Here’s the issue with playtesting a pair of streetpass games: playing and enjoying them as they were intended requires collecting a lot of streetpass hits. In most parts of the world that aren’t Japan that’s a prohibitive barrier to entry. I certainly struggled with collecting the hits I needed; I ended up spending more money than the actual value of the games Nintendo sent us for coverage on cheap snacks and coffee to justify my visits to local spotpass locations.
I can’t in good conscience recommend these games to anyone who isn’t able to conveniently collect streetpass hits regularly, and I know many people can’t. In terms of “should I buy this,” that’s probably all you need to know. Neither of the new streetpass games is a mind-blowing masterpiece that would make it worthwhile to pay for them and then arrange your schedule around maximizing potential Mii exchange exposure. There, consumer advice given. We’re done here.
But… do you maybe want to know about the two new streetpass games anyway? Because I went through all the inconvenience that makes playing these games not really worth investing in and I would love to tell you about what I found.
Nintendo released a zombie game. It finally happened, we’re through. This ultimate manifestation of creative stagnation is now absolutely everywhere. The game is called Battleground Z. You know, like Day Z. The zombies are all smiling and wear silly outfits to make the game look cute. You know, like Plants vs. Zombies. The player gets to run around smacking zombies in a city overrun by them using a variety of ridiculous weapons. You know, like Dead Rising.
I’m being harsh, but I don’t think I’m being unfair. There are so many zombie games out there right now that it’s nearly impossible to stand out from the crowd, and Battleground Z doesn’t manage it. It’s not that the game plays horribly; it’s a totally functional and accessible beat-em-up. Unfortunately, that’s about all I have to say for it in praise, the combat is simple enough to be inoffensively generic except that the player needs street pass hits to effectively progress. Which is not a value add in my book.
There are two ways to design free to play stamina systems. There are games that allow the player to play indefinitely but penalize play without refilling on stamina, and there are games that just don’t let the player keep playing once stamina is depleted. Despite being games that you pay for up front, the new streetpass games are absolutely designed along free to play lines and your streetpass hits serve as stamina. Nintendo tries both stamina system approaches across these two games.
In Battleground Z, streetpass hits grant access to new weapons, which are important for progress because later missions are super tough to clear with the standard issue Wii Remote Sword. Weapons have swiftly degrading durability, so a constant influx of new weapons is a must. You can play without fresh Mii visitors, but it’s far from optimal. It’s also worth noting that Battleground Z allows the player to purchase new Mii visitors using play coins which is a thoughtful bonus but it turned out not to be very satisfying to marathon play off of my play coin hoard.
Ultimate Angler is a fishing game in which streetpass hits give you pieces of bait, and once you’ve used up your bait you can no longer fish. You get, normally, one piece of bait per person. That means one fishing attempt per hit. And if you want a good fish, you need to combine your bait pieces into super bait. So that means one fishing attempt per two or three hits if you’re gunning for the big ones. I think that stripped of the streetpass features I would prefer to play Ultimate Angler over Battleground Z, just because I’m more of a fishing kind of guy than a zombie slaughter kind of guy, but the play limitations on Ultimate Angler are so severe and individual fishing attempts so short that I found myself enjoying Battleground Z more—just because I could spend more than three minutes playing it.
There is an interesting risk/reward mechanic to going for big fish in Ultimate Angler. Miis who visit you will not only give you bait, they will also help you haul in fish like a tug of war team. So even though it’s tempting to celebrate a day where you got seven hits with getting to go fishing seven whole times, that day also represents your best chance to successfully haul in a big one if you can get it to bite on a juicy combined bait.
Both Ultimate Angler and Battleground Z have loose narrative frameworks to justify the action, they’re significantly more ambitious than the mostly context free streetpass games of the past. Battlefield Z is about a zombie virus that overtakes a citzzzzzz… I’m asleep. We’re not going to talk about that one.
Ultimate Angler begins with the player character showing up on an island, meeting a female tour guide/assistant and her eccentric father who believes in sea monsters. A chance encounter convinces the three of you that you absolutely must make it your mission to track down those rare and unproven to exist sea creatures. Why is this a more exciting story than the Battleground Z premise that I callously dismissed? Because this is totally how Endless Ocean: Blue World started! I’m calling it now, Ultimate Angler is the sequel to the second Endless Ocean game and I will defend my fan canon against any and all challengers. I’ll see you in the comments.
Food for thought:
1. Battleground Z was developed by Good Feel. That they’re behind a zombie game is kind of silly, but I’m just glad to see that they’ve released something. They’re one of those Nintendo collaborators it’s tough to keep track of. Last I knew they had helped out with the 3D modeling in Mario and Luigi: Dream Team and I had no idea what they had been doing since.
2. Nintendo rolled out a whole free Mii Plaza upgrade along with these games. Nintendo doesn’t allow paid micro transactions within streetpass games themselves (yet), but it is impressive the amount of pointless stuff they thought of to let a person pay for just within the plaza. Yes, there are hats.
3. If you do happen to live in a streetpass rich environment, then most of what I wrote here isn’t applicable to you. That’s okay. I wrote about the experience I had in the environment I live in, and that’s all I can offer. There will be other writers who play these games in big cities or at conventions or what have you. They must be your guide.