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GO Series: Portable Shrine Wars - DSiWare Review

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GO Series: Portable Shrine Wars

DSiWare | Gamebridge / TOM CREATE | 1 Player | Out Now | 200 Nintendo Points
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2nd September 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

When I first saw Portable Shrine Wars (or Omikoshi Wars as it was known back then), I actually laughed inside. I couldn't take the game seriously and didn't think it would even come over here. Surprisingly, Gamebridge believed in the game and felt that TOM CREATE's latest arcade-style title was worth bringing over to North America. More surprising, though, is the fact that the same game I initially scoffed at is actually fun to play. Go Series: Portable Shrine Wars is a sometimes chaotic venture that's very much worth checking out, especially for only $2. 

    So essentially, your jumpy little character sits on top of a float of sorts (called a Mikoshi), commanding a series of bearers underneath to move in multiple directions on the playing field. The idea is to reach the finish line at the end of the level without having your Mikoshi collapse. You must have at least five bearers at all times to avoid winding up in the danger zone. If you get hit by another attack while your group is blinking red, your game will end.

    As enemy-controlled Mikoshi's come at you from the top screen, you control movement of your own float on the Touch Screen with the use of the D-Pad. In addition to moving side-to-side, moving up or down will increase or decrease speed respectively, while the A Button is used to jump, causing you to land with a small shock wave. You can only use the jump move when the gauge at the bottom of the Touch Screen is full, but it doesn't take long to re-charge. Still, you can't keep using this ability to avoid dangerous situations, so this calls for some strategy on your part.

    There are multiple tactics you can employ to get enemies out of your hair. You can sacrifice one of your bearers with the B Button and send them forward to break through the entire unit; bump them into the festival audience off to the sides of the screen; or land on top of them as you descend from a jump. If you can keep up the pattern of destruction, you'll earn a combo that will result in even more points being awarded at the end of the stage.

As enemy Mikoshi's are destroyed, one or more bearers will fly backwards and walk towards you. If another Mikoshi is in their path, they will automatically join onto that one, but if it manages to meet up with yours, then you'll have a new man to carry your shrine. The more bearers you acquire, the faster you will run, with a maximum of 16 bearers that can be held at a given time. Additional men you collect after reaching that max will result in a significant speed-up.

    Levels feature different kinds of elements that pop up from time to time as you run along the path to the finish line. The first of these are gusts of wind that push you towards either side. When your bearer number reaches a low number, the wind can easily overtake your entire float, pushing you into the damaging boundaries off to the site. Plus, if you try to escape by jumping, you may find yourself stuck on top of the boundary, getting repeatedly hit until you lose all your men. Second, you'll find pits in the floor that spread across an entire line or just isolated areas. Before you even ask, these do not put a damper on the experience. Audio cues and flashing caution signs serve a valid purpose of preparing you for the timing you'll need to jump over or move around these obstacles. 

    Last but not least, you'll also come across boost pads. Some automatically launch you into a jump without having you use any energy, while others send you zooming ahead with a rush of speed. As this occurs, an increased number of enemies start to flow in, so mix in a bunch of enemies with blistering-fast speed and you have a recipe for chaos -- the good kind, that is. Sometimes your work is done for you when there are so many enemies on-screen at once. Battling for their own space, enemies will unintentionally push each other off towards the off-limits areas along the sides, resulting in plenty of enemy bursts.

    It's great to see such variation with the pacing of the game. Initially, you'll start off moving at normal speed with somewhat delayed responses, but as the speed increases, the feedback will be much more immediate. It's just so very entertaining to see all the madness transpire when the game really gets going, with characters flying and bouncing all over the place. 

In terms of difficulty, defeating hordes of enemies isn't exactly that big of a deal. Not even the pits pose much of a threat beyond a reduction of speed; falling inside one of these traps will just send you right back out on the path with no loss of bearers. Much of the challenge in this game comes from the boss encounters. Leading up to the end-of-level boss that guards the finish line, you'll have to beat one or two mini-bosses that put up a considerable fight if you don't keep your speed up. 

    The final bosses, though, are of a more frustrating nature. Just reaching them can be quite a task, let alone defeating them. However, the build-up that precedes these final encounters prevents the difficulty from becoming unbalanced. That's not say there isn't reason to be upset at times, because I felt the frustration did pull me back from plowing through sometimes. As irritating as some of these encounters can get, it's not enough to turn you off from the game altogether.

At the conclusion of each level, you'll get a breakdown of the number of Mikoshi you destroyed, how long it took you to clear the stage, the extent of your combo, and your overall point total. While there isn't a whole lot of motivation to improve high-scores, some may find reason to go back and aim for better times, if not just going back to enjoy another round of gameplay. Instead of having to replay the stages in Normal Mode to get your fix, you can instead play an Endless Mode which features the same gameplay mechanics but also throws in falling meteors -- the same ones seen in GO Series: Earth Saver. Aside from an Options menu, that's all there is to the package. It may sound light, but in my opinion, the arcade-style gameplay makes up for whatever perceived lack of value there may be.

    With presentation in mind, Portable Shrine Wars looks nice and colourful -- especially when there's a surplus of enemies coming towards you. The Stage Select menu features a background that was clearly taken from Earth Saver, which, to me, was a surprising decision. I expected a more geographic, Oriental-themed map. When it comes to audio, there is only one music track that plays during gameplay and this gets very annoying. Thankfully, not only can you can turn it off in the Options menu, but the regular sound effects of the characters, explosions and the warning sirens make it so that there isn't much silence at all.

    Portable Shrine Wars is a very quirky game that easily holds your attention for minutes at a time. Plus, the asking price makes it so very easy to recommend. If you typically enjoy what DSiWare has to offer, don't miss out on this one.

24/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 9/10 - Speed build-up that leads to chaos, balanced progression system within levels, multiple tactics at your disposal, great pace overall
Presentation 7/10 - Colourful visuals, quirky personality, annoying to have only one music track during gameplay, sound effects prevent complete silence
Enjoyment 4/5 - Challenging boss encounters, end-of-level bosses can be irritating at times, especially fun when enemies are flying all over the place,
Extra Content 4/5 - Endless Mode, although seemingly light in content the arcade focus validates the $2 price tag

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8

GO Series: Portable Shrine Wars
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