Neverland Card Battles merges the strategy-RPG genre with the core gameplay mechanics of a trading card game. It's a card game first, an SRPG second, and this is clearly evident after having played and finished the title this past week. We know that a good number of our readers have read our preview from last month and have kept interest in the title. With the game releasing today, we know you all want to know: what's the final verdict? Read on after the break to find out.
Gallery: Neverland Card Battles
The idea here is to control as many squares as possible to summon more costly creatures, spells and bases. One strategy that works well is to immediately rush the enemy and capture their squares as quickly as possible. This ensures that enemy Dominators (name for character card duelers) won't be able to cast their costliest/deadliest magic. However, this strategy doesn't always work out well; sometimes Dominators can summon creatures far away from themselves across the board and start grabbing land. They do this by using elemental squares -- creatures of the same element can be summoned on those special areas and will receive bonus buffs too while on an elemental square.
Then again, that strategy doesn't always work because each Dominator truly fights with a unique style. Some Dominators will fight with the Snipe skill which bypasses regular attacks and deals direct damage from afar. Others will use warriors that all have First Attack -- an ability which lets a creature make an initial attack before the opponent can retaliate. This is a very good skill as regular battles allow for both opposing units to damage each other simultaneously -- First Attack allows for an early killing strike.
If any of this isn't sinking in yet, it's because TCGs are usually quite difficult to understand without having been shown an example -- or having played it for oneself. It's much easier to pick up and play than this review lets on. The first two battles in the game are tutorial battles and they explain everything you'll need to know. By the end of both tutorials, you'll have full grasp of how everything works.
The overall difficulty of the game progresses smoothly throughout the main story mode. Even if you think you're losing a match, you can leave the battle and return to the main screen to start over. However, I personally think it's better to finish the battle and collect the new cards given out at the end. Yes, the game will give you new cards even if you lose a match. This is an excellent addition as re-do battles become less frustrating and more of a "let me adjust my deck and try again" experience.
Speaking of adjusting decks, editing and creating a deck are both very easy processes. Cards can be viewed altogether or by type. The ones that can be added to your deck will be lit up while those already fully used will be grayed out. The max number of cards in a deck is 30 and players can save up to three decks at one time.
Now, let's move on to some gripes. First off, when you're down to zero cards in hand, most other TCGs offer a multiple drawing of cards to help stimulate your game; however, NCB lacks this and it can really be painful to play when down to one or no cards (which will happen more often than not). Another major disappointment is the game's dialogue. It's a rather poor translation, or at least the manner in which the story is told (short two-way conversations before and after battles) leaves little time to flesh out a detailed story. The voice acting suffers from the poor dialogue and even the best actors can't turn bad lines into good audio.
The main storyline is quite short. It only lasts for about 16 battles. However, keep in mind that each battle can average around 20 minutes long, and the most difficult levels can drag on for up to an hour. When the main storyline ends, it's not quite over just yet as there is a surprise new goal to check out. We won't say anymore on that though for spoiler reasons. Then, there is also the ad-hoc Versus Mode where players can control the other Dominators in the game. These Dominators get unlocked after defeating them in the story mode.
Overall, Neverland Card Battles is a very satisfying experience. The gameplay is worlds of fun, but the relatively short story and other nagging gripes drag things down a notch. A game like this is meant for multiplayer, and it is rather unfortunate that we were not able to play the ad hoc mode. We're sure that mode would add more longevity to the title. If that's not enough, then grabbing a 100% card collection should be an adequate time sink.
PSP Fanboy score: 7.5
Reader Comments (Page 1 of 1)
10-28-2008 @ 3:16PM
Hashbrown Hunter said...
....this is the first time I actually know what the hell this game is. I had no idea what the game was, what it was about, and why PSP Fanboy was paying so much attention to it. I understand why now, but not so much in to card games (it's not the games, it's me) so I'll pass. But at least it's good to know that developers are still attempting to push out some unique games on the PSP.
10-28-2008 @ 4:41PM
ya, i just wish we had innovative titles like LBP or patapon/locoroco when they first came out. quirky little games like that. not that 3rd person shooters (resistance retribution) and srpgs (fft:wotl) aren't bad at all though, they are the bulk of what i play on my psp
10-29-2008 @ 3:18AM
I vote for more innovative titles all around. For any and all systems. It just seems like all that's coming out are FPS's and third person shooters and horror FPS's and horror shooters and so on. The industry needs to take a risk sometimes.
10-29-2008 @ 4:38AM
Well, the industry can't afford to take risks. 1-2 flops can sink a smaller company. And even the larger ones don't like losing money, either
Ironically, that's the reason the PSP gets stuff like Patapon - Sony is too cheap to spend any real money on PSP game development, so they just put simple games like that.
Most the real innovation these days, in gameplay, anyway, is on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN, because developing full blown games is just too expensive. DS too, development for that is even cheaper.
10-28-2008 @ 4:35PM
Only 16 battles? Jesus...I heard this was 25-30 hours long. Talk about disappointing. I might just cancel my order now. That's a ridiculously short game!
10-28-2008 @ 4:45PM
The last cardgame based srpg that i enjoyed was metal gear acid 1/2. I know it was outside canon and all but i wish they had made a 3
10-28-2008 @ 7:17PM
that is why i WANT CULDCEPT PORTABLE!!!!
10-29-2008 @ 7:27AM
What??... What is culdcept?
10-29-2008 @ 8:40AM
Culdcept is a game on the PS2 and recently redone for the Xbox 360 that is very similar to NCB. If you have either of those systems, it's definitely worth picking up a copy (if you can find one). I have the one for the PS2 and it's one of my favorite games for the system.
10-30-2008 @ 6:20AM
yep, but the game it is more older (ps2 and dreamcast, but in japanese)...
but the important thing is they made a DS culdcept..
10-30-2008 @ 6:21AM
i mean ps1, no ps2...*palmface*
10-30-2008 @ 10:22AM
Thin storyline huh? Well that means that I won't be getting NCB. I don't like games that have card-based gameplay to the point where I would want to play one with thin story. I completed first MGA only because it had good storyline, but I would prefer it to be an srpg without cards. I didn't like being forced to repeat missions many times just because I didn't have right cards in my deck. Also waiting for the right card to appear in my hand was really annoying. But I guess that for fans of games with card-based gameplay it's a game worth their time.