I was lucky enough to bump into Mike Roush and Alex Neuse of Gaijin Games at E3 while shopping for bananas. I was even luckier to find that they had a work-in-progress build of Bit.Trip SAGA (the 3DS collection of all six critically acclaimed Bit.Trip titles) in their pocket.
"F*ck bananas," I told them. "I need to play this thing, like, yesterday."
So I played it, and here's what I thought.
Bit.Trip SAGA is a relatively straight port of the six Bit.Trip games as they previously appeared on WiiWare. That said, there were a few changes. For one, the two Pong-influenced games in the series (Bit.Trip BEAT and Bit.Trip FLUX) that utilized motion-based "paddle" controls on the Wii, now use the touch-screen controls.
It's similar to how Bit.Trip BEAT controls on the iPad and iPhone, but without the risk of your own fingers obscuring the action on screen. The game is displayed on the 3D top screen, while you gently glide your finger or stylus around on the bottom screen. It feels a bit like the rolling ball bits of Elite Beat Agents/Ouendan, but even more fast paced and insane.
You can also use the 3DS' circle pad controls if you want, but as anyone who has played Bit.Trip BEAT or Bit.Trip FLUX knows, you're not going to want to be limited by a conventional control scheme when the action gets really crazy.
The other game to get major changes in its control scheme is Bit.Trip FATE. Instead of using the Wii pointer to aim, you now guide the aiming reticule on the touch screen. Again, you won't have to risk obscuring your view of the game, as all the action takes place on the top screen in 3D. Speaking of 3D, every game in this collection look great.
The relatively flat Bit.Trip VOID now has a subtle pop, like you're peering down at the bizarre dietary habits of some pixel based amoeba. The deep, complex backgrounds in Bit.Trip CORE are even more eye catching (and potentially visually distracting). As for Bit.Trip RUNNER, that game always looks amazing, but with the 3D on, the game's world looks even more alive.
The improved visuals aren't just related to the new 3D display. I noticed right away that some of Bit.Trip FATE's character models look more striking. Specifically, they look a lot shinier, like they had some sort of reflective texture applied to them (though it's not certain that these new textures will be in the final build of the game).
It sounds like the guys at Gaijin intend to add little fixes and visual flourishes whenever possible, but seeing as they're also working on a Bit.Trip Complete for the Wii, and some unannounced secret projects, they're going to have to keep their priorities straight.
For me, getting Bit.Trip on the go will be enough. Every game in the series makes for perfect pick-up and go play (particularly RUNNER and FLUX), and having the option to play the games whenever I want, wherever I want, is a luxury I think I can afford. The 3DS is also the perfect vessel for me to show these games off to the world.
It still pains me that so few people have given the Bit.Trip series a try, but with the SAGA in the palm of my hands, it will be easy to hit the streets and spread the Bit.Trip gospel wherever I go.