Battle Chef Brigade is a bit of a whacky game. Set in a fantastical world, fanatic about food, you follow the story and adventure of Mina, a young girl stuck in her parents’ village restaurant and wanting something more in life. She wants to join the titular Battle Chef Brigade, an elite group of adventurers/chefs combination who are famous throughout the land. With any hopes of fulfilling her ambitions she runs away from home to the capital city where trials for new members are taking place.
It all goes rather smoothly until the third chapter, at which point the story takes a turns and twists around a little. I won’t spoil it of course, but don’t expect to be competing in the competition for the whole game.
I don’t usually go into the style and presentation of a game until much later in a review, but I feel it’s so vitally important to Battle Chef Brigade, I’m going to get it out of the way now. It’s totally what makes Battle Chef Brigade an excellent and wholly charming title.
The writing is spot on. Characters are lovable, relatable and you feel at home with all of them instantly, which for me is an incredibly rare experience outside of games with huge budgets.
While I wouldn’t claim the story to be something overtly special or compelling, it just has the charm, humour and delivery that gives you a nice fuzzy feeling inside. I felt like I was playing a new Studio Ghibli movie, something along the lines of Kiki’s Delivery Service or Howl’s Moving Castle. Indeed, the young, female protagonist seems to fall in line with much of what Hayao Miyazaki strives for in his movies and I’d be completely shocked if the developers claimed to not have taken huge inspiration from the titan of Japanese animation.
Going further, despite looking a Japanese game with its absolutely glorious art style and character animation, Battle Chef Brigade is in fact made by a Western studio. There are some gorgeous water colour scenes as well as fantastic animation for the characters, all of it is hand drawn and is marvellous. It’s a stunningly gorgeous game.
The fact it’s a western game has no doubt helped with the writing which has been spared being put through the translation grinder and losing what probably made it good in its original language, something which is unfortunately common in most mid-tier localisations.
Now, as good as the game looks and sounds, let’s head over to the most important part of the game: the gameplay. Battle Chef Brigade is one of those genre mash ups where there are two very different genres slammed together into separate portions of gameplay. You spend your time between finding ingredients and cooking them up into something special and this is where the gameplay is conveniently divided.
The food gathering is where you play the side scrolling segment. It’s very action based. It’s probably leaning towards the secondary genre, rather than being totally equal to the cooking. As you enter a cooking duel you must immediately leave your stove and enter into the wild, filled with animals and monsters. These monsters are your ingredients. At least bits of them are. The Y button is your general attack button which can be combo’d as well as doing some slightly more advanced techniques by using the directional buttons like an uppercut and stomp. You also have a magic bar which can produce magical attacks and, like the normal attack, can do different moves depending on the direction you press. Magic is usually the safer option by far as you can attack from a distance but your magic bars runs out very quickly, thankfully regenerates on its own.
It’s not the most in depth of action to be honest, arenas are kept smallish, a few levels high and don’t go very deep. Not that they should. With anymore than a single mouth to feed, you don’t want to get too lost in the action especially with the panic inducing timer. The environments do change once in a while. Sometimes you’re high in the sky, a normal field or in caves and each environment offers different creatures and different ingredients to pick up.
You can only pick up a handful of ingredients at a time and so you’ll, more often than not, have to make multiple trips to get enough ingredients to please multiple judges and create a quality meal for each. It’s a very tactical and risk versus reward balance. I found that more often than not I tested my luck in that regard.
Even though the two genres are very much interconnected, it’s the cooking that really counts the most. Cooking is an interesting take on the match three puzzle game. Each of the ingredients has certain elements within it; earth, water and fire. Matching three of these together, they will combine to create a more powerful version of than element, combining three of those powered up ones will create an even more powerful element which improve the points your meal is worth by quite a lot.
You can add ingredients by your own choosing and you twist four elements at a time with the back shoulder buttons. This counts as ‘stirring’ the ingredients to make the elements match up with each other. You only have are small area to work with so everything is a little claustrophobic and you can’t just add ingredients willynilly as you can only get rid of elements if you combine them. I like this constraint as it really makes you need to consider things thoroughly.
This is especially for the fact that your judges, who will give you points in comparison to to your rival in the duel, have certain requirements they would like. Some judges want a more water based dish, while others may desire something with more fire. If you have more than one judge to please then you need to cook separate dishes for them. This allows more variety but you’re still kept to a theme. Without regard for how many judges there are, the chairman will present to you an ingredient that must be present in all of the dishes, no matter which elemental side they need to be on.
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the mechanics though, the game is quick to add a spanner to the works once in a while, adding bones to the mix, poisonous patches and degrading elements. Maybe it does get a little complicated at times, but they don’t throw everything in at once.
It’s not always a cooking standoff however, you can take odd jobs between competition to do fighting challenges, puzzles which involve stirring ingredients, then a fast paced pattern matching mini game where you need to create the combination of ingredients shown. They’re not necessary but you can earn money from the to buy equipments and extra ingredients to take with you in battle.
While it may not be the longest game in the world I think it’s still definitely long enough for the price tag as well as the superb production value gone into it. Battle Chef Brigade may seems an odd fit for the Nintendo Switch. Priced well within the high tier range of eShop titles maybe together with the premise, it will make you think twice. After all, it’s the kind of mash up whimsicality you’d probably find in a cheap but cheerful 3DS eShop game. You know the kind. The ones where you adventure out but also run a blacksmiths or item shop on the side. But don’t let that thought get in the way as Battle Chef Brigade is an excellent title for the Nintendo Switch.
Overall, Battle Chef Brigade may be a hard sell to some. The concept and premise of the game may not be the most enticing for the hardcore gamer; cooking, match-three puzzler, Japanese anime style; but diversity and something different is really what we need these days. And what Battle Chef Brigade does is done well, even if the meal judgements are often on the questionable side. The presentation is what makes its special in my eyes though. I may be overusing the word charming and gorgeous, but that’s exactly what it is. Some nicely written characters, a bit of humour, excellent animation, well delivered voice acting and a story, that while nothing special, will keep you on board throughout thanks to the cosy feeling it gives. I didn’t have particularly high expectations of Battle Chef Brigade going into it, but within an hour I was hooked right until the end and I’m sure you will be too.
Game provided by Adult Swim Games