When it comes to mecha series, there are a lot that stands out. The tactical intensity of Battletech keeps players coming back. The critically acclaimed - yet commercially underappreciated - Titanfall series shows that the genre can still find innovation and change in the modern era. For many, Gundam is synonymous with mecha as a whole with its iconic designs and triumphant, bombastic stature. But I recall watching a series when I was younger about animalistic robots piloted by scrappy heroes ready to fight the good fight: I recall Zoids.
But in my research, it appears the series fell off the radar in the US. After four anime series was dubbed and broadcasted to varying degrees of success, Zoids completely went dormant. But it appears after a long twelve-year hiatus, the series will be returning to the West. A brand new series relaunch will begin with a new anime series coming to the west as well as a new tie-in game, Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed for the Nintendo Switch.
I managed to get a sneak peek at Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed with a hands-off demonstration by the Netherlands-based developer Code Glue. It was a surreal experience seeing the new direction this series was taking, and a look at how anime tie-in titles had continued to experiment and change over the years.
The first big change I had to adjust to was the new setting Zoids Wild takes place in. Instead of the animalistic robots being vehicles meant to be piloted, they are now treated more as animal companions. Treated as a prequel to prior Zoids series, the idea is that the titular robot is bonded to a certain young kid, and the kid rides it into battle like a mount.
Otherwise, the series appears to be another sci-fi action affair. There's an evil empire trying to use the Zoids for their own nefarious ends. There are multiple teams of good guys and bad guys each with their own super marketable companion. Fights happen, adventure is had, the power of friendship is affirmed; the kind of earnest material commonly found in Japanese action series aimed at young boys.
Code Glue did bring up a big selling point with this Western release. Technically speaking, this game is a localized definitive edition of the original Japanese game, Zoids Wild: King of Blast, released by Takara Tomy in January of 2019. All downloadable content and expansions released will be included in one package, seamlessly integrated into the game's progression system, and fully translated into English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Arabic.
While the man behind the controller, Esteban, showed off the combat I lightly smiled and took the whole experience in. On the surface it looked like a standard arena brawler, giving me flashbacks to Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee. Fast attacks, heavy attacks, and a super stylish ultimate attack that fills the screen with bright colors and particle effects are all present. But since the Zoids aren't giant lumbering kaiju, there was a decidedly fast and agile appearance to the combat with fast dodges and jumps.
It teased the possibility of genuine depth to the mechanics, even if the aforementioned ultimate attacks appeared far too unbalanced, lopping off almost all of the enemy's health bar every time.
The story mode was also a welcome novelty. Rather than put in a standard arcade mode with bots or a loosely justified story mode full of cutscenes, Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed goes a sprawling branching path structure. There are replayable missions, 192 total, that have their own rules and restrictions like playing as a certain character or winning within a time limit. If you reach certain criteria during these missions, you unlock a different path. These can branch out to where you're playing as different characters or even as villains.
There does appear to be limitations with some missions, such as requiring you to play a certain number of battles before they become available, but given this is where the bulk of the game's long-term content is at, it's not exactly a dealbreaker.
Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed looks like it is shaping up to be kind of experience new fans of this series reboot will enjoy. It might not be the version of the series I fondly remember, but it still has robot lions and crocodiles shooting lasers at each other. Overall, a positive step forward for keeping this series alive.
TechRaptor previewed Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed on Nintendo Switch at an online event by the publisher. The game will be available exclusively on Nintendo Switch on October 16