Although Aksys Games didn’t have a presence at PAX2010 this year, Gaijin Games’ Alex Neuse revealed the new game in the Bit.Trip series, Bit.Trip FATE, at Destructoid’s panel. Shortly afterwards, I was able to catch up with Alex, and he allowed me to check out both Bit.Trip FATE and lilt line (which will be covered in a later article) in his hotel room. I was surprised to find that the game was rail shooter, but in a much more literal sense than you might be used to. Imagine Gradius as a roller coaster, or Panzer Dragoon as a side-scroller, but injected with a bit of Gaijin’s traditional musical flavor.
This is the first Bit.Trip game that I’ve been immediately smitten with. While it generally takes me a bit of time to adapt to what each game in the series asks of me, I could immediately pick up and play FATE, due to the very comfortable controls and natural learning curve.
Bit.Trip FATE is the first game in the series to use both Wii Remote and Nunchuk controller. The analog stick is used to move the CommanderVideo along the "fate line," which stretches through the stage. While you can only move left and right along the fate line, the line itself, while immobile, fluctuates throughout the stage. When the line goes up or down, CommanderVideo will move faster along it. It adds a surprising layer of depth to the game, since the line is used to dodge bullets and enemies as well as maneuvering into more tactical shooting positions. This becomes even more interesting against the game’s gigantic and spectacular bosses, as moving CommanderVideo’s cross-shaped heart away from torrents of bullets becomes quite an adventure when you’re limited to whatever positions the game allows you.
Aiming is done by pointing the Wii remote at the screen. It’s incredibly accurate, which is vastly appreciated considering the number of enemies that come at you at once. However, shooting slows you down, so there’s a balance between offense and evasion. Your shot becomes more rapid as you progress through Bit.Trip‘s previously available: Nether, Hyper, Mega, Super, Ultra, and Extra, as well as the new mode, Giga. To go into a higher mode in FATE, you simply destroy enemies (beats made twisted and unhappy by the villain of the game), and collect the plus-shaped "mode up" items that they might drop onto the fate line. However, Bit.Trip FATE wouldn’t be a proper shooter with only one kind of shot! That’s where the powerups come in.
Based on characters from the Bit.Trip series and a couple of Gaijin’s indie favorites, the each powerup not only modifies your shot in a certain way, but also gives you a circling character to block enemy shots. The shots each have their own personality. Meat Boy will give CommanderVideo giant shots with the ability to eliminate enemy bullets, while Junior Melchkin provides powerful lasers in sets of three. CommandgirlVideo simply gives the Commander a multi-directional shot, which comes in remarkably handy while surrounded. The other indie cameo, Mr. Robotube, morphs your bullets into a DNA-like crisscross, which is very visually appealing in addition to being powerful.
Fate also departs from its predecessors in tone and music. Previous Bit.Trip games were essentially classic games like Pong and Pitfall in rhythm game format. Although FATE‘s music is still dependent on the players action, it seems to have shifted genres from music game to shooter. The game’s music is also a lot darker than the joyous tones of Bit.Trip Runner. The music is slow and ominous; much more grim than what we’ve heard in the series so far. It complements the stark outer-space backgrounds filled with subliminal messages. All of the doom and gloom in the game serves to further the story of CommanderVideo. According to Alex Neuse, the good Commander has lost touch with the rhythm of life, and that’s reflected in the way that the gameplay corresponds with the music.
Bit.Trip FATE is an interesting departure for the series. Seemingly influenced just as heavily by R-Type as the previous games were by Parappa the Rapper, FATE definitely has a different feel than the previous games. However, it is still a Bit.Trip game through and through. FATE is essentially a reinvention of the rail shooter, and from everything I played, it seems to have paid off. The WiiWare game will be out this fall.