Giant Bomb Review


Bit.Trip Saga Review

  • 3DS

A collection of truly great games unfortunately marred by frame-rate-breaking 3D.

Beat kicked the series off, establishing its signature style.

Your introduction to Commander Video probably came through Super Meat Boy. For many good reasons, very few people actually played anything released on Nintendo's WiiWare service, causing far too many to initially miss out on great games like World of Goo and NyxQuest. Those two escaped WiiWare, but until now, only Bit.Trip Beat and Bit.Trip Runner joined them.

Good news! All the Bit.Trip games are now on a single 3DS cart. Bad news! The ports aren't great! Bit.Trip Saga collects all six of Gaijin Games' retro-fueled (and super hard!) games. That's Bit.Trip Beat, Bit.Trip Void, Bit.Trip Core, Bit.Trip Runner, Bit.Trip Fate, and the story concluding Bit.Trip Flux.

Only Beat and Flux resemble one another, each a riff on Pong, with Beat slotted on the left, Flux on the right. Sometimes for better (Runner), sometimes for worse (Void), all of the Bit.Trip games are very different, their common thread being a satisfying intersection of music and gameplay. These are mixed genre rhythm games, and not unlike Guitar Hero or Rock Band, players feel actually like an instrument while playing. In this case, the player's musical participation has been largely abstracted. You're aware of the influence your actions are having on the music, but you're laser focused on dots. Lots and lots of dots.

Bit.Trip games benefit from players having a sense of rhythm, but like music games where notes are coming down the screen, it's entirely possible to play these games strictly following patterns. I mean, does anyone really think the kids on YouTube beating DragonForce songs are listening to the music?

The major selling points of Bit.Trip Saga are having every Bit.Trip game in one place in a portable form and experiencing them in 3D. The trippy, layered visuals rhythmically pounding over each Bit.Trip game seem natural for 3D, but whether that's a false assumption on my part or if Gaijin Games was simply unable to make it work, 3D is a non-starter here. Not only does the 3D fail to make much of an impression when switched on, in the case of games like Runner, the added effect is horribly detrimental to the frame rate. When the 3D is enabled, regardless of how far the slider's been pushed, the frame rate takes a big hit. In games where timing is everything, this is totally inexcusable, rendering 3D a worthless addition.

Runner is easily the highlight, sporting some excellent music.

Even with 3D flipped off, there were moments in Runner where apparently enough is happening to cause the frame rate to drop. I don't remember any frame rate hassles in the WiiWare version. It's truly a bummer, and an unfortunate blemish on a package that includes some truly terrific games known for visual flair.

Elsewhere, the ports hold up. Pong-like Beat and Flux become much easier to play on 3DS, the former especially. Beat stages do not feature a single checkpoint (the series didn't have checkpoints until Flux), and the stylus allows for precise movement of the paddle across the screen. You can tap the stylus anywhere else on the screen and the paddle will jump there immediately. Compared to slowly rotating an iPhone or Wii Remote, it's much more effective against the game's sadistic dot patterns. And don't even trying playing with the circle pad; it's far too sensitive and there are zero options to tweak it, another instance of this collection not getting the level of attention these games deserved. The others play as they should, just as god-damn-I-wanna-throw-my-3DS hard as I remember them.

Visual issues aside, Bit.Trip Saga remains a pretty awesome set. Your other option is picking up Bit.Trip Complete, which also collects every game with new challenges. These games would set you back $42 on WiiWare, and it's $39.99 on 3DS. It's not the ultimate sendoff for what may very well be the end of the series, but another chance to put my fingers through the Runner gauntlet is worthwhile.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
Posted by lordofultima

Good to see Patrick branching out and doing a couple reviews!

Posted by nickux

Nice review! Bummer to see such a low score but I've always had a love/hate relationship with this series.

Posted by Thiemen

Don´t have a 3DS but otherwise I´d pick this one up. Great games imo, don´t really care about the 3D being sluggish.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Patrick is still invisible!

Posted by SaturdayNightSpecials

So I don't like making these kind of assumptions, but: would it have gotten 4 stars if there was no 3D?

Sounds like there's little wrong with the package if you simply turn the 3D off.

Posted by Eribuster

@Thiemen: If you have a Wii, there's the Wii compilation titled Bit.Trip Complete.

