Editor's Note: The good folks at Gaijin Games have been kind enough to provide 3DS owners with a compilation of the complete BIT.TRIP saga: a series of six adventures that single-handedly gave the WiiWare service its killer apps and gave gamers a modern take on a blast from the past. The differences are pretty minor between the two versions, so most of the content of the two reviews is identical, but we wish to make it clear from the outset that both versions of the game were tested out by the reviewer.
The BIT.TRIP saga follows the exploits of one Commander Video who sets out on a series of missions to... well, no one knows for sure, but the story really isn’t the reason you would pick up a BIT.TRIP game. The series spans six titles: Beat, Core, Void, Runner, Flux and Fate, all of which feature a variety of different gameplay elements all brought together under an 8-bit aesthetic reminiscent of the late 70s and early 80s arcade scene and early Atari games. While the games may look and sound like they are stuck in the past they all make use of pretty modern gameplay mechanics like motion (and touch) controls and rhythm-based gameplay to create an experience that is unlike anything you have played before.
No matter which of the six titles you select you can be certain you will be in for a vastly different experience everytime. BIT.TRIP: Beat, for example, is based heavily on games like Pong and Breakout, but throws rhythm based patterns at you to deflect. BIT.TRIP: Core is also heavily based on rhythm but is a shooter where you control a ship that can only fire in four directions (up, down, left and right). BIT.TRIP: Void gives you control over an all-consuming entity known as the void, that must grow by consuming black coloured blocks and avoid white coloured blocks. BIT.TRIP: Runner, by far the deepest game in the series, puts you directly in control of Commander Video in a 2-D platformer. The difference here is that Mr. Video automatically runs to the right and it’s up to you to jump, dodge, hit and duck your way to the finish line. BIT.TRIP: Fate is the series’ take on an arcade favourite - the scrolling shooter (or 'SCHMUP' for the cool kids who sit in the back of the class and don’t listen to the teacher, ya you!). Here Commander Video (or other indy game favourites, like Super Meat Boy) is stuck on a fixed path and must dodge enemies and incoming fire, and blow his foes to smithereens. BIT.TRIP: Fate brings the series full circle, returning to Beat’s Pong-inspired gameplay but incorporating elements from the other games in the series as well.
Whether you’re getting your BIT.TRIP on the Wii or 3DS you will be greeted by very precise and user-friendly controls. The 3DS version replaces the gestures of the Wii controls with touch screen controls. It works exceptionally well and you will never find yourself cursing at the controls when you finally succumb to a single, seemingly-random block. This is a very important point, as the BIT.TRIP games are notoriously difficult with each of them throwing nearly impossible challenges at you. But that’s the odd thing about these games; even if they keep asking you to do the impossible, it’s so hard to put them down and walk away. For some strange, inexplicable reason these are the kind of games you just can’t stop playing - they're that good.
Drawing inspiration straight from the arcades of 1982, the BIT.TRIP series is full of 8-bit art, crazy colors and trippy dubstep soundtracks all of which come together wonderfully to create an art style that is more of an ‘experience’ than a simple visual aid. Now you may be asking yourself: ‘haven’t we seen games that do ‘retro’ looks before?’ And yes, the BIT.TRIP series may not be the first to take gamers back to a simpler time visually, but it is the series that takes the concept of being ‘retro’ to the farthest degree, making it part of the gameplay as much as the visuals and sound.
The 3DS version also has the added benefit of featuring full 3D graphics and BIT.TRIP: Saga takes full advantage of this feature. The trippy and wild visuals look absolutely stunning in the third dimension, almost as if the 3DS was built solely to play BIT.TRIP on. Also, the system’s smaller screen does wonders for the game’s resolution, as everything looks sharp and vibrant. The sound even manages to blast itself out of the tiny 3DS speakers, giving you the full BIT.TRIP experience on the go.
Up to now this review has done nothing but praise the BIT.TRIP series for its stellar gameplay and wondrous art direction but there are a few things holding it back from perfection. Most of these issues are due to the series originating on the WiiWare service, with its very small space limitations. This can cause some of the tracks to sound lower quality than they should. Also, sometime the game will be throwing so much 8-bit flair at you that it becomes hard to see exactly what is coming at you and, sometimes, even what you’re controlling.
When compared to the Wii version, the 3DS Saga is rather light on features. None of the extra levels, challenges and online features are present in the portable version. In addition none of the multiplayer modes from the original versions are present in BIT.TRIP: Saga either, which is a major omission considering just how fun it was to go head-to-head with friends on the Wii. However, having these six great games on the go is still an absolute thrill and a must own for any fans of the series.
I’ll end this review on a bittersweet note. While the BIT.TRIP series has had an incredible run on the WiiWare service, and now on 3DS, it is sad to see this fantastic series come to an end. With so many great ideas crammed into six tiny downloadable games it would be a dream come true to see it continue on bigger and more powerful systems. That being said, this is a great opportunity to go on one last TRIP and experience these six masterpieces one last time.