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Aura-Aura Climber (Nintendo DSiWare) Review
Review by 
8.35/10 from 10 user ratings
 
DSiWare and WiiWare are often maligned, but the disturbingly well-kept secret is that they actually have quite a few good games. It's just that most gamers are unaware of their existence, and the media (and Nintendo, to be fair) does little to educate consumers.

Case in point: Aura-Aura Climber. You might have been wondering what Nintendo Software Technology (NST), Nintendo's oft-forgotten American first-party studio, has been up to since the cancellation of Project HAMMER and the desecration of the Metroid franchise (but it was just Prime, so whatever). Well, they seem to have been keeping somewhat busy on the DS, with products ranging from Mario Vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis (and its improved DSiWare sequel) to the fantastic line of DSiWare clock and calculator apps that gamers across the nation just can't seem to get enough of. I feel like NST is often thought of as the "C-Team" at Nintendo, a team of DigiPen rookies to farm out low-priority projects and ports to (I mean, couldn't Tose have handled the Clocks and Calculators?). It's kind of sad, since I actually like a lot of NST's games. They don't bat 1.000, but they've given us some fun titles (although most of them are updates of classic franchises), such as Wave Race: Blue Storm, 1080 Avalanche, Ridge Racer 64, Pokemon Puzzle League (and Nintendo Puzzle Collection), and Bionic Commando: Elite Forces. I wasn't a big fan of Metroid Prime Hunters or Ridge Racer DS, and I'm not even sure that NST has a stable staff and identifiable personality, but I've always wondered what they could do if they were let off of their leash.

As far as I'm concerned, Aura-Aura Climber on DSiWare shows that NST actually does merit notice. It is more than worth its paltry 200-Point asking price.

I decided to pick the game up, basically on the strength of the in-store screenshots and that trusty Nintendo logo. (Hilariously enough, the Nintendo Channel doesn't even have a video of this first-party product.) Aura-Aura Climber is sort of a cross between a platformer and Clu Clu Land, which, I suppose, makes it a cousin of DK: King of Swing (also awesome). How to describe... You know those glowing red balls in Yoshi's Story that you lick to grab? It's sort of like that mechanic, extrapolated into vertical obstacle courses, with all the requisite depth and niceties and power-ups.

Aura-Aura Climber can pretty much be played with the D-Pad and one button (although an additional button comes into play as you progress), which, in an intuitive display of context-sensitivity, serves to both cast a grappling arm while airborne and leap from a resting spot. (Both maneuvers are directionally influenced by the D-Pad.) This game is not really based around continuous momentum like a Bionic Commando or King of Swing. Rather, Aura-Aura must grab sticky balls (oh, behave) with his grapple arm to draw himself to them. Once he's perched, you can evaluate his situation before propelling him off in search of the next ball. Rinse and repeat until you reach the top of the stage.

In classic Nintendo style, the game builds upon this simple premise by sprinkling clever little twists and new elements throughout the course of the game. Aura-Aura Climber is very bright and happy and cheerful, but also fairly tight and rigorous, from a scoring perspective (which enhances its replayabilty). In fact, it kind of reminds me of Yoshi's Touch and Go (again, awesome) with its arcadey flavor. The main Score Attack mode consists of an increasingly challenging, consistently engaging ten levels. Completing Score Attack opens up a Marathon of the levels. In addition, Aura-Aura Climber also has an Endless Mode (something which I feel any good arcade-style title should feature (either that or random level generation)). The Endless Mode doesn't seem completely random, but I haven't hit the top yet, so ...yeah. Perhaps it IS Endless. Aura-Aura Climber even features an Achievement-type system of unlockable medals to earn (some are awarded for in-game tasks, some hidden in the large, sprawling levels). All of these features add up to a ton of replay value for your two bones. And the core gameplay is so polished and snappy and addictive that you will be happy to have reasons to revisit the game.

Aura-Aura Climber has fast become one of my favorite DSiWare games. It is easily the best value on the service, and has earned a permanent spot in my mini-fridge. A modest, minimalist masterpiece. Highly recommended.

You got moxie, NST. Let's see where you go from here.

