Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

LBX: Little Battlers Experience Review


After completing the LBX game it was definitely time to go back and check out the manga. As it’s only 6 volumes it makes for a quick read and I marathoned it all during the Cowboys vs Giants game. Watching the Cowboys drive a truck through the Giants defense was really satisfying and the manga was just as intense. It may not be a perfect adaption, but it did a really good job in the volumes that it did have and I’d definitely recommend checking it out. It also seems as if the series was only scanned in Spanish or French online so you’ll need to buy the volumes to see it in English. It’s definitely worth the purchase.

The story is divided into two arcs which are each 3 volumes long. I had read the first four volumes back in the day, but I never got around to 5 and 6 so reading those for the first time was pretty cool. The first 3 volumes’ plot you should be familiar with after my recent LBX game review but here’s a brief reminder. Van lives in a future where LBX is the hot game that everyone is playing. You grab a toy robot and fight it out with other kids. The tricky part is that all of the robots use real weapons and equipment so the stakes are always high which is why the toys are controversial. A terrorist group wants Van’s LBX since it has a code inside of it that lets you harness unlimited energy. Van must stop them and also rescue his father who has been kidnapped from the group.

Months after the first arc has ended, Van is called into action once more. A new organization is threatening the entire world and hits multiple countries with LBX attacks. The threat is wide in scale this time so Van enlists the help of a new kid called Hiro. Hiro has never had an LBX battle before, but he’s eager to learn. Hiro gets the hang of it pretty quickly so now Van has a reliable teammate to help him against the dangerous robots at the ready. Will they be able to conquer the obstacles ahead of them or is it Game Over?

The manga can feel like an abridged series at times. Not the kind of abridged series that changes the plot and makes it more comedic, but in the literal sense as it’s chopping scenes and condensing the series as much as possible. Considering that they’re trying to adapt a 15 hour game into just a few volumes, it makes sense. Some characters show up only to get wrecked and at least half of the cast from the anime/games don’t really get to do much. It’s worth it though since this allows the series to still give the fights an appropriate amount of screen time. I can definitely get behind that. In that sense this is one of those manga titles that you can more fully appreciate after you’ve seen the anime or played the game.

Meanwhile, the art isn’t exactly top tier quality. The artist reuses stances and whenever a character yells it is as if they dislocated their jaw. It can be funny, but I get the feeling that it isn’t intentional. Justin is also drawn to have long fingernails and stands in a way that looks as if his back is broken. It’s a rather odd design for him and while this may have been an intentional choice to make him appear more feminine, it didn’t work when comparing it to his game design. Fortunately the art stepped up when it came to the battle scenes. We got a lot of really good splash pages for the bigger attacks and the action scenes in general were pretty good. As such, the art is a mixed bag but at least it does have its positives. The action is what I’m focusing on anyway so that’s the most important element.

By now you’ve heard me talk about these characters quite a lot but this is the last time since we are now caught up with LBX media. Van is the main character and he’s pretty solid. He’s actually a little more hardcore than his other versions as he goes through several chapters being badly bruised and injured while still fighting to the end. He was really determined to save his Dad even if it didn’t work out. He also makes the hero move to risk his life against the final boss on his own so the others wouldn’t be in danger. Now, he claims this was just so he could fight 1 on 1, but I don’t actually think he meant that. It would be a weird jump from the rest of his character arc. I’m definitely a big Van fan at any rate.

Ami is a nice friend, but unfortunately she doesn’t get to do a whole lot in the manga. She loses her very first fight in a single hit which was a bad omen of things to come. Even when she gets her new robot she is mostly relegated to a background role. Her most impressive showing was likely when she turned evil and was able to fight Van and Hiro teaming up. That was pretty impressive. Kaz is the other friend and he’s in a similar boat as Ami. His LBX gets a little more screen time and looks reasonably good. The manga actually improved Kaz from the anime quite a bit as he didn’t randomly join the terrorists or get mind controlled by an LBX. He just stayed as a dependable friend from start to finish. I also like how he wanted to go with Van at the end for the big battle before Hiro stole his role. Technically it would have made sense for Kaz to have gone right?

