After the initial excitement of the Wii launchs faded, owners of Nintendo’s new console feverishly awaited for new software to line store shelves. While originally promised during the ‘launch window’, Konami’s Elebits was delivered to gamers the following month. The game offered players an intriguing amalgam of shooting gallery mixed with exploration elements. We found the title to be a unique experience and an exemplar for how Wiimote control should be integrated into a game.
When we first got wind of a sequel, we assumed the follow-up would also be on the Wii. Later, we found that Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero would be an exclusive Nintendo DS title. We were intrigued to see how Konami would translate the aim and shoot mechanic of the game to the touch screen. Thankfully, we can report that while the game is aimed at an even younger demographic that the original Elebits, its core gameplay has been faithfully translated to the small screen.
As the game starts, we learn that Kai’s parents study elebits- small creatures that power all things, and have a propensity to hide. A powerful omega elebit named Zero is born, and experiences a birth trauma so powerful that he instigates a thunderstorm. Naturally, the neglected Kai and troubled Zero bond and soon explore a barn with a old bus inside. As the duo board the vehicle, they are whisked through time to another dimension. Now, the team must collect enough elebits to initiate the time-jump home. While the plot is a bit zany, it does move along at a quick clip.
Elebits for the Wii had players navigating a 3D environment with the nunchuck, while zapping fleeing elebits with the Wiimote. In Kai and Zero, players initiate an elebit grabbing sequence by using the stylus to click on one of the escaping creatures. Once an elebit is touched, a gauge at the bottom of the screen quickly depletes. Players must touch Zero before the bar disappears entirely, otherwise Kai will be temporally stunned. Players are rewarded a bonus for creating combos- touching multiple elebits before clicking on Zero to round up the kilowatt critter clusters. Initially, we were worried that this core mechanic was too simple and wouldn’t sustain our interest. However, attempting to build an increasingly large combo kept this formula from losing its freshness.
Not only will players be shaking tree and displacing rocks in their quest for the elusive creatures, they will also have to employ the power of the stronger Omega elebits. By tapping on a Omega icon or using the shoulder button, players can utilize elemental abilities, including fire, earth, water and wind. While initial puzzles have players burning vines or freezing rivers, later challenges and bosses require a creative use of each Omega’s ability.
Fans of 2D handdrawn art should love Kai and Zero’s graphical style. Cutscenes are composed of delicate zooms and transitions through images that resemble paintings. Environmental art is displayed from a overhead, slightly angled perspective as found in Herc’s Adventures and Zombie Ate my Neighbors. Trees, rocks, lava beds, and land masses are all intricately drawn and a beauty to behold. Sonically, the game employs a respectable amount of voice over work that is delivered pleasingly.
We had two small concerns with gameplay. First, when players enter a new area, all rocks and obstacles in the previous section will revert to their initial placements. Secondly, although multiplayer was a worth addition, players who have a well developed omega roster will have a definate advantage.
Overall, Nintendo DS owners seeking a relaxed, yet absorbing adventure will find Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero to be gratifying. The title has a compelling game mechanic, and enough puzzle elements to keep players attention throughout the duration of the game. Players who obsess over collecting every last Pokemon, will likely find Kai and Zero a excellent escape from their typical Game Freak-designer fare.