4cr Plays – Bit.Trip Saga
Bit.Trip Saga is a collection of all 6 Wiiware Bit.Trip releases from Gaijin Games, in a portable package ready to take on a colorful journey of self-discovery… or something. The game is available at retail or digitally from the 3DS eshop for your convenience. Bit. Trip Saga is a game which those who are up for the challenge will definitely enjoy.
You couldn’t be faulted for thinking that Bit.Trip Saga on 3DS is the same as Bit.Trip.Complete on Wii, but they are actually two different compilations with different content. The Wii release has an extra set of 120 challenges (20 for each game) which are not available in the 3DS release. Each challenge is a short 20-40 second section with a higher difficulty level meant as the ultimate test for Bit.Trip experts. The 3DS version, on the other hand, features the core content from all 6 original Bit.Trip games with new, easier controls and 3D visuals which really make this a trip to remember. The fact that it is on a portable system means you can sneak in a few minutes of play time here and there.
Perhaps the best place to start talking about Bit. Trip Saga is by discussing Bit.Trip.Beat, the game that started it all.
Beat has you control a paddle on the left side of the screen to bounce back or destroy all the dots making their way towards you. In a way, it is like playing a high speed game of single-player Pong (kids, go look that one up or ask your parents). Bit. Trip. Beat is also set to a very nice soundtrack that actually plays a huge role in the game. At first the music seems to be far away and you can’t really tell that it is synced to the on-screen action. As you catch more and more of the incoming dots, a bar at top is filled and you eventually “upgrade” to a higher level that bumps up the music and the graphics. It is then that the real fun beings. If you miss several dots you are downgraded back to Hyper mode and can eventually be sent to a very bad place call the Nether where everything is black and white, there is no music, and if you can’t fill up the top bar to go back to Hyper mode and end up missing more dots, you get a game over.
The 3D visuals in Beat really pop-out when you’re at the higher MEGA level and can definitely overwhelm new players, but I found that they helped me get “in the zone”, and the stylus controls are easier to handle than twisting the Wiimote on the Wii. Just be sure to stay away from the optional analog controls for Beat since they are too sensitive and will send your paddle flying back and forth to each end of the screen!
Core changes things around slightly by placing you in charge of a plus sign in the middle of the screen, and you must hit one of the four cardinal directions on the D-Pad while also pressing a button to send a beam of light to hit the dots making their way from one side of the screen to the other at different speeds and angles. Dot variants are introduced in later levels (dots that swirl differently, dots that move clockwise and lineup at another direction, flashing dots like those in Beat, and so on) and your reflexes must be sharp if you don’t want to get a game over in a matter of seconds. Some people feel that Core is the “weak” game of the series but after playing it on Wii, and playing it again for this review, I have to say I still like its quirky mechanics.
Void completely changes the formula from the first two games and introduces us to a small black figure you must move around the entire screen and grab black dots while avoiding white ones. It also throws in an extra twist for good measure: every single black dot you grab makes you bigger! You can imagine how this could be a problem when you’re 10 times your initial size and there is a swarm of white dots coming your way, which is why you must press the A button to revert back to your initial size. The bigger you are when you press the A button, the more points you’ll get, so the game revolves around getting as big as possible while carefully moving away from white dots. If you’re hit by a single one of the rogue white dots however, you revert to your original size, lose the potential points, and are one dot closer to being sent to the black and white Nether mode before your game is over. Void introduces checkpoints within each level you can continue from if you get a game over. Restarting from a checkpoint does however erase your score and you can’t just continue forever (you must spent a credit to continue… how retro-chic!).
After Void changed the formula, Runner took it to the back yard and buried it under the dog house. As the name implies, Runner is a side-scrolling platformer where Commander Video can’t stop and must always be on the move. You have to jump, slide and kick your way through each of the levels while collecting Gold bars and trying not to die. Unlike the other games in the series, this one features several levels broken up into 3 distinct “zones” that help to bring all the levels together under one theme. You can get even unlock extra retro-tastic levels by collecting every single gold bar in each level. Enemies, hazards, bottomless pits and springs have come along for the ride and will do their best to make this one fast-paced, hectic, and extreme adventure. Runner has been one of the most popular games in the Bit.Trip series which is why it will be getting a sequel (the aptly named Runner 2) soon.
Fate is one of my favorites from the series since you’re tasked with controlling Commander Video as he moves around the screen on rails (the line you can see in the trailer above) while shooting at anything that moves and avoiding a flurry of enemy fire coming your way. To help in this adventure, you can pick up temporary allies during each level that will grant you new abilities which give you a small edge against the army of enemies out to get you. Every defeated enemy or hazard will drop an item you must grab to level up in order to establish some breathing room if you can’t avoid all the enemy fire. Similarly to the other Bit. Trip games, the higher your current level, the more shots you can withstand before arriving at the dreaded Game Over screen. Luckily, you are at least provided with a short “can’t hurt me while I’m flashing from a hit” window for you to avoid more enemy fire while you position yourself in a spot from which to counterattack.
Fittingly, the series comes to an end in the same way it began: with a paddle on one side of the screen doing its best to not let any dots pass. Things are different now since the paddle is on the right side of the screen, and as is the case with Beat, you can now control flux by using the stylus in the touch screen or by using the Analog stick. As with Beat however, it is best if you use the stylus. Flux mixes things up by bringing elements and cues from the other Bit.Trip games, such as things to avoid, mid-level checkpoints, and more. This combination provides a back to basics feel with just a dash of new approach, and it works well to close the book on this 6 game tale.
All in all, Bit.Trip Saga is a very fun (and hard) game that 3DS owners need to experience. I do have to mention that there is some unexpected slowdown in Core, Flux and Runner that definitely wasn’t a deal breaker for me personally. If you’re thrown of by the slowdown, you can turn off 3D and frame rates return to normal. There is a lot of content available for the asking price, and you will be coming back to the games to increase your personal high score for each level within each game. You can play every game right from the start which is great for those that might already own a game or two of the Bit.Trip series.
If you like the music, you can pick the soundtrack to all of these games (and for Runner 2) here for as little as $1 for the first six soundtracks, $10 adds the Runner 2 soundtrack before it is even available to the public OR go to $20 (or higher) to also add a Steam copy of Runner 2 to the mix! If you want to take advantage of this deal hurry up, the promotion ends in 5 days.
Bit.Trip Saga is available at $14.99 in the 3DS eshop store and for a limited time (expires on February 20), you can pick the game for only $9.99! That price makes it easy to justify buying the game, and I recommend adding it to your collection today!