Bit.Trip Fate Review
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On 11/10/2010 at 11:16 PM by Nick DiMola
Take control of Commander Video once again for his latest challenging adventure.
For fans of Bullet Hell Shmups and the Bit.Trip series.
The Bit.Trip series has taken its star character, Commander Video, through a variety of different experiences all of which hearken back to gaming of yesteryear. Fate, the latest title in the series, carries the aesthetic of the titles which precede it, but makes a leap into more modern day gaming experiences with its bullet hell shoot 'em up based gameplay. Like the other games in the series, the concept is not without a twist, and a rail would be Fate's. This rail winds around the screen, allowing players to only travel forward and backward along whatever path the rail has set, and shoot in any given direction. As we've come to expect from the series, this makes for a tremendous challenge that will take players a significant number of replays to conquer.
Just as the presentation, the game's general level structure and theme has stayed the same. Levels are extremely long, somewhere on the magnitude of ten minutes, and they all conclude with a boss encounter of some sort. Like all bullet hell shmups, the level boss is typically of epic proportions, and sheets of projectiles are dumped on the screen leaving players to weave about them to avoid getting hit. Of course, being on a rail complicates this matter significantly, making it that much tougher in Fate. Thankfully, players have a reasonable amount of life to expend if they have performed well in the level leading up to the boss encounter.
Along the way, as players defeat enemies and collect the cross-shaped item they drop when they die, they build up their combo. Each combo increase will make Commander Video's shot much larger and give him an extra notch on his health bar. If players are hit, their combo will subsequently decrease to the step before, changing both Commander Video's shot and amount of health. This undoubtedly changes up play techniques throughout the level, pushing players to perform to the best of their ability in order to be optimally prepared for the boss. To help players along the way are power-ups on the track, each of which change Commander Video's bullet stream for a limited time.
As the series has dictated to this point, Fate is quite simple in concept, allowing the gameplay to speak for itself. What's present here is quite enjoyable, and extremely well-executed, but unbelievably difficult. This is especially true when players reach the end of the level and must face-off against the boss. Frustratingly, these encounters, at least for me, often ended in defeat, forcing me to replay the entire level to take another shot at the boss. What's worse, the level itself was basically a breeze in comparison, making an unnecessary ten minute build up to retry the battle due to the lack of checkpoints.
I found most of my frustration came from navigating the rail in certain spots during the boss battle, with the second boss encounter specifically coming to mind. Here, the rail in the boss segment was nearly vertical, meaning I still needed to use left and right to navigate forward and back, which created an obvious disconnect in my brain when trying to navigate the rail. I kept trying to use up and down to no avail, which ultimately resulted in my death, forcing me to replay the relatively unchallenging level.
While this became particularly frustrating after a few losses, this level of challenge and replay will sit differently with everyone. What can universally be agreed upon is that Fate, like the rest of the series, has some great style and music.
The soundtrack is catchy, and the events which tie to on-screen action all have a sound effect that sync up with the track. As you might expect, this makes the entire presentation feel extremely cohesive, and it makes the background song feel dynamic and always different with each playthrough.
Visually, Fate isn't quite as flashy as games prior, but its tone and presentation fit the gameplay and the laid back soundtrack well. Oddly, it feels almost opposite of the hectic, bullet-filled screen, but that only helps in focusing on successfully navigating the hazards.
Bit.Trip Fate is likely to have limited appeal, but it's definitely my favorite edition of the series, bumping Beat down from the top slot. It's more approachable than past games, and ultimately more enjoyable as well. If you can tolerate replaying long, challenging levels and boss fights, Fate couldn't be a better purchase.