Zatch Bell: Mamodo Battles
By: Andy Levine

Zatch Bell: Mamodo Battles is a simplistic fighting title for the PS2 based on the Cartoon Network show of the same name. The central story involves 100 magical beings—called Mamodo—that fight against one another to become king of the Mamodo world. Unfortunately, and oddly, these little Mamodo creatures need human assistance to use their spell books, so all of the fighting must therefore take place on Earth. Zatch Bell is certainly shaping up to be an interesting fighter due to its in-depth character customization and zany spell-casting action.

The narrative mode of Zatch Bell is the true essence of the game; the player can draw from a selection of different Mamodo/Human teams before embarking on a quest to become ruler of the world. Once a team is selected, you can scour different battlefields in search of other Mamodo to challenge. The flow of battle is generally like most other fighters; each team has a slew of melee and long-range spell attacks available right from the start, but you’ll have to learn different combos and techniques in order to win. Offensively, ‘X’ is used to perform melee attacks, while ‘square’ casts spells from your spell book. The analog stick or the D-pad can be used as an attack modifier, so there are plenty of combinations on offer. For instance, holding ‘up’ and pressing the ‘square’ button will launch an aerial spell, while holding ‘down’ and pressing ‘square’ will launch an earthquake-type barrage on your foe. Likewise, ‘circle’ can be used to block simple melee attacks, while ‘triangle’ can be combined with a directional press to perform counterattacks. Correctly applied counter spells will not only prevent you from incurring damage and being dazed for a few seconds, but they will leave your rival vulnerable to a few quick blows. The Mamodo also have unique special attacks, but these should be used sparingly considering the amount of energy they consume. Because your health and magic meters will actually carry over to the next round in certain modes, it isn’t always a wise idea to deplete all of your magic just to take down an enemy with style. However, if you play your cards right you can be stringing deadly combos together and initiating a hostile takeover of the Mamodo world in no time.

Aside from the single-player narrative, there are also several other battle modes that should keep you busy for a fair amount of time. First and foremost, the Developer mode allows you to improve your favorite fighting duo by using points earned during the story mode. Before each fight, you have the option to choose from your customized team or the generic setup, so if you want to engage in a two-player battle you can set your own personal handicaps. When playing against a friend, or if you generate a random computer battle, you have the option to choose unlocked character sets and battlefield arenas. Time Attack mode challenges gamers to complete a bout as fast as possible, while the Practice mode offers the refining of technique and discovery of new combinations. A Bonus mode is also available, allowing for the purchase of different cards—based on how many points you’ve earned in the story mode—and these cards make new spells available and unlock new playable characters. Overall, all of the different game modes have been tweaked slightly from one another in terms of presentation, but you can be sure that there will be plenty of different game types to keep you occupied for hours.

Like many of the other Bandai games to be based on popular TV shows, Zatch Bell manages to deliver an authentic anime feel to the PS2. The cel-shaded character models with their huge eyes are certainly a sight to behold, and the environments are teeming with vibrant color. The spells are also interesting enough to witness, including such attacks as a thunderously dark energy ball and a raging bolt of lighting, and there are even some humorous transformations into objects such as paper airplanes. To top it all off, the backdrops are rich in detail, which helps complement the 3D navigational environments. The in-game voiceovers come straight from the TV show, so you shouldn’t expect to get short changed here. The soundtrack consists of some basic uplifting techno beats that also help you get in the fighting mood. In short, Bandai has managed to capture the essence of Zatch Bell quite nicely.

Thus far the game is shaping up to be an in-depth fighting title with a smattering of RPG elements. Once it’s released to retail in October, you can be sure that action and anime fans alike are bound to get a kick out of Bandai’s Zatch Bell: Mamodo Battles.