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3DS | Gaijin Games / Aksys Games | 1 Player | Out Now
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27th November 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

BIT.TRIP is just one of those series you just can't get enough of, so when I heard all six games in the franchise would be featured in a collection for the Nintendo 3DS, I was pretty stoked. Even without the potential of having the 3D capabilities of the device being put to good use, I was sure that playing the BIT.TRIP titles in a handheld format would be enough reason to justify a purchase. Sad to say, BIT.TRIP SAGA has the most depressing retail situation out of any 3DS game released thus far. At least here in Canada, the game is practically nowhere to be seen on the shelves of retail shops. But before we get ahead of ourselves, I think it's important that we first answer this question: Is BIT.TRIP SAGA worth tracking down to begin with?

    The collection features all six games originally released on the WiiWare service: BEAT, CORE, VOID, RUNNER, FATE, and FLUX. How do each of the games fare individually? Let's go through them one by one. First up, we have BIT.TRIP BEAT. Playing this game on a handheld immediately presents experienced players with something new: the ability to use different controls. Since the controls didn't always click for some with the WiiWare release, this is a tangible benefit that SAGA offers right off the bat. The 3DS system allows you to play using either the Circle Pad or the Touch Screen with the included stylus in hand. Right off the bat, I have to say using the Circle Pad to control is worse than using the Wii Remote. No amount of getting used to it will fix that. 

Touch controls, however, are a different subject altogether. Using this method is a much better way to control, and with it, I no longer find the paddle-shrinking Challenge events to be daunting. This is but one of a few tactile benefits that make it so clear to me that the revised controls have made all the difference in the world. Even when I thought I was completely over BIT.TRIP BEAT, playing it in this environment still made me feel so very tense, which is something that I haven't experienced in a while. 

    In terms of presentation for this game, I experienced framerate slowdown during the boss fight in Transition and towards the end of Descent. Additionally, at times I found it hard to keep track of the incoming beats. Just as one specific example, there was a moment when the colours of the beats blended in with the comet coming in from the background, and with all the text that's appearing from the point multipliers at the same time, focusing became a bit of a challenge. With respect to audio, some of the beats seemed slightly off on rare occasions. As well, the Nether beats seemed to have more volume than before. But all in all, seeing the game on a handheld screen and with 3D enabled gave it a more immersive feel when compared with the WiiWare version.

Next is BIT.TRIP CORE, which still is one of my favourite games in the entire series. The control setup here has you using the +Control Pad to aim the beam outline, with your right thumb resting on the A and B Buttons to fire the beam as beats approach or to use bombs, respectively. Using the Wii Remote was a lot easier on the fingers than this layout, which isn't to say playing CORE on the 3DS is awkward necessarily, but it's not entirely comfortable either.

    As far as the 3D goes, exploring the underground foundry was just one of the great sights that had more impact when viewed on the 3D Screen than it did on the big screen. Unfortunately, it seems that in the translation, the timing of the beats suffered. At first I thought I was off on the timing, but it became apparent to me that some of the beats were lagging behind their normal schedules, if you will. Thankfully this wasn't extensive and was just mildly bothersome compared to the forced thumb placement which, personally, was more irksome.

Up next is BIT.TRIP VOID, another one of my favourites from the entire journey. Controls here work well, with the Circle Pad used to control the void and the A Button to shrink it, securing any accumulated beat points in the process. I was especially excited to try out VOID because I knew the background visualizers would pop out more, and I'm happy to confirm that I was correct. The use of 3D here makes the game feel like there's something behind what's in front of you, that there's something further to peer into and not just a flat plane. And although secondary words don't become more bold, 3D also helps with the level appearance while in SUPER mode.

    Having said, whenever I hit SUPER mode, lag would kick in. However, just like with CORE's translation to the 3DS, there was an aspect to the gameplay that was more upsetting. No longer do players have the ability to execute custom beats in this game! I wasn't happy about that at all since that was a key feature that aided in the game's overall feel of uninhibited structure and freedom. I can't understand why they decided not to include it in the 3DS version.

