Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Archive for the category “Wii Games”

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes for Wii U, Wii, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, PC and OS X

Oh God these games are such a guilty pleasure for me. I just can’t stop playing them; something about them just appeals to me so much. Lego have developed a really successful monopoly on all things superhero haven’t they, with the fact they also hold the rights to Marvel Lego games. Lego Batman 2 isn’t quite as good as the later Marvel game, but, as all these games are, it’s a lot of fun.

Lego Batman 2 opens at the Gotham Man of the Year awards, where Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor are up against each other. The proceedings are interrupted by an attack by the Joker, which promptly sees him captured by Batman and Robin then thrown into Arkham. Luthor breaks Joker free to help him win the imminent Presidential election, and find a stash of Kryptonite to protect his ambitions from Superman.

This was the first Lego game with voice acting, and the brilliant humour present in Lego City Undercover and Lego Marvel Superheroes hasn’t quite been perfected yet. Still, there are plenty of laughs, with most to be found in the comedy duo of the sunny Boy Scout optimism of Superman and the permanently dour attitude of Batman. The actual plot is pretty weak, lacking even the simple plot twists and fun found in other Lego games. Still, it’s worth the odd chuckle.

Lego Batman 2 plays like every other Lego game, and bears most in common with Lego Marvel Superheroes unsurprisingly. Certain abilities and characters are basically the same between games; Superman and Iron Man are basically the same, both being armed with flight, strength and the ability to melt gold stuff with laser eyes/cannon. You’ll still be smashing and building your way through a series of levels, with sections broken up by the open world, in this case Gotham City. The open worlds in these games very much peaked with Lego City Undercover, and there isn’t really much fun to be had in the open world, unless you’re an avid collector. The biggest difference is to be found in the range of costumes Batman and Robin can come across, which give them different abilities. Still, with a Lego game you know what you’re getting, and I got what I expected, which is no bad thing.

One disappointment is that, despite the subtitle of ‘DC Superheroes’ and with the exception of Superman, the other members of the Justice League play quite a minor role, only showing up at the very end. They seem like they’d be fun to play too; the Flash’s speed seemed really enjoyable for the very brief time I got to play as him, and the Green Lantern got to use his ring for a light twist on the typical building mechanics in the series. I guess I don’t really want any more Lego Batman, I want Lego Justice League, more in keeping with the epic scale of Lego Marvel Superheroes.

It looks as charming as these games always do, with the voice acting being as top notch as ever. The music has some nice little touches too, with the highlight being John William’s Superman Theme kicking in every time you lift off as Superman in Gotham. There’s a lot of polish in these games, and Traveller’s Tales really commit to whatever series they’re adapting with such gusto.

This is a Lego game, and you know what you’re going to get? Like DC heroes and like the Lego games; you’ll probably like it! Apathetic towards DC heroes and the Lego games; there’s nothing here for you.Legobatman2

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Super Metroid for the SNES and Virtual Console (Wii & Wii U)

Just as reviewing a classic novel feels weird, the same for a classic videogame. I’ve never really played a 2D Metroid game before, although I loved the Metroid Prime series on Gamecube and Wii. Super Metroid is a game generally held as genre defining, and one of the few SNES classics to have passed me by. When it popped up for £0.30 on the Wii U Virtual Console I had no excuse not to give this classic a chance, and see whether it stands the test of time. The result is mixed.

Super Metroid picks up after Samus Aran’s near genocide of the Metroid species at the end of Metroid II. A baby Metroid has imprinted onto Samus, and so she brings this specimen to be examined at a lab, before Ridley, the leader of the Space Pirates, shows up and snatches the baby away to clone more Metroids. Samus follows Ridley back to Zebes, the setting of the original Metroid game, to foil the Space Pirate’s plans.

An area where Super Metroid immediately shines is in its impressive atmosphere. The combination of atmospheric music, beautiful 16 bit graphics and interesting world design makes Zebes a compelling location to explore. It’s somewhat redundant to refer to this game bas eing in the Metroidvania genre, but..er, that’s what it is, and so exploration is an important factor, and trotting of the beaten track and taking the time to look around is almost always rewarded with upgrades and new items. I can absolutely see why Zebes is considered one of the all time greatest videogame locations, and in this element Super Metroid hasn’t aged at all.

The plot is kept nice and minimalist, but it is there, just not spelled out for us. This is how plot in Metroid games should be handled, not with overwrought emotional cutscenes (I’m looking at you Other M). The baby Metroid adds an interestingly personal element to the story, which humanises Samus much better than any ham fisted attempts at romance could ever do.

