Zubo Review for Nintendo DS

Zubo Review for Nintendo DS

Beats and Beat-downs

Zubo is an interesting amalgam of rhythm gameplay and turn-based RPG mechanics. Drawing from a number of high quality titles including Pokémon and Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, Zubo makes for a compelling experience. Although, this game simply does not capture the same magic the aforementioned titles do because of its lack of depth.

Zubo screenshot

As a result, the cutesy, Mighty Bean-like characters don’t transcend demographics, making this game exclusively for children. That being said, there is enough challenge and length that it is a great title for young, aspiring gamers; this is certainly not some Dora or Ponyz title.

Players will be tasked with saving the world of Zubalon from the evil Zombos. How? By making friends with the multitude of friendly Zubos along the way. Much like Pokémon, battles are turn-based, and every Zubo has special skills that make them more than just citizens of Zubalon – they can protect, perform, and fight their way to glory. In fact, each Zubo (and every Zombo) is classified as a Protector, Performer, or Fighter. This sets up a rock-paper-scissors power-dichotomy, with Protectors trumping Fighters, Fighters laying the hurt down on Performers, and Performers having an advantage over Protectors. Luckily, players will be allowed to have three Zubos with them at all times, essentially giving you access to an ideal Zubo type no matter what kinds of Zombos are thrown at you.

After defeating a group of Zombos, Zubo characters are given XP boosts, with KO-inducing characters getting an extra bonus. XP is used to level up characters, which is done automatically. Every time characters level up, their vital statistics improve and new skills become available. Skills typically deal direct damage to your foes, but they can also shield, reflect, heal, or strengthen your Zubos. Activating these moves is done through a unique battle mechanic that takes advantage of tapping and holding your stylus on the DS’s touch screen with the appropriate timing.

Depending on how powerful the move is, the more difficult it will be to pull off; timing and pattern recognition is of the utmost importance. If you get too anxious or aren’t paying enough attention, you’ll be plagued by ratings of Miss and Early. If you are able to time the attacks well, you will be given an OK or Sweet rating. The more quality ratings you get, the more your damage (heal) meter, known as The Score Bar, will fill and the more powerful the move will be. If you are able to link together all Sweet ratings within a round, you will achieve a Super Sweet, which will give you a bonus and may even translate into a Lucky Streak, giving your team a bonus attack. Additionally, filling The Score Bar past certain thresholds will have your Zubos accumulating a pool of Power Pills. These pills are combat currency, which allows you to gain access to more advanced moves. Standard moves can be pulled off at anytime, but advanced moves, which do more damage, require you to spend a certain quantity of pills. Thankfully, pulling off such advanced moves efficiently will help to replenish at least a portion of your Power Pill pool.

Zubo screenshot

In review, combat is made up of a series of turn-based encounters between Zubos and Zombos. Players try to match up appropriate Zubo classes to gain an advantage over the Zombos, and then must use skills from their moves list to wear down their opponents by executing stylus-controlled prompts. This combat mechanic is fairly rewarding, but it is not nearly as deep as what is found in Pokémon or Superstar Saga. For starters, there are only three classes to choose from, making Zubo not particularly cerebral. Also, while the execution of attacks is a rich system, there is no way to counterattack; you’ll just have to sit back and literally fast-forward enemy attacks and wait for the result. That gives a distinct nod to Superstar Saga. Finally, the game is supposed to be based on rhythm, but that’s actually a misconception.

While attacks require precise timing, they are executed via visual cues rather than aural ones. That’s because the attacks don’t match up with the music at all. You’ll simply have to pay attention to matching up the glowing rings and silhouettes of your characters. These three missteps make this game decidedly less compelling than the other two franchises mentioned. Still, there is enough fun here for youngsters to get a kick out of the title. Namely, the collection and leveling components are strong enough to keep kids entertained for awhile. There’s even a multiplayer element that allows you to battle with a friend locally via DS Wireless Connection, and a handicapping feature that keeps these battles fair. The only downside is there is no Download Play functionality for at least limited single cartridge fun.

Zubo screenshot

The visuals in Zubo are nice but not off the charts. The attack animations are quite funny and endearing, and the character designs are of high quality. The resolution does seem to be a bit chunky and lacking detail, however. Sound is punctuated by electro-funk and catchy beats. Putting on headphones is suggested, and the tunes come through with nice fidelity. Unfortunately, for a game supposedly so focused on the music, there is an overwhelming amount of repetition.

Zubo screenshot

Finally, control is handled exclusively via the touch screen, which is simple, smart, and effective. Tapping and holding the touch screen to execute attacks and moves is fun, though it does becomes very repetitive; the moves’ timing never varies, eventually growing somewhat tiresome. Disappointingly, the touch screen doesn’t seem to be as responsive as it needed to be whilst exploring buildings and navigating menus. Often, I found myself struggling to close my backpack (the game’s inventory) and selecting other prompts if they were located toward the corners. On a couple of occasions inside buildings, I even had to turn off my DS and turn it back on because I was stuck on invisible walls and/or caught tinkering with interactive objects in the environment. Luckily, an auto-save feature lets you start from where the environment last loaded.

When all is said and done, Zubo is a nice effort by EA Bright Light to appeal to a younger demographic while still providing an experienced that isn’t dumbed-down. This makes it perfect for an aspiring gamer. That being said, the title isn’t complex enough to truly appeal to people outside of the intended audience.

The character designs and attack animations are great, but the resolution is very blocky. 4.0 Control
The tapping and holding of the stylus during combat is great, but menu and building navigation is often foiled by a lack of sensitivity. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The electro-funk sounds great, but there isn’t enough of it to go around. 3.2

Play Value
The single-player campaign is long enough for a youthful gamer to sink their teeth into, and the wireless play extends the experience further. However, the lack of complexity makes this title unable to transcend its appeal to audiences outside of its intended demographic.

3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Explore the 10 Worlds of Zubalon: Get lost in the multiple lands, including Wild West, Fairytale, Pop and Horror.
  • Engage in a Variety of Mini-games: Blow away cobwebs, play the drums, escape the Heart Maze, pop balloons, dig for treasure, Whack-A-Zombie, and much more in order to proceed to the next exciting level!
  • Challenge your friends: Put your team of Zubos to the test with the adhoc multiplayer.
  • Befriend Over 50 Zany Characters: Create your dream team to battle the Big Head’s army of Zubo clones- the evil Zombos.
  • Take the Zombos on in Style: Master the accessible strategy system and rhythm action mechanic across more than 100 hilarious animated battle moves and 10 custom composed team musical themes.

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