Review by Anclation
"Beautiful and unique, but ultimately disappointing."
The WiiWare service is certainly an interesting addition to the Wii Shop Channel. While the Virtual Console allows gamers to download old games originally made for consoles such as the NES, SNES, N64 and Genesis, the WiiWare offers up brand new games utilizing the Wii's unique capabilities, primarily the motion controls. One of the most critically acclaimed WiiWare games so far is LostWinds, a gorgeous game much praised for its innovative gameplay and great use of the Wiimote. However, as I found out LostWinds also has its fair share of problems, serious enough for me to advice potential buyers to think twice about downloading the game.
Despite a traditional plot, LostWinds is a very original game. The main character is Toku, a young boy who you will be controlling for the entire game, whose mission it turns out is to stop the evil Balasar. Aided by the wind spirit Enril, you'll be harnessing the power of wind to overcome the challenges in your path. A 2D platformer at heart, LostWinds stands out by making you rely almost exclusively on using wind to move around in the world, as Toku can't even jump properly without a gust of wind lifting him in the air. Gradually you'll unlock more and more abilities, that among other things allow you to soar higher and use the power of wind to control fire and water. Such new abilities will in turn make accessible previously unreachable areas in the game.
LostWinds is really beautiful, no doubt about it. The game itself is 2D, but it features gorgeous 3D environments. The outdoor landscape, consisting mainly of the rolling green hills where your peaceful village is located, is pretty as a picture, with cute houses and windmills, beautiful cherry blossom trees, bushes, tall grass and other neat details in the background. The characters populating the village (including Toku) are adorable as well. Most of the background is interactive, so you can use the wind to ruffle the bushes, shake the trees, annoy the villagers and so on, which is a nice touch. The caves you explore are also surprisingly pretty, and feature shimmering crystals, plenty of mushrooms and diverse vegetation in the background. It's all quite colorful, and the use of bloom lighting make the colors look all the better. All in all it's a great showcase for the WiiWare's capabilities, as LostWinds is much better looking than even comparable N64 platformers, such as Yoshi's Story and Kirby 64.
Visually LostWinds does have one major shortcoming though, which is lack variety. Seriously, there are only two types of environments in this game, namely the hills and the caves. Even though both of them look great, spending all your time in these two environments will mean things eventually become monotonous. There's no a day-night system either, so you won't even get to see the environments in different kinds of lighting, it just remains the same throughout. So while the game does look great, there's extremely little variety to the visuals.
Music & Sound
The intro music is a nice little tune that sets the game up beautifully. The main music that plays throughout the entire game is soothing, pretty anonymous, very much atmospheric rather than memorable. The music that plays when you encounter enemies is more dramatic and features heavy use of drums, but is otherwise forgettable. And that's it, that's all the music in this game. Not very impressive. The sound effects are decent though, the sound of wind rustling the trees is quite nice actually, and the game features some other pleasant sounds as well. Overall though, sound is definitely not where LostWinds excels.
As previously mentioned you'll be using the power of wind to control your character (though you can actually walk left and right using the analog stick). Using the Wiimote, this works as you might imagine: Hold down the A button and make a rightward motion, and the wind will blow Toku to the right. Point at Toku and move the Wiimote up holding A to blow him up in the air (your equivalent of jumping) and so on. There are plenty of other moves to learn and they are all easy to pull off. The control is responsive, intuitive and generally works very well. Additionally, it simply feels good using the wind to move Toku along, as well as throwing rocks around, controlling fire etc. Very well done all around.
The game is definitely slow paced though, and the beginning is pretty dull, seeing how you hardly have any worthwhile abilities and the puzzles in the way are painfully easy to solve. Thankfully things start picking up pretty dramatically once you learn a few new moves, especially since the puzzles become a lot more clever and creative. While never particularly challenging, the later puzzles are a lot of fun to solve, and varied enough to stop the game from getting too repetitive. It never becomes heartpoundingly exciting, but it's certainly good fun moving around with the power of wind and solving a number of interesting puzzles.
Combat doesn't play a big part in LostWinds. There's only a handful of different enemy types and only one boss to fight. Most common enemies can also be easily disposed of, just use the wind to throw them into a the ground or a wall and the problem is solved. Most enemies try to latch on to you and only start doing damage after a few seconds, giving you plenty of time to get rid of them and ensuring they rarely pose a real threat. Coupled with puzzles that never become even moderately difficult and you have a very easy game on your hands, which may well fit with the relaxing vibe it gives off. The most important thing for me is anyway not challenge, but fun, which LostWinds for the most part does a good job of providing while it lasts.
And here we get to one of LostWinds' main problems, it's simply too short. Around three hours is all it should take you to finish this game, and that's if you take your time and don't rush it. Even considering the price, that's short. What's even worse is the lack of things to do besides the main adventure. Well, there's one type of collectibles in the game, the so-called Melodia Idols, but they aren't hard to find at all and you'll come across most of them during the adventure anyway. After beating the game I went back to collect the Melodia Idols I had missed on the way, something that took me a grand total of 5 minutes. Ouch.
The replay-value is also pretty non-existent, there's nothing left to do after having beaten the game and collected the Idols, no alternate ending like in the Metroid games, no alternate costumes, no extras, basically no reason to replay the game whatsoever, except to relive the experience (which is something all games can boast of).
Something that needs to be addressed is the amount of glitches in this game. During the few hours I spent playing the game I have already encountered two major glitches, one that had me getting completely stuck in a wall, which only stopped once I brought up the HOME menu screen and then went back to the game. The other made Toku completely resistant to wind, meaning he couldn't even jump. This problem persisted no matter what I did and I eventually had to turn the game off and start from the last save point, which was quite a while back (for such an easy game it's surprisingly stingy with save points later on, quite a bad idea these glitches considered). There have been many other problematic glitches reported as well. It's quite simply unforgivable for such a short game to feature so many serious glitches, and it really came as a nasty surprise for me when playing through LostWinds.
LostWinds is a beautiful and original game that features great controls and a for the most part enjoyable experience. However, with only 3-4 hours of gameplay, two different environments, three music tracks, one boss and a handful of enemy types, it's a game that doesn't really offer much of anything, except maybe glitches. It costs a 1000 Wii Points, the same as a number of N64 games that are much longer and offering far more rewarding experiences. As far as 2D platformers are concerned, Mario Bros. 1-3, Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country 1-3 are all far superior games. While by no means a bad game, LostWinds has too many problems for me to be able to recommend it. Hopefully the sequel will be better.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 09/25/08
Game Release: LostWinds (EU, 05/20/08)
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