Bit.Trip Saga for the Nintendo 3DS – A review

The Bit.Trip series involves six unique games which include a mixture of 1980’s video game graphical style and various gaming elements such as platforming, pong and shooting.

The Bit.Trip series involves six unique games which include a mixture of 1980’s video game graphical style and various gaming elements such as platforming, pong and shooting. The series began in March 2009 when Gaijin Games released Bit.Trip BEAT for the Nintendo Wiiware service, a unique downloadable title that was like Pong meets Guitar Hero. Gaijin games have done a great job of capturing the feel of retro goodness that many gamers can appreciate. The balance of the retro art style, catchy music and addictive gameplay is brilliantly demonstrated in each of their Bit.Trip titles. 

Bit.Trip1Bit.Trip Saga for the Nintendo 3DS brings all these games together in one collection ready to play on the go, in 3D. After booting up the game, players are immediately presented with all six Bit.Trip titles which are arranged in the order they were developed. All six games are unlocked from the start but players will have to progress through each game’s levels to obtain the rest, as only the initial levels are unlocked to begin with.  A quick tap on one of the six games will bring up a simple reminder of the game’s controls and the option to start the selected game.

As it literally only contains the six Bit.Trip titles, this collection does feel quite bare-boned compared to it’s older brother Bit.Trip Complete on the Nintendo Wii. That collection includes 120 new challenges, leaderboards, image & audio galleries and even the soundtrack. However due to the portable nature of the 3DS it works well as being an entirely gameplay focused collection, meaning gamers can have a quick go of their favourite titles on the go or at home. However just some of the extra features would have been appreciated, it would have been pretty neat if they had included a music player option to listen to the soundtrack and remixes when out and about. 

Gaijin games have done a great job of porting the games to the 3DS and using the different inputs available on the system to create the best control methods for each title. Bit.Trip BEATallows the easy use of the slider pad or the precision of the touch screen (which works fantastically by the way). Certain games like Bit.Trip Core or Bit.Trip Runner utilise the Dpad over the slider pad, which was a smart move by Gaijin, as these games need precise presses of the different directions and the slider pad just isn’t accurate enough to replicate that effectively.

All of the games’ action takes place on the top screen with the 3DS’ bottom screen only used as a control method in three of the Bit.Trip games (in two of which it’s optional). The bottom screen also has a large reminder of which ‘mode’ gamers are in. Initially while in hyper mode the bottom display is easy to ignore, however as experienced players move up in the modes to mega, hyper, etc. the bottom screen flashes different colours and the mode name may begin to move around. It can be quite distracting during some of the more difficult sections of the Bit.Trip titles, especially in the titles that do not use the touch screen as a control input as the player’s hand doesn’t obstruct any of the view. It’s a shame Gaijin didn’t incorporate a handy option to dim the bottom display, but in all honesty it becomes such a minor issue, after a few sessions that I barely notice it anymore. 

Gameplay –

Bit.Trip2The first and last titles on the collection, Bit.Trip BEAT and Bit.Trip FLUX, feature nearly identical gameplay and controls with some minor changes implemented into Bit.Trip FLUX. Players control a vertically moving paddle and have to bounce back oncoming beats in time to the chiptune-inspired music. The only major difference between the two titles is that the paddle is on the left in Bit.Trip BEAT and on the right in Bit.Trip FLUX with beats coming from the opposite directions. They’re both fun to play and pretty addictive games. Bit.Trip fans may be inclined to spend more time with FLUX rather than BEAT which has been released on several platforms since it’s 2009 Wiiware debut.

BEAT and FLUX’s controls are different to the tilt and mouse controls available on other platforms. It allows a fine degree of accuracy to move the paddle to where is needed and still allows for rapid movements to the top and bottom of the screen. I consider this control method easily the best available for these games. Don’t even bother with the slider pad, it’s far too jerky and imprecise for a game that requires fine movements and proper control of the paddle. Both games have a steady learning curve but first time players shouldn’t fret if they can’t make it to the end of the first level on their first couple of tries, because these titles are just as much to do with memorising the patterns and various types of beats as well as reaction time.

Bit.Trip CORE is more or less the same as it ever was. Players must use the Dpad to select the different directions and a tap of the A button as beats come to the line it forms. It plays like a more complex variant of BEAT and FLUX. For first time players it can become quite overwhelming when there are multiple beats on screen flying in all four directions, Gaijin included bombs that players can earn after successfully hitting enough beats, these bombs wipe out all on-screen beats giving the player a quick breather to get ready for the next onslaught of beats. I’d argue it’s one of the most challenging games on the collection and perhaps the one players will most likely struggle with initially. 

