Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand
Ah, winter is nearly upon us. The leaves are dropping like flies, the days are getting shorter, and commuters have to scrape ice off their windshields every morning. Yes, it’s this time of year when peace and good will toward men and women dominate mainstream America, usually in the form of post-Thanksgiving sale extravaganzas. But while consumers flock to the stores before the major holidays, I’m sure that some of us would rather stay indoors, having some eggnog in one hand and a video game controller in the other. There’s nothing better than lounging around during your Winter Break, enjoying the bliss of being a couch potato and catching up on a game that you’ve been too busy to play. But as you’re cramming down yuletide junk food and packing on the calories, you’re missing out on that brisk, beautiful winter day. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with being a little lazy, but you’ve got to come out of your house sometime. To encourage gamers to participate such an unheard of process, Konami came up with a game that not only asked gamers to step out into fresh air, but also demanded it. Thus Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand was brought forth into the gaming community.
Gamers actually getting off their couches and going outside to play video games?! It must be a sign of the Apocalypse! Well, maybe not. But in the realm of Boktai, the world really is coming to an end. As the Age of Darkness settles, the Undead have arisen from their graves. From this dark underbelly of the supernatural, a race called the Immortals has taken over the city San Miguel. Once called the City of the Sun, San Miguel was put under siege of a powerful curse, and all of its living inhabitants became the Undead. And to top it all off, the greatest Vampire Hunter in the city was killed. Where’s Alucard when you need him? However, there is some hope for this dying city. In the aftermath of the San Miguel uprising, a lone boy named Django managed to escape the chaos. This little trooper has the untapped talent of his Vampire Hunter predecessors, but he’s still an inexperienced hero. Luckily for him, he’s armed with the Gun Del Sol, the legendary pistol of his ancestors. With nothing else but pure moxie, Django sets off for Istrakan, the City of Death. It’s up to him to lift the curse of the Undeadening and save his home.
Okay, so you’ve got the hero with some motivation. But what does that have to do with gamers leaving their beloved consoles and computers? What could those kooky folks over at Konami possibly do to make such an unusual idea come into being? The answer lies with the Gun Del Sol. For those of you that have never studied Spanish, “Gun Del Sol” can be translated as “Gun of the Sun.” As the name suggests, the Gun Del Sol operates entirely on solar energy. The game cartridge comes with a built-in sensor that absorbs ultraviolet waves from the sun. You have to go outside for the sensor to pick up any energy. In other words, if you’re not playing in a sunny place, the use of the weapon is extremely limited. Oh yeah, that can be loads of fun when you’re surrounded by Undead baddies and the gun has no energy to fire. Thankfully, there are a few recharge stations strewn throughout the game, allowing you to juice up the Gun Del Sol for a price. Also, you can find different parts to alter and upgrade the gun, letting you use is for different purposes and performing a decent variety of attacks. Needless to say, Django’s weapon isn’t your typical six-shooter.
Thankfully, Boktai doesn’t revolve entirely upon the use of the Gun Del Sol. Since the gun is limited by the amount of energy in its charger, the majority of the gameplay is focused on stealth. Sure, Django may have a nifty little pistol and a lot of heart, but he’s going up against an entire city of dead people. Thus the majority of the gameplay focuses on the use of stealth to progress through the levels. And who better to implement a stealth game than Hideo Kojima, the mastermind behind the Metal Gear series. Instead of blasting zombies away with sunlight, Django will spend most of his time sneaking down hallways, peeking around corners and staying out of enemy sight. In traditional Metal Gear style, you can lean back against a wall and knock on it, creating the ever-essential distraction while you slip by the zombie guards unnoticed. If you try to take on your foes directly, you’d better pray that you have enough energy ammo to finish the job. Also, you’ll have to deal with mazes, traps, and puzzles that will hinder your progress through the game. These usually involve tricking a certain enemy, moving boxes around, or observing your surroundings. While none of these are particularly difficult to figure out, they do break up the monotony of just wandering down corridors the entire game.
Since you’ll be playing directly under the sunlight, chances are that the glare of light from the GBA screen will hinder your view of the game. But don’t worry too much; you won’t be missing anything special. For whatever reason, the game designers didn’t make much use of the GBA’s graphical abilities. Most of the objects in this game seem to lack the detail that we’ve come to expect for the system. The colors seem plain, almost boring. Sure, the buildings have enough detail for a decent presentation, but Django seems to suffer from some heavily pixilated animation. The only really detailed parts of our fledgling hero are his typical anime style hairdo and the red cape flowing behind him. Even the animation of the sunlight energy lacks a certain vibrancy, coming off as meager streaks of yellow. Thankfully, the audio quality makes up for the lacking graphics. As you traverse through the dark alleyways of Istrakan, you’ll be subject to a dramatic score that lends so much more emotion to an otherwise bland experience.
For a first attempt at a new series, Konami did pretty well. As Boktai 2 was released late last year, we can expect a sunshiny future for Django as his epic quest unfolds. This game came with an interesting twist for all the seasoned gamers out in today’s market. For all of you Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear fans, look forward to some decent handheld stealth action. For all of you Castlevania followers out there, be prepared for yet another intriguing story of vampires, the undead, and the supernatural. And for those of you that have spent a little too much time indoors, use this game as an excuse to walk out the door and bask in the winter sunlight. And if all else fails, at least you can get a tan.