previews\ Oct 20, 2007 at 8:00 pm

WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2008 - NDS - Preview

E for All 2007 Preview

Nintendo DS is a quirky platform. Its touch screen capabilities have led to new and unique ideas while forcing developers of sequels to think up new ways to play old kinds of games. Thus far, the fighting genre has been ignored on the DS. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is on its way, but it will use buttons for most combat elements, not the touch screen.

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 will be the first DS game to break the mold. It uses the touch screen for almost every action.

Most gamers may hear that and cringe. I wasn’t too excited about the idea either. But the developers have come up with a clever way to utilize scratch and draw-based gameplay. They’ve built a game that is not only quick action, but is actually faster than the current builds of the Wii and PS2 versions of the game.

One. Two. Three.

The game begins like any other wrestler. Smackdown’s graphics are a bit blocky compared to the other versions (even PSP, whose graphics are surprisingly smooth). The show was too noisy to hear the sound, but you can bet it will sound very close to its console counterparts.

Approach an opponent and the game changes drastically. Three numbered icons appear, and each represents a different move. Touch one and the gameplay interaction symbols appear. It could be anything from an arrow pointing toward a specific part of a wrestler’s body (in which case you draw a line across the arrow), a blinking icon that must be tapped immediately, or another kind of arrow that must be scratched several times in order to fill its meter.

Successfully perform any of the aforementioned actions and your wrestler will start to pound away at his opponent. Only the male wrestlers were available in this build, and only multiplayer and quick play modes could be found.

Similar to how the Wii version links chains and grapple moves with additional swings, the DS version links additional moves with added touch features. Suppose your first move involves a few scratches toward the top right side of the screen. Next, a circular arrow symbol may appear, telling the player to quickly draw a circle (or more likely one and one-half circles, as is usually the case). The symbols are kept simple enough for the player to respond precisely, but disappear quickly to give the player some challenge. Reversals are not easy, especially if your stylus skills aren’t as fine-tuned as your button-tapping abilities.

Evasion moves take another scratch form: left and right. But you can’t just randomly scratch the screen. You must touch the arrow on the bottom corner of the screen and draw back and forth very quickly in order to dodge a move in time. It’s very easy to perform – the hard part is trying to perform the move before the option disappears.

Smackdown vs. Raw is a true touch-based experience. As the fastest wrestler shown at E for All (and one of the few being planned for release this fall), the DS version could take the lead as the best wrestling game in November.




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