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Foto Showdown

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Alpha Unit Co.
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/ Family/ Card Games

Graphics & Sound:

You know you're doing something right when you can distract a Pokemon-crazed 6-year old boy from his game. Foto Showdown is blatantly derivative, but still manages to pull everything together into a package that works. The idea of making a game exclusive to the DSi is a bit risky; we all complained about giving up our old carts during the transition from GBA to DS, but who would have thought about a DSi-only title? The camera does play a central role in Foto Showdown, not because you import pictures, but because you take pictures to generate monsters. Old dudes like me can remember the game that really brought this into being: Monster Rancher. It's been a while since one of these released, but the idea was that you could generate monsters by popping a CD into your console's tray.

Mixed input doesn't always create the kind of variety you'd like to see in Foto Showdown, however. The battles are fairly bland, set in a field of battle that draws inspiration from any turn-based strategy game you can remember playing. It's not exactly as simple as it looks, but it looks pretty simple. The characters don't animate, but you get to admire them both in battle, and on special monster cards you can collect and add to your deck. Aside from a few locations you'll explore outside of your "room," which is good for saving and checking your cards, Foto Showdown doesn't offer any open-world appeal. This is in contrast to something like Pokemon, where you do feel like you're on an epic journey. There's an ample supply of cute music in the game, plus plenty of cute and sassy girls.


Being pulled into a world where kids use fantastic monsters to battle evil forces is becoming really tired, so kudos to Konami for seeing the potential for more in Foto Showdown. It's a game that missed its full potential, but what's here is reasonably well done. The beginning of the game introduces basic mechanics, as you learn to use the weapon tied to your DSi's camera. Shooting pictures isn't a battle activity, more like the breeding-sim side of a game where you'll be otherwise occupied in tournaments. Buy the right ammunition (called "capsules" to make it seem more like a weapon than a camera) capture the right shot with your DSi's front camera, and you may create yourself a cool new monster. It's not all about creating monsters, though. You'll find that these monsters can be controlled and used in battle against opponents during tournaments. Winning tournaments gives you the chance to invest in better capsules and cameras, produce stronger monsters, and enter new tournaments to battle more highly-ranked opponents.

That's honestly all there is to Foto Showdown, leaving us wanting much more depth than exists here. Multiplayer is available, but only for two-card play on two DSi platforms. Think it was hard finding a friend with the same cart, now you also have to find someone with a camera-enabled DSi. If you can crack into the Multiplayer battles, you'll probably get the best out of Foto Showdown. Lack of variety and a somewhat unpredictable mechanic for producing monsters means there are long stretches in the solo campaign, where things start to get tedious. Playing tournament after tournament is okay for core fans of strategy battling, but you'll have a hard time generating unique monsters. Shooting in low light tends to result in the same basic monsters over and over again. Shots with unique colors and patterns seemed to have some impact, but why certain shots produce certain monsters isn't shared at any point. There will end up being numerous tips and tricks around this subject, no doubt.


The need for good strategy is apparent once you face off against stronger opponents in higher-level tournaments. You don't exactly get stuck in any kind of endless loop, grinding away at the simplest levels trying to earn money to buy better ammunition and items, but it does take some patience along the way. For gamers that already understand tile-based battle mechanics, Foto Showdown introduces nothing new and actually ends up being rather simplistic, compared to hex-tile games or those where you have the ability to ramble around a field with mixed elevation and environmental obstacles. Think of Foto Showdown as a good strategy primer for young gamers that will grow up to appreciate robust turn-based games like Jeanne D'Arc or Final Fantasy Tactics. The collection mechanic is unnecessarily hard, but you'll find yourself thinking hard about all the unique objects you can take pictures of, trying to create a new monster you haven't seen before. Up to 150 creatures can be unlocked, and there are 70 unique challenges with increasingly more powerful monsters in bigger groups.

Game Mechanics:

Some interesting elements of Foto Showdown include a relatively deep, turn-based battle system that includes time elements. Monsters with greater speed act earlier than others, and can lap slower monsters on the time-curve. Building a balanced team means not picking lots of slow monsters, but you'll find a few good slowpokes that pack powerful attacks. Attack capabilities in your monsters are generally split between ranged and melee attacks, with some monsters having healing powers or the capability to add buffs for themselves or the entire party. Once you have two monsters, you'll start to understand the value of these attacks. Movement on the field presents some interesting strategic opportunities, since you can move into enemy territory, displacing those monsters. Before you can manage a big army, you'll have to gain some experience, granting you control points. More control points mean you can control more monsters, and monsters with higher requirements are generally tougher. You can see where this leads, but it definitely simplifies the more complicated party-building mechanics of strategy titles built with big kids in mind.

Foto Showdown is a perfect jaunt for young kids that like the idea of turn-based strategy, but aren't yet ready for the complexity and challenge. Ultimately, the scaled-back adventure won't hold up against more intricately planned and paced games like Pokemon, and there isn't the same kind of attention to story development. Really, you should stop comparing Foto Showdown to anything other than the decidedly retro Monster Rancher, and appreciate the fact that someone found a way to really make the DSi's camera valuable. Aside from the zany distortion lenses built into the DSi, Foto Showdown might be the best use yet for the system's camera.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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