Monday, August 3, 2015

Zubos, and Zombos, and Dombies. Oh my!

Blaugust Day 3: I'm still blogging.

When I first got a Nintendo DS I only used it for GBA games. I ended up storing away the bulky silver box until I remembered it a few years later. Fortunately, the DS platform was very popular and a ton of games were developed for it in that time. The year I started using it again my girlfriend got me a game called Zubo for my birthday. I didn't know what to expect, but what I got was completely unique. If I had to put Zubo into a genre I would call it a rhythm RPG, but I don't think that's the best way to describe it.

You wander around the world of Zubolon and its inhabitants, the Zubos, join your party. You're goal is to stop Sleepy Head from putting Zubos to sleep and stop his goons, the Zombos, from invading Zubolon. When you encounter the sleeping Zubos you wake them by yelling "WAKE UP!" into your DS's microphone. I love that feature, it never gets old. The gameplay is what sets Zubo apart. When you enter a fight you choose your Zubo and their move. The simple interface really reminds me of Pokemon. Where things get interesting is how you use your move. The combat is turn-based but during your turn you tap the screen in time with the prompts. There are simple taps and holds (like the freezes in DDR) that you have to match to pull off your move. You either miss it, get an OK, or get a SWEET. The higher score you get on your overall move, the more effective your move will be. You also gain power pills for pulling off moves successfully. Power pills are required for more powerful moves that allow you to do things like put an enemy to sleep or attack their whole team at once. On top of that, there are three classes of Zubo: fighter, defender, and performer. Any class is weak against one class and strong against the other. This rock, paper, scissors aspect makes it so that even the weaker Zubos in your party pose a threat to the Zombos. There are different animations for each move. They are entertaining to watch while the enemy pummels you. The animations range from pop culture references (Dombie does the Thriller dance to restore health) to toilet humor (seriously, there's a lot of farting). The back and forth between you and your opponent is like an exaggerated dance-off.

You tap when the green border lines up with the pink border.

Zubo is not a complex RPG as you only have one main quest with an odd side quest from time to time. Though it was probably made for kids it's not overly easy. The difficulty increases each time you level up. It's not grindy at all. There are no random encounters. In fact, the encounters are easy to spot and avoid if you're not ready for them. The world of Zubo is fun to explore. I haven't mentioned the graphics and how everything is made with simple shapes. Zubo makes good use of the DS's hardware by texturing simple polygons like a cylinder or a cube with a highly expressive 2D cartoon face or pattern. A lot of the characters are references to other media which is always nice. Occasionally I would see an object that stood out and tapping it with the stylus or blowing into the microphone would cause something to happen. I love interactive objects like this and I wish more games would include them.

I guess the best way to describe Zubo is wonderful. I read that Zubo was a commercial failure and eventually led to EA shutting down Bright Light, its developer. That's a shame because Zubo is a great game and there was a lot of talent behind it. I'm glad my girlfriend got it for me because I wouldn't have known about it otherwise. Have you received an unfamiliar game as a gift and fell in love with it? Let me know in the comments below.

I recently found out that Disqus was putting off some readers so I'm trying out a new commenting system. Let me know if there's something you don't like, or something that would make it easier for you to comment. I'm a blogging newbie and I would love feedback about the comments or the blog itself.
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