Review By: Andrew Joy
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Wind. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as "a natural movement of air of any velocity; especially: the earth’s air or the gas surrounding a planet in natural motion horizontally."
LostWinds. Video Game Generation defines it as "awesome; especially: the pure kind."
While nothing is ever as truly cut-and-dry as that, it would be impossible to review LostWinds without saying simply, this is what we were hoping for from WiiWare. Considering it one of the service’s premiere launch titles (right alongside Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, of course), we’ve had our eye on this game for quite some time, lapping up every new detail and, of course, every new screen. And, really, that’s one of the first things to strike you about this game: the graphics. Glimpses of the game in the past have shown us a title that was stylized, vibrant, detailed and, frankly, too good to be true...at least on the Wii. While that may seem a thinly-veiled insult at the console, it is more towards other developers, since this game manages to deliver on everything it’s promised and more, and all while fitting within the size restrictions for the service.
Bearing a strong resemblance to Pre-Columbian (and maybe Japanese) culture – from the people’s way of life to Enril’s appearance – this game has style aplenty, but it’s the little details that will really catch your eye. When a gust of wind goes by, for example, the plants will actually bend with it and, for a 2D (or rather 2.5D) platformer, LostWinds also has a lot of depth, with villagers sometimes moving around in the distance. I also got a little chuckle every time one of those in the foreground, goosed by a rogue breeze, would jump, accompanied by an appropriately startled cry. The rest of the audio is no slouch either, and I marveled at the little details here, too, like the way the sound of the wind realistically built-up just by idly waving Enril back and forth. Perhaps most noteworthy of all, the music is a great selection of woodwinds that made me want to turn on the game just to listen to it.
There is unfortunately no voice acting in the game, everything instead being handled with dialogue boxes and art, much like you might see in The Legend of Zelda (the most recent and closest example being Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS). However, even if that all wasn’t so wonderful – and trust me, it is – it would still be carried by LostWinds’ excellent story: Long ago, the elemental spirits created the land of Mistralis, but one – Balasar, spirit of the sun of the moon – felt he was better than the others and tried to make the people worship him as a god. Learning of his betrayal, the other spirits banded together and, at the cost of the wind spirit Enril, imprisoned him in the spirit stone. Over time, Balasar’s hate and power grew until he could at least free himself...though Enril remained trapped.
Well before LostWinds was ever available for download we knew most of the story, but what we didn’t realize was that this game was only going to be part of it (more on that later). In this chapter, Enril enlists the help of the young boy Toku and the two set out not only to regain Enril’s lost powers, but also the town elder Deo’s memories, both of which are scattered across the land. To do this, Toku and Enril must work together, Toku interacting with most objects and Enril giving him a little extra oomph – like helping him cross gaps (with an extra gust or, once he gets a special cape, a slipstream to guide him precisely), helping him pull things out of the ground (Toku holds on, Enril pulls him up), etc. – or taking out enemies.
If the idea of controlling two characters at once sounds like a daunting task, don’t worry – when you use Enril’s wind powers, time slows down a bit, giving you plenty of time to act, even if it doesn’t stop completely (like in Okami). In fact, LostWinds seems like a title that gamers of any age or skill level can easily get into. For example, as clever as the level design and puzzles in the game are, they’re far from the kind that will leave you stumped for hours, begging for hints (like in Zack & Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure). The Glorbs come in a number of different forms, but all of them can be defeated in just a couple of hits and, near as I can tell, the most basic kind doesn’t even cause any damage at all. If Toku does happen to get knocked out, you can revive him so long as Enril has enough of the easily-regained spirit energy. There are also two dozen Melodia Idols to collect...for some reason.
On a system where motion controls are shoehorned into just about every title, no matter how gimmicky the end result, it is something of a relief to see a title that ignores them completely. That’s right, you read that correctly, LostWinds makes absolutely no use of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk’s motion-sensing capabilities. On the other hand, (pretty much ensuring this game won’t easily appear anywhere else except the PC and maybe Nintendo DS) the game makes an almost first-person shooter level of use of the controller’s oft-neglected IR pointer function. As I mentioned, a time effect helps offset the initial difficulty of controlling two characters at once, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that both characters are also autonomous to different halves of the controller: Toku to the Nunchuk and Enril to the Wii Remote itself.
Posted: 2008-06-11 18:42:01 PST