Review: Feel The Magic: XY/XX (Nintendo DS)

Game: Feel The Magic: XY/XX
Systen: Nintendo DS
Genre: Mini-Game Compilation
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Released: 11/21/04

At one time, Nintendo and Sega were bitter rivals. All of us 16-bit generation gamers can recount the titanic battles fought between these two giants. System VS system. Mascot VS mascot. Brother against brother. (Well, maybe two out of the three.) Then stuff happened, and Sega dropped out of the console race to become a third-party publisher. And the strange thing is that Sega, once the bitter rival of Nintendo, has always been there to take advantage of whatever Nintendo gave them. GBA/GC connectivity? Sega was the first by connecting their Sonic games. Broadband adaptor? Sega stepped up first with Phantasy Star Online. Quirky, exclusive titles? Say hello to Billy Hatcher & The Giant Egg. Co-operative ventures? F-Zero: GX. Nintendo hands opportunities out to people, and Sega runs with them, whether they fly in the long run or not.

So it comes as no surprise that Sega was chomping at the bit to develop a killer app for Nintendo’s new DS handheld. For this opportunity, Nintendo gave Sega two screens (one a touch screen), a microphone, and N64-calibur graphics to play around with. What did Sega come up with? One of the most creative experiences seen on a portable system. And it involves…performing bizarre acts with a performance group in order to win the love of a girl?

Well, um…okay, Sega! Lets see what you got!


STORY

One day you’re walking down the street, and the most gorgeous woman you’ve ever seen goes walking past. However, you are very shy, and feel you have no chance of asking her out. But then, all of the sudden, a performance troupe calling themselves the Rub Rabbits appear, hand you a goldfish, and ask you to help them in their performance. You accept, and the girl you’re after seems impressed. So, you decide to join the Rub Rabbits permanently in order to impress her further and win her heart.

Yes, I agree that the premise is ridiculous too.

However, as the game goes on, you’ll encounter other cut scenes that help move the story along to its eventual conclusion…although how you get from Point A to Point B has to be seen to be believed.

And for the record, the game is NOT a dating sim, as some of you are probably thinking right now. While the goal is to win the heart of a girl, there is NOTHING resembling a dating sim here.

Story: 7/10


GRAPHICS

Feel The Magic takes a unique approach to its graphics style. All characters are represented as black shadows with only hair and clothing to distinguish them apart. Many other game objects, like cars and buses, are presented in the same way. Such a style allows the game to use 2D and 3D graphic effects in games and cut scenes with practically seamless transition between the two. Some games only contain 2D effects, while others rely mostly on 3D effects. Then there are the select few games that manage to incorporate both into the same format.

Most games only use a select number of colors at any given time. For example, one game may contain only gray, blue, and purple tones. Another may be centered on orange and yellow. There aren’t too many screens that take advantage of the DS’s massive color palette. Then again, the game doesn’t try to. The game goes its own way in presenting the visuals, and it does a decent job in doing so.

Graphics: 7/10


SOUND

This is probably the weakest category I’ve found in Feel The Magic. Like the graphics, sound also takes a unique approach. The music consists of mostly slow “scat” rhythms combined with jazzy backbeats. The music is catchy at first, but there are only ten or so songs in the entire game, with many being reused over and over again. The music isn’t BAD, but it does get repetitive and annoying after a few rounds.

Voices are also included in the game, with the majority of them belonging to the “Rub Rabbit” performers. Each stage, they’ll introduce the game by shouting the game name, and then yell the repetitive “Rub It!” at the start of every round. Your girlfriend also introduces a few games, has her own “Rub It!” line, and several swoon and scream noises. And that’s where the tolerable sound ends. Every other voice effect sounds like someone has been lit on fire and is screaming at the top of their lungs. They are more annoying than anything, and don’t exactly add to the gameplay very much.

Sound: 5/10


GAMEPLAY/CONTROL

Here is where the game truly shines; with a first-rate example of what the Nintendo DS can REALLY do.

The main crux of the game lies in its 20 mini-games spaced across multiple levels in the game’s Story Mode. Each game has you doing something incredibly ridiculous in order to impress your would-be girlfriend. But the most interesting thing about these mini-games is the fact that ALL of them take advantage of the DS’s new features. None of them rely on the game’s face buttons at all.

Basically, we’re looking at four different ways to control the various games. First there’s “rubbing”, which has you rubbing the touch screen with the DS stylus, or simply keeping the stylus on the touch screen for extended periods of time. Most of the mini-games here follow this control scheme. “Goldfish” is the first one you’ll encounter, which has you “rubbing” a man’s stomach in an upward motion in order to expel the goldfish he swallowed. (No, I’m not making this up.)

Next there is “touching”, or simply tapping the touch screen with the stylus for whatever your purpose is. Most of these games are puzzle-oriented, such as “Parachute”. As people jump out of a plane, you’ll need to enter the correct number on a keypad in order to activate their parachutes. (Yep, I’m still not making this up.)

Following that, there’s “blowing”, which…HEY! GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER! PERVERTS!

(Ahem) Like I was saying, what you do in these games is blow air into the microphone slot located on the bottom-left side of the DS. Only a few games run on this scheme, but are by far some of the most creative. There’s “Candle”, which has you controlling five guys trying to blow out giant candles from a parallel universe. (If I’m making this up, may lightning strike me…NOW. No? Let’s continue.) Then there’s my favorite of this bunch, “Yacht”, which has you blowing wind into the sail of a yacht, pushing you forward to save your drowning girlfriend. I’ve never seen this kind of control before, and it feels kinda cool to perform it. (Minds OUT of the gutter, people. Sheesh…)

Finally, we have “yelling”, which is just as it sounds. You yell into the microphone. Only one game, “Microphone”, uses yelling. And all you do is speak into it for your girlfriend to turn around and notice you. Not the BEST game in the world, but still quite interesting.

