Format reviewed: 3DS eShop
Other formats available: eShop exclusive
Website: Comic Workshop
Rating: Not applicable
Collavier, a Japanese developer, known for releasing DSI Ware titles in North America, have released their first title in Europe, Comic Workshop, an art application based on all aspects of creating your own manga comic book. Load Comic Workshop up and your greeted with the most upbeat funky little jazz ditties that you’ve ever heard. The opening screen art is crisp, funky, and clutter-free. It’s easy to use and hard to put down for budding comic book artists out there.
The main menu allows you select which hand your preference trends toward, the main drawing mode, and most importantly for new users a Tutorial Mode. Spend an hour in here, watching and interacting in the game’s 28 lessons that clearly show you all the application has to offer and how to put it best to use, including vital advanced techniques. The tutorial, unfortunately, gives no art lessons, and just acts as a learning board for the application itself. Someone like me with very little artistic talent could have loved an Art Tutorial that showed me some basic styles and ideas. The tutorials also exhibit some of the worst spelling and grammatical errors ever committed to video game making, and once or twice through the 28 teaching aids I just didn’t understand what the game was asking of me.
The main part of the application will take place on a canvas located on the lower screen, and can be moved around at will with the circle pad, zoomed in and out with the right and left shoulder buttons, and the main part of any art utility, drawn upon. The tools on offer are extensive and will take many hours to perfect each of their types. The trusty pencil for example can be changed in its size and opacity with pre-selected touch icons, or by fine tuning using sliders until you get the desired result. This customisation flows into all aspects of the tools on offer here. Colours, for example, can be adjusted in their individual red, blue and green levels to create that perfect shade that you need to fill in the hero’s underpants.
Other tools available to you are stickers (stock or custom created, and can be resized), patterns for filling in backgrounds, a straight line tool, shapes, undo, redo, speech bubbles, text management, blurring effects, roller stamps, and the cut and copy tools. My favourite of the bunch is the picture tool that allows you to import a photo saved on your 3DS. The picture can then be fully manipulated, as everything else can, resized, rotated, drawn on, edited, pasted, copy, cut, and everything in between.
So, once all the tutorial lessons have been viewed it’s onto the only other mode available in the application, ‘Time to Draw!’ Starting a new file allows you to select your canvas pixel size, that is the page size, and its orientation, landscape or portrait. Then, individual pages can be created one at a time. Start a new page and its beginning frame layout, and its onto the main editing page and drawing mode that you will have already seen in the Tutorial Mode.
Two of the most important aspects of the overall function of creating a coherent story for your comic are the Frame and Layer management. Frames are the individual pictures/snap shots on a single piece of paper. Layers allow the ability to create a background, middleground and foreground within each frame. With this aspect of creating layers you would think that this application would be perfect for the stereoscopic 3D function of the 3DS. However, Comic Workshop lacks any use of 3D in its package. It could have been amazing to see all your comic ideas popping out of the screen, large Pow! action bubbles floating in front of the main canvas, but alas it was not to be.
My biggest gripe with the actual drawing mode is the slight lag that is ever pervasive throughout the entirety of the main suite. Draw a line and it appears a fraction of a second behind your actual movements, a little off-putting. Now, make a mistake and use the Undo feature, and wait 2 seconds before that function reaches its climax, and don't get me started on the stuttering zoom function. It feels all very slow, sticky, and off-puttingly jerky, making it difficult to precisely draw a pixel perfect image.
Pausing the game at any time during your sojourn into the realms of artistic endeavour and it’ll give the option to save, clear your drawing back to a blank canvas, load back to the last save point, and the ability to change the tune playing in the background. All the tunes are rather upbeat and sedate as you would imagine in such a utility package, but the option to turn them off and listen to your own music is even better.
Upon finishing my first Story Board, of which I am not proud, stick men, bad execution of pacing, and no plot to speak of, I was very surprised to see that I couldn’t post any of my screenshots to Miiverse, caused by allowing photo imports probably, as I can imagine some of the pictures that would crop up on a regular basis being of a dubious nature. In fact, the only way to share is by saving your creation to the SD card, then removing your SD card from the 3DS and downloading it to your PC as a JPEG file. Not too bad, but consider the wonderful online gallery feature in other applications like Colours 3D, until you realise that when you do visit the Collavier website they do indeed have an online Gallery. The website is in English, this is excellent news, you can peruse and laugh at some of the works of genius and idiocy there, but the uploading feature is only available to a Japanese subset of the world’s population and unusable by our good selves located in Europe. I can only hope that this changes in the near future.
Comic Workshop is a hard recommendation for an artist of limited ability. Applications like Art Academy and Colours 3D provide a more stable environment to learn how to draw, and provide enough tutorials to slowly practice and get better at it over time. Even with its limited tutorials, none that focus on art creation, ever slightly laggy input controls, and awkward sharing mechanics, this utility will be enjoyed by those who its aimed at, artists with a talent and an interest in comic book creation. There is nothing else like it on the 3DS, so if creating comics with an extensive set of tools is your thing, don't delay.
Review by Lee Davis for Nintendo: Review