WayForward Interview – Developing Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia and its RPG Systems

Developer WayForward has some great IPs under their belt. As an indie developer, the team has put out some charming titles such as Vitamin Connection, River City Girls, and, of course, the Shantae, series. Now, we have a new title for them based on the anime license Bakugan.

We had the chance to speak with the executive producer at WayForward Kenny Ilko about how the team approached this title and the various system players will discover.

Azario Lopez: It almost seems impossible to put WayForward into a box; your team is always up to something new that comes across as if you enjoy not getting too comfortable with the games you develop. When first approaching Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia, did you see this as a challenge to overcome, and do you feel like you’ve created the game you set out to create within this license?

Kenny Ilko: I don’t believe we ever saw this game as a challenge to overcome, but more as a new opportunity to put out something that might not normally be expected by people familiar with WayForward’s history. I always like to think of any company as the sum of its parts. A lot of the team members on Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia have a wide-ranging background from AAA console titles to tiny mobile titles, me included. If you were a fly on the wall and saw the final pitch deck that sold Spin Master and Warner Bros. Games on making this game, I think you would agree that we absolutely achieved what we set out to create.

AL: With so many kinds of Bakugan available within the game, how did you approach balancing the combat?

KI: With painfully complex spreadsheets. The short version is that we really set out to pull as many parallel mechanics and strategy from the toy/trading card game (TCG) as we could. That was what we considered our foundation. Obviously, most of the game mechanics are not a direct 1:1, but they do have a lot of comparable aspects. We tried to look at each faction having an overarching gameplay style and abilities that are in line as possible with what you would find in the TCG. And inside each faction, we gave the Bakugan themselves subtle archetypes to really separate them. The Baku-Abilities were evaluated carefully against all the abilities inside of a given faction as well as comparable tier abilities across all the factions. In the end, nothing beats good old fashion playtesting and making fine tune adjustments based upon real-world gameplay experience and feedback.

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AL: Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is being developed exclusively on Switch, are there plans to bring it to other consoles in the future? What is about the Switch that makes it the console for this game?

KI: Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia was designed specifically for Nintendo Switch to offer hours of gameplay at home and on the go. There are currently no plans to bring Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia to Xbox or PlayStation.

AL: Can someone who isn’t currently caught up with the anime jump into Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia and still understand what is going on? How prominent is the single-player campaign in terms of content?

KI: Absolutely! This is a great question. We always set out to make the game accessible to both existing fans of Bakugan as well as people new to the Bakugan universe. Several us team members were new to Bakugan when we first started development and instantly became huge fans ourselves. We truly believe that even if you don’t know anything about Bakugan now, you will be able to pick up the game and not only have fun with it as a game but also become a fan of Bakugan in general.

That’s one of the reasons that we created an original story arc that has shout outs to the anime but doesn’t require you to know what’s going on. If you watch the show, you’ll pick up on some bigger story beats that connect loosely to season 2 and the appearance of Dan Kouzo of the Awesome Brawlers in our tutorial system, but it definitely won’t limit your understanding or enjoyment if you aren’t familiar. It’s also why we wanted to make sure that the player is playing as their own uniquely created persona. It’s an RPG after all and what better way to play than as the virtual “you” that you create.

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AL: Can we expect to maybe see a Shantae cameo? Perhaps her logo on a shirt? Or any other nods to WayForward titles?

KI: Sorry, Shantae will not be visiting you in Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia. We love the passion our fans have for her and the IP though!

AL: Since I have the chance, I’m just going to ask, launching a game so close to the next-generation of consoles, does WayForward have plans to develop games on the new hardware? Anything you can tease?

KI: We don’t have anything to announce yet, but anyone familiar with WayForward knows that we love to be involved with new hardware. We’re always excited for new challenges and experiences.

AL: Is there anything you’d like to tell fans looking forward to the release of Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia?

KI: As I was mentioning before when the development team first took this project on, there were several of us that were new to Bakugan. We were all instantly sold on what an awesome brand this is and the potential it has for entering the video game space. We are now fans just like you and believe that you will see our passion and appreciation for all aspects of Bakugan really come out in the game. Whether you’re just a fan of the show or just a fan of the toy/TCG or new to Bakugan all together, we truly believe that there is something there for everyone. We’ll see you online!

Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia is available now on Nintendo Switch, you can also check out our review.

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.