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Posted: 04/12/10, 20:18:02  - Edited by 
 on: 01/24/11, 21:29:36    
 
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Agreed! This is one of the best DSiWare games, and it's only 200 points. Thanks to your recommendation in another thread I picked this up, and I have been enjoying it here and there ever since. It is the perfect game to whip out for a 5-10 minute high score attack. The difficulty curve is just right, too. Currently I'm going for the medals, S-ranking in all courses and there's always endless mode to keep me busy. FWIW, I'd probably give this game a 10/10. Not much more you can expect from a game like this.


Posted by 
 on: 04/12/10, 20:35:13
Yeah, the difficulty curve is like a straight line, constantly sloping upward (although I almost wonder if the difficulty of the last couple of stages interferes with the freeform nature of the gameplay). And I agree that it should be digested in small, concentrated doses.

I toyed with giving it a higher score (and still might), but I was thinking about Jargon's thread about price affecting a review score. I kind of lean towards not considering price in the review. By that measure, I consider a 9/10 game for $2 an absolute must-buy.

But now you've got me thinking. I probably will bump it up. This game is an astoundingly solid little package. Honestly, I'm not sure what numerical value will best communicate that.


Posted by 
 on: 04/12/10, 20:51:33
Yeah, a video is a good idea. I really suck at embedding.

I didn't get too detailed about the gameplay, because I try to focus on the impression the game gives me, without spoiling too much of the sense of discovery or dryly listing the mechanics. But I guess I should've given a bit more detail, for those who haven't played the games I referenced.

There is no touch-screen usage during gameplay (thankfully, since it was a sore spot in Spotto (review upcoming!)). Aura-Aura can pretty much be played with the D-pad and one button (although an additional button comes into play as you progress). Basically, your character has a grappling arm, but the game is not really based around continuous momentum like a Bionic Commando or King of Swing. Your grapple arm (which is aimed with the D-Pad) attaches to sticky balls and then draws you to them. Once you're perching on one of the balls, you can press the same button to jump off (again, with directional control) to grab the next ball. Rinse and repeat until you climb to the top of the stage.

Maybe I'll edit that into the review.


Posted by 
 on: 04/13/10, 02:22:51
sticky balls. lol.


Posted by 
 on: 01/01/11, 04:47:34
Ha, you know something? I actually just downloaded this game the other day in an attempt to rid myself of 200 DSiWare Points sitting on my account for no good reason.

Sounds like I made a good choice!


Posted by 
 on: 01/01/11, 06:38:04
@GameDadGrant
Aw sweet, you made the right choice.


Posted by 
 on: 01/02/11, 00:18:20
Really fun game. Definitely worth the very low asking price.


Posted by 
 on: 01/02/11, 01:00:03
Ten years later... hey, this game is pretty good! I'm pretty much just stalking anand's post history for game recommendations at this point (expect bumps in the Jungle Beat and Yoshi's Touch & Go threads too!), and I heard some DSiWare games are maybe/maybe-not getting delisted, so I figured I'd grab this now. Very enjoyable!

Anything else to nab off the DSiWare store before stuff gets removed?


Posted by 
 on: 01/16/21, 22:14:20
X-Scape! It's basically a Starfox-ish game made by Starfox people.


Posted by 
 on: 01/16/21, 22:30:14
Ah, I see two threads from Guillaume on this very topic!

@Zero

The original X always intrigued me. A mysterious Japan-only Gameboy game that has a song in Smash because Sakurai likes it...


Posted by 
 on: 01/16/21, 22:37:23  - Edited by 
 on: 01/17/21, 00:18:21
Secret_Tunnel said:
I'm pretty much just stalking anand's post history for game recommendations at this point

Haha, awesome! I'm sure you'll eventually hit something that you hate, though. We'll see!

Good DSiWare games, from memory: Art Style:: Precipice, PiCTOBiTS, BoxLife, Pinball Pulse, Trajectile, Link'n'Launch, Mario Vs. Donkey Kong, Mr. Driller, Puzzle League...

And don't forget DSi Metronome and DSi Tuner! You can play a Balloon Fight-themed pitch exercise! Also, Sparkle Snapshots.