Justin is a solid rival. He may have started out as a rather mean guy, but he was never evil. Once he found out that he was working for the bad guys he quickly left them and joined the heroes. He looks really good during Arc 1, but his only real role in the next saga was to lose to minions off screen and remind the audience that Van was their only hope. It’s always tragic when you go from being one of the strongest characters in the series to someone who is just here for the show.

Dak and Gouda get identical roles to the anime and games. Their roles are so set in stone that nobody wants to mess with them. Dak’s magician is certainly an impressive LBX to have and I didn’t mind him as a rival. His best scene was actually when Van walked over and ripped his card up. It was an amazing moment because usually the heroes will just watch as the villains brag and play mind games with them. Van wasn’t having any of that and set the tone from the start. Gouda is all right, but he’s fairly weak and not much of a factor.

Professor Yamano is a decent character here. He stays on as a hero the whole time and it’s not as much his fault that he can’t be with the heroes. The villains just keep kidnapping him, but otherwise he would be here to help. It was funny how he kept creating new LBX machines that were stronger and stronger the whole time. The guy just doesn’t take a break which is fortunate for the heroes.

Hiro is one of the main characters from Arc 2, but I can’t say that I would be much of a fan from the manga. He doesn’t take the situation very seriously and comes off as a rather unlikable guy at times. I am glad he switched his character design after falling in the pond since that at least helped a bit. The anime did a better job of giving him a more complete personality. Still, he’s not a bad character, he just doesn’t feel like he had much of a reason to be here. He had his share of action scenes and all, but it easily could have been someone else.

Ran shows up as well but unlike the anime where she got a big role, she doesn’t do much here. She helps the team in their fusion fight, but mostly just watches for the rest of it. It’s still a better fate than most of the season 2 characters as a bunch of them only get one page cameos or don’t even talk. Even though it was 3 volumes long like volume 1, they weren’t able to adapt much of it in the manga. I guess they just focused on other fights and such instead, which isn’t necessarily bad. It’s a very loose adaption to the point where it feels like an original story which is pretty fun.

Lex is one of the big characters in the first three volumes and he gets pretty intense. The bonus stories try to mess with his hype a little, but they are just side stories so you shouldn’t take them too seriously. He’s definitely a very likable character and I like the design. His LBX is one of the best in the whole franchise. Kaido is also a pretty big character in the series and I thought his ending was handled better than in the anime. The guy just wouldn’t give up and his tenacity was impressive. Not even a bullet could stop this guy and we didn’t need robot thrown in. In a way, the same set of circumstances happened like last time, but the event was moved back.

Kurtis is a really fun character. He felt like a nice addition to the cast as Justin had recently become an ally instead of a rival. Kurtis is another genius whose abilities are on another level. He loves pulling off fancy JoJo poses all of the time and maybe has a little too much fun with that, but his skills are certainly the real deal. His role in the series may not be huge, but it is memorable. We also got to see Kousuke in Arc 2 who looks so similar that I often mix the two characters up. He’s another really solid character and you almost feel bad for him since he wants to be known as the greatest LBX player in the world, but Van is too strong. Van also just ducks their fight the first time and waits until he gets a stronger LBX so is it possible that the main character would have lost the first time around?

Finally, Mizel is the big final boss. There’s also the leader of the Directors (Should have kept it as Detector) but that guy was pretty bland. He’s basically just an old man after all and he is mostly around just to panic the whole time. Mizel could actually fight and his LBX was one of the strongest of all time. If anything it may have been a little cheesy the way he was taken down, but I can live with it since the set up to the fight was incredibly hype. He had a really good design and a great LBX, you can’t ask for much more than that.

It’s definitely cool that LBX got a full manga like this. It’d be nice if I could read one for Season 3 as well but it seems like that may not be in the cards. I wonder if this one sold well. If you didn’t watch the show, I can still picture the cover being enough to attract people into reading the manga. It’s a pretty easy concept to get into since it’s a lot of action and has robots. That should be a winning combination for just about everyone right? The quick pacing means that the series cuts out all filler and even slow cannon moments so something is always happening. It may not be the same experience as watching the anime, but it’s a fun adventure all the same.

