Heart of the cards? All I need are my vampire girls.
Type: Single Player, Multiplayer
Genre: RPG Adventure CCG
Publisher: Marvelous (XSEED)
Release date: August 10, 2021
I actually didn’t know Shadowverse was a thing until Champion’s Battle was announced. Granted, I don’t really follow collectible card games, but it looking like Hearthstone was one of the reasons it grabbed my attention (despite me not being a Hearthstone player). The second was that it’s focused on having a story mode, which I learned shortly after that this game was based on the anime and then learn that it wasn’t really looked upon positively because of how poorly it tackled being a card game anime and how they went in a completely different direction with it compared to the story in the original Shadowverse game (well, from what I’ve heard at least). Of course, that didn’t stop me and I tried watching it anyway. After all, Kadagawa Jet Girls was averagely rated and it was fun to watch. Well, all I have to say is to believe what everyone was saying about it being bad. I couldn’t even make it through the first episode. Which it made me worried about the game.
Well, it turns out that I had nothing to worry about. The anime really hits you with it being for kids, like way too much, but it really gets tuned down here. It’s still there, but not as bad. The story for Champion’s Battle is something that you’d expect for a high school card game anime nowadays, but with you there. Looking like someone that suddenly got upgraded from a background to a main character, you are the new kid as you just transferred to Tensei Academy. You’re even late on your first day as you happen to forget to check if you still had your phone before leaving for class. You quickly meet up and become friends with the main characters of the anime, who are then surprised that you have no idea what Shadowverse is. Well, mostly Hiro (who is the main protagonist of the anime and of course, is a huge fanatic and wins every match, even when he was a total newbie). Like everyone else, you are now a part of the Shadowverse cult and helps in trying to find the rumored Shadowverse Club. You do find out that it is indeed a real club, but the student council president, Kagura, is going to disband the club. Not wanting the club to be gone when you guys just found out it was real, you and the others convince Kagura not to… right away at least. You just need to find two other members (making it an official club) and to “produce results” by winning the Shadowverse National Championship. You have a long way to go before you’ll even be able to qualify and many turns in the story to deal with.
While you’re not in a cutscene or in a battle, you’ll be able to explore Tensei Academy and the town outside of it. You’ll be able to buy cards, card packs (of course being in the mercy of rng to get the cards you need/want for your decks), and sleeves (which just gives you an icon to use for your online profile); open data boxes to grab even more cards, money, or sleeves; talk to the anime characters or just random people; get into battles, or do some side quests (which can be a nice change of pace as not all of them resolve with a card battle). The characters from the anime even have their own bonding events so you can get to know them and hang out with them more.
Now to get into the actual card game. First of all, you’ll need to choose what kind of deck you’ll be using which starts with the class. There are seven different classes Shadowverse has, with each of them having their own specialty and card art theme. While there are Neutral cards that can be put in any deck, you can’t mismatch cards from different classes. There are also three different card types, followers which are your attackers, spells which will have an effect that activate once, and amulets that are a mix of both as it will have a continuous effect but will take up a spot on your side of the field and can’t be attacked. To name a few different classes, Bloodcraft centers around lowering your own defense to activate effects, strengthens your cards with Vengeance if you get your health halfway, and gives you the means to restore your defense; Havencraft is centered around setting down Countdown amulets that will either summon a follower or activate another effect like let you draw more cards; Forestcraft is focused on easy-to-summon fairies that will drive up your amount of cards played which other fairies can use to activate other additional abilities; and Dragoncraft focuses on giving themselves extra play points so they can quickly get Overflow to summon hard-hitting followers (which may also get an additional boost if Overflow is activated).
Once you get into a battle, both of you will have a max of 20 defense (no matter what cards you play) and the goal is ultimately getting your opponent to 0 defense. Though, it’s not going to be quite as easy as it sounds. After it being randomly decided on who will go first (and who will go second and get the advantage of drawing two cards at the start and 3 evolves) and redrawing your hand if needed, each of your turns will give you one play point. Play points are used to use the various cards as each one will have a cost, and generally the more powerful they are, the more they’ll cost. If you’re able to play a follower, it generally won’t be able to attack next turn… if it survives. Each follower has it’s own attack and defense, with it being destroyed once defense is at 0, and you can use it to attack your opponents followers. Though, the follower you attack will also attack back so make sure to either have a backup plan if it’s one with high defense or one that you can destroy. Or you can go directly for an attack on your opponent. Yep, your field doesn’t have to be empty for you to be directly attacked. Though, attacking directly may not be the best choice depending on the situation as your opponent can overwhelm you and there are followers with Ward, which forces it to be the only targetable target until destroyed.
