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LBX: Little Battlers eXperience Review

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Level-5’s LBX: Little Battlers eXperience
is a simplistic RPG based on a popular kid’s show about tiny
merchandisable robots. But deep within, what you find is a complex and
entertaining action-RPG that is never fully betrayed by the nature of
its premise. While LBX’s clunky design choices often hold it back, it
surprisingly exceeds initial impressions with charming presentation,
satisfying combat, and loads of deep customization.
LBX’s
story takes place in a futuristic world where children play with LBX,
which are miniature robots purchased at retail used to fight in
competitive battles. It follows the adventures of Van Yamano, a
child–who after being given a powerful top-secret LBX–becomes involved
in a plot to save the world with his friends. Despite having occasional
cheesy melodramatic narrative beats, LBX’s story manages to remain
interesting thanks to a well-paced narrative, charming characters, and
an unexpectedly sympathetic villain. The story is also complemented by
colorful visuals that bring its world and the LBX to life.

It’s vital to remain defensive during the game’s more chaotic fights.

In
LBX, you spend your time walking around the city of Tokio, moving the
story forward by exploring corridor-heavy dungeon areas filled with
random encounters, gaining new characters in your party, challenging
fellow LBX users to fights, and occasionally completing side-quests to
acquire special items. The bulk of these experiences are mostly what
you’d expect from a typical JRPG, but what gives LBX its unique appeal
is its major centerpiece: LBX battles.
LBX
battles take place in fortified cardboard boxes, which are miniature
scale arenas that serve as the main battlegrounds for combat. Depending
on what the game calls “regulations,” battles can be setup in a variety
of different formats, such as 1v1, 3v3, or best 3 out of 5. Initiated in
the game world via scripted or random encounters, you go into battle
with a party of up to three LBX users from your group in fast-paced
real-time combat where you brawl against enemy LBX using a variety of
different weapons, like swords, spears, rifles, and machine guns. Combat
is genuinely exciting due to its speed and chaotic nature, especially
during 3v3 matches when LBX are zipping around and attacking from all
sides.

The game’s city is filled with countless LBX users to do battle with.

The
real-time action combat system in LBX is also surprisingly engaging and
methodical. This is helped in part by the Tension Gauge, which is a
meter that depletes when an LBX attacks, speed dashes, or jumps, but
then recharges over time. When the gauge is fully depleted, your attacks
will only do single-digit damage. The Tension Gauge is a simple
mechanic, but it’s a balanced one that punishes button-mashing, and
rewards you for carefully observing your opponents and quickly striking
when the time is right. As a result, LBX’s reliance on a healthy mix of
offensive and defensive tactics makes its combat system fulfilling.
But
for as much as LBX’s combat excels, there are issues with the movement
system that sometimes get in the way of your enjoyment. This comes from a
delay that occurs after landing from a jump. It may not seem like a big
issue at first, but it becomes frustrating during more intense fights,
when you have to move quickly and accurately. Firing a gun and running
at the same time can also be troublesome due to inconsistent animations,
which stop you in your tracks if you don’t run at the right angle.
These issues are irritating and detract from the flow of an otherwise
enjoyable combat system.

There are hundreds of different items to equip to your LBX.

While
battles are a huge part of LBX, you spend a lot of your time
customizing these tiny robots. As you play the game, you stockpile a
mountain of money that you can use to purchase weapons, parts, and
accessories for your rag tag party of LBX. With hundreds of items to
choose from, there are plenty of options here to tailor your robot to
fit your play style. There are also options that allow you to be more
meticulous, such as adjusting parts to modify your LBX’s defense and
speed attributes, to configuring weapons with specific elemental
affinities in order to exploit enemy weaknesses. This allows for a great
sense of creativity and strategy, and you ultimately spend hours
tailoring your LBX with the right parts and weapons they needed to fill
out different group roles.
The customization
available in LBX makes for a delightful feature, but it does have
issues. Cumbersome menus make equipping parts and items a chore,
especially after combat, where it’s constantly required for you to
re-stock your LBX with healing items from your stash. Even more
frustrating is being restricted from equipping items that were put onto
LBX users who temporarily leave your party, which pulls their equipment
out of rotation. Luckily, you can create and save different loadouts,
however, the aforementioned problem remains an issue unless you fork
over extra money to buy two, or even three of the same item. You will
have to get used to these issues, because customizing and battling LBXs
are the game’s bread and butter.

Get ready for some 3v3 LBX battles!

Combat
is at the heart of everything; the campaign, side-quests, mini-games,
and the local PVP mode. LBX doesn’t have online multiplayer, but you can
battle in the local, ranked multiplayer mode if you’re feeling extra
competitive. Unfortunately, without online multiplayer, you’re reliant
on the community of other LBX players in your area to provide
competition. You may never get to experience a full, six-player
battle–or the race to the top–if LBX doesn’t catch on in your town,
but the game offers plenty of LBX Battles to sink your teeth into, if
little else.

With solid presentation, combat, and
customization, LBX: Little Battler’s eXperience is a satisfying game
that is more involved than it seems. It’s not without its faults,
including unwieldy, sometimes tedious design, but to write it off as
just another kid’s RPG would do it a massive disservice. Level-5 has
created an action-RPG that–even with its faults–is still an
entertaining offering.
Editor’s Note: This review has been updated to include details of LBX’s local play multiplayer features.

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