With all the press Gone Home, The Binding of Isaac, and Super Meat Boy are getting, it’s refreshing that the gaming industry is paying attention to the indie scene. It’s even better when a franchise is collected in an anthology, much like the physical release of the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead last year. Capitalizing on this trend, Aksys has packaged the wonderful Bit.Trip series into two different collections; the Wii-exclusive Bit.Trip Complete and 3DS-exclusive Bit.Trip Saga. While either game is a great starting point for new players to experience the retro series, Saga delivers an adequate portable experience with some technical problems.
Originally debuting on the Nintendo Wii’s Wiiware distribution service, the main draw of the six titles in the Bit.Trip franchise is creating a love letter for 8-bit games of the 80s. With decidedly retro, but very sharp, graphics, an entirely chiptune inspired soundtrack (complete with guest appearances from some of the most prolific chiptune artists), and masochistic difficulty, the games gave a fresh breath of life into the Wiiware distribution service and created an enjoyable experience for all ages. The games are also noted for their variety, with the pong-inspired mechanics of Bit.Trip Beat and Flux, the rhythmic platformer Runner, the rail shooter Fate, and the randomly awesome Core and Void.
While the games themselves are stellar, the ports for these titles are of satisfactory quality. The controls, which were perfect for the Wiiware releases, are considerably different for the 3DS version. While the games requiring button presses (Core, Void, and Runner) work like a charm, the other three (Beat, Fate, and Flux) have finicky responses since they were associated with the accelometer of the Wii remote. Additionally, the implementation of 3D is a mixed bag; while it makes the screen a bit flashier, it ultimately hampers the experience due to the fact that the game is already a bright mess of dots and slowdown is apparent throughout. In a game where precise timing is everything, this makes for a dreadful addition; surprisingly however, the slowdown is an advantage in Fate, if only because of the bullet hell nature of the title.
The biggest downside compared to the Wii version of the anthology is the lack of bonus features or multiplayer. At its core, Saga contains a barebones package of the six games, with nothing else included; compared to the free CD as well as other bonuses in Complete, it’s a bit depressing. Additionally, the multiplayer features are omitted from this version, which is surprising since almost every game included a (variably working) multiplayer mode in the original iteration. Size shouldn’t have been an issue, due to the fact that each of the titles complied to Wiiware’s size limit; it wouldn’t have been hard to implement a local multiplayer component. As it stands, however, the lack of extras sort of detracts from the package.
The verdict? The Bit.Trip series is phenomenal; it’s one of those franchises that doesn’t conform to industry standards and is brilliant from start to finish. However, the Wii version of the anthology is quite superior, whereas the 3D visuals and portability of the 3DS version cannot justify a purchase if given the choice of the two. While an adequate port, it’s a buy only if one doesn’t have access to the ever-increasingly affordable Nintendo Wii.