Game Fights: Fireworks
Welcome to an all new style of article I’ve written exclusively for Gaming History 101: Game Fights.
This is an idea I’ve thought of for a while and it’s where I pick two contenders which share something special and pit them against each other. The article is designed to just be a bit of fun and while some of the facts presented will be as accurate as possible the final verdict will be based entirely on opinion. Thanks for checking this out and of course if you want to share your own views on the games in this article please share them in the comments below.
Now without any further ado…let them fight!
The 5th of November in the UK marks Bonfire night (aka Guy Fawkes Night) which is our unusual celebration of Guy Fawkes foiled plot to blow up the House of Lords on the same date in 1605. There is a quite a lot of history behind why we still celebrate this date today but one thing you can guarantee seeing on this event is lots and lots of fireworks. Fireworks are certainly prevalent in a lot of video games such as the end level in the gun game Point Blank but few games make them the actual focus of the gameplay. The two games I’ve found to discuss were Fantavision on PS2 and Big Bang Mini for the Nintendo DS. What better way to celebrate Bonfire night (even though this article will post very late) than to pit these two games together and find out which is the best fireworks video game.
In the red corner we have Fantavision.
Fantavision was actually a launch title for the PS2 released in all territories. The first thing you’ll notice about Fantavision on booting up this arcade themed title is just how Japanese it is, and that’s not just because it was developed by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan (SCEJ). The starting video shows a child sitting on a box laughing at a TV screen. The concept of the game is to explode fireworks and rack up a high score. The basic principle is you use a rotating cursor on the screen controlled with the left analogue stick to target specific fireworks. You have to highlight three of the same colour minimum to detonate an explosion but of course there is a lot more depth to it than that. Detonating certain fireworks will cause specific explosions which can then detonate other fireworks. You can chain explosions together with special fireworks. Its quite fast frantic fun and the entire time you’re doing this you have a pleasant voice over lady telling you how well your combo meter is doing. It feels like a game that belongs in an arcade cabinet (and possible does exist in Japan) games like this are very common on launch for a lot of consoles and are sadly overlooked. Of course the game has to end at some point, you have a health bar at the bottom that depletes if you miss fireworks and this game really speeds up as you progress. Games will last around five minutes and you have three difficulty settings to try as well as a versus mode with a friend. Critically this game received average reviews for the time, being brushed off mostly as a throw away puzzle game and launch title but unsurprisingly this game received the most love in Japan. The game is quite forgotten now but it does have a fan base and if you are a fan of puzzle arcade games like Bust a Move then this game really is worth seeking out. I found this myself at a car boot sale for only 10p and that’s a fantastic price. Well that’s our first fighter its time to introduce our second.
In the blue corner we have Big Bang Mini.
Big Bang Mini comes across as the smaller sequel to a console title since this is a portable game. But don’t be fooled by the contradictory title Big Bang Mini is the only game in the series. Developed by Arkedo Studio in France by the minds behind Nervous Brickdown on DS and the very underrated Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit on PC, XBLA and PSN. The most surprising thing about this title is it was never released in Japan which I was genuinely surprised by as the first section of this game carries several Eastern influences. In Big Bang Mini you now control the fireworks and you play through several short burst levels (kind of like common iOS/Android games now) where you use a stylus on the bottom screen of the DS to literally flick fireworks at targets. These targets will range from balloons to gigantic pandas. But its not just about flinging fireworks, you also have a little triangle on the bottom of the DS screen that you have to protect from the falling debris from the top screen. This debris could be caused by the enemies or your own fireworks so being trigger happy is not the best strategy when playing this. Essentially the gameplay is you flicking fireworks and then moving your triangle to avoid an instant death. One touch and its all over and you have to re start the level. To complete each level you have to collect stars with your triangle which are dropped by destroyed enemies from the top screen, once you fill the bar on the left the level is finished and then you receive a bonus level where you have to guide your triangle in a specific order to unlock a nice little firework display. To add to that this also features boss fights which feel like a DS like shmup where you have to avoid a hell rain of fire from a boss whilst trying to attack it. Big Bang Mini has several areas with different themes so the art style changes. As mentioned the first section has you blowing stuff up in a eastern themed area then, the second has you flinging fireballs in a snow themed area. Though the graphics aren’t phenomenal its quite refreshing to see these different art styles. Big Bang Mini has its main game mode “Arcade” but also features a versus mode and several other puzzle modes which can be unlocked as you progress. Critically Big Bang Mini was actually well received. In fact the the boxed copy I own has a score of 8.7 from one critic. So that’s our combatants its time to fight it out and see which fireworks game makes the biggest bang.
