Up, Up, and Away –
Back in early 2010, Nintendo developed and published Aura-Aura Climber to the under-utilized DSiWare service. This grapple-point platformer has players aiming for the stars in this two-dollar, or 100 Club Nintendo Coin (July 2013), 3DS eShop download.
The simple and straightforward gameplay is quickly explained in the opening tutorial level. Aura-Aura is a star that fell from of the sky and now needs to climb back to the heavens. Getting there requires player to swing vertically, as well as horizontally, from grapple-point to grapple-point not unlike Bionic Commando. Along the way are hazards that impede progress as well as power-ups and collectables that increase score values.
Controlling this starburst is simple enough, using only the D-pad and one facebutton to jump and grapple. Jumping is floaty but was designed this way. This allows the player use an extra second of airtime to adjust a jump in mid-air, grab an out-of-the-way item, or to reach that extended grapple point by launching the grapple arm at the apex of a jump. Skilled players will even utilize the ricochet rocketing feature to avoid enemies and reach new heights quickly; Aura-Aura can slingshot upward after gaining speed from a free-fall then whipping around a grapple point. Even though there are a limited number of stages, each stage offers new challenges thanks to thoughtful level design and new gameplay elements such as introducing different obstacles to avoid. The only thing that really doesn’t make sense is how the story directly ties into the gameplay. You see, Aura-Aura fell from the sky and survived the fall. However, if you fall during your climb upward, Aura-Aura will see his untimely death. Sure, it is a nitpickey detail, but I guess the same thing can be said about Master Chief via Halo 3…
Graphically, the game is not going to blow anyone anyway. However, there are subtleties that provide higher presentation values that are unexpected. Since the goal of the game is to climb vertically, the player visually earns a sense of constant accomplishment as the background climbs from the bottom of trees, to the tops of trees, to the blue sky, to eventually outer space. Something as simple as this makes each stage seem new even though the grapple-point to grapple-point gameplay remains the same; the background helps prevent repetition. The soundtrack also has a surprising amount of variety given the low price of 200 Nintendo Points. There are even a few dozen medals, aka built-in Achievements, to unlock as well as a couple of additional modes. Despite being a smaller game, it still carries Nintendo’s usual high level of quality.
The arcade-like experience provides satisfying gameplay in small bursts. The high score table is restricted to local high scores only, no online support here, but the optional endless mode can provide dedicated players a reason come back every once and a while. Like Starfy, another under-used Nintendo character, Aura-Aura will probably be overlooked by many; don’t expect him to be a playable character in Smash Bros anytime soon. But for a meager $2, or 100 Club Nintendo Coins, traveling back to the stars can be an enjoyable and inexpensive journey.
Better Than: the Mario 3DS calculator app
Also Try: the Spiderman games on GBC
Wait For It: Bionic Commando Rearmed 3
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com