Bit.Trip VOID plays a lot like a shoot-em-up without the shooting. The player controls a black bubble with the slider pad and must collect black dots and avoid the deadly white ones, however as black dots are collected the player’s black bubble gets larger in size, slowing down it’s movement and making it harder to avoid those white dots. A single press of the A button will cause the player’s bubble to ‘pop’ back to the smallest size bringing movement back to full speed. Deciding when to pop is a tactical part of the gameplay as it’s not always ideal to be the smallest size.  

Bit.Trip RUNNER is the only platformer in the collection and the first game that players directly control the series protagonist, Commander Video. Armed with the Dpad and B & Y face buttons players must progress through each of the levels by jumping over, sliding under and kicking through obstacles. Initially players can only jump but as they progress through the levels more of the five abilities are unlocked, with each new ability comes new obstacles. Bit.Trip RUNNER is the only title in the series that players have no room for mistakes in. Fail to bypass a single obstacle correctly and the player is sent back to the start of the level. Thankfully to compensate for this, the worlds in RUNNER are split into twelve short levels in comparison to the other Bit.Trip Titles, taking from around thirty seconds to three minutes to finish. It can be particularly frustrating if you mess up near the end of a level and have to replay it from the beginning but it’s no deal breaker as replaying the level is such a quick process.

Similar to VOID, FATE is also like a shoot-em-up but instead on a guided path. The player is in control of moving side to side but does not control moving up or down which is down to the pre-determined line while using the touchscreen to aim and shoot onscreen at on-coming enemies or obstacles. The player’s speed decreases while shooting which implements a tactical challenge to the game as quick movement requires players to stop shooting. Players have to collect the red pluses that destroyed obstacles and enemies drop before they vanish to rack up the points. Occasional power ups appear from time to time which offer significantly more fire power for a short period. This is probably my favourite Bit.Trip title, it’s quite a unique on-rails take to the shoot-em-up genre and the cameo from Super Meat Boy was lovely and it’s just a blast to play. The main challenge seems to come from dodging oncoming projectiles which is easier said than done when you can’t control the vertical movement of Commander Video!

Graphics & Sound – 

Bot.TripGraphically all of the games look as splendidly retro as their console counterparts do and the 3D effect even adds a layer of depth which helps the differentiate between the elements on the games field of play and the often busy background effects. This is particularly useful in BEAT, FLUX or Core where some beats can be hard to distinguish from the background particles and effects. 

The soundtrack, is a great mash-up of chiptune-inspired tracks and retro game sound effects. The gameplay is entirely built around the soundtracks and it really helps to get into the rhythm of the music while playing, there’s even little audio cues to react to in games like RUNNER. This game begs to be played with headphones to fully enjoy the games delightful soundtrack and sound effects as the 3DS average sound system simply doesn’t do those catchy retro beats justice. 

Conclusion –

There is little to fault with Gaijin’s porting process of their six fun and addictive Bit.Trip games to the 3DS. The graphics look still look colourful and fantastically nostalgic and gameplay is as tight, challenging and incredibly addictive as it ever was, arguably even more so thanks to being on a handheld. The ‘one more go’ factor kicks in harder for me than it did on the Wiiware or Steam versions. Changing between titles is a quick and seamless process and there is an ever increasing desire to go and improve my scores again, if not just to listen to the awesome chiptune-inspired soundtrack again.

The lack of online leaderboards, multiplayer or even streetpass high score swapping is disappointing which may make some 3DS players feel they are missing out to their Wii owning peers. While the Bit.Trip Saga does feel quite bare content-wise when compared to Bit.Trip Complete, it does still offer the whole Bit.Trip series in one handy portable package and with the (actually useful) 3D depth included for good measure. For those looking for extra content along side the Bit.Trip Titles, I’d recommend the Wii collection over Bit.Trip Saga. All that being said this collection is still a great way for Bit.Trip fans to enjoy all six enjoyable titles whether at home or out and about. If you’re a fan of the series it really comes down to the extra content and features vs. portability and 3D. 

Publisher: Rising Star Games

Developer: Gaijin Games

Platform: Nintendo 3DS 

Genre: Action, Arcade, Platformer, Puzzle, Shooter

Release Date: 16th March 2012

Price: £29.99-£39.99