Over the past few years, the handheld, portable nature of the Game Boy system spawned some really innovative ideas in game design. Kirby Tilt & Tumble,
for example, showed what could be done using a tilt sensor to simulate rolling a ball around a playing field. The recently released sequel to Wario Ware
in Japan, Marawu Made in Wario
demonstrates a unique "rotation" element in gaming that turns the handheld system into an interactive knob. And in last year's Boktai
, Konami and Hideo Kojima showed what's possible when gamers actually go outside with their systems and soak up some natural sunrays.
The novelty of Boktai's built-in sun sensor has already run its course in last year's release, but at the very least the success of that game has spawned a continuation of the series in Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django. The sequel is guilty of the usual "recycle old content for a new product" habit on the Game Boy Advance, but at the very least Konami went in and changed things up to offer a different adventure using the original title's "sun catching" theme. As a result, the game's still one of the most "needy" titles on the Game Boy Advance simply because it requires getting out in the sunlight to complete certain tasks. But if you have no problems taking care of this unique requirement, Boktai 2 is a solid follow-up to a great game.
- More than 60 weapons
- Link cable support for four player battles and two player trading
- Cartridge save
- Password connectivity with the original Boktai
The Boktai series is an interesting mix of two existing Konami franchises: on the one hand, you've got a heavy focus of wiping out undead forces, which is obviously inspired by Castlevania
. On the other hand, you've got a lot of emphasis on stealth action; Kojima's Metal Gear Solid
influence is definitely at work. Boktai 2
is one of those sequels that almost assumes you've already experienced the original game in the series. The storyline only offers the bare minimum recapping for newbies to the franchise, setting players off into the adventure with only a basic understanding of who they are and what's required.
Essentially, last year's focus of using a blaster-like gun, called the Gun de Sol, has been stripped away at the very start of Boktai 2. It's this one element that kicks off just how different the sequel is to the original game. In its place, players will now have to wield traditional weapons, such as swords, spears, and hammers to do the zombie-slaying. The weapon combat tightens up the action significantly, and enables designers to throw in some new puzzle elements on top of what they established in the original game. Boktai 2 still has an extremely large, almost tiring emphasis on crate-shoving for its puzzles, but now players must know which boxes to shove, and which to shatter with the hammer in order to create the path to the next area.
The sun comes into play just as it did in the original game: by playing outside in the daylight, the sensor transfers the amount of light hitting it into usable energy. In outdoor environments, the character's energy constantly replenishes if there's sun. Indoors, the sun will be useful only if it peeks through windows or cracks in the wall. But the longer the player sits in the sun, the more energy is stored in "battery" like devices; so when players happen to find themselves in situations where the sun isn't out (nighttime, overcast, you're grounded) they can use what's been saved. The downside here is, of course, these solar stations aren't nearly in abundance as windows or cracks in the wall. It's admittedly a bit of a drag that Boktai requires people to play under specific conditions, but honestly even though it limits its appeal this sunlight thing is what makes this game unique.
Like last year's game, Boktai 2 only really requires playing in the sun in specific instances. Most of the gameplay offers sun-like substitutes that give players the energy needed to perform specific tasks so that players can keep playing without the sun blazing overhead. But as in the original Boktai, there are areas where it's absolutely necessary to have sun shining down on the player. And where it was relegated to finishing off bosses in the original Boktai, there are far more locations in the sequel where sunlight is crucial. For example, some levels require locating a specific item lost on the ground, and the sunlight glinting through the window is the only way you'll ever know it's there. So those who were comfortable skipping out on going outside with the first game will now find themselves finding a sunbeam to get deeper in the quest.
The sequel offers more RPG flavor this time around, and it's here where the changes really make themselves known. Players will earn experience as they defeat enemies, which can then be added to the character's attributes. There are also a variety of "caskets" to buy, each with their own effect...something that shows a bit of Pokemon "pokeball" influence in capturing the undead bosses. They will also have to do a lot more inventory shuffling this time around, which is the game's biggest drag; where the original Boktai had a near bottomless pocket, players can only hold a small amount of items in storage. And this limitation isn't implemented very well, because the game never warns players that their inventory is full...items will just sit there on the ground without telling players that they can't fit it in their pockets.
But this RPG focus doesn't take away from the action-based gameplay already established in the original Boktai. In fact, with the large assortment of weapons available (and more when they actually make them at the blacksmith), players have to constantly switch, on the fly, between short, quick weapons and slow, powerful weapons to defeat specific enemies or solve puzzles. Luckily the game offers a great interface of flipping through in-hand objects through the use of the Select and shoulder buttons. The follow-up does have its fair share of growing pains: elaborate boss battles and level designs wreak havoc on the graphic engine, so you'll experience some really painful slowdown in some of the strangest places in the adventure.
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