No flash photography please. It frightens the monsters.
What do you get when you cross monster collecting, cameras, and rudimentary turn-based tactics RPG combat? The answer should be a fusion of Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Stadium, and oh, such a thing would be glorious indeed. But no, sorry. The actual answer is a great, big ol’ WTF?
[image1]I am a critic: my vocabulary vast, my tastes refined, my demeanor snooty, my judgment absolute, my glass perennially full of fine wine, my ego ironically shattered by even the mildest criticism. Yet for all my impeccable credentials, all I can say after playing this game is, “No, seriously, WTF?”
Foto Showdown is touted as a game that lets you battle with monsters captured by your DSi camera. It would be more accurate, however, to say instead that it lets you battle with monsters that magically appear for no real reason when you take completely random, unrelated pictures of anything, from your bed to the sky to your genitals (don’t lie to yourself — one of the first things any guy will do when he plays this game is see what kind of monster his junk turns into).
Like Pokémon, you can upgrade your camera and film (a la great balls and ultra balls) to increase the chance of catching rarer and stronger beasts. Also like Pokémon, the monsters become slaves to your tyrannical will, fighting to the death in holographic arenas for your amusement. Even more like Pokémon, the monsters come with a moveset that has a limited number of uses before they become pretty much useless.
The battles themselves are pretty basic fare, pitting your team against your opponent’s in a 3-on-3 match. [image2]While there are only six squares laid out in a straight line on the field (ensuring that all spaces are occupied most of the time), each duelist can have up to three more monsters in reserve that automatically replace a fallen monster, if a square on their half of the field is open. Later on it becomes an efficient strategy to advance your monsters into your defeated opponents’ squares so that they can’t deploy reinforcements.
Yeah, it’s not mind-blowing, and yeah, it gets repetitive pretty fast. But despite all that, the battles are still sort of fun. Not super fun, mind you, but that kind of bordering-on-boring-yet-just-barely fun. It’s kind of like stumbling upon Flavor of Love while you’re channel-surfing: You’re very aware that it’s frequently annoying and a bona fide waste of time, but you still can’t help but be slightly entertained by a washed-up rapper with a clock around his neck and a mouthful of metal.
There’s also a story here somewhere, but I’ll be damned if anyone can make heads or tails out of it. Something about a government investigation, a trans-dimensional island that flickers in and out of existence, anthropomorphic beastmen, and of course magical cameras. Toss in a few obligatory throwaway characters like your token introverted and unconfident protagonist, annoying brash female companion, and mysterious and cryptic guide, and you’ve got a story as WTF as the concept.
Foto Showdown feels like a tech demo for the DSi that doesn’t show off any tech. You do use the camera, but in a way that has literally no impact on the game whatsoever. So I guess you could sum up the tech demo like this: “Look! You have a camera in your DS! Push this button to take pictures! Oh, and here’s a Pokémon ripoff to keep you busy!” That being said, it isn’t entirely bereft of entertainment value. There’s only a mild level of fun, to be sure, but hey, that’s pretty good for just a tech demo right? Oh wait… it’s supposed to be a game? Shoot, never mind.