Everybody likes robots: it’s just one of those inescapable facts. People also tend to be rather fond of animals. So, why not combine the two? Also, why not throw some combat into the mix? Also also, make it an anime. I know it may sound crazy, but this particular formula culminates in Zoids. I mean, you probably already knew that given the title of this collection of words, but it’s more dramatic to pretend otherwise. Regardless, let us delve into a new game from a franchise reinvented…because they stopped making series/games in the original style a while ago and mad me sad.
Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed is a fighting game based around, surprise surprise, Zoids Wild. Now, I myself am quite the fan of Zoids, but I will admit to knowing nothing of Wild. So, Blast Unleashed is my first foray into this new world…and it is wild. The first thing you’ll probably notice is just how “anime” the cast appears. I know, I know, “anime” is a wide-ranging medium, but you know what I mean. The main character has a giant swoop of hair and character’s eyes burn with a green flame when they get serious. That’s anime as heck. Also, it’s pretty cool. It definitely helps characters stick in your mind, I went from zero to knowing who Gigaboss was in about forty minutes: not a bad time. This sense of character also helps to learn/memorise the Zoids themselves, with their varied animal motifs and simple colour palettes. The characters also shout the name of their Zoid roughly once every second sentence; that helps too.
Speaking of Zoids and their presence, this game leans rather hard into the plot point of “sub-species”. Simply put, sub-species are alternate colours of the Zoids present in the game. Factoring heavily into the game’s story mode (which I will discuss shortly), sub-species also exist to effectively double the roster of playable Zoids. This is the facet of the game that I can see losing people. Palette swaps are nothing new, but they are also nothing beloved. Simply changing a model’s colours does not a new character make. Still, I will give Blast Unleashed credit for at least slightly altering the stats of each sub-species. It may not be much, but it’s something. I will also further dole out credit by praising the naming conventions of these sub-species. Take, for example, Liger. As Liger’s sub-species is black in colour, characters designate it Black Liger. Apt, albeit uncreative. The game, however, opts for a much cooler name: Nightfall Liger. I don’t care who you are, that’s an awesome name. Other Zoids are given similarly nifty adjectives—Toxic, Chaos, Vulture, Genesis—that help the palette swaps sound a little more unique. Also, the names sound cool. Did I mention that already?
Though the game houses a few modes, the one deserving the most discussion is Story: mainly because, well, it has a story. Having no knowledge of the series, I can’t say if said story is true to the source material, but it is cohesive enough for me to believe it is. Taking the form of a visual novel, scenes play out to set up each battle and give some manner of context. Nothing new when it comes to video games, but worth knowing if you’re curious about this title. Despite the simplicity of this presentation, the number of sequences and battles is…immense. For every character introduced, there is a story thread to follow—allowing you the chance to play as each character in the game. There is also no guarantee that characters will appear in each other’s stories—or even be mentioned. Though blasting through every single story node can become repetitive after a while, the segmented nature of each story path lends well to a more staggered approach—perhaps clearing out a character or two each time you play. Of course, beating each path is necessitous to unlocking every playable character, but that’s sort of to be expected in a fighting game. Which this is.
As far as fighting games go, Blast Unleashed is a relatively simple one. Each Zoid is capable of basic melee strikes at will, while more powerful, unique strikes exist under a cooldown limitation. That being said, cooldowns are rather swift; each battle wrapping up well under the ninety-nine second time limit—at least in Story. Each character pair (Zoid and Rider) is also able to employ a temporary power up known as a Wild Blast. The gauge for this ability, known as Best Bond, fills through both dealing and receiving damage; its activation bestowing a boost to one particular stat and access to a finishing move. The stat raised by Wild Blast—such as attack power, speed, or health—is specific to each Zoid in Story, but may be freely changed in Battle (the free-battle mode). The finishing move, known as Final Blast, varies between each Zoid and manifests as a brief animation that deals a sizeable amount of damage—unless your opponent blocks it…like a jerk. Again, Blast Unleashed doesn’t house a very complicated combat system, but it is quite fun in its simplicity.
So, where do I stand on Blast Unleashed? Well, I think it’s fun. It isn’t a revolutionary title, nor does it particularly excel in any one aspect, but it stands well as a whole. I’d say the game also benefits from being on the Switch, allowing for small increments of play on a more portable basis. I know this might not sound like the most glowing praise, but I do mean this all in a positive way. Blast Unleashed is that game you can turn to in comfort, at least for a little while. Not your sole focus, but a title to slowly complete in your free moments—chipping away until you’ve seen every sub-species and learnt their dope names. Also, you can take some time to really sit and think about the fact that somebody named themselves Gigaboss. I mean, if he didn’t ride a tyrannosaurus made of destruction then nobody would take him seriously. Luckily, he does ride a tyrannosaurus made of destruction. Well, lucky for him at least. Also, Analog is a precious chestnut and to be protected from all harm.