LBX: Little Battlers eXperience is an action role-playing game remade from a PSP game, involving toy robots known as LBXs, that despite appearances, seriously pack a punch. On AD 2046 technology is advanced, LBXs came to market & quickly became the rage with kids, though as it was quickly found out, these “toys” were rather dangerous & quickly recalled. It was with the invention of ‘reinforced’ cardboard, an entirely unrelated shipping tool that kids & adults could duke it out once again. The game starts off in the year AD 2050, as Van Yamano a middle school kid that as cliché would have it is suddenly entrusted with the fate of the world after receiving his very own LBX from some mystery lady. It is by no means the most interesting premise for a plot, but it does get interesting at times & has its awesome moments, the last two chapters being noteworthy, albeit it chugs along at a slow pace.
While the story is slow, it is a bit more than the kid friendly appearances make it out be. There will be assassination attempts, corporate greed, bullying, etc. maybe not as developed as one would hope but there nonetheless. One major plot point the game will constantly remind you is how LBXs are more than fancy children toys & they can be in fact dangerous. Characters are introduced by the dozens, even in the penultimate chapter there is a new guy & as such, very few characters develop beyond into something meaningful. There was one that appeared halfway through a chapter, did his thing & done, never to be seen again for the rest of the game, leaving your questions unanswered and leaving you no option but to go along with that loose end.
One major aspect that I felt made the story feel so slow had a lot to do with the level design. There are a fair few areas that are big yet empty & while some of these are nice to look at, it will get boring as you travel back & forth between them for mundane tasks like ‘Talk to X’ or ‘Investigate Y’. There were a few moments where I was sent to X area to be sent to Y only to be sent back to X in less than what it took me to get to Y. Some of these areas do have random encounters to break the monotony but are initiated the same way one would battle wild Pokemon in caves. It leaves this areas feeling devoid of life. After all of this exercise, one would expect poor Van to be able to run a little faster, but no, he will always continue on with his slow & steady pace.
Combat & collection is the meat of the game. Your LBX is customizable with more parts that can be found, bought, received from Quests given by NPCs or won through battles. This will help you customize its armor which have different looks & types, ranging from the lightweight Strider frames to the beefier Panzer types which change how the LBX plays. Along with armor, you can change weapons, ranging from Clubs to swords to guns. To further customize, you’ve got the Core which is the internals, you have to manage fitting Tetris-like pieces into a limited space. You’ve got your CPUs which gives a bonus to specific weapons, Motors which deals with the rate at which you gain C-Gauge, which lets you use Special Attacks, your Batteries which feed the Motor & if you run dry, you won’t be able to gain more C-Gauge, etc.
Once said & done, you will be itching for combat with your brand new LBX & boy will there be plenty of it. Fights are from 3rd person perspective & will be fought in a variety of arenas ranging from Battle Cubes, mini arenas that in themselves have various locales like Volcanoes, a Lunar base, a plain, to even real in-game world locations on top of a construction robot. The AI doesn’t deal well with areas that have multiple elevations sadly, so you will have to chase them around to deal with them. Once in these arenas you have full control of your given LBX though you can also take control of partner AI. You have a few things to manage like C-Gauge & the Tension gauge (stamina basically). Fights can be 3vs3, 1vs3 or 1vs1. Rules range from a 3 stock limit to last man standing.
Overall while the combat is a bit basic by today’s standards, it can be decently fun. But the major flaw of it, in my opinion, is how much of it there is or rather how there isn’t much to do outside of fighting. Everything involves battling it out, be it Quests given from NPCs, the story, to even for what they try to pass off as a “minigame”. Sadly there isn’t much to break from the eventual monotony of it all.
Music for the game is great, a definitely a whole lot more than I expected from a seemingly kid-friendly game. Melancholic music, others that pump you up for a tough fight or plain old cheery ones, this game has it all music wise. Art is serviceable, the LBX 3D models look intimidating enough for their size, character models work well enough & the anime cutscenes help along bridging the story elements as needed. I did find somewhat annoying how in a fight the game would interrupt the action to display some cutscene from an enemy or partner doing a skill or some story element. A bigger annoyance was the inability to skip the cutscenes using in-game models but you could with the anime ones.
All in all, this can be an enjoyable game for people with patience, I certainly had fun at times, but I also needed some breaks away from the constant fights. Tweaking the LBX, the music & the cool moments in the story are certainly part of a nice package, but it does have its flaws like the lack of an online mode. Some things are not explained well enough & good luck finding info on such a niche game that in its original form never made it outside of Japan so finding info in English is a task for this one. It is a shame that the developers, Level-5, have no plans of releasing the sequels in the West due to lackluster sales. But nonetheless, I will continue fighting on and you may find yourself too if you give it a chance.