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Contact Package Art
Grasshopper/Marvelous Interactive


Feel like making contact? Try a new RPG, heavy on the zaniness, charm and stat-building and light on convention. Atlus' latest DS offering comes straight from Grasshopper Studios, makers of GameCube's Killer 7, so there's no surprise that it reaches beyond the ordinary.


Two different visual styles come into play throughout the adventure. The first, a stark, 8-bit motif, generally alights the top screen, where the Professor's spaceship/laboratory exists in a small pocket of isolation. The majority of the game takes place on the touch screen in a much more detailed, somewhat water-colored, environment. If the Professor's sanctum is 8-bit, the other parts of the world have at least 16 bits, if not more.


Again, there is a distinct difference in sound quality between the Professor's unique abode, where everything sounds as if it were composed on five channels, and the rest of the galaxy, where music fits the environments as needed. Sound cues play a bigger part in creating the atmosphere than the music, and some of the dings and buzzes will sound intimately familiar to fans of Killer 7.


Many early previews of Contact played up the game's patently obvious similarities to Earthbound, which several screenshots of the Professor's spaceship seem to suggest. However, comparing the two titles directly is not only unfair, but also inaccurate, aside from a certain irreverence towards gaming traditions, exemplified when the Professor encourages the hero to attack an enemy's "weak point" for "massive damage."

Contact places the player in the role of... himself, or herself. "Contact" is first made from the player to the Professor directly through the touch screen. Delighted that he's discovered a new form of life, the Professor is immediately attacked, causing his ship to crash land. During a tense moment, the Professor befriends a young boy (whose default name is Terry, but can be re-named by the player. This time around, he was called "Guido.") and immediately whisks him off to another planet, where the ship crashes again.

The Professor charges Guido with gathering up the lost power cells from his ship, and the boy sets out on his adventure, with some occasional remote help from the home base. Contact breaks with tradition in several senses, beginning with combat, which is turn-based. However, battles are automated. Guido attacks on his own; the only choice made by the player is whether he is in attack mode and what target he will focus on. What makes the game unusual is that everything is a potential target, including civilians and benign animals. Attacking the one can produce some tasty meat for cooking, and the other can make Guido's popularity among the citizens of the various islands quite unsavory.

Keeping Guido healthy is a requisite, and eating a balanced diet is a way to start. In the Mr. Cuisine clothing, he can prepare foods of many types, including some recipes which he will learn along the way. Eating different foods offers different results, from HP recovery to stat bonuses, and each is digested at a different rate; meaning that keeping an eye on the content's of Guido's stomach is a must. Cooking and collecting different foodstuffs is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game.

Guido's stats raise in conjunction with use and not with general experience. If he uses a sword in combat, his sword affinity and strength will raise, while getting hit results in a bonus for defense or HP, and merely walking can increase his speed. Again, different suits of clothing result in different abilities, including elementally-aligned garments.

The game can be played exclusively with either the touch screen and stylus or the buttons; any combination of both will also work. Either control scheme works as well as the other, although using the touch screen to move can get complicated during a battle with multiple targets, each of which can be selected accidentally by brushing over them.


Players do not contact one another in a direct sense, but a copy of one's personal character can be sent to friends via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to WiFisland, where it will evolve and change over time.


Contact is an inventive and unconventional RPG that deserves a chance. What few problems it has are with the narrative-- occasionally the story drags, and offers little direction in what to do next. A perverse sense of humor and singular style ensure that Contact offers a refreshing dose of originality that is certainly not lacking on the DS, but might be lacking in the RPG genre.

final score 8.0/10

Staff Avatar Aaron Roberts
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