Review: BIT.TRIP SAGA (3DS)

BIT.TRIP for your trip

It's impossible to deny just how successful Gaijin Games has been at capturing the old-school flavor of video games from our past and their ability to mould those sensibilities with modern technology. Their BIT.TRIP series has spawned some of the most popular downloads available on WiiWare and is now making a go at retail consumers via Wii and 3DS collections. BIT.TRIP SAGA on 3DS offers up all six BIT.TRIP titles, adds in the depth of a 3D presentation and packages the titles into one release that gamers can now take with them wherever they go.

Unlike BIT.TRIP COMPLETE on Wii, which includes 120 new challenges to take on, BIT.TRIP SAGA offers up only games and levels found in the original WiiWare releases. Even the menu layouts, for the most part, are the same. All six games are unlocked from the start, but you will have to play through each game's levels in order, just as you would in the originals. And while there are no online leaderboards either, SAGA does have a few new twists to offer.

The BIT.TRIP series has always been about old-school gaming conventions. From the Pong-influenced BEAT and FLUX to the side-scrolling platforming of RUNNER, each game has its own unique gameplay design. And while these techniques have been relegated to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in the past, the 3DS brings a whole new set of control schemes to the table, something that offers a rather nice twist for gamers who've already enjoyed the games on WiiWare.

BEAT and FLUX are the games that feature the most radically different controls. And while this might scare some people off, you'll be surprised at just how well the touchscreen works with them. Sliding the stylus up and down on the touchscreen offers a type of precision that feels very natural from the start and allows you the freedom to move around to different parts of the screen in order to find a comfortable spot to use. The developers have even tossed in the ability to use the Circle Pad, but this turn out to be more for novelty effect than any type of functional play control scheme.

CORE and RUNNER turn out to be the most familiar to the WiiWare releases, making use of the D-Pad and action buttons to execute their controls. So while you might not be getting the variation of the other games in the package, it's nice to know that the developers didn't try to fix something that wasn't broken and it really pays off in the end.

VOID and FATE are the titles that tend to fall into the middle of the old and new play controls. VOID uses the Circle Pad for movement controls and the A button to "pop." While this sounds very similar to the Wii Remote/Nunchuk controls, the Circle Pad does give it a bit of a unique feel. FATE also uses the Circle Pad for movement, but this time puts aiming/shooting controls on the touchscreen. FATE is easily the game that takes the most getting used to of the group, but once you come to grips with the new control tweaks, it actually works quite well.

You can't help but be impressed with the job Gaijin Games has done in bringing these games to the 3DS. Even having to adapt the controls to the 3DS hasn't done anything to take away from the enjoyment the games all have to offer. If anything, it's probably made them even more interesting. Couple all of this with a simple and intuitive menu interface, and you've got a solid collection for fans to sink their teeth into.

For the most part, the visuals of the six games have remained pretty much the same. There are a few minor differences here and there, but you'd almost have to play the games side-by-side with the Wii releases in order to notice any real changes. The depth that 3D brings to the table does a great job of making it much easier to differentiate what graphical elements are off in the background and what elements are in the field of play in the foreground, addressing a common complaint of the originals. It is worth noting that there are some rather sluggish frame rates, especially in the later levels of RUNNER, something rather surprising considering how relatively simplistic these games appear. (It does seem to help to turn off the 3D if it becomes too bothersome for you.)

Fans who loved the WiiWare soundtracks will be thrilled to hear that nothing has been changed in the trip over. Everything from the musical tracks to the sound effects are all identical, and if even there were a game that screamed for headphones, it's this one. All six games sound absolutely incredible through headphones and, when coupled with the 3D presentation, offer an extremely captivating experience.

Conclusion

The argument can be made that maybe Gaijin Games should have included the new challenges found in COMPLETE, and the lack of multiplayer and online leaderboards is a bit disappointing, but the new 3D coat of paint and portability are still solid selling points and ones that help make this collection worth the money for fans of the series. The new control variations offer a fresh spin on the games, and despite looking absolutely amazing on the small screen of the 3DS, the frame rate issues do end up bringing down the overall experience a bit. Ultimately, BIT.TRIP is still one of the best gaming series to come out of this generation, but you can't help but feel that this 3DS compilation could have been better with a little more polish.

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