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Game Boy Advance / Review / Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand
Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand
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Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Available Now
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Graphics: 4.5
Control: 4.0
Click here to view Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand screens!
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Review by: Star Dingo
Posted: 09/15/03 [view screens]

When you try to think of the "perfect" Game Boy Advance game, a title like Wario Ware immediately springs to mind. Something easy to pick up or put down on a whim. Something you can play for five minutes at a time, on a bus, in an airport, on a car ride home at night. Something quintessentially portable. Yet here is Boktai, the first handheld game designed to be the opposite of all those things. It uses its medium as a constraint rather than freedom...and the world is a better place for it.

Sol Food
Boktai feels very much like a late-career kind of game, something you'd make when you felt pangs of guilt over the fact that you've devoted your entire life to keeping children locked up indoors. When Hideo Kojima said you'd have to play his latest creation outside in the sun, he wasn't kidding---the game absolutely requires the light from that life-giving mass of incandescent gas.

In Boktai, your primary weapon is a modifiable zombie-blaster called the Gun Del Sol. It has a meter that drains (very quickly) when fired and fills up if you hold down the A button to "reach for the sky" and recharge it, assuming honest-to-goodness solar rays are hitting the game's built-in light sensor. While you can technically play 90 percent of the game without the sun power, you'll find it's far more challenging and far less fun; the game employs a "solar battery" system that stores sun energy in vast "tanks" for when you don't have access to our mother star; but access to the tanks during dungeon scenes is very limited. Then there's other 10 percent---the ultimate obliteration of "boss" Immortals absolutely requires the gigantic nuclear furnace to be present above you. It's pretty much guaranteed that you've never played anything quite like this: it breaks the fourth wall, leaks into reality, and wraps around your brain in the same way Animal Crossing did, only in the context of an action/RPG rather than a town-building sim.

Boktai's graphics and sound effects are strangely cute with colorful areas, crazy-cute anime bank clerks, and zombies that squeak instead of moan. That, combined with the fact that you're harnessing the sun, help craft an illusion that Boktai is a window to a real (and surreal) place.

The gameplay itself is a mix between Castlevania, Metal Gear, and an old-school action/RPG, like Alundra, and is taken from a 3D isometric view. As in Alundra, you enter castles filled with block-pushing puzzles and the occasional number enigma; as in Metal Gear, you navigate through confusing mazes, sneaking stealthily around and hiding behind walls to avoid detection; and as in Castlevania, your ultimate goal is the obliteration of vampires, and boss battles with giant wolves and the Draculic Immortals are challenges that feel very much inspired by the Belmont clan. The game itself isn't perfect---the level layouts can be massively confusing and a bit repetitive in their occasionally slapdash construction. Control isn't super-tuned, either; the gun isn't precise, and the rules for sneaking around traps and enemies can sometimes seem a little unclear. Still, the hybrid is quite unlike anything else...and Boktai would be a super-fine game even without the sun-sensing thing.

If you're looking for something classically "portable," look elsewhere---Boktai asks a lot more from you than your average game but deserves your attention because it's actually quite a memorable experience. Boktai couldn't have been done on any other system; it is uniquely Game Boy Advance, yet not at all like any of its other titles. A paradox, a conundrum, and creativity incarnate.

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