Viva Pinatas Are the Ones For Me!
Viva Pinata originally hit the Xbox 360 in 2006 with a modest fanfare and even less sales. However, as time has gone on, the title has reached million seller status. Not content on leaving their more lighthearted than usual intellectual property to one market, Microsoft decided to send Rare's newest series to Nintendo territory. Here, it's their hope that even more gamers will experience Viva Pinata to grow the series even further, and Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise, a port of the console version for handheld audiences, is the sum of their planning, plotting, and porting. The original Viva Pinata was certainly a big game, but with Pocket Paradise do big things come in a much smaller package?
On a mystical island, pinata animals are raised on various gardens, These said pinatas are cared for, bred, and prepared for their important duty of entertaining at parties around the globe. Now where do you enter the picture? Well, it seems that the old farmer in charge has retired, and now his once prized and legendary garden that was full of happy pinatas and grassy knolls is now full of weeds, debris, and-- hey, that's not some pinata droppings, is it? It's up to you to take this rundown garden and make it great once again-- luring and inviting the numerous breeds of pinata into the garden.
The goal of this "garden simulation game"-- a misnomer as you're not really going to be growing tomatoes here-- is to essentially raise the quality and value of your garden. This is done by attracting new pinata to visit, and hopefully to live in, your garden, sprucing up the place by removing debris, and keeping your garden looking spic and span. As your gardening rank goes up by having new pinata enter your garden, successfully growing trees, fruits, and vegetables, and romancing said pinatas (more on that later), your garden will grow in size. This allows even more room for you to work with.
Each pinata is attracted to your garden through different means. The beginning pinata, the whirlm, only requires there to be a large enough patch of tended soil in the garden, whereas other pinatas are much more finicky and demanding-- requiring certain items and pinatas to be located in the garden. It's not just visit and resident requirements that are needed to be met either. If you wish to allow two pinatas of the same species to get funky with one another, you'll need to build them a house as well as meet the other romance requirements. A feature that was thankfully left out from the 360 version is the romance mini-game. In the 360 game, you had to play a mini-game where you controlled one of the pinatas in a dangerous maze where the walls were made out of enemies. The goal was to reach that pinata's mate to have them begin "romancing" one another. For the first time or so, doing this was no problem, but if you wanted to romance them again and again, you'd have to play the mini-game... again and again. It got rather tedious, so it's nice that Rare decided to nix this so the pinata can go straight to filling something into their mate other than candy. Thus, after an impressive FMV of the pair's romance dance, an egg gets delivered. Ah, the miracle of life... No doctor's fees here.
Unlike the 360 version, Pocket Paradise utilizes an overhead view of the garden, allowing the player to move the camera around at his or her leisure by dragging the stylus or using the directional pad. This gives the player a better view of what's going on in and around their garden without the constant spinning that the console and PC versions required. On the top right of the bottom screen is where all of the tools, shops (buying new seeds, pinatas and their homes, and new tools), and options are located. It's a much more streamlined process than the original which is much more adequate for a portable experience.
The HD world of Viva Pinata has somehow been faithfully placed into the enormously larger limitations of the DS, and that is very impressive. The models are clean, colorful, and crisp. The garden textures and frills are pleasing to look at additionally. Included are several FMV clips from the Saturday morning cartoon series which pop at the end of the beginning tutorials (these said tutorials are exclusive to the DS version), and these run great as well. Sound is another story. The voice clips are great, but when you're tending to your garden you might "grow" bored. There's absolutely no music period then which is quite disheartening since sometimes you're just waiting around idly for an egg to hatch or something of that regard. With no music, the process of waiting can give even the most patient player a case of ennui.
If you've played the original Viva Pinata, then you're really not missing much with this handheld version. If you missed out on the original game because you lack an Xbox 360, then you can't go wrong with Pocket Paradise. If you own a 360 but never picked the game up, would it be worth ten bucks more to get a portable version when the console version is cheaper and has more bells and whistles? If you think possum is "The Other White Meat", you might be a redneck. Wait. What? For fans of the series, however, it really depends on how addicted you are to colorful world concocted by the fine old folks at Rare. Either way, it's an admirable effort and a good choice for most DS collections.
Graphics: The world of the 360 game is represented quite well even when shrunk down to tinier margins. What we have here is a very pleasing package, and no doubt since the graphical powerhouse at Rare's behind it.
Gameplay: Does pinata on pinata action sound hot to you? Well, for the five people that did resonate to, allow me to interest everyone else. All stylus controls are incredibly easy and less cumbersome than analog, so creating an apt garden is easier than ever.
Sound: The majority of your time will be listening to sound effects as there is no music to accompany your gardening. This was a very big slight to me since there is a chunk of your time with nothing to do, waiting for something to happen whether it's a pinata to visit or an egg to hatch.
Replay Value: A percentage is clearly shown on the top screen to indicate your progress. You can spend upwards of 30-40 hours trying to reach the highest gardening level possible. There's also local trading between DSes if you can find someone with a copy of the game.
Overall: 8.0/10 - Rated 0.5 lower than the original even though it's easier and less tedious to play, but why? The original game is ten dollars cheaper for starters, and there's not too much separating the two games to warrant a second purchase of recycled content for those who've already tended their garden in the original like myself. However, there is if you missed out on the original and would prefer a portable version to a console one.