The games themselves are nothing short of ridiculous, weird, and somewhat disturbing considering the premise. Would YOU try to unicycle between the roofs of two buildings on narrow planks just to get girls to notice you? What about swimming through the bowels of a giant anaconda avoiding its digesting enzymes to escape? Oh, and we can’t forget spray-painting Sega logos on building sides while avoiding kamikaze jumpers.

Luckily, the controls for these games are excellent. With all action being handled by the touch-screen and microphone, it gives you the feeling of “total” control. The response when using the touch screen is instantaneous, and the game will respond to whatever you do. However, certain games take a steady hand in order to complete. For example, there are a few that have you tracing a path for your character to follow. If you twitch even the slightest, you could spell doom for your character. Yet, its much more accurate than hitting buttons at the right times.

Gameplay/Control: 9.5/10


REPLAY VALUE

Sega has taken the basic mini-game formula made popular by titles such as Wario Ware, and put their own spin on it. Plus, you can go through the game’s “Memories” mode and play each mini-game separately as soon as you complete them in the game’s Story Mode. And quite a few of the mini-games are worth going back to over and over.

There are also quite a few unlocks to find going through the game. Not only are there two extra difficulty levels for Story Mode to find, but you can also unlock new outfits to dress your girlfriend up with. And you can stop saying “Oh lord, it’s DOA Ultimate all over again!” because that isn’t quite the point. Completing games in Memories Mode will earn you stars. The more stars you obtain, the more costume pieces you will unlock for your girl. You can then dress her up in “Maniac Mode” by mixing and matching the hair, body, and leg costumes.

I did notice, however, that once I unlocked everything, I didn’t feel like playing the game much anymore. Maybe its because I was incredibly burnt out after going through EVERYTHING. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You WILL want to go through the game to unlock everything, and most likely come back many times afterwards. It has this gripping “staying power” that many of my other games lack.

Replay Value: 8/10


BALANCE

The mini-games fall in either of two categories: they are either “normal” games that contain ten levels apiece, or they’re “boss/romance” games that are more in-depth, but only contain one level. Either way, the games usually stay around the same difficulty throughout the adventure. You’ll be able to complete the first few levels of any game no problem, but getting past the last levels can be a REAL pain in the ass. This is especially true in Memories Mode, where one mistake can send you all the way back to the beginning.

The “boss/romance” games don’t follow that formula, but do get harder as you progress. The first boss game is a cakewalk, as all you’re doing are tapping bulls. But when you get to the Plant game…well, try to remember that your DS is fragile and not meant to be thrown through windows.

Balance: 7.5/10


ORIGINALITY

Leave it to Sega to come up with the most original title for a brand new system. It has some of the most bizarre concepts I’ve seen this far, and that is a good thing. What other game has you in a car chase where you pick up people off the road and fling them with a giant slingshot? How many games can you name that have you clearing the road of spikes so crazy people can slide downhill in shopping carts safely? And how many games consider static electricity as the ultimate weapon?

None. It’s a completely new experience. Add to the fact that all the aforementioned games use the touch screen, and nothing comes close. Well, at least not yet

Originality: 10/10


ADDICTIVENESS

I couldn’t stop playing this game. I REALLY couldn’t. I’d pick up the game to check something as a “reference” for this review, and spend another 90 minutes on it instead trying to finish all the levels in the Snake game. It has one of those unique premises that make you want to pick it up again and again.

Like I said before though, once everything is unlocked, there isn’t all that much to do. The games don’t go on forever like the ones in Wario Ware do, so there’s no high scores. So the addictiveness level drops a bit after that, unfortunately. Still, as long as you have items to unlock, you will be HOOKED beyond all get out.

Addictiveness: 7/10


APPEAL FACTOR

Now a lot of people are going to pass this game up, either based on preconceptions that this is a dating sim, or not having a clue as to what this game has to offer. In fact, the only thing recognizable on the package is the Sega logo. To be honest, that was the reason I picked this game up in the first place. And it turned out I wasn’t disappointed in my little gamble. But for the “uninformed” crowd, they might pass this game up completely without ever knowing what they are missing.

Appeal Factor: 5/10


MISCELLANEOUS

Sega has offered several “firsts” in this game. It’s the first DS game to be solely workable with the touch screen and microphone. It’s the first truly “original” title for the unit, and not simply a port of a preexisting game.

But it also offers several other “firsts” if you know where to look.

For example, it’s the first game to work simultaneously with the GBA port. Assuming you have a specific game inserted into the GBA port, such as Sonic Advance or Sonic Battle, you’ll be able to unlock special “Sega” costume pieces for your girl. At first, I almost lambasted this feature, comparing it to DOA Ultimate’s “must have DOA3 save to unlock everything” feature. BUT, it turns out that once you complete everything in the game, the costume pieces are unlocked anyway. So this method of early unlocking is quite a treat for those of us who are Sega fans.

This is also the first DS game that allows you to record your own voice. Holding Down Y on the DS at the title screen will allow you record 1.5 seconds of your own voice, which you can play back at your leisure. The game will also recognize your birthday, and give you a special message when you turn it on.

Sega REALLY went all out to take advantage of ALL of the DS’ features with this game. It even took advantage of items I didn’t know it could do. Things like this may be old hat by this time next year, but for now, I’m REALLY impressed.

Miscellaneous: 10/10