Yuke’s Future Media Creators wants North American games to know that they are more than body slams and pile drivers. This long time developer of Americanized wrestling games is trying something new with a card battling game based from the Japanese trading card game Cardinal Arc. Here’s our review of Neverland Card Battles.
Neverland Card Battles debuts on the Playstation Portable bringing the love of statistical card based combat and strategy together in a fantasy setting of mythology. Neverland Card Battles isn’t for the timed, as Idea Factory comes in blazing in with a strong learning curve and a willingness to win. Getting started might take a little longer than you are used to, however once you get it the battles become quite addictive and satisfying.
The plot line behind all the magical spectral cards and battling scrimmages starts when the evil god Hellgaia threatens to end Neverland’s existence. The player takes the role of the brash hero Galahad as he fights his way through ranks of demons to banish Hellgaia forever. All it takes to eradicate Hellgaia is a strategic mind and good card balancing skills. This feat is only for the most diligent gamers, ones with a lot of patience to learn the inns and outs of the spectral card system. I wasn't able to accomplish Hellgai's demise in my many hours of card battling. The A.I. is a little tougher than I expected which will only make victory that much sweeter. Given the Teen ESRB rating, Neverland Card Battles is more suited towards the teenage market and not children who might be frustrated with the level of difficulty.
The storyline doesn’t really grip the player like other games, but it gives enough reason for a few fun rounds of card battling. Each round you’ll meet a new person who is traveling through Hellgaia dungeons and you’ll have to battle. These people are called Dominators. Listening to the squabble between the characters is delightfully painful which means you will want to sit back and click through each conversation. The story is what it is, and most the time the absurd plot line of mystical business was over my head. The cards are the real catch in Neverland which are a whole lot more interesting then the divine gods and twin goddesses of Neverland's snoozified lore. In total the 200 unique cards complete with detailed artwork and animated 3d characters for the pop-up battles will have to keep things interesting as you jump dungeon to dungeon.
Easing you into the action is a tutorial mode that will run you through the basics and advance you only when your skills improve. Being a fan of strategy games I was surprised that I was being defeated in the first tutorial map more than once. I couldn’t believe a game to beat me down so quickly, so I took a few days off from playing Neverland and when I returned I was a new solder blasting through the rounds. It seemed that I just had to get it, and once I had it I found Neverland to be an enjoyable diversion. Unfortunately compared to the strong list of other turned based strategy games for the PSP like last years PSP GOTY Jeanne D’Arc and Disgaea, Neverland has some stiff competition.
The battles take place on a large gridded field with each player taking a turn. You can draw cards right off the bat first the dominator has to claim a few squares that give the player points towards using cards. Cards are automatically drawn each turn and you can only use them when you have enough points. Each card varies in its parameters, however you’ll need to do some micromanagement because once they are drawn you need to support them. This has you and your characters drawn from you card running around the map trying to control more squares then your opponent. Learning to balance movement over defence and offense is tricky at first, however it comes in time. The winner of the map in most cases is the player who defeats the other dominators health to zero.
Each card has attributes that attached to them. First off there is the usage stats like how many costs it takes to use the card and the cost of maintain it on the battle field. You also have special elemental cards that can use earth, water, fire, and air to their advantage. This is more common in magic users than fighters. Besides these stats you’ll have the special abilities and HP, movement range and power of each unit to watch before you send them into battle. Once in battle you simply choose to attack when you’re are in range and a pop-up battle comes up and automates the results.
The graphics in the battles are extremely dated and don’t match the good illustrations to showcase each character. In this respect Neverland Card Battles seems like it was developed for the original Playstation. Luckily being a graphical powerhouse isn't the focus of Neverland, and the ugly graphics don't get in the way of the gameplay. I've seen this is the past with Idea Factory's games, it might be time for them to redefine their graphical department.
There are three main types of cards being spell casters who are used to support magic users or put in hold for defence of assaulting bombardment. Magic spell cards that can conjure up a spell which ranges from attacks, defensive bonuses, restorative powers and even death! Spells are a great asset and good cards to horde until the perfect moment. Base cards can also be played on captured grid squares to switch up the property alignment of the square. Lastly Dominator Cards are in the mix and can be used as avatars. These are for multiplayer action which is supported via Ad-Hoc on your PSP.
In between matches you can head into your camp to make preparations for an upcoming battle by editing decks and saving your game. You can also select which battle you want to fight including the ones you have already tackled. Going back for a few rounds isn’t a bad idea either; sometimes it can prompt you with some important cards that you didn’t pick up in your first round. In total you can have three pre-saved decks ready to do battle with. The cards are the key to supremacy, unlocking better cards and building stronger decks should be a top priority for any seasoned card battler.
That sums up Neverland Card Battles. This strategy card battling game is as straightforward as they come. The non-popular franchise name of Neverland doesn’t help the game over compared to other popular card based games like Digimon in Western audiences. The best aspect of Neverland Card Battles is the lower price point at and the fairly solid gameplay. Mind you Neverland Card Battles is a little tougher than kid branded games which might be perfect for the strategic gamer looking for a challenge. Overall, Neverland is a little too dated in the tough market of strategy games on the PSP which hurts its overall appeal. If you have tried the rest of the top strategy games for the PSP then Neverland is worth a look, however ultimately there are better games on the market.
Gameplay:6, Graphics:4, Sound:4, Innovation:5, Mojo:5. Final: 4.8 / 10
Reviewed by Tinnanski | 10.28.08