A while back I reviewed Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
for the Xbox 360, the latest game in the Bit.Trip series. While the constant running pace of the game kind of made my eyes hurt a bit at times, I accredited that towards my eyesight and playing the game using composite cables, and gave the game a good review. I mean eyestrain aside I really enjoyed playing it. Today I have the opportunity to review another game in the Bit.Trip series, Bit.Trip FATE. While this one was released on WiiWare back in 2010, it was just recently released on the PC via Steam, so let’s go back a ways in the series and see how this game fares now.
Bit.Trip FATE works a bit differently than in the games that came before it in the series. With past games, you typically control a paddle or a core that shoots lasers (or in Void’s case, a black dot that grows). Bit.Trip Runner was the first game in which you actually control Commander Video himself, running left to right, jumping over obstacles and collecting items in time to the game’s soundtrack, all of which would carry over into Runner 2. FATE also has you controlling Commander Video, but in a different way, that of an acrade-style shooter. You have to move Commander Video around the screen while dodging enemy fire and defeating enemies that come onto the screen. Each enemy you defeat drops a health icon that you can collect and that’s how you “mode up” in this game so to speak, going from Mega to Ultra to Giga and so on. The higher your health level, the more powerful your weapon becomes, going from two streams of bullets (or one if you get damaged to the point the screen goes black and white) up to four steady streams that can do some decent damage.
However, there’s a small caveat to all of this. As stated, the game works like a shooter where you have to dodge enemy bullets, similar to Danmaku-style games (ie. Touhou). While Commander Video is kind of big on screen, you’ll see a small red cross in the middle of him. That’s the only place where you can be damaged. Sounds good, right? So what’s the catch? Unlike Touhou games in which you have free reign on where you can move, Commander Video is attached to a fixed track. While the track can move up and down similar to a sine wave, you can’t stray from this track. This can make it very tough to avoid enemy fire since, like a Touhou game, bullets can fill the screen quickly if you’re not careful. It’s also very easy to accidentally get yourself backed into a corner to the point that you have to take a hit to escape.
I’ve also had instances where it seems that enemies don’t have a constant amount of hit points. For example, there’s one enemy that looks like a box with two spheres circling around it that fires off bullets from the spheres. A couple times I’ll fire at it for several seconds without it going down. Not really an issue since different enemies have different amounts of life, but the next time I encounter that enemy type, it’ll take less bullets to take down. I’m not sure if enemies getting defeated have to do with the rhythm of the game’s soundtrack, but it can be frustrating when it seems like you should have taken down an enemy quicker because the last time you took down that enemy type it used less shots. Or maybe it’s just me.
Something else of note that can also make the game harder is that while there are only a few stages, the stages themselves are pretty long and dying in them will take you all the way back to the beginning of the stage, even if you were at a boss. As I’ve stated before, I have no issues with challenge. My only real issue with it though is if the challenge seems more tedious than fun, and sometimes that’s how this can feel. As stated before there will be times in which if you don’t move in just the right way you’ll easily get cornered and have to take a hit, dropping you down a level in terms of health, unless you find just the right way to squeak by. Still, getting by these situations can kind of get the adrenaline pumping as you finally approach the boss fight. However, if you can’t figure out the bosses’ pattern quickly, you’ll likely take a few hits rather quickly. Thankfully hitting the boss will fill up your health a bit, and if you get down to nearly no health and the screen goes black and white, just hitting the boss for a few moments will get you back to color in no time, provided of course something doesn’t hit you beforehand. However, it can be kind of tedious when you die at a boss and have to go all the way back to the start of the stage and try again.
While Bit.Trip FATE is a tough game, it’s not impossible. I mentioned how upgrading your modes will also affect the shots you fire, namely how many and how strong. However, a couple times in each stage you’ll come across an orb of sorts that flashes between four other characters: CommandGirl Video, Meat Boy, Mr. Robotube, and Junior Melchkin. Touching one of them will change how you attack for a while, roughly twenty to thirty seconds or so. For instance, CommandGirl Video allows you to fire both in the direction you’re aiming and in the opposite direction, while Meat Boy lets you fire huge shots that can defeat almost any normal enemy in just one or two hits. If you happen to be in Giga Mode the fun gets even better as the attacks change up a bit, such as CommandGirl Video letting you shoot in pretty much eight directions. Getting hit and going down a mode won’t make your helper disappear early, so don’t worry about that. I do find myself constantly waiting for CommandGirl Video to show up as her extra attacks seem to help out most since you can also take out what’s behind you while you focus more on what’s in front of you.
Overall, while Bit.Trip FATE isn’t the best game in the Bit.Trip series that I’ve played (for me right now that would be Runner 2), I wouldn’t say it’s a bad game. Again, it’s an arcade-style shooter and I’ve played plenty of those, even trying my hand at Touhou-style games, and I’ve liked what I’ve played. I think my issues here are that you’re on a fixed rail that, even though it does move up and down a bit, it kind of brings a literal meaning to the term “rail shooter”. Maybe if you had more of a freedom of movement it would help since you’d have a better chance to dodge some attacks, but being on a fixed rail you just have those instances where you seemingly have no choice but to take a hit unless you take out everything as it comes onto the screen. Still, if you’re a fan of the Bit.Trip games and shooters, I’d say give Bit.Trip FATE a try. At the very least, you’ll get a good challenge out of it.
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