Wario Ware was like a breath of fresh air in a currently somewhat stale gaming environment. True, it may not have been 100% original (with games such as Lazy Jones for the C64 back in the 80s and BishiBashi Special already out), but it succeeded brilliantly in attracting regular players and non-gamers alike. What is strange is that in the two years since its release, there hasn't been a clone following it up. No mass stampede to copy a promising game genre. And now Sega have stepped into the frame to provide something right before Nintendo's own DS version appears.
You, as the eponymous hero of the game, are walking down the street one day when you happen to pass a gorgeous young lady. It's love at first sight. But why would such a wonderful woman pass her eyes over you? Help is at immediate hand with the assistance of a group calling themselves the Rub Rabbits. After welcoming you to their collective, their main priority is to stage a series of events where you can "prove" yourself to her and hopefully win her heart. These events take the form of a series of mini-games and this is where you, the player, come in.
The games themselves are as ludicrous as the story’s premise. This is blatantly obvious from the off when the first game encountered involves making a man regurgitate some fish he accidentally swallowed. Quite how that is supposed to impress your would-be date is unknown, but maybe that sort of party trick goes down well in Japan. Other bizarre games include removing scorpions from her back; blowing out candles; ensuring the success of a mad shopping cart rally; and protecting her from rampaging bulls.
All games have been designed around either the touch screen or the microphone. At their most basic, this involves punching some buttons in the correct sequence, but many of them heavily involve stylus work to complete. This could mean guiding your man along a winding path without falling off, or furiously rubbing the screen to increase the flames of a fire. Ironically for all the rubbing going on, the most impressive game of the bunch involves the microphone, namely the Yacht game; a piece of inspired genius and a genuine test that could not be properly handled any other way. Blowing into the microphone propels the yacht over the water with the weight of breath affecting the speed; it is something an analog stick or buttons could never hope to achieve as intuitively.
Whilst not overly complex, they provide a sense of interaction with the game that a normal pad and buttons could not accomplish. Indeed, this title shows some of the potential Nintendo aim to demonstrate is possible with the DS. The defining part is that regardless of how complex each mini-game is, the controls are simple and easy to use, with the only factor between success and failure being your own competence.
What does differentiate this and Wario Ware is how long the games can actually go on for. Instead of a series of incredibly quick games all in a row, here the tasks can last as long as a minute. That is, depending on your own skill. The games tend to be more involving, and sometimes require a degree of thought as to how to actually complete them (witness the meowing cats or the picture heart puzzle). It is entirely up to you whether this style appeals more over Wario Ware; some people will prefer it, and some people will not.
Any games completed in Story mode are unlocked and available to play separately within Memories mode. Here you can play longer and further on each stage than you could within Story mode. The reward for beating some of them is to unlock new outfits for your female admirer. These can also be earned from touching the demonstration screens for each event in certain locations. All the outfits are available to view within Maniac mode and changing her appearance here transfers over into the main game itself.
Presentation-wise, Feel the Magic is actually rather engaging. The graphics and sound are quirky in their own right, with many little touches and bizarre acts of random humour inserted. There is a mix of 3D models on 2D backgrounds a lot of the time which actually make the models stand out, though sometimes the graphics are merely perfunctory. Sound is not typical or run-of-the-mill; there are plenty of voices and weird sound effects used throughout which add to the general feeling this is not your normal game.
Indeed, the presentation side of the game is possibly one of the most striking and memorable aspects. From the starting animation sequence that draws you in, it has all the makings of an incredibly entertaining title. It's stylish, slick, appealing and wouldn't look all that far out of place dancing itself silly in an Austin Powers film. Everything is clean, pure cut and concise; there is little to confuse the player and is in parts done with a large tongue firmly in cheek.
Feel the Magic is a great little launch title for Nintendo to show off the potential of the DS. It does smack slightly of being rushed however, with the depth of games lacking when compared to Wario Ware, and it won't take long to complete Story mode. Yet there is a Hard mode to attempt afterwards, along with the task of trying to earn all the possible unlockable outfits. Anyone wishing to indulge in a bit of typical Japanese lunacy should give it a whirl. RUB IT!