Review: Rub it!
By design, the Nintendo DS promises innovation, thanks to the concept of two screens and the use of a stylus as the ?controller' for a majority of the game. But as always, most launch-era releases really haven't been real showcases of the possibilities of Nintendo's new handheld; not even their flagship release Super Mario 64 DS really demonstrates the potential of the hardware. Leave it to Sega and Sonic Team to be the ones that actually have spent the time making a game that truly feels like it was built specifically for the DS, Feel the Magic: XY/XX. Though technically a hodgepodge of minigames, FTM is a bizarre, absurd, amusing, occasionally cute & charming, sometimes kinda?perverted, but downright innovative game in almost every way. Though not a killer app by any means, FTM is the most capable title in the fairly barren launch library in terms of actually taking advantage of the concepts no other console can offer, and thus is well worth the $30 to experience what is expected from the Nintendo DS.
Feel the Magic is, at heart, a story of love. An anonymous guy gazes upon a most beautiful girl, and he falls in love. But, he's just an average guy that has no chance with such a looker. Enter the Rub Rabbits, a group of people with bunny ears (must be from Ivalice), who get your unnamed main character to perform weird games and stunts in order to impress and thus win her heart. This is the basic premise, there are different stages with different games you must complete in order to gain ?points' with her and thus move along to the next phase of the courting. The whole thing is a little quirky and might even be a bit too sexual at some points (you may not notice the moans of your dream girl when you clean her off unless you're a sicko like me) for the more prudeish people of the world and the kiddies, but it's told in such a sanitized way most of the jokes will fly over unsuspecting heads. It's not like the story is the focus of the game ? no, it's the absurd minigames that give FTM its charm.
And they really can be absurd. Punching in numbers with the stylus to open parachutes, cleaning mud off your dream girl after you save her from an attack from hundreds of bulls, blowing into the DS microphone to put out candles, carefully navigating around characters on unicycles with the stylus (a tall task indeed, with near-perfect precision needed), rubbing live fish out of a choking bystander, even bowling yourself across a busy street by using the stylus to fling a morph-ball like deal into people ? these are the kinds of things you'll encounter. There's really no rhyme or reason for these games, it's just a crazy batch of minigames tied around a crazy story to demonstrate what the DS can do. But the variety in the games is excellent, almost every one of them does something weird or different with the stylus ? and the stylus is the only
means of control in Feel the Magic; the face buttons and d-pad are not in play. The stylus is a more than ample tool though, as FTM plays very precisely with it, and the game expects that same precision in many of the different stages.
Unsurprisingly, Feel the Magic is pretty short, lasting only a few hours, which is typical for these quirky, bizarre games. However, the game can be pretty challenging sometimes, so you might have to repeat stages again and again in order to actually beat it. That is one of the nags of FTM ? if you complete a stage, and get 60 out of 100 points necessary to move on to the next level, you have to move on to the next level before powering off your DS, or you'll lose your progress. Perhaps even more annoying is that if you pass a stage, then fail another within a level, you actually lose points, making you repeat a stage to get back on the right track. It may extend the life of the game but it's somewhat frustrating. Thankfully the addictive quality of the game more than makes up for it. Once you do beat it, you can access a harder difficulty level, and there's always the ?Memories' section of the game where you can replay past stages for fun, or to show off the innovative quality of the DS console. Obviously though, Feel the Magic was hurried to market since Nintendo themselves was in such a hurry to get the system out the door before the PSP releases, and it shows with the brevity of the game. But it doesn't hurt the charm and innovation of the title, which is definitely why it's the best game of the small crop of launch titles. There's no multiplayer that shows off the wireless capabilities, which is a downer since these games would be damn fun in a multiplayer setting (competing for the heart of the dream girl).
Feel the Magic's visuals continue the unique style, with abstract-like visual presentation. Every character is done in a ?shadow' form of sorts, as they're all dark black and faceless, with the main character coming with weird blue hair to go along. It's all very subtle, and there's not a whole lot of special tricks, but there really doesn't need to be when you're emphasizing a simple, yet addictive game like this. But the style is unusual and not something you'll find in many other games on other platforms, and the freshness is noted. It may not be a technological masterpiece but artistically (an oft-forgotten aspect of video game graphics) it hits the spot. The audio is pretty crazy too, with one wacky song that loops in every stage with ?rub it!' piping in every once in a while to remind you how to play the game or something to go along with wacky sound effects matching the equally wacky stages.