Saturday, September 10, 2011

Level Up: WarioWare: Touched!

I’m writing today’s review as a direct response to something I saw a lot online after the 2011 E3. At this year’s expo, Nintendo announced their upcoming game console; the Wii U. Among other things, this new console will feature a tablet like controller. What really bugged me were the people saying Nintendo was now jumping on the touch screen bandwagon. Oh really now? Let’s take a look at that claim: The Apple iPad, released April 2010, The Apple iPhone, unveiled in January 2007, 1st Generation iPod Touch launched September 2007, Sony PSP came out December 2004… and the Nintendo DS first came out in November of 2004. Before that, were there any touch screen made specifically for gaming? Nintendo isn’t jumping on a band wagon, they built it! Now to prove this point, I’ll be talking about a game that makes heavy use of the touch screen with WarioWare: Touched! For the Nintendo DS.

Nintendo’s WarioWare series of games is actually a selection of micro-games (games even smaller than mini-games): most of the time you’re required to do the simplest of tasks (such as pressing the right button quickly). That doesn’t sound challenging, but there are a few things that might mess you up. For example, you have a time limit (normally less than 5 seconds) so you gotta be quick. Also games come at such a rapid fire rate that it would break the momentum if they actually explain them to you. This means that you may mess up based on the fact that you’re given one word instructions, such as “poke”… “Poke what?” After you play each game, you’ll figure it out and this shouldn’t cause a problem again. What will cause the problem is the increasing speed and difficulty. No matter what mode you play in, eventually the speed will start getting faster. This means less time between micro-games and less time to complete them, which might make you panic into the wrong choice.

So that’s basically the series. WarioWare: touched! Brings the DS touch screen into the mix. The game will divide the micro-games into selections based on characters, and each character has an action that is constant throughout their games, such as poke, drag, rub, scribble, etc… This can make each section easier, since you’ll know basically what action you’ll need to do for each game (still, don’t get too comfortable). It’s all pretty fun and makes good use of the screen (and microphone for one character).

The art style is interesting and eclectic. What I mean by this is I don’t know how to describe this game’s look. Very few of the games actually look like each other: some use real life still images, other’s look anime inspired, you get something that looks out of clip art and some are basic pixels. The game’s menu does have an overall look like something from a 32-bit system, but the designs are odd: you can really tell it’s Japanese. It gives me the same feeling as seeing someone walking around in a morphsuit; I find it odd, but I just don’t quite know why. Though of course, I’m not saying it’s of inferior quality.

Speaking of the good quality of this game, the sounds are really neat. Each character has a selection of things they shout between games depending on how you did, and they all have really cool (DJ like) effects on them. Along with that, the music is pretty cool, all capturing the feel of whatever you’re looking at, whether it be simple, retro, funny, cute or (of course) weird.

If I had to describe WarioWare: Touched! In a word it would be weird. Weird, but in an organized way, the type of weirdness done on purpose; like the developers Intelligent Systems knew they were making something weird. It’s also fun, quirky and a great game at showing you what DS could do in a quick manner. If you like a lot of those iPhone games, there will be some microgames that might give you similar feelings to Doodle Jump, Fruit Ninja and even Angry Birds (but much shorter and simpler of course). If you haven’t played any WarioWare game, or have a DS and are looking for something to really get the most use of its unique features, then I recommend this. I give WarioWare: Touched! 8.5 levels out of 10.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Level Up: Kabuki - Quantum Fighter

It’s now time for me to talk about my favorite kind of game; the 2D Platformers that no one ever talks about. I mean titles like Totally Rad, Lady Sia, B.O.B. and even Felix the Cat. If you have played this game, you’ll know by the name alone, because it’s just that unforgettable. Here it is: Kabuki Quantum Fighter. Think about that name; it will now stick with you along with Ninja Baseball Batman. Based on that name alone, I think this game will be awesome, but let’s take a closer look as I review Kabuki Quantum Fighter (I love saying that name) for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The game’s plot is a little hard to follow or make sense of really. It starts out in the year 2056, where everything in the world is pretty much controlled via networks. The bad guy seems to be a virus. However, it’s not clear if that’s the only enemy, and I’ll get to why in just a moment. The virus acts differently than any other the people have ever seen, as it seems to grow and adapt. The only chance the military has is a new device called Image Transfer System, which will allow a human being to be (quote) “converted to raw binary data, making it possible to travel easily inside computer circuits”, (similar to what I understand of Tron). Scott O’Connor (possible Mike from my last review’s grand-father) is chosen due to his superb physical and mental condition.

Now, let’s ignore the derivative plot and just concentrate on the problems this game has presenting it. Things are never really made clear or explained in this game. For example, I already mentioned that I’m not clear on who the bad guy is. Our focus is on taking down the virus in the levels, but then you get cut scenes where it looks like people are trying to steal Scott’s body. We don’t get a clear motive since we have to cut to one of the virtual levels. Another thing is the whole Kabuki aspect; the only line that might explain it in game is “What form will [the human mind] take when it’s reassembled inside the computer?” I even checked out the instruction booklet, and none of them explain “Kabuki”. Finally, on a fan site, the transcript for the Famicom game loosely explains it: turns out one of Scott’s ancestors was a Kabuki. Still, I don’t get why the computer chose to make him one to fight the virus. These utter lacks of explanations just leave me confused when I try to figure it all out.

As I’ve said in the first part of the review, this is pretty much your typical side-scrolling, adventure, platformer, (whatever you want to call it) NES game: move left to right, beat enemies, blah blah. To switch things up, you have the ability to grab on certain platforms to climb or perform acrobatics. This ability is actually put to good use in some well-designed levels. You also get a variety of projectile attacks you can switch through to break the monotony. While I’m on the subject of attacking, since you’re a kabuki, you’re main attack will be a hair whip. *Willow’s Whip My Hair pays*. Yeah, couldn’t resist. But I want to point out how you hear the hair swoosh noise. It’s pretty cool, but when you use your ducked punch or the hanging kick, you also hear it… Odd.

And now the only thing left to talk about is the jumping. Like I said, you can pull off some cool acrobatics, but the physics are off. A common problem in video games comes with moving platforms, where if you jump while on them, you’ll still be moving in that direction. True, it would sway you a bit in real life, but when you’re playing a game where you can change direction mid-air, it’s just annoying. But, it’s a common problem for that time, so I don’t hold it against it. What I do kind of blame on this game is the hang time for the jumps. Unlike most games with an even ascend and descend, you go up and fall fast, but stay up longer at the summit of the jump. It’s not painfully obvious, but it noticeable enough that it can screw with your timing if you’re trying to hit enemies by mid-air.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter is a good game for what it is. The story is derivative and confusing, and the game play has some minor flaws that can make for some frustrating moments. However, it is a lot of fun. The levels are well designed and make good use of your skills, and it rewards those who make use of the multiple abilities. Know what this game reminds me of? Batman on NES (odd, since this was made under HAL, not Sunsoft); it has the switching around for ranged weapons, half-explained cut-scenes, the bosses have the same feel and the graphics even look like it. This is just a little bit worse all around, but if you thought that Batman game was great, you’ll at least like Kabuki Quantum Fighter. I give Kabuki Quantum Fighter 7.5 levels out of 10.