Release Date: March 17, 2009
Marble Saga: Kororinpa is the follow-up title to Hudson's surprise hit Kororinpa: Marble Mania, one of the earlier Wii titles that make good, solid use of the system's unique control scheme, which allowed you to manipulate levels to get your marble from point A to point B. Marble Saga: Kororinpa doesn't break that mold, but it offers up a huge amount of levels to pick from, along with a level editor that you can use to create levels and share them with friends via the Wii online system. Some Balance Board levels also make use of the Wii Fit accessory. There's a lot more packed into Marble Saga: Kororinpa than the original, and fans of the first game should find plenty to love.
This time out, Marble Saga: Kororinpa tries to tie the different stages together into a story, which is a really unnecessary step. There's a small ant named Anthony who wants you to traverse these weird stages in an attempt to locate pieces of a magical tree stump, which leads to some type of promised land or whatever, but really, it feels like the developers have played a little too much Katamari Damacy and decided to try their hand at it. As for the pieces that the ant tasks you to find, they do serve a purpose outside of the story, as they'll help unlock various items for the level creator.
Marble Saga: Kororinpa controls exactly the same as its predecessor, so you'll tilt the Wiimote in a vertical or horizontal direction and then move it so that the level mimics your movements. This will cause the ball to roll around each maze/level, and your goal is to collect a certain number of crystals on each stage in order to activate the exit area. There are about 10 levels between each "world" that you can visit, with a couple of unlockable bonus stages for each world. The difficulty starts off easy enough, and new players won't have much trouble getting acclimated to the controls. Later stages definitely provide a sizeable challenge, especially if you're attempting to complete levels for the different medals (bronze, silver, gold) or trying to top certain time limits. Along with that, you must find small green crystals on each level, which leads to unlocking additional marbles, though they may be difficult to reach.
Along with the difficulty curve, the title does away with some basic level designs so that simple boards don't have much in the way of obstacles or gimmicks to overcome, but the game quickly introduces new features as you progress. One of the earliest, and the one you'll see the most, is the sliding platforms that move along in the direction you're tilting the board. Another early feature is the magnetized rail; if you have a marble underneath it, it'll automatically pick up the marble, allowing you to traverse larger gaps and get from one section to another before setting you down. Granted, you still have to control it during these sections, and if you don't time your landing well, you can easily whip the marble off the board and have to start all over again.
This time out, Marble Saga: Kororinpa seems to be a little more forgiving when it comes to checkpoints in a stage. The prior title seemed to feature one checkpoint per stage, with only the later levels providing more than one, but even early on in Marble Saga: Kororinpa, you'll come across levels that provide quite a few checkpoints, which in turn definitely alleviates the frustration you can feel after you fail an area a few times in a row.
The game has a few issues, but the camera angle problem is a carryover from the original title. A few levels have you manipulating the board to the point where you'll almost need to flip it upside down. When you try to do this, the camera flips out, and it's really difficult to keep your balance when the camera is moving every which way. It's something that players of most 3-D titles have probably run into at some point or other, but it definitely detracts from the fun factor.
The other thing I didn't care for, and this was a bit of a surprise for me, was the level creator system. I was really hoping to spend a few hours tinkering around and coming up with some really random and crazy ideas, but the menu system and overall design are such a chore to work with that I couldn't get into it. I also hate that I have to unlock pieces to get anything decent or interesting to work with. Granted, there are some basics that have already been unlocked for you to use, but so much stuff was locked that it meant I had to search every nook and cranny of the single-player game to find the tree pieces. After a while, I stopped trying to use the system altogether because I found it to be such a disappointment. I'm sure some players will soldier on, find the tree pieces to unlock the level creator items and build some very interesting levels, but this definitely wasn't what I'd wanted or expected from the level creator.
The balance board stages may have sounded like a neat idea, but the execution doesn't work out that well. Unless you have a Zen-like sense of balance, you're going to have a lot of trouble being precise enough to complete these stages with the Wii Fit board. There's nothing wrong with the design, but with a game that's all about balance and precision in the first place, the Balance Board isn't going to be up to the challenge for most players.
On the good side of things, the soundtrack in Marble Saga: Kororinpa is far better than it was in the original Marble Mania, and while tracks are repeated a lot within worlds, the music fits the game very well and has its own unique style. I won't say that it's entirely worth playing just for the soundtrack, but it's something that fans of video game music should at least listen to.
Visually, the title is on par with the original, and while the areas and stages are all new, they aren't an upgrade over anything we've seen before, aside from the design. The same goes for the marbles themselves, and there are a lot of repeats here from the original, which is somewhat disappointing. The Mii ball is particularly cool, and there are some favorites that carry over, like the UFO ball, but I was expecting to see a few more new marbles than what was included.
I enjoyed Marble Saga: Kororinpa quite a bit, and while some of the new additions didn't do anything for me, I was more than happy with the multitude of stages tossed into the single-player mode, along with a really decent soundtrack. If you enjoyed the original, then you'll definitely enjoy this one, and if you missed out on the first, then give this one a go. The story stuff isn't important, but the gameplay is really solid and well worth checking out. Marble Saga: Kororinpa is priced at $30, which is really a steal for all of the content that the game offers.
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