Feel the Magic: XY/XX
Developer: Sonic Team | Publisher: Sega | Release Date: 2004 | Genre: Mini-games | Website: N/A | Purchase: Amazon
| Size: 512 Mbit
Launch titles for new consoles usually just dress up tired old gameplay ideas in a shiny new graphical coat and then bank on the hordes of early adopters salivating at the prospect of getting something new to go with their hardware in order to shift copies. The Nintendo DS is way more than just a graphically superior version of the older Gameboy models and packs quite a few interesting features like a touch screen and microphone, all of which I am happy to report, Feel The Magic makes use of.
Feel The Magic: XY-XX (or Project: Rub) as it is known in PAL territories is the tale of a young man who, while out for a stroll one day, sees the girl of his dreams. Of course, the woman barely notices him until he is aided by a group of bunny ear wearing performance artists going by the name of “The Rub Rabbits.” Seeing that their crazy antics are definitely catching the of his dream girl the unnamed hero plays along with the stunts, even if it does mean he has to ride a unicycle across narrow pathways high up in the air or roll across a busy street in order to knock down the pedestrians on the other side. The (translated) Japanese title for this game isn’t “I would die for you!” for no reason. Winning the heart of the girl is only half the battle as in all good love stories there is a jealous rival that makes an appearance as well.
Feel The Magic is essentially a bizarre collection of mini-games that make use of the DS touch screen and microphone to increase the novelty and uniqueness. The whole game can be played and completed using the stylus without ever having to touch a button which makes it a very good showcase for the capabilities of the DS. Story mode is where all the action takes place and it is here that players will have to ride unicycles, battle monster plants, colour in graffiti and perform some dance moves, all in the name of love. Each mini-game has five increasingly more difficult rounds with a short “break time” somewhere in the middle to give you a rest. Rounds are completed by filling a “heart meter” that is based on the points you score in the mini-games. Do well and your meter will start to fill up, fail and it will start to empty. This can lead to repetition as a few setbacks can cost you all your points for the round but fortunately you usually have a few games to select from so you can focus on the ones you are good at.
The mini-games are truly a bizarre lot, but you have even wackier boss battles to contend with. Stop rampaging bulls while trying not to hit the innocent skiers, defeat a giant man eating plan by setting it alight, launch pedestrians at a rivals’ car using a giant slingshot mounted on your own vehicle and more awaits you. The boss battles show a sharp increase in difficulty compared to the mini-games and the fact that they are recycled towards the end of a very short game makes matters even worse. To add some longevity all the mini-games can be re-played in the “memories” mode once you’ve unlocked them in the story mode. Here the difficulty can also be toggled to your liking. A weird dress-up game can be found in the oddly titled “Maniac” mode and here you can customize the hair, clothes and shoes of your dream girl. “Hidden Rabbits” found during the story mode cut-scenes as well as owning Gameboy Advance carts made by Sega will unlock even more clothing options. While this is a neat diversion and a perfect time waster for completionists I didn’t find much to hold my attention in this mode.
Visually Feel The Magic doesn’t really show the best that the DS is capable of but it does have a unique style of its own. All the characters are merely black silhouettes with no facial features while their clothes and accessories are made colourful. This works quite well when combined with the bright, cartoony backgrounds and gives the game a very charming retro style look and feel. The colors are bold without becoming too garish and the characters are animated enough to give them unique personalities without any facial features. It’s interesting to note that the game can be switched between English and Japanese from the options menu and the changes it makes to the title screen.
The audio is easily on par with the graphics and gameplay when it comes to sheer wackiness and one thing is certain, its definitely memorable. The catchy melodies are somewhat on the sparse side, but when they consist of vocal tracks featuring men humming and whistling it’s hard not to crack a smile. The cut-scenes rely on zany sound effects to get the message across but there are some distinctly Japanese voice samples scattered throughout the game. Just be careful not to end up shouting “Rub It!” when attempting to impress a girl in real life!
The touch screen controls are top notch and very responsive apart from a few of the boss battles, most noticeably the plant one where they fumble a bit. Nevertheless, for such good stylus controls straight out of the gate, I have high hopes for the future of the DS. Even novelties like the microphone surprised me with its accuracy and blowing a sailboat across shark infested waters to rescue a girl is definitely a gaming first for me. The final scene also makes very memorable use of the microphone. I’m not so sure about the shouting into the microphone to attract the girls’ attention as one mini-game suggests. It might just get you the wrong kind of attention when done in public. Fortunately the game gives you alternatives to using the microphone if you don’t feel like making a spectacle of yourself in public.
Despite its relatively short length, Feel The Magic is one of the best titles in the launch line-up of the DS and a great showcase of the potential that the hand-held has. It might be a bit too bizarre for some, but if you want something new and innovative then this is well worth a try.
*Review originally published 2004.