Overall, If you haven’t checked this series out yet then you need to reconsider if you’ve made the wrong move. There’s really nothing to dislike about the manga because it has no weaknesses. If anything, the only problem is that the title is too short and that the art could have been a little better. Neither one of those issues are groundbreaking though and the manga is absolutely great. Now we just need Custom Robo to get a big manga and it can join Megaman and LBX as fun titles where mini robots fight each other. Seeing as how Megaman and LBX both got at least an 8, I’m confident Custom Robo would as well.

Overall 8/10

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

LBX: Little Battlers eXperience Review


I’m always up for a good robot game. Mega Man and Custom Robo were always exceptional titles and so naturally LBX looked like a winner from the get go. I actually got to watch the TV show way before the game so if anything this version feels pretty nostalgic while playing through. The anime adapted the game pretty faithfully to be honest and the quality is sharp since it’s by Level 5. Those guys really do a great job of completely building a game around its concept. Layton is the perfect puzzle game and this is the optimal robot experience. You just can’t go wrong with buying this title.

The story follows a kid named Van. He’s really interested in the new game that everyone is playing. It’s called LBX and you buy a mini robot that you can use to fight with other people. Think of it like those classic Rock em Sock Em toys that used to be around, but 1000X cooler as the robots have weapons with live ammo and you control them with your phones. Unfortunately his Mom is against it for reasons unknown and Van’s Dad may have created the LBX franchise, but he died in a plane crash. A mysterious lady gives Van a one of a kind LBX one day though and after he stops some burglars from stealing it, he ends up joining a private faction who is trying to stop the villain organization from using it for their own means. They tell Van that his Dad is actually alive and being held hostage so Van quickly goes on board. His two friends Ami and Kaz agree to help as well. They’ll have to win multiple tournaments, break into enemy territory, and hone their skills. The risk is high, but there are lives on the line so the heroes put on their game faces and get ready for action.

It’s a pretty long game at 15 hours so that’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the plot. There are 12-13 episodes in the game and the length varies for each one. There is also a lot of replay value as you have many parts to buy and quests to complete. I did a few quests here and there and got a bunch of weapons, but getting them all would take a long while. There are also online battles that you can play so content is certainly not lacking in this title. You can have fun playing the game for a very long time and it’s worth the full price.

The soundtrack is stellar. It was pretty cool hearing the tunes from the anime even if they technically came out in this game first. It was still nostalgic and most of them are quite memorable. LBX spared no expense in this department and the same goes for the graphics. Not only are the in game graphics sharp, but there are a number of fully animated cutscenes at the ready as well. They really help you dive into the game. It used up a bunch of these cutscenes early on and I would have preferred for Jin to get more of them, but it’s how it goes. It’s really impressive that they added so much in and I feel like we got more animations than Layton. It just feels that way so I can’t confirm it, but a quick Youtube search would give you the answer to that.

As you can imagine, the gameplay is really sharp. It’s in full 3D like Custom Robo and you can equip two weapons at a time. I always went with a good Machine Gun and an electric sword. Even if it’s not the strongest, I like the electric sword because it stuns the opponent so you get more hits in. More hits = More damage or at least that’s how I saw it. The gun can be safer, but the opponent can use the downtime between rounds to get in close and take you down. You have to use a lot of strategy here. You can carry health items to help yourself out as well. There are also a number of final smashes that you can equip. You can use a weaker one to try and get some damage in, but the catch is that the enemy might dodge it. You can instead use an ultra attack which is impossible to dodge, but you can’t move for around 5-8 seconds which is a long time and if an opponent deals enough damage during that time you will lose the attack. I was able to use it successfully in the final boss which was helpful. It seems to always happen that the boss gets me to my last bit of health and then I clutch it out. It’s an amazing feeling, but also super stressful. The final bosses were definitely incredibly powerful so I recommend training a lot so you’re prepared for it.