@SaturdayNightSpecials: Hmm, I doubt it would change since there are frame rate issues with the 3D off, reading the review. Still, the 3D is part of the product you're paying for, whether you were interested or not. It needs to be criticized.

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

It's such a shame that the best game of the series seems to have the most technical issues. I would've loved to have a perfectly ported version of Runner to carry around with me.

Posted by SM5240

Good review, though I'm still disappointed by the lack of a cartoon Klepek.

Posted by Zolfe

why is a ghost writing reviews

Posted by autobzooty

True shame about this package. Coulda been a really great thing.

Posted by Zeemod

Please donate now to give Patrick a face.

Posted by cartoons4andy

Just got it yesterday and really enjoying it. I actually enjoy the pop the 3D effects give for most of the games but yes, Runner definitely needs the 3D off to look right. Oddly enough, even though Void is the least liked of the batch, I really like the subtle effects the 3D brings.

3DS games need to learn from this one. You can throw a ton of more stuff on the screen if you just put it in the foreground and background, out of the players way.

Posted by ThePickle

This cartoon-less review future is not a future I am comfortable with. I have never seen anyone but Jeff complain about the review cartoons.

Posted by Absolute_Zero

Guess I'll just wait/hope that the rest are released on the PC. Of course, I'd have to OWN a 3DS for this to matter. :P

Also: Ghost Klepek with the news and reviews!

Posted by President_Barackbar

Really glad to see that the GB guys review these ports for what they are. Too many users give stuff like this and the N64 ports 5/5 stars because they're games that they like rather than actually reviewing the additions.

Posted by metalsnakezero

Patrick needs a avatar, please Giant Bomb!

Anyway nice review.

Posted by PandaShake

@SM5240 said:

Good review, though I'm still disappointed by the lack of a cartoon Klepek.

Posted by Rayeth

Klepek will make a stunning cartoon avatar revel at a later date. Called it here first.

Posted by The_Nubster

@Rayeth said:

Klepek will make a stunning cartoon avatar revel at a later date. Called it here first.

I'll hold you to that.

Posted by Brendan

I don't trust a man I can't see to give me advice about video games.

Posted by BisonHero

Bit.Trip Void (the 3rd game) actually does have checkpoints, so it's inaccurate to say that Flux was the first appearance of checkpoints. Each stage has either 2 or 3 checkpoints, if I recall correctly.

Bit.Trip Runner doesn't have any checkpoints, but that's because the game is a bunch of microlevels instead of one long stage, so still an improvement.

Admittedly, Bit.Trip Fate somehow doesn't have any sort of checkpoint system despite the stages being full length, and it's the only game of the series I've never finished because I just don't enjoy playing it at all, the music and graphics don't interest me, and the final boss is pretty challenging.

Posted by AsherV20

Shame the collection didn't turn out so well. It would've been real nice to have another game to want to buy for my 3DS besides Dust Gatherer 2K12.

Posted by yoshimitz707

Poor Patrick. Nobody can see how he feels about the game.

Posted by MEATBALL

I'll probably pick it up when it gets released locally, but it's really disappointing that the games suffer from the port.

Posted by JoeyRavn

@Absolute_Zero said:

Also: Ghost Klepek with the news and reviews!

This. I like to imagine Patrick going undercover under the enemy lines to get his articles. Unless it's something like Homer's Mr. X, I don't want a Klepek cartoon avatar >:-@

Posted by AiAi

I must see the hair to trust its reviewing power!

Posted by Rapid

@PandaShake said:

@SM5240 said:

Good review, though I'm still disappointed by the lack of a cartoon Klepek.

Posted by themartyr

You were Wiki-link happy for those few opening paragraphs.

Interesting little batch this, but I'm not especially surprised that in releasing a bunch of games, they haven't been able to tailor them all perfectly to the platform. However, thanks for pointing out that Bit Trip Beat is available on iPhone. I'll have to grab it later today.

Posted by coonce

Patrick - I think its awesome that you're doing reviews. We need to get you an review image!!!

Posted by Hi_Voltg3

All I do is play this or OoT on my 3DS now, both are so swell.

Posted by RetroBob

News on a European release anyone?

Posted by MormonWarrior

It's $5 right now on the eShop till 9/15/2013. I'm not gonna pick it up because I already got the Wii version, but...just sayin'.