detail, making good backdrops for all the insane abilities the mamodo possess and use. And the various mamodo abilities are really the showcase of the game, from the great bolts of lightning power, the balls of dark energy, and some comical transformations into things like paper airplanes, to completely ridiculous powers like enormous dragons and screen-filling shock waves.
Fans of the show will likely have a good time battling it out with their favorite characters when this fighter arrives later this year on the PlayStation 2 and GameCube consoles. We'll continue to follow Zatch Bell: Mamodo Battles in the time leading up to its release, so be sure to keep watching this gamespace for the latest news.