If you’re around my age then you were around when trading card games really and truly popped off in America. Sure, games like Magic: The Gathering had been around forever, but the advent of Pokemon in the late 90s made the format explode. Around that time not only did we see competitors in the TCG space grow, we also saw videogames based on the most popular ones. Pokemon going from a videogame to a card game then back to a card game videogame is a weird concept, but people loved that game. Time, however, hasn’t been kind to digital card battling.

Shadowverse: Champion's Battle Review

Of course, that doesn’t mean the genre disappeared, it just became… phone-y. Games like Hearthstone and Yu-Gi-Oh (now even Magic) hopped over to the mobile arena where players could be prodded to open up their real life wallets for digital booster packs. Gone were the days where you could just pop a cartridge into your Game Boy and play with the whole card pool at no additional cost. These games are successful, but not exactly kid-friendly. This is where Cygames comes in, with Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle.

Shadowverse, make no mistake, is a mobile card game ala Hearthstone. But Cygames has all that good mobage money, and Shadowverse has a kid-friendly anime series now. Technically, this game is more of a tie-in with the anime. But it does such a good job just giving the player Shadowverse it ends up being way more than that, especially over here in the west where card games aren’t as culturally prevalent anymore. Going way back to the earlier sets of Shadowverse, Champion’s Battle is as traditional as it gets. There’s a silly story, tons of opponents, and enough deck building opportunities to last you well after the credits roll.

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As unfortunate as it is to praise a videogame for not charging you additional money, that’s where we’re at. You can play this game as much as you want, grind as much coin as you want, and dump it all on dozens of booster packs. Not a single token of premium currency in sight. If you grew up playing Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh, and those games still carry some weight for you, jumping into Shadowverse will feel like you’re getting the band back together. It’s like muscle memory but nerdier.

Shadowverse itself is a very modern card game, designed from the ground up as a digital game. That means all the weird effects and such that wouldn’t translate well to a physical game do just fine in the videogame space. There are several classes to choose from, all of which can offer two or three distinct themed strategies. That’s a baseline of course, as you can totally zero in on one strategy or mix all kinds of stuff together. There are obvious and necessary limitations, but you’ll never be hurting for options.

While the card game itself is pretty rad, Champion’s Battle doesn’t always do the best job wrapping it up in a compelling package. The game often makes you go on weird fetch-quest-like tasks to move things forward, or finds other awkward ways to pad out its runtime. The story doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before either. And because it’s an anime tie-in there’s a lot of it. Still, it’s so lighthearted and silly it isn’t like you’re forced to trudge through something you have to pay attention to.

Despite the small road bumps, Champion’s Battle also goes out of its way to give you things to do that are a little outside the box. There are puzzle-like battles and a whole side area that force you to abandon your bread and butter and look at Shadowverse differently. Some of the special challenges even modify the game’s core ruleset to give you a real test of understanding the game overall. Those sorts of things are much more interesting than running around between NPCs for cutscenes.

It’s amazing how much fun you can have with a card game like this when the financial barriers we’re used to today vanish. There’s just so much less pressure involved, letting you take it easy and helping losses sting much less. At the same time, there’s a powerful element of nostalgia for players of a certain age that can make Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle feel like a revelation almost. This is a totally solid, compelling digital card game, and perhaps an unintentional nod back to a bygone era.


 

Pros

  • Multiple card sets with tons of strategic options
  • Intriguing challenges for pro players
  • Lots of neat cosmetic options too, like sleeves!

Cons

  • Visuals feel a little low budget or generic
  • Storytelling eats up a lot of oxygen for little payoff
  • Weird “quests” that have you running around and not playing cards

Score: 8.5

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review