There are a lot more that I haven't really dug into yet, to be honest. I would check the Nintendo-published games first and see what catches your eye. They created/commissioned a lot of interesting games on the service.

By the way, it seems that most of those DSiWare games have been relisted.


Posted by 
 on: 01/17/21, 16:36:08  - Edited by 
 on: 01/17/21, 16:36:31
Anand said:
Haha, awesome! I'm sure you'll eventually hit something that you hate, though. We'll see!

It's interesting, in trying to come up with a thesis as to what my taste in games actually is (so that I don't buy the next Fire Emblem and inevitably get sick of it after three hours, again), I'm realizing that immediacy is really really important to me, and I love your taste in that. Give me direct control of something squishy and let me play with it.

But I do think I need a little something extra to really delve in. NOT a bunch of cutscenes about space marines and superheroes, NOT "puzzles" where you run around a room pressing buttons as your character has a conversation with the ear-piece sidekick that has to be in every game. But some kind of substance. Mystery, beauty, depth, intrigue, story, emergence, adventure, rhythm, exploration. Something to BITE INTO and THINK ABOUT. It's why I love Spelunky and Breath of the Wild so much; they start with a tight, juicy gameplay loop with controls that feel good to play with, and then layer a ton of exploration and secrets and surprises on top of that.

One conspiracy I have is that a lot of the "Nintendo doesn't make games for me anymore, I can only enjoy a video game if it has an entry-level nerd pop culture plot slapped on top" crowd have some deep issues with living in the moment and appreciating a fun task for its own sake. From that perspective, your love of arcade games might mean that you're the most enlightened of us all...!

But to me that arcadey nature is more of a prerequisite. So I dunno how long I'll stick with Aura-Aura Climber, haha.

F-Zero GX, on the other hand...


Posted by 
 on: 01/17/21, 20:12:06
@Secret_Tunnel
You will never truly get to the bottom of F-Zero GX's rich lore and back-story.

None of us will.

Yeah, you seem to prefer games that also have a sense of place and atmosphere. Like Kojima's stuff. I don't mind some of that stuff, either, as long as it isn't too... expository. (Unless the exposition is funny.)

And the medium of video games are good at telling a certain kind of story, but other media are more suited to traditional story-telling, in my opinion.

But I'm basically just like a five-year old child. (Maybe that's the same thing as being enlightened?) I like short, punchy entertainment that makes me feel something, whether it comes in the form of music/books/comics/movies/etc. (Food?)

Man, do I hate the way modern movies are paced. If I'm watching by myself, I'll skip through all of the slow parts at 30x speed. Back in the WWII days, they didn't waste your time!

I do roll my eyes when people talk about "outgrowing Nintendo games" and start prioritizing dour moviegames with no real gameplay depth or progression. It sort of mirrors adulthood, in general, where people suddenly feel that, for some reason, it would be unseemly to have fun with "childish" things like board games and video games. But you're correct that a lot of people just need that sense of achievement to enjoy a game. And feel that games like Spelunky are a waste of time and time-limited gameplay is stressful and unpleasant.

Maybe they're more goal-oriented? Maybe they can't turn it off? Maybe they have a constant need to compete, even with themselves? I dunno. I don't want to judge, since my five-year old mind can't really understand their viewpoint.

I want cake!


Posted by 
 on: 01/17/21, 22:28:43  - Edited by 
 on: 01/17/21, 22:29:57
@Secret_Tunnel

Those threads were a collaborative effort!

Back when Negative World had ambitions of becoming a bigger Nintendo website… or at least I had that ambition. Kinda.

The ambition to get into E3, anyway.


Posted by 
 on: 01/18/21, 17:02:47
@Guillaume
What's E3?


Posted by 
 on: 01/19/21, 04:14:50
In a perfect world, NW would be the gaming forum all the video game developers visit and drop inside info at. But at least we still have a few here!

Aura-Aura Climber was fun. Great use of two bucks.


Posted by 
 on: 01/19/21, 06:35:30
Yeah I have some fond memories of this game. I didn't play that many DSiware games but this was one of the good ones.

@Secret_Tunnel
Yoshi Touch and Go is a lost gem and deserves more love.


Posted by 
 on: 01/23/21, 19:54:52
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