The classic NES beat-em-up genre is brought to the 3DS in the most strange yet adorable way possible through Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition. In a city overrun by near-illiterate bullies, the player must take control of Squareboy, a rather wimpy fellow who learns to fight from the masterful Sensei. The game, though certainly not without its faults, is generally solid. I happen to believe the developers could have done a lot more with the idea that birthed this game. Nevertheless, I had fun playing it, and I expect most 3DS owners would do the same.
Graphically, the game seems to pay homage to the NES style which it emulates in many ways. Of course, the graphics are cleaned up to match the functionality of the 3DS, creating visuals which, though simple, are aesthetically pleasing. Due to the linear nature of the game, I did find some of the backgrounds to become a bit monotonous at times. Still, the graphics generally meshed well with the feel of the game as a whole. The 2D presentation of a 3D space also creates some issues with depth perception, occasionally making it a little awkward to figure out whether or not you will hit the enemy.
The audio in this game creates in me a roller coaster of mixed emotions. The music in this game is subtle and relaxing, providing a pleasant background noise to accompany the events of the game. The sound effects, however, have quite the opposite effect. Not only are the sound effects annoying and generally unpleasant, but they are significantly louder than the background music. Thankfully, the developers did provide a remedy for this issue by allowing the player to individually turn off the sound for background music and/or sound effects. I always found it best to turn off the sound effects completely but to allow the music to remain.
The presentation of Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition is very solid. The plot revolves around the hero being bullied, then taking up some sort of martial arts training in order to take revenge on the bullies who wronged him. Though simple, it sets up for the game’s tutorial quite nicely, which is very helpful and not monotonous. In addition, it allows for the different areas in each level, while also providing smooth transitions between each level. This game even sets up unique personalities differentiating the somewhat learned hero and Sensei from the enemy Bullies, all of whom speak in dialogue riddled with grammar and spelling errors. All of this accounts for the most unique touch which this game has to offer.
Gameplay in this title is a little bit more basic when compared to similar games. The game features a relatively wide variety of techniques which the player can use when fighting against enemies. There is a noticeable lack of complex combos for the player to execute, leaving little room for growth once the player masters the rudimentary attack options; the most complex combos involve holding the control stick in one direction and pressing a button twice in a row. In addition, I found this game doesn’t really reward mixing up the attack options, as pretty much every attack was inferior to the basic jump attack against pretty much every enemy, at least in the earlier stages. For this reason, I feel this game robs itself of a little bit of its own potential. I also found this game to be difficult for frustrating reasons, such as the enemies being able to psuedo-infinite the player if the player is hit just once. Some may find this challenge appealing, although I found it just took a little away from the fun of the game.
One other noticeable feature which this game has to boast is its extensive story mode. I found that this game has quite a bit of content just within the main story, especially for an indie 3DS title of its kind. In addition, this game features an Arena mode, where players can take on various challenges, usually revolving around beating a certain amount of enemies (which would also act as good training for the main story), as well as various medals for accomplishing different things in story mode, creating a completionist mission which definitely adds a lot to the replay value. This depth of content is certainly unique for its genre, and is another one of the main things which allows this title to stand out.
Though it is deceivingly simple on the surface, Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition really has a lot to offer. Though there may be holes in the gameplay which prevent it from being the best it possibly could be, it is still a fun title which offers a lot of reasons to keep the player playing. Charming graphics and pleasant audio (at least half of the time) will welcome in any new players, while the game’s story interests and draws the players in even further. Is the game flawed? No doubt, and these flaws really are rather disappointing considering the potential which lies within this game. Nevertheless, the game is fun, and worth giving a try at the very least.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Graphics - /10
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