Round One: Graphics
A firework game has got to look spectacular otherwise your just going to want to watch the real thing. Both games do something unique for the systems they were developed for. Fantavison really feels like a arcade experience, the fireworks are pretty and colourful but unfortunately for Fantavision its all set in the same place and lacks any variety. Big Bang Mini throws you into several different environments; cities, snow, pyramids there are so many. The graphics are inferior to the PS2 version since this is after all running on a Nintendo DS but the developers really made the most of the resources they had. To me this round was very close but the winning hit came from Big Bang Mini as it features a enemy in the game which is literally a shark shooting lazer beams. As well as several other animals throwing stuff at it, its just so crazy.
Winner: Big Bang Mini
Round Two: Gameplay
This is an interesting round as in Fantavision you are detonating fireworks and Big Bang Mini has you using them to destroy everything. Fantavision is more puzzle based, its strategic and you feel in control of the game even when it starts to become hectic with tons of fireworks on the screen at once. Big Bang Mini, while a lot of fun suffers from its multitasking. You spend so much time watching your fragile triangle on the bottom screen that you spend a lot of time flinging fireworks at the top screen blind hoping it hits things. The stylus controls, while fun also feel flawed and not as precise as the controls in Fantavision. Quite an easy round this one but both games are a ton of fun to play, however, the controls in Fantavision are a lot tighter and therefore making the gameplay a lot more enjoyable.
Round Three: Sound
Both games bring unique soundtracks to the game Fantavision would you believe has three separate soundtracks based on its release in Japan, the US and Europe. Japan has a electronic sound which sounds awesome, the US has electronic and new age music and Europe for some reason has dance music which does not seem as effective as the other two. Big Bang Mini has all original music and for a DS game the level music is surprisingly catchy and generally enjoyable for each of the varied environments you visit. This is quite the impressive feat for a portable title. For this round I really wanted to give it to Fantavision as the sound as mentioned makes you feel like you’re in the arcade. But since I feel we got screwed over in Europe with the weaker of the three mixed soundtracks I have to give the round to Big Bang Mini which genuinely surprised me, as portable games that are not PSP games don’t usually have such good music.
Winner: Big Bang Mini
Round 4: Fireworks
Since these are both firework games it makes sense to have a round on the actual fireworks in the game. Fantavision is all about the night time firework display and it still looks pretty cool despite this being a launch title for PS2. Big Bang Mini though has you shoot fireworks, which in some levels makes it feel as if you’re throwing fireballs rather than fireworks. Both game have fantastic firework displays but Fantavision just sneaks ahead on this one. It was the only firework game of the two where I went ‘ooooh.’
Round 5: Tie Round
Since we currently have a tie its time to pull out all the cheap hits and crown a overall winner. Fantavision was underrated critically and is a very enjoyable title which I’m surprised hasn’t been revisited since. I kinda dug the female voice over telling you your current combo. I’m a sucker for puzzle games and I especially like games that can be enjoyed in short bursts. Big Bang Mini not only can be played in short bursts but it has length, there is more content here to enjoy than Fantavision and not only that Big Bang Mini sneaks a low blow in by being a portable title and I love my portable games. Both games have tutorial section unfortunately for Big Bang Mini its forced on you and can’t be mixed. Fantavision while the tutorial is hilariously slow with the female voice over teaching you how not to suck at the game, it is completely optional.
So with all that in mind I think the deciding factor really comes down to the game I had the most fun with. Before I crown the winner I wanted to say I enjoyed both of these games a lot and while writing this article I kept flipping back and forth between which I preferred. It’s possible I might change my mind again.
But I have to declare a winner for the big finish and that game is…..
The reason why I settled here really comes down to Fantavision‘s feeling like a quick fun game to play. You can play a game of Fantavision and suck and still have a great time. In Big Bang Mini you play through levels and if you fail you have to re start that entire level again. So Big Bang Mini unfortunately can become very frustrating. I did’nt feel this with Fantavision. I played through many games where I got a score lower than before but I was still allowed to complete the game and enjoy the experience. Big Bang Mini of course is not an arcade experience but for this argument Fantavision is the one that comes out on top. To me it feels like the underdog won as critics disliked Fantavision and praised Big Bang Mini. Its almost like Fantavision is the Rocky of firework titles.