LBX: Little Battlers eXperience Review

By Blair Nokes on September 16, 2015

Little Battlers Experience has been around for quite a while in Japan, debuting on the PSP in 2011. During this time period, five additional games were released, along with manga and anime adaptations. The show's English dubbing has recently reached the United States, and naturally Nintendo saw a perfect opportunity to introduce North American audiences to the popular franchise. The Developers at Level-5 have definitely been able to deliver some terrific RPG experiences in the past, and given the nature of the source material this would definitely need to be one that is geared to all audiences. Nintendo helped publish the game for North American audiences and towards the end of August, LBX: Little Battlers Experience release. While it's nothing revolutionary, it still manages to retain charm you'd find in everyone-appropriate games like Pokémon and the like. It takes a fantastic idea like the childhood staple of battling with robots, and fuses elements of popular games and shows of a similar nature like Medabots or Custom Robo. The end result is a fairly addicting game, and an experience that can be shared with your friends thanks to its local wireless play.

LBX takes place about half way into the 21st century; with technology rapidly increasing in this future, one notable innovation was the creation of a super durable and impact-resistant cardboard "“ intended for deliveries and shipments. This cardboard was then used to create special battlefields for LBXs which were miniature robots that were once banned from the public due to their destructiveness. However, with the safe barriers housing the mini robots in, popularity grew again. Kids everywhere either have or want an LBX to call their own. There are stores that sell the frameworks, custom sets or just spare parts. There are monthly magazines dedicated to this, and even tournaments held to claim someone's fame.

Players assume the role of young Van Yamano, a middle school boy who is an avid fan of everything LBX. He doesn't have one, as his mother forbade it, but nevertheless still manages to find ways to battle using the hand-me-downs of other users. That is until one fateful night, where a mysterious woman entrusts Van with a suitcase containing the "AX-00," a very custom and very unique LBX. Taking it to his local tech-shop, Van soon discovers that there's been no model of the same name before, adding to the mystery. The story then follows Van uncovering the truth about a typical secret and covert governmental organization, their intentions that could potentially change the world forever. It's fairly standard fare, with typical plot twists and surprise moments most may have seen or can predict based on a number of other shows or video games that have tried the same. However, keeping in mind that it's predominantly a game made for a very broad age range, it at least is tale that makes sense, is easy to follow and can at some level be enjoyed. I wasn't necessarily looking for an intellectual journey while playing a game about a child with a toy robot, and I doubt most who purchase the game are expecting that out of the experience.

The true star of the game is your personal LBX, and Level-5 has definitely offered players quite a bit in terms of customization to nearly ensure that no two LBXs will look the same. There are roughly 4000 parts to customize your robot's limbs, torso and head along with their primary and secondary weapon. Of those parts there are 130 complete sets of matching parts, and you can of course mix and match until your heart's content. When all is said and done there are over 30,000 possible combinations at your disposal; anyone with a daydream of wanting to build their own miniature robot companion will definitely invest a good amount of time rebuilding and equipping newly purchased (or won) parts. Weapons are varied and feature your standard ranged and melee weapons, offering close, medium and far hit ranges, so you can also develop a unique play style for your LBX. You may also receive battle points from multiplayer battles, quests and other methods to then use and trade at the game's main shop for rarer parts and sets.

LBX is an action-RPG at its core. As Van, you navigate a menu-based map of various hot spots or points of interest. In every section there are other NPC battlers to train level up your LBX. Battles are all done within the confines of these super-resistant cardboard boxes, but the technology in them has been ramped up to offer unique terrain that alters the layout of what you are battling on. Some may be in a city, while others may have a little canyon, or open field. I liked the variety in level design, with the game offering 20 different arenas. One thing that swiftly turned playing the single player campaign into an easier chore is the idea that your AI opponents are kind of dumb. You can effectively wait behind a piece of geometry, be it a tree or small building, and no matter your opponent's play style, their LBX will eventually be lured to your position and you can effortlessly knock them down, rinse and repeat until victory. The learning curve is fairly light, and the difficulty steadily increases as you progress through the campaign but never reaches truly challenging. Thankfully there are multiplayer modes to pit you against other human LBX users. The game sports a 6 player local multiplayer component that lets you battle using different rules.

Visually, LBX doesn't really offer much outside of expected and typical visuals. The character designs are pretty basic, there are text dialogue segments done with anime cutouts of characters, some of the cutscenes are voiced, and actual arenas look pretty plain in design. The variety in levels at least does what it can to support its overall lack of detail. The LBXs themselves look great, and most importantly, all genuinely feel as different as you want them to feel. It really is all about what you "“ as the player "“ want out of the experience.

Final Thoughts

LBX: Little Battlers Experience is an easy to pick up and relatively charming action-RPG. As sad as it is, its biggest draw and appeal is the fact that you're battling with robots. Replaced with anything else and it would be tougher to overlook some of flaws the game possesses, like a fairly exploitable way to win NPC matches. Battling with your friends is ultimately going to be your largest appeal to the game and the reason you would want to play this until something else comes your way. And for that reason, it's definitely worth it. If you are starved of 3DS games, and especially if you and your friends are fans of mechs, robots or if you've been wishing for a Medabots game that was above average "“ LBX fits the criteria. It's a light-hearted RPG in both tone and ease of use and it offers a myriad of customizable options to keep character created LBXs fresh and unique.

Tons to customize.
6 player local battles offer a real test of battlers and their LBXs.
Light-hearted story is equally easy to follow and enjoyable.
Exploitable combat system.
Nothing visually remarkable.
Story is predictable.
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