Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Jam with the Band [NDS]

Jam with the Band is a game developed and published by Nintendo and originally released in Japan in June of 2008. It saw a European release in May of 2010. It is the sequel to a Japan-only game called Daigasso! Band Brothers. It is accompanied by a Wii channel that can serve as the game's speakers.

In Jam with the Band, you find yourself at a hole in the wall music shop in the middle of Grime City called GB Music. Working there is Barbara Bat (who is also seen in Master of Illusion), who somehow succeeds to sucker you into playing at the shop's venue and gaining revenue for the establishment.

Don't worry, the game's MUCH better than this paraphrased mess of a story.

There are three modes of gameplay in this game: Sing, Play, and Studio.

Sing is much of what it says. It's singing whatever songs you have downloaded to your game. Granted, these songs must have lyrics set into the melody. Inside of the Sing mode you'll find two different types: Voice Analysis and Singing Practice. Singing Practice is what it is. You practice the songs. Voice Analysis is an awkward mode that determines what kind of songs you sing best. Both modes offer about the same experience.

NOTE: Be warned. If you have songs with lyrics entirely in Japanese, the lyrics will show up garbled and partially corrupted due to the game not having any support for those characters.

Play is also what it says on the tin. Inside you'll find Solo Session and Jam Session, the two most important parts of the game. There are a few other things in this same menu, but they are trivial and most of the time you won't even use them.

Jam Session is the multiplayer mode of this game. You can't go on Wi-Fi and play songs with friends that way, but it's still fun using Local Wireless (even if finding anyone with this game is hard enough). Solo Session is what everyone probably wants to go to, first thing, though.

After that is Studio. You can create songs, exchange them with friends, or submit them to be downloadable through Wi-Fi. Within the create menu you can choose whether you want an in-depth studio or a basic, easy studio.

Each mode is very easy to use and well-designed. If you aren't hooked from simply booting up the game, then the gameplay will surely grab onto you and make you want more.

The graphics are well-designed. Everything looks like something you'd see in a typical music shop. There are some menus that look like posters and some that look like amps and jukeboxes. Within the actual gameplay, it's easy to tell each button's symbol apart. Even if you can't read the ABXY^v<>LR letters inside each symbol, the colors are a dead giveaway as to what you're supposed to be pushing.

Also a nice touch is the bottom screen, which is mostly unused during gameplay. While you play, there is a little audience hopping around on the bottom screen that does certain things depending on how well you play the song. It really is a nice touch, even if you don't pay attention to it because you're too busy trying to avoid failing a song.

Overall, Jam with the Band is an exceptional game. It's a shame it hasn't been released in North America, but importing it works just as well. This easy to play but difficult to master game could be considered one of the best rhythm/music games on the Nintendo DS and can lead to hours and hours of nonstop fun.

Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 10/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Story: N/A


Solatorobo: Red the Hunter [NDS]

Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is a game developed by CyberConnect2 and originally released in Japan in October of 2010 by Namco Bandai. It saw a European release in July of 2011, published by Nintendo, and will see a North American release in September of 2011, published by X-Seed. It is in the Little Tail Bronx series with Mamoru-kun and Tail Concerto and has a light novel prequel adaptation.

Solatorobo takes place in the mysterious region called the Shepherd Republic, a set of islands floating above a sea of clouds and plasma. The main language is presumably French, due to dialogue having french words fit in as sound effects, and the only inhabitants are anthropomorphic dog and cat people. But don't let that stop you from playing this game!

You take control of Red Savarin, a dog boy who works as a hunter (freelance worker) along with his sister, Chocolat Gelato. At some point before the game starts, they take on a quest that leads them to a ship to steal information. Red sneaks aboard the ship riding a specialized robot called DAHAK and this is where the game starts. You'll be led across every island in the Shepherd Republic, doing odd jobs here and there until you can perform the game's ultimate goal: something I won't even go into detail for because it would be spoiling the entire plot!

The story is very well made and compelling. The writing is perfect. No character seems out of place (except for those meant to seem out of place) and the game seems to make you want to believe you're right there with them, following their every move and helping them along the way.

No, that's a stun gun. Why would Red wield a sword?

The main part of the gameplay is the battling. For the most part, you throw your enemies. Granted, this isn't your only attack, but for a good chunk of the game there's no other way to defeat enemies. You start by grabbing the enemy then spamming the A button as fast as you can to throw them up in the air. From there, you can either jump up and throw the enemy out of the air as a combo or you can let the enemy fall to the ground and lay there, stunned for a few seconds.

There are other things you can do, as well. If you get bored with the daily grind of taking quests one after the other, you could go fishing for giant hermit crabs attached to battleships. Or you could join an air-race not much unlike the flying sections of Diddy Kong Racing. If you're not up for racing or fishing, however, you could always go on a minor sidequest to find kittens that have pieces of extra images you can view in your ship's cabin.

Unfortunately, if you wanted to do only main storyline quests, and never anything else, drop the game right now. Some main storyline quests require you to have a certain hunter rank that you will NOT get unless you do optional quests. Thankfully, you only have to get around 10 points to level up (the amount never changes with your level), so it's not too bad.

Trust me when I say the graphics look better in-game.

While you play, you're always accompanied by infectious pieces of music that will never leave your head. Ever. Whether it's the opening (And then to CODA, by Tomoyo Mitani) and ending (Re-CODA, by Tomoyo Mitani) themes or the in-game music, you'll probably find yourself humming the songs randomly throughout the day. All of the songs are nice touches to each place you go. Everything fits in place.

The sound effects are great, too. Nothing sounds out of place and wrong. It sounds like those sound effects belong in that world. My only gripe is how all of the gratuitous French is pronounced. I can't understand half of it. I know I shouldn't be griping at all, seeing as the voice actors for this game were Japanese, but hey, from what I understand, they're not saying "SAVWALYU" or "BOUJOO" or "Comonsnala".... Wait, that last one was Simlish. Oh well. As I was saying...

The graphics are great. There is a distinction between your character and non-enemy NPCs (you're in 3D, they're in semi-3D) that makes it easy to tell everyone else apart. The locations were very well-made, as well. Each location is unique in its own right and you can tell everything apart. The colors are bright and wonderful, as well.

As for the character sprites/models, not many people look alike. Red's a red dog that looks nothing like anyone else in the game. Red's sister is a pink dog (although she looks like a cat) and I have seen no one else in the game that looks like her. Some minor characters that appear once even have their own appearance no one else has. Everyone gets their own special appearance unless they have generic names such as 'worker' or 'merchant', and it's very nice to behold.

Overall, Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is a great game. The gameplay is spectacular, the audio is terrific, and the story is wonderful. The furry overtones might be a bit scary (due to the whole 'yiff' thing, which should never have escalated to mean what it does now) to some, but if you can get over it you can probably expect it to hit almost everyone's top ten.

Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 9.5/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Story: 10/10