Gotta Snap ’em All
This is it, the thing that every DSi owner has been waiting for since picking up the newest edition of Nintendo’s wildly successful handheld. Foto Showdown marks the first DS title that works exclusively on the DSi. However, don’t get too excited just yet as it seems like Nintendo is taking a decidedly baseball logic approach to DSi exclusives. In baseball, you rarely send your strongest hitter to the plate first, instead saving them until the cleanup position in order to help the previous batters score runs.
The first batters up to the plate are usually better at positioning the ball in a specific location and using that to get on a base. Perhaps the best way to describe Foto Showdown in baseball terms is, it’s the first up to bat, does a good job of hitting where it’s aiming, and will probably score you a double, maybe even a triple, but will certainly get tagged out if it tries to go for home plate.
The game starts off with a somewhat familiar point of interest if you’re a fan of the television show Lost. There is a mysterious island that continues to appear and disappear at will. After a long absence, the island finally reappears but instead of the uninhabited isle that has come to be expected, there are modern cities covering its surface. Understandably, you’re sent in to investigate what is going on and to figure out what has been happening on the island.
Of course, to get to the bottom of these mysteries you’ll have to learn how best to train and fight with various Pokémon… whoops, wrong game. All jokes aside, Foto Showdown presents players with a very similar “Gotta catch ’em all” approach to game design. Essentially, most of Foto Showdown’s gameplay boils down to a long series of battles against various groups of monsters. In order to stand any chance, or even participate, in these fights, players must amass their own stable of monsters with which to compete. Good thing the first item you’re given at the beginning of the game is a gun with bullets.
While this may initially seem a bit edgy for an E rated game, I assure you that it isn’t as mature as it sounds. Your gun is actually a camera and its bullets are, in fact, capsules that are used to capture Pok… I mean monsters. I’m not entirely sure why they’re referred to as bullets in the game, but I suppose it makes sense since your camera looks like a futuristic gun, trigger and all, with a video screen on its side.
As you can probably imagine, since this game has a camera in it and the system it was made exclusively for also has a camera, you’ll be using the DSi’s camera in order to capture monsters. This is a fairly neat idea, although the execution of it can leave much to be desired. Players will have the option to use bullets in order to attempt to capture monsters using the DSi’s camera, but aren’t really given any instructions as to what the game is looking for. I have to admit, I had a pretty rough time trying to get unique monsters because the game didn’t really make it clear how best to go about getting new monsters.
Having somewhat researched this game before playing it (thankfully, because this isn’t relayed in the game), I knew that color composition was supposed to be the determining factor in which monsters would be gained from pictures. However, I’m still entirely unsure of what dominant colors will trigger which monsters. This is because I’ve had several occasions where I’ve taken close to the exact same picture and gotten two entirely different monsters and times when I’ve snapped shots of two drastically different colors and gotten the same monster. The idea behind this type of monster creation really is great but if you are given no idea how it works and are constantly getting conflicting feedback in the form of these monsters, it is hard to find it enjoyable.
There are few more discouraging things than taking five or six wildly different photos in a row and getting the exact same monster every time, and this happens far more often than it should. The result is an overwhelming feeling of disappointment, which makes you not want to discontinue taking pictures. However, it’s not all bad since Konami apparently also knew how unpredictable this part of the game could be. I assume this because the cheapest bullet used to take photographs will run you fifty credits in the game and the cheapest sell back price for duplicate monsters in the game’s store is also fifty. This at least allows you to not lose money on these constant duplicates, instead making your time and patience the only things you’ll waste during this process.
There are a ton of different monsters to find and use in Foto Showdown, if you can manage to discover them by taking random photographs or earn them by winning fights. Each monster comes with its own stats, ranging from their offensive power to their speed, that determine how well they’ll perform during combat. Monsters also come equipped with two attacks, a normal and special, that can vary greatly from monster to monster. However, you won’t just be able to take all of your best monsters with you directly into battles, as each creature also has a control cost attributed to it.
When building a team of monsters, all of these factors must be considered. Taking a team of monsters that have complementary skills is always important. For instance, having a strong one to soak up damage, a good ranged attacker, and a support creature to help keep the other two alive. You can have up to six monsters in your team, although this is pretty difficult to attain early on due to a low amount of control points. Each monster’s control cost ranges from three and up, with higher costs usually reserved for more powerful ones and lower costs for weaker ones.
The battles themselves are actually quite good, relying heavily on strategy and making the most out of your turns. Each fight takes place on a series of six boxes, with each team getting three. The initial placement of your monsters is incredibly important, keeping stronger monsters with shorter ranges in the front, ranged monsters behind, and support ones in the back. If one of your first three monsters falls during a battle, one of your reserves will step in to take its place as long as you have any (see control points). Strategic movement throughout a fight can also play a huge role in victory, switching one of your monsters with an opponent’s in order to make them more vulnerable to attacks. Foto Showdown really shines here, which somewhat makes the random method of unlocking necessary monsters all the more disappointing.
While Foto Showdown doesn’t hit a homerun; it is still a respectable release, especially given that it is the first DSi exclusive title. It attempts to utilize the system’s unique capabilities (camera) in order to make an interesting and different experience. While it does somewhat succeed, I only wish that the method for unlocking different monsters had been better defined and explained. Either way, if you don’t mind snapping hundreds of photos and making numerous trips to the game’s store in order to sell back the seemingly never ending supply of repeat monsters, Foto Showdown’s battle system is rather strategic and quite enjoyable.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
While there’s nothing particularly eye-catching in the game, there is a good variety of distinct-looking monsters to be had. 4.0 Control
Since the game is largely menu-driven and the combat is turn-based, there is really nowhere for the controls to fail. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music and sound effects are decent but can get extremely repetitive. 3.8
Although collecting monsters with the camera can be confusing and tedious, the battle system is rather good. Being able to fight and trade monsters with a friend wirelessly is also a welcome addition.
3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.