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
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
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.