There’s also another mechanic with evolving your followers. After a collective four turns for the second player or five for the first, you’ll have the option to use one of your evolve points to make one of your followers stronger, increasing both their defense and attack, and activating any effects it may have in its evolved form. Evolving can even make it possible for a follower that was summoned that turn to attack, but it can only attack a follower (unless it has Storm, which lets a follower attack the same turn it’s summoned). While you will only have two or three points to work with, this can give you that needed boost to defeat one of your opponents strong followers or hit your opponents chunk of defense.
The game does also try to encourage you to try out the different classes past the one that you gel with the most right away. There are side quests that require you to be a certain level with a specific deck (though granted, you can easily get this by doing the puzzle battles) and certain classes or decks with work best or worse against others. It also depends on the AI you’ll be going up against as well. Like you might not want a Bloodcraft deck that doesn’t have that many defense restores against a deck that’s fast, centers around cards that has a fanfare that spawns another follower, and an AI that would rather directly target you rather than your followers. I, myself, ended up maining Bloodcraft (mainly because the artwork revolved around vampire girls), and surprisingly found myself going for a Haven deck as my secondary.
Champion’s Battle is pretty beginner friendly. Not in the “all the battles are easy” kind of way, but in the “you can jump in easily” way. First of all, there is a hint system in place during battles which you can use if you’re second guessing what your play or need a bit of guidance. If you lose, you’ll still get the experience for your deck, some money, and an option to quickly get into a rematch if you want to use the same deck. And lastly, for those that are terrible at deckbuilding, there is some help provided here as well in the form of deck codes. Battling other Shadowverse players, pinpointed by a special icon colored to match the class they main over their heads, will give you their deck code when you defeat them. These are important, so don’t skip battling them, as not only will you have the means to build their deck if you have all of the cards needed, but they do give you cards as rewards. You can still build your own deck as long as it has exactly 40 cards, but if you’re bad at it or maybe you like the deck your opponent was using, deck codes gives you a way to build decks. It also might be important later on.
This game does a decent job at ramping up the battle difficulties, with the occasional spike here and there. It also helps that everyone is ranked, so you’ll know what you’ll be getting into based on what rank they have. At the start you’ll be facing easy battles with opponents that will have less max health than they’re supposed to, but as you get more battles under your belt and get further into the story, your opponents will become smarter and have stronger decks. Of course, there are moments where you suspect the AI must be cheating, but it does seem like the game is programed to have the AI let up if you keep losing.
Aside from the usual battles, you can also dive into the optional puzzle and win streak challenges. The win streak is what it sounds, win as many battles in a row with the same deck and there are different difficulties to choose from. While puzzle battles are aimed at you either getting all of the opponent’s followers off the field or defeating your opponent in one turn with what you have in your hand (major Yu-gi-oh 5Ds World Championship flashbacks here). While there are different difficulties here as well, you’ll have a lot of puzzles within each difficulty spanning all seven classes. The easy puzzles are definitely easy, but watch out for the later medium ones and definitely the hard ones as they do give you cards that are red herrings.
Once you complete the story or anytime you’re up for it, there is also an online mode where you can battle against a real person. I haven’t delved into this much, as I’m not really interested in it, but you’ll be able to get into ranked or free matches, do missions, enter codes to receive gifts, and share or download other player’s deck codes. There is even a battle pass system here.
In terms of performance, this runs pretty good on the switch. While it does stutter every now and again while running around in the various locations, and the loading screens can be a bit obnoxious depending on what you’re doing (like doing all of the puzzle battles), it plays smoothly during the actual card battles and cutscenes.
I had no idea what to expect going in, especially since I never played Shadowverse myself and that I couldn’t stand the anime, but Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle surprised me. The way the game handles the characters and the story made it an enjoyable experience that I wanted to continue to find out what’s going to happen next and the actual card game is addicting. I also like how they put a focus on being beginner friendly as they suspect a lot of new players will be coming in through this game, and I suspect is a main reason why I liked this game as much as I did. I’d say if you’re okay with the anime focus, don’t mind the risk of finding the story a bit boring (or the some of the characters annoying), and like card games, this is the game for you. The demo is even still available if you’re not too sure about whether or not you’ll like it (or you can play the original Shadowverse card game). And those that are already playing the original Shadowverse can even dive into Champion’s Battle to go back to the early days of Shadowverse or to see how it was when there were only two packs released.