Let’s face it: Nintendo’s WiiWare platform wasn’t the biggest of successes was it?
LostWinds, Fluidity, the Art Style games – all great but it wasn’t enough when compared to the sorts of digital offerings from the competition that was crying out for our pocket change.
Then there’s the BIT.TRIP games, taking old arcade tropes, picking them apart and making them seem utterly cool again with retro visuals and that plinky-plonky chiptune music that you struggle to convince others is music.
SAGA forms the collective works of the series to date, a compendium of six WiiWare offerings thrown onto a 3DS cartridge.
You won’t find the game’s cover box protagonist CommanderVideo in two-thirds of this collection, but Gaijin Games’ penchant for seamlessly syncing old arcade systems with striking visuals and musicality serves as their signature touch across this assortment.
The benefit of having them in your pocket becomes apparent when you plug in some comfy headphones and let each game take you to a euphoric-like state that can only be reached by batting back pixels Pong-style or blasting enemies in a shooter that’s literally on-rails.
Standing tallest above its stalemates is RUNNER, an addictive side-scrolling platformer that has you kicking, ducking, and jumping over each obstacle in your way. Each little success is rewarded with an added effect to the game’s soundtrack (provided by chiptune band Anamanaguchi) and as you progress, the music builds adding new layers to the track.
It’s these concepts that make the BIT.TRIP games so commendable. BEAT and FLUX’s takes on the old Pong formula are such great examples both benefiting from touchscreen controls.
Some like CORE, a game where you time directional moves with pixels, are a little harder to become invested in and the difficulty of mastering each game in order to unlock subsequent levels might be a turn-off for some.
Despite running at a silky smooth 60 frames-per-second in 2D, a slight nudge of the 3D slider and the noticeable framerate drop will make for some uneasy playing.
For a game that relies almost entirely on all of its elements to be simpatico, it’s a disservice to Gaijin Games’ fine craft especially when those unique 8-bit visuals should look stunning in 3D.
A lack of optimisation makes SAGA less essential than its bonus-packed Wii COLLECTION but regardless of how you play it, you need to get the BIT.TRIP series in your life – especially if you missed these digital treats on Nintendo’s failed WiiWare.