Battleground Z could be a standalone beat-'em-up


Zombie beat-'em-up action

StreetPass is a strange obsession. Ever since the days of having only Puzzle Swap and Find Mii, I have been fascinated with the functionality. I carry my 3DS around with me everywhere, and when I pull it out of my pocket at the end of the day to see the green light glowing, I get excited despite the relative simplicity of the actual gameplay.

The complexity grew (for better and for worse) with the second wave of StreetPass games. An early favorite was Mii Force, as the most "like a real game" title in the bunch, but it soon fell by the wayside because it took too long to play and essentially required a full roster of tags. Flower Town ended up being my favorite in the long run, with its quick execution and hidden narrative.

A few days ago, the two new StreetPass games Ultimate Angler and Battleground Z released. Given the nature of StreetPass, it's impossible to review them without living in a major metropolitan area or spending several days building up Play Coins. That said, I had a fat stash ready and waiting for such an occasion, so I played through the first set of areas in both. So far, Battleground Z is looking pretty good, though I worry that it can fall victim to the same pitfall that Mii Force suffered.

Battleground Z (3DS)
Developer: Good-Feel
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: April 16, 2015
MSRP: $4.99 ($7.99 for bundle with Ultimate Angler)

Battleground Z is essentially a beat-'em-up, but it features a lot of variety for the genre. The first level involves simply defeating all of the zombies in an area, but each level afterward introduces a different mechanic to keep it interesting. So far, I have seen a level that involves finding taxis to collect spare tires, a base defense against waves of zombies, an escort mission, and a boss fight in a stadium against a full zombie American football team.

Combat itself seems fairly simple at first. There is a single attack button that can be pressed for normal attacks or held for a limited number of charged attacks. There are a few different types of attacks, like slashing, smashing, or power. Each of the many types of zombie is more susceptible to one type of attack over the others.

Like Mii Force, it is another title that feels substantial enough to be a standalone game. Though the base combat is rudimentary, it requires actual skill to play well. Each level has a set of challenges, including hitting a target completion time or finishing without allowing an objective to take any damage. Going for these medals is actually pretty tough in some instances, and I have only seen the first set of levels so far.

In terms of StreetPass functionality, Battleground Z does something different than any other game in the plaza. StreetPassed (or Play Coin-purchased) Miis provide the player with a weapon to use, but instead of tying the weapon to one of the twelve shirt colors, it is tied to one of the twenty-seven hobbies listed in profiles.

It's a really cool idea because it adds a lot of variety to the combat. For instance, a Wii Remote-sword (tied to the "playing videogames" hobby) handles very differently than a frying pan (tied to the "cooking" hobby). The Wii Remote-sword is a slashing weapon and its charge attack is a Legend of Zelda-style spin; the frying pan is a smashing weapon and its charge attack flips zombies into the air before pancaking an area in front of the player.

Different weapons will have different stats and areas of effect. Some will activate more quickly or more slowly, some are ranged instead of melee, and some are crazy gonzo things like the suitcase, which has a charge attack involving loading all on-screen zombies onto a bus and sending it through a portal to another dimension.

Beyond that, there is a depth to the combat found in the weapons behind its simple exterior. For example, some zombies wear resilient trash cans, taking several hits before the squishy zombie inside is exposed. The frying pan's flip charge maneuver can remove the can in one shot, essential for hitting the target time in some levels. I'm sure there are other weapon nuances that I have yet to learn.

The one big downside of tying weapons to listed hobbies is that some are undeniably more common than others. After pushing about 50 Miis through I saw a large number of Wii Remote-swords -- after all, the people who carry 3DSes around will generally list "playing videogames" as a hobby. I don't know if I'll ever see the weapon associated with the "cleaning" hobby. Thankfully, each level is playable with any weapon, though some may be better suited to certain situations. In theory, the one frying pan I get when I tag my wife will be enough to play through any level, though having more backup increases options and survivability.

The last element of Battleground Z that I am wary about is its play time. Though each level has been entertaining enough to play two or three times already, each takes about three minutes to get through. In a high StreetPass volume setting like a convention, I can imagine leaving Battleground Z unplayed for the same reason I generally leave Mii Force unplayed: I would rather spend the same amount of time getting tags for all of the other games combined than for that one game.

Still, it's an impressive effort for something a huge chunk of 3DS owners seem to pass up. Though StreetPass games have a reputation for being ultra simplified, Battleground Z is probably the deepest, with gameplay that could work in a standalone title. Only time will tell if it holds up or if favor goes toward the quicker games.

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Darren Nakamura
Darren NakamuraAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more + disclosures



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