Review by Lady_Valentina
"The best game on the 360, the best game this year, and one of the best in Rare's history."
Viva Pinata is a wonderful surprise, and a wonderful comeback from Rare's Banjo-Kazooie team, after the charming yet shallow Grabbed by the Ghoulies.
Being Rare's first simulation game, I had my standards high, as Rare always excels in perfecting or nearly perfecting foreign genres. I can happily report that they have met and exceeded my standards, creating one of the best games in Rare history, outclassing many of their devoutly followed "classics".
Viva Pinata has a simple premise: to attract and collect all sorts of pinata. While it may sound fairly simple(and it is in the beginning), attracting and having pinata as residents gets fairly and sometimes frustratingly (good) complex. Pinatas are very demanding creatures, or at least, most of them are. In order for them to even appear, certain things must be done to your garden, and the creatures and plants in it.
For example, the Hippo pinata demands that you have at least 40% water in your garden, before it even reveals itself. If you happen to like nice grassy pastures, you will find this to be quite a pain, and will refuse to comply. But in the end, you always do. Attracting, collecting, and breeding pianta begins to act like an addictive drug, and soon you will find yourself playing till the early hours of dawn.
You simply can't bring yourself to stop, so you'll find yourself holding in your pee until the elusive Roario (yes, they are all named in a punny way) eats your Doenuts and Zumbugs, fulfilling it's resident requirements. Money, or Chocolate coins, is fairly difficult to come by when you begin, but you quickly develop your own strategies to earning it, and soon, money will no longer be a problem.
You evolve as the game evolves, so nothing ever feels overwhelming in any way. Unless, you want it to be. Which is another area Pinata excells in, as there is no set goal, the only goal you have to follow, is your own! If you'd like to build an ant farm, then so be it! You will not be weighed down by "objectives" (even though they are present), as you are free to dismiss them.
Despite the fact that the gameplay is almost perfectly executed, it does have a few flaws. For example, your garden has a limit of things. And by things, I mean everything. Every single object, no matter how small, or how big, occupies 1% of your garden, so you will sometimes find yourself with a message of "crowding", even though it doesn't seem like it. This is fairly annoying in the later levels, when you try to attract different species at once, but you will probably not encounter it early on. The limit works as both a negative and a positive, though, adding an extra layer of complexity to it, emphasizing the balance of your ecosystem.
The area of the game that requires the most work, however, is the romancing mini-game. After meeting a species' romancing requirements, you are thrown into a maze minigame. At first, you will not mind, but soon you will find that repeating certain mazes again and again grows tedious, and you can't help but think that the aspect of the game is uninspired. Perhaps in a sequel, instead of having to play a maze everytime, we'll be treated to different minigames for each species.
As a whole, though, Viva Pinata features fantastic and creative gameplay, with only a few areas bringing it down.
+: Fresh and inventive, complex, addicting, unique
-: Maze mini-games, garden limit
Viva Pinata, whether you play on standard or high definition, is simply breath-taking. The environment is the most beautiful looking environment you've seen yet, and each object and character is detailed to an overpowering extent.
The pinata effect is stunning, to say the least, and is impressionable in the same fashion as Donkey Kong Country's graphics were.
Animations resemble something you'd find in a Pixar film, which is an accomplishment worth noting.
It should be mentioned that there are extremely minor frame rate hitches when the game autosaves, but they are forgivable, as they really are minor and don't detract from the experience in any way.
+: Detailed environments, full of character, charming characters
-: Frame rate hitch, some of the romance dances seem ugly because of the weird lights
One of the best parts when first playing a new Rare game is listening to the soundtrack, and this one does not disappoint.
Grant Kirkhope of Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark fame returns, with soothing, playful, and sometimes tear-deserving compositions.
The soundtrack features everything from classical music music, to country (including some familiar tunes), and definitely deserves a spot in your collection. That is, if a soundtrack is ever released.
The voices in the game, are overall good, with only a few characters having ridiculously high pitched and annoying ones, thanks to 4kids. But, overall, 4kids has done an impressive job with the voices, especially after the fame they have acquired from their anime butchering and the Viva Pinata show itself. Thankfully, the voice actors from the cartoon do not make an appearance in the game, except for the intro. 10/10
+: Grant Kirkhope, Beautiful, Funny, Depressing
-: Leafos, The Mail-Box Girl, Seedos
Value: Highly addicting, I suggest, if you'd like your life taken away, to buy this game.
Ignoring this game is shameful! Polished to the core, this is the 360's real killer app, in every sense of the word. After extended negativity from the gaming world, Rare manages to release a game that should put phrases as "nothing without Nintendo" or "not what they once were" to rest. Such a magical experience deserves your full support, and you have my full recommendation.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/05/06
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