NikoChan Battle
  • Genre:
    • FPS
  • Platform:
    • Virtual Boy
  • Developer:
    • Bullet-Proof Software
  • Publisher:
    • Bullet-Proof Software
  • Released:
    • JP Canceled
Score: 60%

This review was published on 08/06/2016.

NikoChan Battle is a video game developed by Bullet-Proof Software for the Virtual Boy. A rough translation of the Japanese title is "smiley face battle," which is in reference to the central characters of the game, all of which are balls with smiley faces on them. Outside of Japan, this game likely would have been called Faceball, since it's basically a port of the Faceball 2000 game that was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, PC Engine CD, Game Boy, and Game Gear in the early '90s. The game was scheduled to be released in Japan in March 1996, but it was canceled. Presumably, there would have been a North American release shortly after the Japanese one, but that also didn't happen. However, there was a prototype of the game, and the ROM of that prototype eventually ended up online many years later. As such, it's now possible for mere mortals like us to play the game. Is it good, though? Personally, I'd say it's passable, but only barely so.

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The game can technically be classified as a first-person shooter, because everything is viewed from a first-person perspective and you shoot at things. It's not quite as violent as Doom, though, considering you play as one of the aforementioned smiley faced balls and there's no blood or gore. Anyway, like the other versions of Faceball, the game has pseudo 3-D graphics, featuring mazes with featureless walls. You can view the walls from many different angles, giving them a 3-D look. The walls themselves lack detail, though, as none of them have textures, instead usually being filled in with the same solid color. Due to the Virtual Boy's red and black color scheme, that color will always be red, except for the transparent walls, which are black. As for the ceiling and ground; that's all black. Yes, this game has a rather minimalistic look to it. None of the Faceball variants look particularly good from a visual standpoint, but this one obviously has fewer colors than most of the others. However, the frame rate is surprisingly good here.

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To play the game, you move with the left d-pad and shoot with either the L or R shoulder buttons. You can also press select to see a mini-map. That's about it for the controls, really. They're very simple and intuitive, though there is one problem... you can't strafe in this game. That modern convenience didn't become prevalent in FPS games until much later. Still, the game is simple enough so that strafing isn't a necessity. As for your objective, that's as simple as the controls: kill all the enemies. There's a radar at the top right that'll indicate when enemies are nearby, though you could always just use the map. You're timed on each stage, so you need to get rid of the baddies as soon as possible. Hunting down various foes in different mazes is marginally entertaining at first, but quickly becomes monotonous after only a handful of stages.

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Considering the main objective of the game is to kill them, enemies are kind of important. As you make your way from one stage to the next, you'll encounter different sorts of enemies. All the enemies have fairly simple visual appearances, usually resembling tops with cutesy eyes. They all have names, too, which you can see at the top left corner of the screen when shooting them. Each enemy will exhibit unique behavior, such as feature different movement patterns, shooting patterns, and other stuff. For instance, there's a dude that hides behind an unbreakable shield, a dude that tries to ram into you, teleporting ghost dudes, invisible dudes, and more. There are enough enemies to add a tiny droplet of variety to the game, but not enough to give it lasting appeal.

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In an attempt to vary up the experience a bit more, the game will throw different types of walls at you. Well, not literally; they still just sit there like the walls they are, but they have slightly different attributes. For example, there are flashing walls that can be destroyed by shooting them, and transparent ones you can see through but can't move through. Breaking through the breakable walls is fun, but the translucent ones are mostly pointless. The only real purpose behind the transparent walls is to confuse you, but this is totally trivialized by the fact that you have access to a map at any time. Ultimately, though, the different walls don't do much to add variety to the game. There aren't very many stages, and even if there were, there's not enough variety here to keep things interesting. If this game had support for local multiplayer like the other Faceball games, then there'd be a bit more to do.

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As far as Virtual Boy games go, NikoChan Battle isn't too bad. Of course, that's mostly because the Virtual Boy's library primarily consists of filth. When compared to the other variants of Faceball, this one has far better frame rate, but a much worse color palette. Plus, this particular version lacks a functional multiplayer, which is the main reason to play these games in the first place. Without multiplayer, this game doesn't have a whole lot going for it, as the single player is too short and lacks variety.

Word Count: 899

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