Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand
  • Genre:
    • Action Adventure
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Advance
  • Developer:
    • Konami
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    • JP 07/17/2003
    • US 09/16/2003
    • UK 05/14/2004
Score: 75%

This review was published on 11/17/2003.

Boktai is a game developed by world renowned game designer Hideo Kojima. You know, the guy behind the Metal Gear Solid franchise. This is kind of strange when you consider that this is a game about a boy vampire hunter on the GBA handheld. At least, I think it's strange. Before we get into that, though, the very first thing that needs to be mentioned is the "Solar Sensor." All Boktai game paks came with a sensor built into them, which could detect sunlight. The game revolves around the mechanic of being able to light this sensor with sunlight. So in order to actually play this thing, you'll need to go outside. In the sun, I might add. You might be able to get away with a UV lamp or by positioning the game near a window when the sun is up, but I think the intended method by the developers is to be outdoors, like at the beach. A pretty ridiculous concept, if I ever saw one. I'm not opposed to the outdoors, but video games and going outside in the hot, blazing sun are two things that don't mix well. I mean, the manuals to these things specifically warn you against taking your devices to places that are extremely hot. I don't know how well they thought this idea through.

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You take control of a boy vampire hunter. Like most vampire hunters, your hunting isn't just limited to vampires: you'll be dealing with lots of different flavors of the undead. Throughout your quest, you will be guided by a Navi-like figure, except it's a sunflower and not a fairy. And just like Navi, this sunflower will quickly get on your nerves. This heroic vampire hunting boy wields the legendary weapon, the blade of evil's bane, the... "Gun Del Sol." Wait a minute, that's not a sword! I'm assuming the developers were trying to brush up on their Spanish, considering "Del Sol" is Spanish. Gun isn't a Spanish word, though, so they need to work on that. Anyway, this is basically a solar gun. This is the whole reason behind the game's sensor and why you need to shine sunlight onto it. Simply shining sunlight onto the game's sensor isn't enough to power your in-game gun, though: you also need to be outside in the the game's imaginary world as well as the real world. If your gun runs out of solar energy and you can't get more via sunlight for whatever reason, then you can't advance in the game. In other words, using the sensor is essential to completing the game.

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So this gun seems to be pretty important, then. In fact, it's so important that it has its own status screen. In this screen, you can customize your gun by equipping it with different lenses (these determine the elemental affinity of your shots). If you use a particular lense, it will acquire experience points and inevitably level up, which increases the damage output of that lense. Each lense can achieve a maximum level of three, but this takes forever. Besides these lenses, you can equip various grenades, batteries (these determine how much solar energy your gun can store), and frames. What in the world are frames? Well, it's a bit hard to explain, but they modify the actual shot of your gun. For example, some frames let you shoot out little pellets, others let you shoot out a wide spread attack, etc. Each one of these frames have a rating for attack power and stun capability. I never did find out exactly how the stun thing works, but I'll just take a wild guess and assume it stuns the enemy. Of course, the other screens are the usual: an item screen (because every game needs one) and a map screen that makes absolutely no sense. It's one of those maps that don't directly correspond to the layout of the game's areas, which kind of makes it... useless.

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Right, so let's talk about dungeons. You'll be subjected to a lot of dungeon crawling in this game. The dungeons consist of trudging your way around poorly designed mazes and doing annoying block puzzles. Block puzzles are really the only kind of puzzle this game has to offer, so if you hate those, you may want to steer clear. As for enemies, the game appears to encourage you to utilize stealth to deal with foes. This is where the Hideo Kojima influence becomes apparent. How well you manage to sneak around without being noticed has an impact on ranking at the end of an area. The stealth element is definitely the most entertaining thing about the game. However, it eventually gets repetitive due to the lack of variety in dungeon, enemy, and puzzle design. The second most entertaining thing in the game comes from the boss fights. First, you engage in a normal battle with the boss (this part isn't that interesting). Upon defeat, the boss gets locked inside a coffin that you have to slowly drag out of the dungeon, and place it in a location where a bunch of light-emitting mechanisms are situated. Once that's done, you just have to light up these gadgets and shine them on the coffin. The process does have its problems, but there's some kind of appeal to it.

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Boktai is a mediocre game made worse by a terrible idea. Something a lot of game companies ought to learn is: don't put terrible ideas in your games. Also, make good games. I hope aspiring game developers are reading this sage advice.

Word Count: 944

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