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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Vivarium
Genre: Pinball
Players: 1
Rated: E10 (Everyone 10 and up)
Release Date: April 10, 2006
Written By: Matthew Prunty

For many gamers, mostly Nintendo followers, when you think of complex gameplay, but simplified, you think of Pikmin. This title was a combination of RTS (real-time strategy) fundamentals and basic characteristics found in action titles. To formula caught on and created to successful titles (with a third on the way) and was seen within another title, Battalion Wars. We know this is a successful formula for Nintendo, but how would it fair when you throw in elements of pinball gameplay? Odama is certainly a unique gaming experience, but how well does it grabs the gamerís attention and keep him/her gaming for hours?

Odama is group project between Vivarium Studios and Nintendo. Many gamers may have never heard of Vivarium studios, and thatís because their best-known title was released on the late, great Sega Dreamcast console. We have seen very few titles on the market that blend totally different, and seemingly opposing components, into a unique gaming experience. You have the core gameplay mechanics of a pinball game, combined with real-time strategy elements, all set within time of medieval Japan as the core of Odama. For those who arenít into RTS titles, or even pinball games, you will either think about playing this title, or just simply look past it.

From a visual standpoint, after titles like Resident Evil 4 on the Nintendo Gamecube, this title seems a little to late in the life cycle of the console. Not to say that this title looks bad, itís just seems more like a project that should of came out towards the beginning of the consoles cycle. Vivarium used a low polygon count for the character models, allowing them to create several hundreds of soldiers on the battlefield, making the battles look large scale. From a far, things look ok, but as you zoom closer to the battlefield, you notice the ever so lack of either effort or time in making this title look more polished. Though Pikmin also had low polygon counts, it was far more polished.

The basis for Odama is that you have control over a character known as Kagetora, who is out for revenge against another general and his army due to him betraying your father. Seeing how the center point of this title is pinball, there is clearly only one way to win, but several ways you can lose in battle. There are several elements in play that can decide whether you proceed to the next level, or must play through the current one again. If your last Odama (a giant size ball which can destroy buildings and crush your enemies) drops through the flippers (like in pinball), you will lose the battle. There is also a timer that you must also battle against. If time runs out, depending on how much damage is dealt out, the winner will be determined. There is also the element of the Ninten Bell. Your soldiers are suppose to carry it from one side of the battlefield to the other. While doing this, they must contend with hordes of enemies, which will try to keep the bell from reaching their side through conventional and non-conventional weaponry. But if for some reason they push the bell through your own flippers, game is over.

The controls are kept rather simple. The left and right triggers on the control pad operate the left and right flippers. Too somewhat guide the Odama once you launch it, simply tilt the analog-stick to the left (or right). As you destroy various structures, power-ups are exposed, which can help you in your conquest for revenge. The hourglass item gives you extra time, which is a very precious commodity within the game. But unfortunately, they are rather rare. There is also the rice ball, which you can launch at your foes. The rice ball will distract them (seeing how heated battles make people hungry), allowing you to gain the upper hand using the Odama or through giving commands to your soldiers via the microphone attachment.

With the green orb or heart power-ups, you can take things to a whole new level. While the Odama is a powerful tool at your disposal, your own troops can be killed if they are in the way of the rolling ball. But with the green orb power-up, the Odama will turn any enemy troops it rolls over, into your allies, thus raising the stakes in your favor. The heart power-up allows for a special effect delivered by the Ninten Bell. To perform this affect, you must strike the bell with the Odama.

The best advice I could give you is to master each level your play through before advancing to the next. Whatever troops are lost in the heat of the battle; will not accompany you within the next level. So if you lost half of your forces, upon entering the next level, you will be at a great disadvantage. So you are encouraged to backtrack, if you have trouble on a particular level. But one problem with back tracking is that if you are defeated on a previous level you completed, you canít advance to the next level, though you had access before. You are forced to play through all the previous levels again to build your forces back up and ready yourself for that next level. Keep this in mind throughout the entire game.

A key factor within you advancing and defeating your enemy is the various voice commands. It would be rather nice if you can control individual troops or a select group, but unfortunately any commands you deliver will go to the collective as a whole. To turn on the microphone, you simply press the X button. Once on, you can give one of 10 different commands to your troops like rally or press forward. Not sure if the troops had a little too much sake, or just a little slow because you will find yourself having to repeat your commands several times, which can be frustrating and tiresome. You also have various characters that shout out various commands an input while you are on the battlefield. Taiko drums were also incorporated into the sound effects of the game to further the authenticity of Japanese base within the title.

After playing Odama for a few hours, you will notice that this game isnít for the average gamer. Though a pinball game at the core, there are several elements that force you to think strategically and plan out your moves. Though the combination of voice commands, real-time strategy, and pinball is rather enticing, there is just too much you must learn in order to be successful at your conquests. If you are a gamer looking for a challenge, you may be interested in Odama, but I donít recommend this game for everyone.


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