So, how does Super Metroid play? It’s a sidescrolling platform action game, with lots of jumping and blasting enemies. Samus gains new items along the way to open up previously inaccessible paths, and fights several inventive and interesting bosses. Mechanically, Super Metroid still holds up in most regards; it’s still a lot of fun to play, and still feels smooth. Classic items such as the morph ball and the screw attack add to the fun as things get going, and the gradual addition of cool new moves and weapons offers a compelling reason to carry on. The level design is generally good, but there’s a massive overreliance on the Metroid variation on ‘pixel hunting’, having to find a random piece of floor to shoot to open up new areas in certain rooms. If this was just for side stuff I wouldn’t mind so much, but there were several times I was stuck in the main adventure until I realised I just had to shoot a random piece of floor or wall, visually identical to the rest, to proceed. It strikes me as an artificial way to create challenge and extend the game.

The thing is, they really didn’t need to extend the game of make it more challenging. The actual story may not be that long, but if you take your time to explore and seek out the hidden upgrades, you’ll find a lot more game here. This game is hard too, although the Wii U ‘Restore Point’ feature helps. The idea of having to back track from each save point after failing on a tricky boss battle sounds nightmarish to me, so the ability to create an easy point just before a boss fight or tricky area makes things a lot friendlier.

Super Metroid, whilst feeling very modern and accessible in many ways, still doesn’t lack for flaws. I was unable to beat the final boss of this game due to a poorly signposted point of no return, leaving me underequipped to be able to take on this foe. An ability to go back out into Zebes and gain more upgrades to help me take down the final boss would have been great, but this mindlessly irritating game flaw somewhat tainted the game for me.

The excellent soundtrack, sound effect design and visuals helped numb the irritation, with Super Metroid’s brilliant design standing as one of its crowning achievements.

I finished Super Metroid with mixed feelings; in some ways it’s timeless, but it also shows some infuriatingly poor design choices, the kind of design choices which we tend not to see these days as everyone realised they were a bad idea. Still, on balance, my experience with Super Metroid was a positive one, and I recommend picking it up whilst it’s still on sale. images (4)

The Last Story for Wii

The Last Story is a game that I really wanted to like a lot more than I did. That’s not to say that I didn’t like it, but my expectations were a lot higher than the game managed to live up to. Perhaps it was the fact that this game is the Wii’s swansong, and almost certainly the last game that I will ever purchase for the system. The Last Story has some impressive pedigree behind it, most notably Hironobu Sakaguchi, who played a key role in what was considered as the golden age of Final Fantasy games, resigning from Square after the release of Final Fantasy IX. Considering the undeniable downturn that Final Fantasy has taken lately, with the disappointing Final Fantasy XIII and the downright disastrous Final Fantasy XIV, Sakaguchi’s name is certainly a big draw. Interestingly, The Last Story actually has a lot in common with Final Fantasy XIII, although The Last Story at times feeling like the game that Final Fantasy XIII should have been.

The Last Story is primarily set on Lazulis Island, a previously important but now relatively forgotten backwater of a much vaster Empire. Although there are hints of a huge, broad setting, we don’t really see much of it. The land is dying. Of course, there are very few really signs of this, we’re just sort of…told that it is. The underlying principle of the world of The Last Story seems to be ‘tell not show’, which is actually a real shame because there are hints that a potentially interesting setting lies behind it all.

The Last Story tells the story of Zael, a young mercenary with dreams of gaining legitimacy as a Knight of Lazulis. Zael and his oldest friend Dagran had founded a mercenary company in the hope of gaining the combat skills necessary to become Knights, and over time a small team of interesting and lively characters joined their company. At the beginning of the game, whilst undertaking a mission from Count Arganan of Lazulis Island, Zael inadvertently comes into a mysterious power which throws him and his squad into the Machiavellian schemes of the court nobles and into war with the mysterious ‘Gurak.’ Although it’s a nice enough story, nothing of real surprise takes place, and I can’t say that the game brings anything to the table which I hadn’t already seen elsewhere. Luckily, Zael’s squad are incredibly likeable, possibly one of the most charming JRPG parties in any that I’ve played, and their personal stories, trials and tribulations are what kept me interested. It’s just a shame that the broader conflicts facing the world never manage to be as interesting.

