WiiWare | Gaijin Games / Aksys Games | 1 Player | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points
The game's storyline picks up with Commander Video chasing after his new nemesis of sorts from the last game, looking for some answers. Along the way, it becomes increasingly clear that he is in the process of coming to grips with the internal struggles he's facing. Self-exploration is explored quite extensively in BIT.TRIP FATE, arguably on a greater level than what was seen in previous titles. When you start getting wrapped up in everything that's going on, it'll be difficult to pull away from this without having firm goals of seeing Commander Video till the very end.
Gaijin Games has explored a variety of gameplay approaches in each title ensuring that new entries are markedly different from the last, and things are no different here. Contrasting the freedom found in BIT.TRIP VOID but picking up on the "keep moving" attitude from RUNNER, this new iteration takes the form of an on-rails shooter. In each level, players control Commander Video using the Nunchuk to direct backward and forward movement along a fixed line. You use the Wii Remote to aim at the screen while holding the A or B Button to shoot. Alternatively, you may use the Classic Controller, where the Left Analog stick is used for movement and the Right Analog shoots bullets in the direction of the stick's tilt. Using this control scheme takes more practice and is ultimately more challenging to use, but it works surprisingly well.
A large percentage of the enemies you'll come across will fly in from the right of the screen. However, you'll also need to be alert to creatures that will try to take you by surprise by coming up from behind, or from the top of the screen. Threats include purple bat-like creatures, cube-shaped enemies and other geometric entities. Interestingly enough, once they've completely run out of health, they won't vanish right away. There's a slight delay that takes place for the sake of keeping in time with the background music. Admittedly, you might not think too highly of this element when you see it in action for the first time. In fact, it may seem like a bizarre choice. But rest assured there is a purposeful meaning behind it.
As these enemies disappear from the playing field, they are replaced by 3D plus-shaped blocks that automatically make their way over to the line Commander Video travels on. They're the exact same ones that appeared in BIT.TRIP RUNNER, just with a darker appearance. Collecting multiple quantities will advance your MODE from Hyper to Mega, Mega to Super and so on. Each level has different effects on the actual visuals or the gameplay itself. For example, jumping from Hyper to Mega will allow you shoot three lines of bullets at a time, instead of the usual two. And going from Super to Ultra will spread out your bullets, increasing your range of fire. Either way, each time you move up a level, the strength of your bullets get stronger and stronger, giving you a valid reason to avoid getting hit as much as possible.
The visual flair that also comes from advancing to new levels is also worth noting since it essentially creates a contrasting layer of positivity. In particular, I loved seeing GIGA mode's magenta overlay in the way it competed with the darker background colours. Being on this setting also causes bright pink and white squares to emit forth from Commander Video's bubble, something I never got tired of seeing.
More than just serving as a level-up system, these MODE settings also serve as your health meter. Just one hit is all it takes to send you back to the last level you were at, which can be hard to avoid when there's a lot going on at once. Rather than having Commander Video's body being the element that sustains enemy hits, you'll need to focus on a red plus icon located on his chest. For obvious reasons, one can interpret this as a symbol of his heart or life force.
At select points within a level, a white circle will appear along your line of travel, cycling through different icons representing Commander Video's companions. You can enlist their aid simply by passing over the icon, instantly granting you a temporary power-up. Each character will bear different results on how it affects your main weapon of fire. Choosing Mr. Robotube, for example, will create two separate lines of fire that resemble the structure of a DNA when kept steady. Meat Boy will turn your shots into large torpedo-like beams that can even penetrate enemy fire. Although it's fun to experiment with the different possibilities for the first few times, most will find Meat Boy to be the best choice simply because of the added benefit his shots provide.
After being accustomed to the many luxuries and even the frustrations of RUNNER, coming to this is not easy on the mind. FATE's difficulty is high in nature, not only because of the action that takes place, but more notably, what it requires of the player. When things get heavy with yellow, orange and pink squares flying towards you from multiple directions, you need to be very quick about how you decide to act. The game's difficulty reaches critical point when you're pitted against the end-of-level bosses. What makes things even more trying is the fact that you're forced to work within a relatively claustrophobic space. Most amazingly, the game slowly trains you to look at things differently when things get particularly testing. It gets to a point where whenever these instances occur, the player's eyes will gravitate toward the red "heart" and concentrate on that isolated area instead of looking at the screen as a whole. It's a clever approach towards player involvement when you think about it.