Now it's time for me to discuss the most problematic game in the entire collection: BIT.TRIP RUNNER. Right away, you can already imagine the possible implications with this being heralded as the best game in the entire series. To have serious flaws could jeopardize how some would view the game, especially if they were trying the game for the first time. First of all, the control layout. The +Control Pad allows you to use springboards (Up), slide underneath obstacles (Down) or block beats in World 3 (Right). The Y Button is your kick button, while B Button is used to jump. The controls may not be perfect (I might have liked to try out the Circle Pad here), but they're not bad either.

    Now, getting into the nitty-gritty, the lag in RUNNER is like a rollercoaster. While it isn't a considerable issue (although still present) in World 1, by World 2, you'll easily discern that the songs feel off-rhythm and the framerate can get cut by nearly half of what it should be at. Even more strange were moments when I had the game on pause, and I resumed only to find the timing was off; the game then seemed to correct itself after a few seconds. Although 3D makes no difference in the appearance of the game at all, if you flip the 3D Switch on and off, you'll notice the game chugging along trying to get it to work. To see that RUNNER have such buggy performance is disappointing at best.

BIT.TRIP FATE was my least favourite game in the series, so I didn't expect the handheld format to change my views on the game. Using the Circle Pad to control Commander Video in this game will produce a bit of a jump in your steady movements unless you hold it down consistently. And with the evasive maneuvers required during boss fights, it's not as responsive as using the Analog Stick on the Nunchuk. So with this in mind, you could say bosses are made more difficult in this version. What is slightly improved, though, is that instead of having to control your rate of fire, directing your cursor via the Touch Screen will automatically result in a regular emission of shots. Although it has a slightly better feel to it, I still pretty much feel the same way about FATE as I did before SAGA came along. 

    And now for the final game in the collection: BIT.TRIP FLUX. The control scheme is exactly the same as in BEAT, with the inferior Circle Pad movements and the improved touch screen support. The precision this affords makes going for the gold bonuses less daunting than it was in the original. Not only that, but the improved controls makes it that much more possible for a person to reach the higher modes and witness FLUX's hidden finer moments. Yet again, presentation is a bit of a concern here as the audio isn't totally fluid in the transition between checkpoints. Plus, lag still occurs from time to time while playing in 3D, but it's nothing like what's seen in RUNNER

As you can see, lag is a real issue in nearly all cases. Although the degree to which this affects the experience varies per game, the fact that Gaijin Games wasn't able to iron out the bugs prior to release is hard to accept. In most cases, strictly playing in 2D will rectify the technical flaws, meaning that even RUNNER can be seen playable. However, this does not make the situation any more excusable, because even in 2D, certain games will still exhibit lag in places.

    Contrasting its console counterpart, BIT.TRIP COMPLETE, SAGA only features the six games in one compact package with no bonus content to reward loyal fans. The game doesn't make any claims that it's trying to be something that it's not -- what you see is what you get. Whether or not you'll actually be comfortable with these decisions will depend on how far your fandom stretches. Of course, you lose the co-operative features in the games that included them, making SAGA an entirely single-player venture only. But that's not an issue to me, and it shouldn't be one for you either. Up-front, though, I must confess I was disappointed that you don't even get to unlock the letters the developers wrote for COMPLETE, explaining the meaning behind each of the games. Even if their goal was to encourage supporters to get that game instead, SAGA buyers just won't feel as loved in the long run.

    There are some aspects to this collection that don't impress me at all. However, there are redeeming qualities that pull the value of this purchase back up, aside from the obvious solidity of the games themselves. Even though I will continue to play SAGA and I do recommend obtaining the game if you can, I honestly feel the developers let myself and other BIT.TRIP fans down in more than a few respects.

19/30 - Good

Gameplay 6/10 - Improved touch screen controls in BEAT & FLUX, D-Pad can make playing uncomfortable, slight change in FATE, gameplay issues in RUNNER
Presentation 6/10 - Significant technical flaws, 3D doesn't usually add anything and actually hinders the experience, playing in 2D looks smooth in most games
Enjoyment 4/5 - Technical flaws drag down the experience, BEAT & FLUX made more enjoyable thanks to the controls, 3D adds immersion in most cases
Extra Content 3/5 - All six BIT.TRIP games in one handheld collection for $40, no SAGA-exclusive or any other bonus content to speak of 

Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

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