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The Battle Cats POP! (3DS) artwork

The Battle Cats POP! (3DS) review

"The Battle Cats POP! boasts enough content to keep cat fiends busy and delighted for dozens of hours."

The Battle Cats POP! fits most conveniently within the "tower defense" genre, which I have learned I have difficulty resisting. So when I recently was asked if I wanted to play and review the game, I jumped at the opportunity like a Jack Russell Terrier that ate donuts for breakfast. Unfortunately for me and my dreams of a massive audience, my launch day review plans fell apart. As it turns out, the game simply has too much content for someone like me to reasonably explore in a hurry. This article, posted most of a week after the masses probably care, will have to suffice.

In the preceding paragraph, I tossed out a simile that referenced a canine. That was very sloppy of me, wasn't it? After all, I'm talking about a game that features felines. Specifically, it features an army of felines that are trying to take over the world. They attempt this from their secret base, located on the top screen's right side. When a round begins, funds start slowly accumulating as the "worker" cats do their thing, deep within the lair. Once you have the resources, you can send forth one of up to 10 different types of cat that you will have brought along with you. It will march against the enemy stronghold, located some distance to the left.

The goal within a stage is to demolish that enemy base, without giving your foes the chance to destroy yours first. So really, The Battle Cats POP! is a tower defense/tower offense hybrid. That's a fun dynamic. It feels a bit like a fancier take on tug-of-rope, since the tide of battle can turn quickly in either side's favor.

Remember how I said you can take up to 10 different types of cat with you into a stage? That number might seem fairly high, but it's merely a drop in the bucket. And the collection of cats you eventually get to choose from is definitely unique. Sure, there's a basic cat, but you might also bring one with a bazooka, or an ax, or one that is happily scrubbing itself in a tub full of water. You know, just like every cat you've ever known. Some of the options get even more ludicrous than that. For instance, there's "Garter Cat," which looks like a pair of sexy legs garbed in a garter. You can tell the shape is actually a cat because there is a face at the very top, in place of a navel. Over the course of your time with the game, you'll find dozens of different unit varieties, and each can be upgraded to a second form. The descriptions are fairly bonkers at times, as well. The Bondage Cat NEO, which is bound and blindfolded and gagged, "wants more damage" and "happily takes a beating anytime."

So the game is very Japanese, and the units rarely feel like anything you would typically expect to find in a release of this sort. They're more than just window dressing, though. You will face different types of resistance, so it's important--particularly when you attempt the later stages--to bring along the right crew. You might go up against black enemies, which are strong against your conventional firepower, or red ones, or metal ones. If you don't have a team that is adept at quickly dismantling each variety, you're in for a world of hurt.

Of course, you can potentially try again right away, if your first attempt fails. The Battle Cats POP! is an updated version of a mobile title that launched in North America in 2014, which means some elements of the free-to-play original are still in place. For instance, you have to spend "cat food" to purchase temporary upgrades that give you an advantage in battle, or to more quickly gain a bunch of extra experience points with which to upgrade your units. And if you run out of energy, you'll have to consume more cat food to quickly restore it, unless you're ready to wait a few hours. Each time you clear a new stage, though, you gain more of that currency, and sometimes it will be offered entirely at random or as a reward for signing in for the day. As long as you're frugal with your chow, you'll be able to play as much as you want without having to sit through any delays. There actually are no microtransactions at all, despite the fact that the original mobile release will let you spend as much as $99.99 at a whack.

Although microtransactions have been stripped out of this port and the parceling out of cat food has (I assume) been made more generous, the act of unlocking passive upgrades--which do important things like allow your cats to produce more revenue within a stage, or attack more ferociously--is still overly tedious. The way it works is that you have to clear a group of stages. Randomly, a treasure may drop. Once you snag all of the treasures within a group, you get the boost, and you can improve the bonus even further if you claim "superior" grades of treasure. If you want to do this without spending cat food on an item that guarantees such a drop, it could take quite some time. You might get lucky and score the desired trinket after clearing a stage only a time or two. Alternatively, you might have to clear it a staggering 50 times, depleting energy on each attempt. 50 isn't an arbitrary number that I pulled out of thin air, either. On two separate occasions, I actually cleared a stage 50 times before getting the desired drop.

Even once you unlock the best treasures, you will eventually run into adversaries that kick your butt, in which case your best option is to return once you have recruited more units (from a capsule machine that might give you nothing but garbage on most attempts). And of course, a lot of those units are fairly toothless until you have spent a bunch of experience points to upgrade them. In other words, you're going to have to sink a lot of time into the game if you want to face--and triumph over--its greatest challenges.

Most of that time will likely be spent chipping away at the game's standard campaign, which is broken into several chapters. Each one contains 50 destinations, along with brief story scripts at the start and conclusion that are super cheesy. That's clearly intentional, but my point is that you shouldn't play this game about cats taking over the world if what you're looking for is a super nuanced and satisfying plot. Just in case that somehow wasn't clear from the start.

If you do venture beyond the campaign, there's a versus mode so you can create or join a game with a local rival. Otherwise, you can attempt a "Challenge" mode which rewards a strong performance with extra XP and rare tickets for the capsule machine. Neither of those options really change how the game plays, though, and I had a surprisingly difficult time finding anyone local who felt like playing a tower defense game with me.

Let's suppose for a second that you like tower defense games more than my friends do, though. Maybe you also like cats. And perhaps you like quirky artwork and humor. Now, suppose you buy The Battle Cats POP! for your Nintendo 3DS, because it seems like the sort of title that caters to those particular interests. I'm not saying that such a purchase will definitely satisfy you, but I do believe it's worth the risk. If nothing else, the experience should keep you busy until the real feline invasion that we all know has to happen eventually...


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (July 03, 2016)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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dirtsheep posted May 16, 2018:

Oh Boy. I remember Battle Cats. Sadly, I deleted it to make room on my 3DS, or I would tell you the name of my favorite beastie, which had a cat torso on the top, sort of a bust like Beethoven or somesuch, and some very feminine legs underneath. These two sections of one creature moved at different speeds, somehow, across the screen. Some very satisfying battles in this deceptively simple title.

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