As always, players can put forth a concerted effort to aim for Perfect status on all songs if they wish. Doing so is very challenging as one hit will ruin your plans of earning this elite ranking. And considering the game is already difficult to begin with, I didn't feel FATE was as replayable as the other BIT.TRIP games. Yes, to a certain extent, you do feel like you should improve your scores, but this feeling subsides more quickly than I would have liked. If you take your time with this game and don't rush to beat it in a day or two, you should be satisfied with the amount of Nintendo Points you spent on the game.
I always look forward to seeing how Gaijin Games approaches the aesthetics of each release, and once again, I found myself impressed, albeit not as much as in other games. From time to time the VOID-inspired phrases "No Love", "No Friends", and "No Future" will appear on the screen. This paints a rather grim picture for our misunderstood hero from the very first level. Adding onto this are the dark colours used to paint the background and foreground elements on the playing field, and you have a game that's highly negative in nature. From a musical point of view, the ambient tunes are relatively subdued this time around, rarely ever instilling excitement within the player. Even when you opt to include your own beats, this still rings true. In so doing, players come to the realization that FATE isn't so much about using the music as a structure-defining element. Instead, it's used to communicate emotions and motivate mental responses. Yes, Gaijin Games is pushing boundaries even just by identifying this as a music-based game; both the game and the developers themselves have dared to be significantly different from the pack.
ome will have adequate reason to gripe and moan about certain things for their first few sessions of play. However, when you look at the big picture, a lot of the decisions the developers made here actually make sense. For instance, the lack of checkpoints despite the lengthy levels sends an "all or nothing, no turning back" message that's totally appropriate given the context. The fact that Commander Video's movement slows down significantly when shooting in effect tells the player that they can't handle two things at once perfectly - something has to give somewhere. I even picked up on the relationships between the line structure in each level and the name of each song. For the first two levels, the line is wavy in nature with relatively few dips or major changes. As you get down to the wire approaching 'Frustration' and beyond, you'll notice the lines become more jagged and sharp, and there's a bigger fluctuation in how the line flows. In so doing, the developers have effectively conveyed a great deal of tension within the game, with a purposeful intent behind such a decision.
In line with the above, the more I played FATE, the more I grew to appreciate it. Except, just not in the traditional sense. I came to the discovery that the game is, more or less, an illustration of life. When you consider all of the elements that make up the game, and seriously reflect on how everything fits together, it's only a matter of time before you too realize that this game not only points back to the series at large. FATE ultimately relates to players on a more personal level. At first, I found the game hard to get into, and it was hard to accept the game for what it was. But when I looked at the big picture, I honestly felt an epiphany-like feeling.
The song titles/stage names exemplify some of the emotions you'll feel over the course of your playthrough of this title, but they ultimately point to another layer of meaning behind the gameplay. And that is the fact that these are the same struggles many of us need to come to grips with at rough points in our life. You could say that the whole game depicts things in a very negative light, but combating this outlook with "Determination" and "Patience" through reaching the EXTRA and GIGA modes, you can discover that there's colour and positivity to be had despite the dire circumstances. Thoughtful consideration becomes clear when you take into account such things as the disconnection and delay between enemies and beats. There's a hidden level of depth in the underlying messages that FATE upholds, and I encourage you to seek them out. It won't be immediately obvious, but it certainly isn't a coincidence.
From an artistic point of view, BIT.TRIP FATE is great. The use of symbolism serves as a nice layer of depth that encourages thinking about FATE's role in connection with the entire series. Not only that, but discovering why we connect so well with Commander Video and how his journey relates on a more personal level than what is initially understood is close to amazing. As a means of entertainment, it's also good, but coming directly after RUNNER the amount of enjoyment you experience likely won't measure up. The game is unique and mostly fun to play, but ultimately, I personally found myself enjoying myself less than in the other games. Nevertheless, I recommend you give BIT.TRIP FATE a shot. Especially if you've been following the series up until now, there isn't anything major that should stop you from getting the game. Gaijin Games took a risky approach with this title, and I think for the most part, it has served them very well.
23/30 - Good
Gameplay 8/10 - Unique approach towards structure and health, purposeful disconnect with music, boss fights, CV's friends serve as useful power-ups
Presentation 9/10 - Excellent use of colour and music to convey emotion, artistic mindset that gets you to dig deeper, GIGA mode is lovely to see as always
Enjoyment 3/5 - Ultimately not as fun as the other releases, the highlight of the game is discovering how it connects with you as the player
Extra Content 3/5 - If you take your time with it, you'll find it's worth the money, the drive for high scores/perfect rank isn't as big as in other titles
Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)