Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/16/03 | Genre: Action
A lot of people were wondering what Hideo meant when he explained his concept in one word. Everybody thought he meant the word "son" from the game Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Imagine everybody's surprise when he meant the word "sun." At the time, there were a lack of details, thus nobody could figure out how the game would work in conjunction with sunlight, nor did they understand how a character depends on solar energy. A few months later, I find myself sitting outside with a Game Boy Advance and the cartridge.
Wait, just a cartridge? Where's the add-on doohickey? Well this is the interesting part, the sensor is in a long lip (about a centimeter long) on top of the cartridge, thus it is compatible with both GBAs and GBA SPs (or anything that uses GBA cartridges for that matter). So rather than worrying about not losing an add-on device, you simply have a slightly longer cartridge that has the sensor sticking out.
The storyline works out like this, you are solar boy Django, the vampire hunter. Accompanied by the powerful messenger of the sun, Otenko, you have to purify all evil from the world using the power of the sun (as if it wasn't obvious enough). Since Otenko is a sunflower, he tends to disappear whenever a fight goes on, and yet he's available for advice, for creating a portal, and for creating the evil-purifying device called the piledriver. I'll explain about those later.
The graphics for the game are as good as a typical RPG game for Super Nintendo, and considering the GBA isn't designed for state of the art graphics, this is perfectly acceptable. Fog layers were designed well, minor details like puddles look great, and translucent effects are used appropriately for things like immortal spirits.
The gameplay is what makes this game unique (and is also what everybody wants to know about). The UV sensor (meaning using a flashlight will do jack cheaters) controls the meter on the bottom right of the screen. The more UV rays the sensor picks up, the more square dots the meter will show. The meter not only shows how much energy the sensor is picking up, but it also represents the amount of sunlight available in the game. For example, if Django is anywhere near a source of sunlight (outside, a window in a building, etc.), then he can charge his weapon (Gun del Sol) for more ammo (indicated above the sun meter). Although you should know that if the meter is higher than three square dots, then firing the gun too much can cause it to overheat, requiring a few minutes to cool it down.
For those of you who work during the daytime or live in an area where sunny weather is a rarity, completing the game is possible, but you would be at a large disadvantage. If such a situation exists, solar stations (large green cells) are available to recharge your weapon. There are also solar bamboo shoots scattered all over the world, waiting for you to shoot them open and collect the spirit bugs contained inside. Green bugs provide health, yellow bugs provide solar energy, and red bugs take away solar energy (these are the ones to avoid).
There are also upgrades to find for the Gun del Sol, including a lens attachment using lunar energy. This uses no solar energy (doesn't use ammo), but it also causes no damage either. This is where Hideo Kojima's (creator of the Metal Gear series) work really shines. To use as little solar energy as possible (and to solve certain puzzles), you have the ability to lean against the wall to hide, as well as knock on the wall to attract the enemies' attention. I couldn't stop laughing as I kept attracting zombies to head towards a window so they could burn themselves to purification (that's the undead version of death).
The game also has puzzles required to be solved in order to keep going. Some involve basic math, some involve pushing crates to create a path, some involve stealth to trick someone into opening a locked door, and some involve figuring out a riddle before understanding what the puzzle is about. For those who don't like puzzles, the trap mode will provide the action you want. Certain rooms in the game will involve all doors being locked with enemies flooding in. You will need to take out all of them in order to re-open those doors (although you only need to beat trap mode once per rigged room).
I've noticed the game is designed to be easy to learn and that the player is rewarded after fighting intense battles. There is a green panel on the wall in some rooms for you to contact Otenko and receive advice. Otenko is also available to create portals at the beginning and end points of the levels so you can zip back and forth without redoing the entire level. You also get full health each time you defeat immortals (bosses), as well as survive the trap mode.
That doesn't mean the game is easy though. Each immortal is very tough to fight against, and require a lot of ammo to defeat them. However, it helps to do clever things like lure them toward windows, or turn their weapons (like ricocheting swords) against them. But once an immortal is defeated, you will need to drag the coffin containing the weakened spirit (that's all you did really) all the way back to where the piledriver is located (and it's located pretty far away). It also doesn't help to know that the coffin would shake every now and then, as well as try to drag itself back to its undead home. If you are close to the coffin as it shakes, you will be knocked back and lose some health. Once you do get the coffin into the piledriver, another intense battle begins.
The piledriver is a large platform where the coffin rests on the center surrounded by several mirrors. These mirrors use sunlight to blast the immortal's spirit and slowly (keyword being slowly) purify it. The problem is, the mirrors require constant charging or the immortal will shut them down. So while you are charging the mirrors by firing at them, the immortal will try to slow you down by attacking you. This is probably the only time I have enjoyed being a maintenance worker as the action gets really difficult there.
So overall this game is a lot of fun and proves that the Game Boy Advance isn't just a portable version of the Super Nintendo as the UV sensor requires sunlight. The only sad thing for this game is that not everybody has time to go outside, nor can the weather be controlled. Thus, there are times where you can't play the game even if you wanted to. But for those of you who can go outside on a sunny day, you'll find this game to be very innovative. There's also a multiplayer mode where several Djangos can battle each other. The stealth portions of the game will interest fans of Metal Gear Solid, and (like MGS) there's even a ranking system based on your performance. What is my ranking you say? Exactly the same grade as the rating I'm giving this game.