It all starts with a hot new toy/fad/craze, a young child who can’t afford it or is prohibited from having it, but then somehow, through some crazy or mystical way, gains control of the most unique or powerful or rare version. At its base, Little Battlers eXperience (LBX for short) is an RPG that follows the simple tropes and conventions of anime narrative stories by focusing on the latest battle toy and the power of a collectible craze that sweeps the nation; but on a deeper level it gives players a complex and fun battling system that allows both young and old to enjoy it.
The year is 2050, and LBX has taken the world by storm. Small robots with the capability for battling in safe, cardboard constructed arenas; LBX are customisable and are a means to settle scores and prove who is the strongest and best LBX fighter. Enter the game’s protagonist, Van Yamano – a 13 year old boy who desperately wants an LBX robot but is denied by his mother, due to his father’s involvement in the invention of them and subsequent disappearance. Van hangs around the local hobby shop with his friends Amy and Kaz, and consistently talk everything LBX.
One day, Van comes across a mysterious and strange lady who hands him a case, which so happens to contain a rare and unique LBX robot; and with the blessing of his mother his adventure begins as he sets out to become the best LBX fighter there is. With the help of his friends and his unique LBX robot, Van sets out to find his missing father and stop a government conspiracy revolving around the LBX robots.
At face value the story is clichéd and generic – nation-sweeping fad, child missing a parent, and unique fad item being top-secret. But Level-5 have managed to keep it fresh and entertaining at the same time, and easily accessible to adults and children alike.
LBX is split up into three different types of presentation – rendered cutscenes, in-game cutscenes, and in-game action. Due in part to the fact that there is also an anime based on LBX, many of the game’s major cutscenes are rendered to full effect in anime style, serving as links or major moments within the game’s plot. Lesser actions are rendered with in-game models, and all other events (battles and map-wandering) are rendered as base gameplay. This is typical of Level-5’s style, but occasionally it doesn’t work to full effect, as some scenes load anime cutscenes whereas others have none.
All gameplay graphics are bright and vibrant; overworld graphics are detailed and laid out neatly, and in-battle graphics are sharp (to a certain point) and colourful. Menus are also bright and brilliant, eschewing from darker palettes to keep it entertaining and fun.
The voice acting is superb for a game of this calibre, with all anime and some in-game cutscenes dubbed with a level of quality not usually seen for games, especially not on the 3DS. This makes the game just that bit more enjoyable instead of hearing clunky scripted dialogue every so often. The music is upbeat and really adds a sense of mood to the game depending on where you are and what is taking place. As with most typical RPGs, LBX splits itself into two forms – overworld exploration and battle mode. The overworld of the game is separated into action on the top screen and location map on the bottom, highlighting NPCs, save points, and objective arrows to follow. In certain zones, random encounter battles can happen at any time (similar to something out of Pokemon) with unrestricted battle rules. Objectives are clearly highlighted both via text and via an arrow that can be followed and moves around on the map screen, meaning it would be very hard to get lost. Some NPCs are also battle options; with either restricted or unrestricted rules, allowing for players to grind and battle to level up their LBX unit.
When it comes to battling, the fight system in LBX is quite simple but a lot of fun. For most matches, the rules are relatively simple – take out your opponent; whether it be in a certain amount of time, or a certain number of times, or a certain number of opponents. Teams can vary from 1V1 to 3V3 and different numbers in between. The LBX battling system relies on three major points – HP (hit points), BP (battery power), and Tension. HP is of course standard, meaning how much health your LBX robot has before it is knocked out. This can be replenished via quick-use items or on-field power ups. BP relies on usage – the more your unit moves around and performs attacks and dodges, the faster the BP gauge runs out. Once the BP gauge runs out, the unit becomes slow and extremely vulnerable, and can only be powered up with on-field items or quick-use items in the battle menu. Lastly is Tension, which is the main tactical advantage or disadvantage of the game. Each movement, attack and shot that your unit performs takes a certain amount from the Tension gauge. Once this gauge is depleted, you become extremely vulnerable for a brief amount of time, and your attacks become extremely weak. Thankfully the Tension gauge replenishes itself extremely quickly, meaning you can be back into the battle in no time.
Other factors apply to battles as well; armour and weapon upgrades can change the base stats of your unit, while items such as grease and repair kits help keep the unit functional and active. Failure to maintain the unit results in degradation and battles become easier to lose. Upgrading the unit can increase or decrease stats and speed depending on the items used as well, so balance is key; and with over 100 different items to customise your unit with, there is no telling of the combinations that will work for you.
One of the biggest gripes with the entire game is the menu layout. While being visually presented well, I would often spend minutes longer than I should have in each menu option purely because the sub-menus and options weren’t organised, and I would be searching for an option in a completely wrong sub-menu. This coupled with the small loading spaces in between made it frustrating to deal with.
Familiar tropes aside, LBX: Little Battlers eXperience is a wonderful game that both new and experienced gamers alike can sink their teeth into. With a fun and family-friendly storyline, as well as customisation options in abundance, LBX is exactly what its name states; a little battle experience, and one that is guaranteed to entertain for countless hours. Definitely worth your time.