The Last Story has one of the most interesting battle systems I’ve played in a JRPG. All of the fights are in real time, and there is a clear Western influence whilst still retaining a distinctive Japanese flavour. There’s even a cover system. A cover system! In a JRPG! Although the player only has direct control over Zael, wailing away with his sword or popping out from cover to deliver shots from his crossbow, you still have a measure of influence over your entire party. As a gauge fills up, Zael can activate ‘command mode’ and set out orders for his party. This system isn’t particularly complicated, but it really doesn’t need to be, as too much faffing around with menus would have damaged to cracking pace that the battles of The Last Story have. When a party member casts a spell it leaves a ring that has an effect upon the battle, such as steadily regenerating the health of the party or raising attack, but these can be ‘dispersed’ by Zael to create an instantaneous single larger effect. Deciding which rings to keep and which to disperse gives the battles an interesting strategic element. Zael also has the ability to ‘gather’, and attract the attention of all the enemies in the field, acting as a tank to protect the more vulnerable mages. The combination of JRPG strategy with Western action works remarkable well.

Sadly, outside of battle, things don’t fare quite so well. A key similarity that this game has to Final Fantasy XIII is it’s linearity, although it is much better handled here than in FFXIII. Although there is little room for exploration, there is a central town which is surprisingly vibrant and engaging. This isn’t your typical JRPG town in which people stand around waiting to be spoken to; there is hustle, there is bustle, you can even walk into people! Although this wouldn’t be the slightest bit impressive in a Western RPG, it is this sort of immersion which has been so absent from the JRPG genre, which is one of the main reasons that JRPG creativity has so fallen behind Western RPG creativity in recent years. Sadly, there’s really not a lot to do when not fighting. There’s a rudimentary item upgrade system, but it’s very simplistic. JRPGs need to come up with more interesting things to do outside of battles, with the only JRPGs I can think of which achieve this are Nintendo’s Mario RPGs such as Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.

Like the wonderful Xenoblade Chronicles before it, The Last Story has absolutely no reason to be on the Wii. There are no motion controls, and I played the entire game with the Classic Controller. What we’re left with is a game that looks downright ugly. Don’t get me wrong; the Wii IS capable of beautiful graphics, just look at Super Mario Galaxy, Skyward Sword and Xenoblade, but these games all looked so wonderful because they adopted a stylised visual style which actually turned the lack of HD into a visual advantage. This is not the case with The Last Story, which looks perhaps slightly better than a Gamecube game, and indeed not as nice as JRPGs from that period such as Baten Kaitos. I understand why this game was a Wii exclusive; it’s aiming for a primarily Japanese audience and the Wii still reigns supreme over there in a way that it hasn’t over here in the West for a few years now. There are hints of some visual greatness in this game which just isn’t able to live up to its potential, particularly the generally excellent character designs which are let down by some incredibly stiff and awkward animations. The voice acting is something of a mixed bag. Zael is likeable yet bland, with some of the background characters sounding utterly ridiculous. However, when it’s good it’s really good. The clear highlight is the hard drinking, fight loving, possibly bisexual Yorkshire accented Syrenne, who is easily the funniest character, yet also manages to carry the most poignant and emotional scenes of the game. Honestly, Syrenne may be one my favourite JRPG characters ever, I absolutely adored her. The Scottish accented ladies man Lowell is excellent as well, with the quiet intensity of the tormented mage Yurick being another highlight. The entirely British voice cast reminded me favourably of Xenoblade Chronicles, and whoever it is at Nintendo who has been spearheading these British casts for the localisation deserves a medal. American accents will always sound ridiculous in fantasy settings, and I’m very glad that Nintendo seem to have cottoned on to this. A quick mention should be given to the music, from Final Fantasy stalwart Nobuo Uematsu, but the sheer genius of Mr Uematsu sadly only occasionally shines through. Boss fights and cutscenes tend to have the best music, but for the majority of the game the music is pleasant but forgettable.

The Last Story, as the final game of any note to be released on the Wii, had a lot riding on its shoulders and I’m sad to report that it doesn’t quite manage to carry this weight. It’s almost rather a shame that this game wasn’t delayed for the Wii-U, as a graphical overhaul would benefit the game hugely and the combat system would work really well with the tablet controller. There are some really great ideas in The Last Story; I suspect that this is a game that will be remembered for its creative influence rather than its own quality. If you play one more game for the Wii, or even fancy just playing a damn good JRPG, I highly recommend going for Xenoblade Chronicles over The Last Story. This isn’t a bad game but truly doesn’t live up to the hype.

P.S, quick note if you do decide to play this. Make sure to switch the combat to manual over automatic, it makes things a LOT more fun.

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