Monday, March 18, 2013

First Impressions: BIT.TRIP.SAGA (3DS) Part I: Beat, Core & Void

BIT.TRIP.SAGA is an amazing compilation of the first six games in the BIT.TRIP series developed by Gaijin Games and released by Aksys, with Runner2 having been released a few weeks ago at the end of February (2013).  Additionally, as all the games in this series are available on various platforms, my review will only focus on how they play on the 3DS without comparing how they play on any other platform. Additionally, since this game is broken down into six separate games, I will review them as such although I will be covering the first three games in the series, Beat, Core and Void now and Part II of this review (Friday Edition) will cover Runner, Fate and Flux.

Beat is the first game in the series, pseudo featuring Commander Video.  Beat plays a lot like Pong on steroids and a healthy dose of crack.  You're a paddle on the left side of the screen hitting back balls/pixels of various sizes, colors and sounds against an invisible foe who has an infinite supply of said ball/pixels.  The game can be controlled with either the stylus or the joystick, although I can't see using the joystick for some of the precise movements that are required for the game.  I'm sure there are people out there who prefer the joystick, but this guy, not at all.

After you successfully hit back enough beats and you fill up a meter at the top of the screen, you advance from HYPER to MEGA, MEGA to SUPER, and SUPER to ULTRA, which means that the music becomes more complex and more catchy, you also receive an increased score multiplyer, but that almost seems secondary while being assaulted relentlessly by a near never ending supply of beats.  It also means that the game tries to mess with you more, distracting you from successfully hitting back the beats.  For example, once you start playing MEGA, every time a beat bounces of anything, little pixel fireworks emit from the beat.  Eventually your screen can be filled with very distracting pixels, although it's still very possible to un-focus your eyes and yet, still focus on the beats that are flying at you.

The 3D effect in this game is subtle, focusing mainly on the score and information above the main game play.  The background, which is usually rotating scenes of interstellar-ness.  I've only run into a couple instances when the 3D effect became distracting, but I felt that that was part of the game, that that was it's intended purpose.  The music too blends in very well the action, which is not at all distracting.

After about nine stages, there is a Boss battle, which are fun and aggravating at the same time.  I've only made it past the first boss and to about the third or forth stage in the second level.  I die every time and by "die," I mean that I let too many beats past the paddle.

Core is the second game in the series and so far, the most difficult of the games in the collection.  In this game, you play as a "Plus" sign in the center of the screen and try to "catch" beats as the come flying at/past you.  To "catch" these beats, you hold the directional pad in the direction to create a net-like-thing then activate the net by pressing "A."  The net is only active for the 1/2 second after/while you press A.

In Core, I've found that I have a very hard time keeping up with the beats as they come flying toward the net area and activating the net in time.  I frequently find myself about a half second behind and my brain cannot keep up with where I'm supposed to have the net activated.

The 3D effect, from what I've been able to tell, is not very noticeable, although maybe that's because I'm too focused on not dying faster than I actually am.  This is definitely going to be a game that will take a lot of patience and practice, if I don't get too frustrated.

Void, being the third installment in the series and I feel that, aside from maybe Runner, is the most original game here.  In Void you play as a black hole, "void" type object, absorbing black beats that fly across the screen while avoiding white beats.  As you collect the black beats, your black ball/hole/void grows in size, making it easier to catch black beats, but harder to avoid white beats.  But that's where the "pop" comes in.

Did I forget to mention the "pop" ability?  Popping is what you do when you feel like you've become too big to avoid the white beats and it makes you your default size.  Popping also advances the music, adding additional tones and rhythms to the beats when they're absorbed, as well as progressing through the HYPER - MEGA - SUPER - ULTRA levels of personal development.

The 3D effect is pretty minimal, bringing out the void and beats while keeping the score, which scrolls in the background throughout the game separate and the ever changing color background in the very background.  So you have three distinct and noticeable layers.

I can still only get to stage 1-3 consistently and end up dying in roughly the same place each time.  It's only a little bit frustrating, but no more than say, frequently dying during Mega Man 2.

Up until now, I haven't brought up a feature in these games called the "Nether."  The Nether is exactly what it sounds like, a nether region apart from the main game, but the same at the same time.  In every game, except Runner, you are seamlessly sent to the Nether when you either miss too many beats (some of the games have a meter that fills up, which will decrease down to HYPER and then to Nether) or come in contact with too many negative/white beats in the case of Void.  The Nether plays exactly as the game you're currently playing except that that all color is gone except black and white.  All music is stopped as well except for a simple "beep" noise when you collect/hit a beat.  After enough successful hits, you're returned to the game, again seamlessly.  It's a pretty cool idea and executed really well.

Part II's review (up on Friday March 22nd) will cover the next three games that come packed with BIT.TRIP.SAGA, being Runner, Fate and Flux, so look for that article to come out sometime on Friday.  Happy Monday everyone.

Beating Emptiness

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