There's always been moments where I feel I'm a minority. I try not to sound fanboy-ish, but I know what I like. I will vehemently defend the Wii against onslaughts of "no good games" and "kiddy system, not for gamers like us." While there's never really enough to build a solid defense on, I feel it's unfair to put systems like the Wii and the DS so far down on the decency scale despite what great potential and very select titles that really go the distance. As such, I'll always start arguments with my "hardcore" gamer friends about the systems and companies that are portrayed by uniform filth. So, I bring you, SEGA's
Feel the Magic: XY/XX
This quirky little game came out as a launch title for the Nintendo DS, and really hit home everything about the DS's highlights and masterpieces. If you can't tell, this is one of my favorite games for the DS, and certainly one I would recommend to everyone. Let's not jump the gun here, though, don't pass a verdict before the trial even starts.
Feel the Magic is a quirky, mini-game based romp into the land of playfully perverted and openly screwy. The game links mini-games together with story-board style strips pitting the main character and his possible girlfriend into increasingly bizarre situations. Each one poses a level of danger, which is resolved by the main character and a group of individuals with rabbit ears on their heads called the Rub Rabbits. The zany story has no roots in reality, and the absurdity of everything only adds to the game's style. Also, there's no dialog in the cutscenes, spoken or in text. All of the game's story telling is through the imagery, both beautiful and telling.
The game, while graphically minimal for the DS, really slams home the idea that graphical power takes a back-seat to graphical style. It doesn't matter that the DS can't render compared to the PSP, this game is so graphically stylish that it looks better than most games because it uses its hardware effectively and beautifully. The silhouette and vibrant colors are non-jarring, and almost uniformly pleasing while still clearly conveying the goings-on even without dialog or detailed definition.
The gameplay itself is devised entirely of DS unique functions from touch-screen to microphone. Most notably, SEGA does good work in making the touch-screen the main device and a functional tool, instead of forcing it and making it feel bogged down (like the DS's foray into the Star Fox series). The gameplay itself is fun, and just as quirky as the story. The touch-screen and microphone based mini-games are well done, and range from comically easy to controller-snapping frustration in the harder difficulties, but never feels like it's giving you something you simply cannot do.
The story itself is light but appreciated, as your character is a blue-bearded man with a penchant for goldfish T-Shirts and the absurd. He spots a girl from across a crowded room, and gets hit with a freight train of desire. He pursues her, and that's where the game stops making so much sense. From that point on, you're in a spiraling goof-off mania running the story from point A to point 57, with sanity checking out once every minute or so to take a coffee break, only to sporadically return to make a little bit of sense, and depart again.
Also, at the end of major chapters in the story, you get a "date" mini-game, which is where the flirtatious and perverse nature of the game takes place. These mini-games are simple time-wasters and contain no likely ability to fail. They range from holding hands while walking to offering a back-massage after a particularly harsh rough landing. Even if you don't like things like these, it doesn't really matter considering how few and far between they are.
The off-the-wall nature of the game really makes me feel like it's not trying too hard to be weird, and pulls off the whole mood perfectly. It sacrifices nothing and really appeals to me on several levels, which I thoroughly like.
Almost a mix between interactive menus and airplane safety pamphlets, isn't it?
The game's last measurable benchmark is the sound and music, which is in no way unlike the rest of the game. This game's soundtrack is powered by acapella, and really fits the mood perfectly with the game's storyboards, mini-games, and scenes. Each mission is accompanied with an intermission of the girl doing something silly, and a throaty female voice offering her version of a cool down. Nothing too out there, but really keeps the feel of the rest of the game, while still performing what it's supposed to accomplish.
Also, if it's any indication, I still hum most of this game's music while I'm out and about.
This is normally the point where I would wax poetic about the cons, but I can't really find anything that doesn't sound too nit-picky. Aside from the occasional bouts of frustration when on hard mode, there's not a whole lot to dislike about this game. The microphone parts can occasionally goof on you, and the touch-screen parts can get a little too difficult for the precision they require, especially if you have your DS on the go. That, and you get really weird looks if you play it anywhere but at home. That, and a sort of criminal overlooking of replay value, as the mini-games don't change enough on the harder difficulty. Overall, though, the game is a good length, lengthy but never overstaying it's welcome.
Also, this has to be the most intriguing use of the DS's internal clock I've come across. The game will occasionally chime in with "Happy/Merry <Holiday>" at the appropriate time, as well as offering you a "Happy Birthday" on the day you have set as your birthday on the DS's built-in OS. Just a note I thought was really cool.
Buy It. I don't think I can stress this enough. If you're into mini-games and screwy, artful gaming, then you will no go amiss with this game. At all.
The Rub Rabbits
Anyone familiar with Feel the Magic will immediately recognize just about everything about The Rub Rabbits. SEGA really leaned on the "If it ain't broke" mentality, and picked up where Feel the Magic left off in this quasi-sequel.
The gameplay is much the same, pitting the hapless hero into increasingly odd-ball situations and mini-games to meet up with the girl of his dreams. The only way this game's story really deviates from the first game's story is the addition of hundreds of male suitor rivals and a female rival vying for the hero's attention, in a way that only kidnapping and killing the female lead can accomplish.
The mini-games vary between trying not to be captured while saving your girl from absurd traps and absurd perils. Very similar to Feel the Magic, this game really doesn't change much about the style of the mini-games, and ends up losing a bit of quality in the sort of "copy-paste" style from Feel the Magic. Granted, it's not bad by any stretch, but certainly doesn't pull the same appeal that the first accomplished so well. Even still, it's a little unfair, comparing it to Feel the Magic, so on it's own right, it's still a fine game.
OM NOM NOM!
The sound, graphics, and everything else are also mirror images of Feel the Magic. It's more of the same, so if you liked the first, you'll also like this game, it's pretty much a guaranteed thing. If you disliked Feel the Magic, or it never really appealed you to, then you go ahead and skip this one.
Sound runs with the same vein as the first one, acapella running the majority of the sound. Not quite as stylish as the first game, and certainly not as original this time around. Still, it's unfair to pit it up to Feel the Magic. As a stand-alone, it's still fun and fine, just once again not as good as Feel the Magic.
Graphics are the same way, not really pushing any envelopes, but still incredibly stylish and enjoyable. The free-spirited graphical style is still appealing and great, and certainly lacks no cleanliness or polish. They're pretty and stylish, and ultimately very very enjoyable.
The most notable cons on this one is that they fixed most of the microphone issues, but picked up some pacing and length issues. This one felt particularly more long-winded, and felt stretched to add some length to the gameplay. I'm not sure what gave me the impression, but it did relax a few feet on the far side of length.
Watch out! The enemy is going to shoot!*
Buy it. If this looks familiar, then guess why. They're essentially the same game in different settings, in the same sense the the WarioWare games between the GBA/DS/Wii. If you liked Feel the Magic, you'll like The Rub Rabbits. Not quite as good, but still fantastic, it's another very hearty recommendation.
*Footnote: If you get this reference, then you're awesome. I don't expect you to, though, so don't feel bad if you don't.