jeffrud's Point Blank DS (Nintendo DS) review

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A fine way to pass one (singular) hour.

Bless and keep our dear sweet GunCon family.
Bless and keep our dear sweet GunCon family.

It will likely come as a shock to younger members of this community that Nintendo tells lies. Case and point, when Wario was depicted to have invented the idea of ridiculous micro games whole cloth in the fantastic WarioWare, Inc.: Mega MicroGame$!, they were behaving in what could be generously be called a counterfactual manner. From whence did the idea of stringing together multiple tiny pieces of nonsense gameplay originate? I cannot say with certainty, but the original Point Blank (aka Gun Bullet) has to be in the running. This 1994 arcade release, along with its 1998 TOSE-developed reissue on the PS1, challenged the player with accomplishing defined tasks within short time spans while using a big plastic gun as their only tool. It was a concept good enough to warrant the development of the GunCon, one of the great inventions of the 20th century, as well as three direct sequels, a side game that revived Golly! Ghost!, a Japan-only compilation alongside Time Crisis, and this DS release.

Not actually a re-release of the first game, Point Blank DS is a sort of repackaging of challenges from the first three Point Blank titles onto a single cartridge. The core of the game is its Arcade Mode, which shuffles together a string of gun-based minigames for the player to tackle in rapid order. In addition to the boilerplate "shoot i number of j things in n seconds", there are also challenges that task the player with shooting matching targets, defending a character, and so forth. Where this franchise differentiated itself was not so much in the form of its shooting tasks, but in the presentation of said. Your actual targets may be classically target-shaped, but may also manifest as stuffed animals, toy UFOs, paper cutout ninjas, or a sheep requiring a pistol-assisted shearing. These rapid fire visual style shifts, coupled with a jarring milieu of blaring arcade klaxons and carnival sound effects, make for an overwhelming and at times overstimulating experience that does look forward to the sort of gameplay we now ascribe to the WarioWare series.

"You know sheep? A bit wooly, yeah? It's wool! Shoot it off, sell it, you cannot lose!"

The clever trick here is using the stylus as a makeshift gun, tapping to pull off rapid accurate shots in order to keep up with the game's brisk pace. It works, mostly. A lot of contemporary reviews stated the stylus tapping feels about 95% accurate, and that assessment seems fair. Stylus gameplay on the DS line of systems has tended to be the realm of slow-paced experiences, your Etrian Odysseys and the like. Here, I can't help but feel like shots sometimes register a pixel off from where they needed to land. It doesn't destroy the experience, but it might make the difference in passing or failing a particularly pressing challenge on occasion.

That seems like a fairly major gripe to raise with a game that lives or dies on its emulation of its shooting experience, but the real kicker here is just how slight the game is. There is the aforementioned Arcade Mode, a strange Brain Age-adjacent mode, a Practice Mode that allows for selection of specific challenges, and WiFi competitive multiplayer. The most interesting addition is a Game Museum, which includes replications of a few Namco amusement devices through the years. This includes a recreation of Shoot Away II, a clay pigeon simulator similar to Nintendo's Laser Clay Shooting System. The game also tracks your scores. Point Blank DS is an arcade experience, and that is meant in a very specific mode here. You will either enjoy coming back to the game to improve your scores and see every possible difficulty mode of the challenges, or you will be content in very short order.

Point Blank DS originally retailed for thirty entire American dollars, which at that time made the game a tough recommendation for all but the most dedicated Point Blank arcade enthusiasts. At today's prices, which should place it around the "nice artisan coffee" range, it is a gaming nonpareil. Your enjoyment of this will hinge on your nostalgia for the arcade or PlayStation originals, your fondness for mildly absurd humor, and your tolerance for mild input jank. Bonus points if you are also game for the latter day adventures of Wario.

The audience for this game is almost entirely self-selecting, but the people who
The audience for this game is almost entirely self-selecting, but the people who "get" this sort of thing will be pleased with what is on offer here.

-3 out of 5 of the GunCons any Real American Gamer would rightfully own (full disclosure: I own two GunCons)

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