Who could have imagined that a series of games centered around simplistic game design ideas would have been one of my only reasons for ever using the WiiWare service. A main character who is nothing more than a black rectangle, graphics that pay homage to the early days of the Atari, combined with a kickin’ soundtrack, and a difficulty that puts even the most hardcore of gamers to the test, made these games an absolute must-own for any Wii owner with a taste for good, quality titles. It also happened to feature music by renown Chiptune artists like Nullsleep and Anamanaguchi.
What’s better is that now every single Bit.Trip game is available on a single 3DS cart, that you can take with you and play anywhere. That’s quite a combination for success. I’ll go over each game and how it holds up on the 3DS, and then give my take on the overall package.
The Bit.Trip that started it all has you controlling a paddle on the left side of the screen (see Pong) repelling back squares as they fly towards you in patterns that get harder and harder the further you progress, which also play tunes that complete each song that plays during each level. The better you do, the better the quality of the music becomes (which goes for all the games). The game controls great, if not better with the stylus than it did with the Wii Remote. The 3D effect works and doesn’t distract from the gameplay, though I honestly found myself having it mostly turned off, only because the framerate is slightly better when it’s not used.
Core, once again, relies on rhythm-based gameplay that places your core in the middle of the screen, having the player fire beams in one of four directions (up, down, left and right) to destroy patterns of blocks. These blocks start off easy enough but quickly get much harder–to the point where level memorization almost becomes crucial. If you find yourself getting too overwhelmed, you do have a few bombs that clear the screen. Out of all the Bit.Trip games, Core was definitely my least favorite. Again, the 3D effect wasn’t needed; it did nothing to make the experience any better.
Void was the first of the series to allow full 8-direction movement. Players would take control of a black circle that grew in size as you collected black pellets and tried to avoid oncoming white pellets. The game is controlled with the circle pad which sometimes makes for awkward and slow movements, and would have controlled much better with the use of the stylus and touchscreen. A lack of any explanation of the game could confuse some players at first, since you’re not told whether there is any sort of score bonus while being big in size, before pressing a button and deflating. This was one of the hardest games to play on the 3DS due to the small screen. Unless you’re playing in a dimly lit area so you can see the screen well, the black pellets you’re supposed to collect will disappear into the background. So assuming you’re in good lighting conditions, the 3D effect is actually beneficial since you can easily tell the pellets from the background.
Easily the best of all the Bit.Trip games, and definitely one of the meatiest. I can see myself justifying getting this collection for Runner alone. Commander Video is on the run, to the right to be exact. This is by far the most rhythm based of all the games, as every jump, slide and kick is a note that accompanies the song of the current level. This is one hell of a challenge, and expect to retry a lot. Thankfully Runner will just simply take you back to the beginning of the level, rather than relying lives and continues and making you start over from the very beginning. Make it through each level with all the pick-ups and you’ll be rewarded with bonus level that harks back to Atari’s Pitfall. A boss encounter awaits in the last stage of each world that once again will throw everything you’ve learned and conquered in the previous levels. The 3D effect looked great but I found myself once again turning it off because that smoother framerate made it that much better to play.
The shooter (or shmup) of the Bit.Trip series, Fate is yet another oddity that manages to be extremely challenging yet absolutely rewarding. Commander Video is on a set path that the player navigates back and forth. All the while you’re trying to dodge incoming projectiles from enemies and taking these enemies down with some firepower of your own. The main difference between this and other shmups is that you’re constantly attached to a winding rail, meaning you have to be smart when dodging projectiles since you can’t move anywhere you want. The control scheme also works great as the circle pad moves Video along the rail, and the stylus aims where he shoots. Other indie game characters join as temporary powerups, such as Super Meat Boy and Mr. Robotube.
The series comes full circle as Flux goes mostly back to its roots. This time the paddle rests on the right side and players must repel and absorb certain pellets, while avoiding others. The difficulty is ramped up fairly early, and Flux will truly put your skills to the test. Since it shares many similarities with Beat, the gameplay feels very familiar and therefore a bit disappointing for those that were expecting a completely new experience, but the challenge (and the music) makes it totally worth playing through.
The Entire Package
The interface that holds all six games together is just as minimalistic as the games themselves. Not really offering much help on how each game is played, some players are bound to scratch their heads a bit, but let’s be honest, people that are considering this package are most likely acquainted with Commander Video and just want his adventures on the go. The 3D effect in each game isn’t overly necessary, and you can just as well play each game without the need to turn them on. Bit.Trip Saga is an awesome collection of Commander Video’s adventures, though extremely light on extra content (even the Wii version of Bit.Trip Complete had the soundtrack CD included), the package is well worth for both fans, and players wanting to get familiar with the lo-fi hero.