I still think the concept of LBX was borrowed heavily from Megaman Battle Network, but it certainly did a good job of making a name for itself. It had a lot of its own unique features which differentiated itself from Megaman. It’s also a good move to be like Megaman since Capcom isn’t making any new games at the moment so we can get our Megaman fix this way. Imagine a Megaman game that was 3D like this one with a bunch of hype cutscenes. Hopefully Capcom can learn a thing or two from this title and incorporate it into future titles.

The cast is basically the same from the anime, but I’ll briefly mention some of the big ones. Van is a solid hero as you’d expect. He’s always ready for a fight and is very proactive in trying to save his Dad. He has a brief lapse in confidence, but gets over it right away. At times he can almost seem too happy like when they arrive to the toy store to buy things which felt like a contrast to his rather serious self, but at the end of the day he’s still just a kid. It’s hard to say if he beats Lan Hikari or not as they’re both very similar. He’s a lead you can get behind.

His two friends aren’t bad. Kaz is always low on confidence which can be a little grating, but he still helps out when he can. Ami is always supporting Van and doing her best to get in on the action. The school friends are pretty bland and underwhelming though. I can see why they got such tiny roles in the game since they didn’t add anything to the dynamic. Jin is a great rival and his LBX has an excellent design. He’s pretty reasonable throughout and does a good job of balancing this while still acting really confident the whole time. He’s an ideal rival and his team up fights with Van at the end are a blast.

Dak and Gouda are two other characters who help out a bit. They’re a step below Jin and Van when it comes to ability, but the more allies the better right? I thought Dak was an enjoyable supporting character, but Gouda is a little too weak to be taken seriously. He was good as an opening boss though. Mr. Kaido is a solid main villain. The fact that he can actually fight goes a long way since he doesn’t have to hide when the fighting starts. His robot is also really cool and has a great design. One villain that came in towards the very end was Kirito and he was exceptionally good. Taking out almost the whole cast on his own was certainly a hype moment and the fact that his LBX had a Super Form was really cool as well.

I have to say that I liked how the super forms were incorporated in this game. When you get below 25% health you can activate it and heavily boost your attack power. It helped a lot in the final boss and just looked really cool. When an opponent would use it, it would up the stakes as you had to focus on defense a lot more. Since some fights would give them all of their health back, the game really didn’t hold anything back. You need to be pretty good at the game and be at a high level to win. It always feels fair and balanced with just the right amount of difficulty to make things interesting.

Van’s Dad is okay at best here. I still think he tends to run off too often and leave Van behind for no reason. He gets a lot of hype so he’s a good scientist, but seems like a bad father. I wasn’t impressed with the Red Haired guy and his Team Rocket homage members. They’re the only part of the cast/plot that I couldn’t take seriously. I just never liked them for some reason. The true final boss of the game was great though. His origin story was definitely pretty intense and his LBX even more so. It was a pretty nice/explosive way to end the game. It’s great to see Level 5 get to go all out with the ending here as most of their other titles are a lot more down to Earth. Now we know what they can do with a good action title. I didn’t even totally get how the final boss worked and just had to keep on buying time and using hit and run tactics. You can probably see why I just barely defeated him.

Overall, LBX is without a doubt an excellent game. There are absolutely no negatives with it. The gameplay was completely on point. It felt balanced and it was easy to lock on to an opponent. The levels were huge which was a lot of fun but you can move fast so you don’t have to worry about matches dragging out. The plot was really engaging and kept you alert with all of its twists and turns. You felt like you were playing a big RPG and I think this probably would fit in the genre considering that you do have to backtrack to various areas and you explore as you go through the game. The cast of characters was a lot of fun. It’s a little hard to get used to the American names so in this review I mainly used the ones I was familiar with but not all of them were downgrades. The main case where the English name definitely loses is with Justin though. The graphics and audio were definitely well above average and there is a lot of content in this game. It’s the definition of a AAA title and I’m convinced that Level 5 is one of the best studios of all time. It’s hard to see them churning out a game that isn’t great at this point. I highly recommend buying this game. You’ll be glad that you did.

Overall 9/10