Review – BIT.TRIP SAGA (3DS)

a NintendoFuse game review by Steve (hattrick)

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Game – BIT.TRIP Saga (Rated E for Everyone)
Version – Nintendo 3DS
Obtained – Review copy from Aksys Games

When Gaijin Games released BIT.TRIP BEAT game in 2006 for WiiWare, fans of retro and rhythm games were pleased with end product, despite its difficulty. In fact, it eventually ported to iOS, Windows, and MacOS. Five other titles eventually came out under the BIT.TRIP header, and they chronicle Commander Video’s adventures. From BEAT to FLUX, these six titles have moved from WiiWare to the Nintendo 3DS. Does the third-dimension and portability help BIT.TRIP SAGA?

Story & Plot
The BIT.TRIP games are said to take players are a journey with Commander Video from the beginning of life to the end. While the developers make this claim, most players will not catch this philosophical stance. Instead they will see six different games that have strong similarities but, typically, different gameplay. So, in terms of a story and plot, BIT.TRIP does not have much of one. However, there are over 25 cutscenes that help you understand a bit more about Commander Video’s adventure. In terms of critiques, there is not much to say, except that the story is not forced. Many might say this is a good thing, but I view it as a positive. For those that do not care, they have no problem jumping right into the game.

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Gameplay & Controls
Almost every game in the BIT.TRIP SAGA functions and plays differently. Because of that, I feel it is important to look at them all separately.

BIT.TRIP BEAT
The basic idea is to use a paddle on the left side of the screen to hit bits that are traveling at you from the right side. Think of this as a one-sided Pong game with some rhythm aspects. You can control the paddle with the Circle Pad or the stylus. I strongly recommend stylus controls, as it is much more fluid. The Circle Pad needs to be less stiff for a game like this. BEAT is fun, but it is also quite challenging.

BIT.TRIP CORE
In a time when rhythm games were focused much on hitting the right button at the right time based on a note-highway (i.e. Guitar Hero) or something similar, CORE took this idea in a different direction. Your goal is to use the control pad to hit up, down, left, or right in connection with the A button each time a bit passes in that direction. Trust me… It is just as complicated to play it than it is to explain it. If you are really into rhythm games, you will enjoy this. Others will quit and move on to something else.

BIT.TRIP VOID
This time, you can a black void around the screen in eight directions. Each black bit increases your size, while the white bits shrink you. Your goal is to finish each stage by collecting and cashing in your black bits. Instead of going with stylus controls, they stuck with the Circle Pad for VOID. In my opinion, this was not a smart move. As stated earlier, this makes controlling much more stiff. Because of this, it will take some time to get used to the controls. After that, if you are like me, you may find yourself doing better in this version than you do the WiiWare title.

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BIT.TRIP RUNNER
In a departure from the previous games, RUNNER allows you to control Commander Video in a side-scrolling rhythm platformer. As he is constantly running, you must control his jump, slide, kick, spring, and block with different buttons. As with BEAT and CORE, this is very rhythm focused, which helps you know the timing of each move. It feels very comfortable, and I see no problem with the controls or gameplay. RUNNER is my favorite out of the entire SAGA, because of the style, genre, and addictive nature of the game.

BIT.TRIP FATE
Moving back to Commander Video’s ship, FATE puts you in a side-scrolling somewhat rhythm-based shooter. However, in contrast to something like R-Type or Defender, you are attached to a rail that guides you through each level. The only reasons I can find for this are that it simulates the idea of fate, and it makes the game more challenging. Control with the Circle Pad to move and touch screen to shoot actually works very well. In fact, I found myself wishing there was some way I could play it on Wii in a similar fashion.

BIT.TRIP FLUX
Returning to the BEAT-style of gameplay, FLUX also moves your paddle to the right side of the screen. However, this is not the only change. FLUX combines several aspects of the other games (i.e. avoiding some bits, higher leveling up). All in all, it is a quick and frantic game with much going on. Similar to RUNNER, you do not see a “game over” screen, as you will just start that level over again right away. Because of this, FLUX has a similar addictive nature that keeps drawing you back in for more.

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Graphics & Sound
One of the highest praises the BIT.TRIP series has received is based on its interesting use of graphics and sound. The Nintendo 3DS versions do not take away from that in one way. In fact, they only add it. The added third-dimension helps separate the background from the foreground, which in extremely beneficial in games like RUNNER, where it had been occasionally difficult to tell what you must avoid and what was just there for aesthetics. You will still find yourself struggling at times, but the 3D usually helps. On top of that, the games looks just as good as they did on WiiWare. Even though they take a retro look, they look crisp and clean for today’s gamers.

Sound is where any rhythm-based game must succeed. Fortunately, BIT.TRIP provides a solid soundtrack. Similarly to the visuals, the sounds and music have a retro edge about them. It is definitely more than just a couple bleeps and bloops, as you can easily get caught up in the music. Having the ability to plug in some headphones makes it even better. There is a reason why they have released soundtracks for the BIT.TRIP series.

SCORE: 4 out of 5
BIT.TRIP SAGA is a great game. In fact, it is a great set of games. The only areas of critique are in the controls of VOID and the omission of online leader-boards. However, it is still a quality collection of six fantastic, but challenging, games. Fans of the WiiWare titles and those who have not even played a BIT.TRIP game should check into BIT.TRIP SAGA, as it is all the goodness of the WiiWare titles, but now on the go in 3D.

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About the author:

Steve has been a Nintendo fan since the NES. He currently owns a NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, GameBoy, DS, DSi, 3DS, and 3DS XL. His favorite types of games are action platformers and multiplayer “party” games. Overall, he loves a game that is pure fun and pulls him in for hours, and if that can be shared with friends, it is even better.

Steve has been blogging for NintendoFuse since April 2008. He started off as an avid reader, and eventually was asked to jump on the team. Currently, he enjoys writing game reviews and sharing breaking news with the fans and readers. You will also find him on the forums as an admin.

Steve – who has written posts on NintendoFuse.


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