BOKTAI / Konami / Gameboy Advance

Boktai is the type of game I hate as a (lazy) writer, because it defies a quick description.

OK, the first thing you should know about it is that it is one of those projects that Hideo Kojima would have rather been spending time on than cranking out Moar Metal Gear games. The theme is much more cartoony and kiddy than his usual fare, though - you play as a little kid who is a vampire hunter, guided by a flying flower who is a "messenger of the Sun."

The next thing you should know is that the game tries to tie itself into real life as much as possible through the Gameboy inputs. The cartridge itself comes equipped with a special "solar sensor", which detects whether you are playing under lightbulb light, sunlight, or no light. The player's weapon is a "solar gun" which has to be recharged in the sun, and increases in power depending on how strong the light hitting the sensor currently is. Room lighting is adequate to play the game, but you get Moar Power if you play under strong sunlight. However! If under strong sunlight, as a sort of protection mechanism for the GBA's circuitry, the gun will eventually "overheat", and you have to either duck into the shade or just cover the solar sensor until it cools down to make it usable again.

At the outset of each game, you are also asked what geographical area you are in. If you are playing the U.S. version, for example, you'll be asked what major city you are closest to. The game uses this information, plus the internal clock, to also effect the light settings and other factors in the game. For example, "sundown" in the game (when the big nasty vampires come out to play) occurs at whatever the normal sundown time is for your area at that time of year, regardless of whether you are playing it under artificial light or not. Different days of the week also have different effects here and there - for example, you get some bonus power on Sunday, since that's the "sun's day".

This all sounds very innovative and immersive and all of that, but when you get into the actual gameplay, it's more annoying than anything. You basically get penalized if you play at night, when most people who work and go to school probably actually want to play the game. To off the vampires, you have to tediously drag their coffins back to a "pile driver", basically a giant sun cannon that the flower magically rigs up outside their lairs. Obviously, you can only do this during the day, otherwise they are up and about out of their coffin and you have to fight them (and be sure not to start dragging a coffin right before sundown in your area, for obvious reasons.)

Of course, you can screw with the settings of the clock and such to give yourself an advantage, but you really shouldn't have to go through with such shenanigans just to play a damn game. I think it's really telling of Kojima's arrogance that he seriously thought that people would wait until the optimal times to play his games and clear their schedules so they could do so (also telling of how much sway he apparently has at Konami, that no one stopped him from actually releasing the game with this ludicrous idea in place.)

I guess all this would be something you could put up with if the game was otherwise fantastic, but as it turns out it's just like a mediocre run-and-gun game from an isometric perspective, with some mild adventure and RPG elements. Of course, being a Kojima game, there's the inevitable self-reference as well. "Sneaking" is part of the game - you can press up against walls, and look a bit ahead by holding down the R button. You are also ranked on each area you complete partially by how many times the enemies spot you. But the game really wasn't designed as a "stealth" game, and sneaking is rarely an effective or useful tactic, it just kind of slows you down.

Boss battles are also kind of stupid, too. You get into a few real fights, but mostly you end up tediously dragging coffins all the way back through some dungeon you just went through, to get them to the "Pile Driver" for solar annihalation. That part is long and boring enough, but once there, you then "purify" them by running back and forth repeatedly charging the two solar guns while the vampire tries to overwhelm them with his dark power or whatever. It's easy, but slow and tedious, and really just strikes you as a giant waste of your time.

So you have a mediocre shoot-em-up, basically, with a ton of elements tacked on to it, many of them gratuitous and poorly thought out. The flower who follows you around is also annoying as shit, and his constant yells of "Taiiiyoooo!" will make you want to turn the sound off (unfortunate because the game has an oldschool soundtrack reminiscent of the work the Kukeiha Club did on Kojima's MSX games.) It's like the first two Metal Gear games, but with less gameplay options and a bunch of bullshit restrictions on the player. Bleh.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video

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