Release Date: March 17, 2009
I recently had the chance to spend some time with a limited preview of the newest marble-rolling title from Hudson Soft, Marble Saga Kororinpa, the first sequel to the surprise hit Kororinpa, which arrived on the Wii shortly after the system launch a couple of years ago. This time out, the idea of rolling a marble around various boards with the Wiimote manages to more or less stay the same, but the level design has taken on a noticeable improvement, with what appears to be quite a few additions when compared to the original.
The preview build allowed me to play through five stages in a junkyard area. You can select the area by accessing a world map, which is in the shape of a planet. Using the Wiimote to drag and pull the planet along, you could tell that there will be a variety of other locations, each with its own number of themed levels. Once I selected the junkyard section, I was given the option of the number of players (up to four), which marble I wanted to play with, and then which of the five available stages I wanted to check out.
One of the bigger appeals from the original Kororinpa was the different type of marbles you could select, and they're not skimping out on the available selection in Marble Saga Kororinpa. There were a number of blank spots for either unlockables or marbles that will be available in the retail version of the game, but the ones that I was able to choose from ranged from old favorites like the cat or dog marbles, to new variations, such as the UFO-themed marble. Just like the prior iteration, each marble has its own particular way to handle, with varying speeds, bumps and overall physics that cause each one to control in a different fashion. For instance, the UFO marble that I originally selected has a small ridge along the center, so when it's rolling around a level, it doesn't quite do so smoothly, and if you build up speed, it can seem to hop along more so than roll, providing a different way to control it over your standard marble.
Like before, Marble Saga Kororinpa seems to borrow a bit from gameplay that had been established by previous titles, like Sega's Monkey Ball or the arcade classic Marble Madness. However, the level design in Marble Saga is far more varied than anything those titles had ever produced, and this sequel seems to build upon the crazy level design of the original, offering up some early stages that are definitely a blast to play through.
The controls are still handled by the tilt of the Wiimote, which you hold out in front of you in a vertical fashion. You simply tilt it in all four directions to move the level around and cause the marble to roll in the desired direction. Some stages will incorporate multiple checkpoints to allow you to overcome some of the more frustrating obstacles without having to restart entire levels, and in addition to simply clearing the level, you'll be rewarded for catching all of the various gems that litter each stage, which in turn appear to lead to more unlockables down the road.
Other features have already been talked about in different previews, including a level editor that will allow you to share user-created stages with other Wii owners online, although this feature wasn't present in our preview build. This version of Kororinpa looks to be just as fun as the previous one, and only being able to try out five levels definitely left me wanting to play more. Fans of the original will definitely not be disappointed, and if you managed to miss out on the first one, then you'll want to pay a little more attention to this title as the release date approaches.
Visually, it looks to be on par with the previous game, and while the graphics are definitely bright and vibrant, and the level design is certainly unique. Sometimes on a larger display, things tend to look a little fuzzy. It was hard to tell from the build if there was going to be any kind of 480p support, so those of you with HDTVs might want to be aware that this isn't going to match the visual style of titles like Mario Galaxy.
There was a limited amount of music in place for each of the stages, and while the theme seems to be the same for each of the worlds you play in, I imagine you'll see different tracks for each section you try out, most likely with small variations in between the different stages. Each of the marbles you use definitely has its own sound effects, a feature that has made its way over from the original. Bouncing around in a cat or dog marble lets off little meows and barks, and the whole thing retains the charm that was present in the original title.
Altogether, Marble Saga Kororinpa is shaping up to be a worthy successor to the original, and it's definitely a Wii title of which I'm looking forward to seeing more. We've got about a month or so until the release date in mid-March, so you won't have to wait much longer. If the level design stays solid throughout the title, we should have another great Kororinpa game on our hands.
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