Monday, May 12, 2008

Triple WiiWare impressions: My Life As A King, Defend Your Castle and LostWinds!

Today Nintendo finally launched the brand-new WiiWare service. Using the Wii Shop Channel, we can now download exclusive games straight to our Wii consoles. With six titles to choose from, you may be wondering which one is worth your hard-earned Wii Points. Of course, there's no way I would have been able to afford all six of these, so I narrowed down my choices to three: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A King, LostWinds and Defend Your Castle. Here's how they're shaping up so far.

First up is LostWinds by Frontier Developments. The first thing you'll notice about LostWinds is how amazingly vibrant and lively it is (The above logo should give you a basic idea). Even the leaves and shrubbery in the background react to the cursor when you wave it past. A lot of effort was put into making this game look stunning, and it came across every bit as amazing as expected.

LostWinds follows the story of Toku, a young boy from a small village. When walking about one day, he stumbles upon a small stone containing a wind spirit. Named Enril, this spirit needs Toku's help to stop the evil elemental monster Balasar from destroying his homeland.

Controlling both Toku and Enril (Who takes the role of the game's cursor), players will use the powers of wind to guide the young adventurer through vast caves and fields. Every now and then a monster will appear, with Toku's only defense being Enril's wind powers. Whipping about the enemy with a gust of wind, Enril can slam it into the ground to finish it off. An interesting way to fight for sure.

The controls are very smooth, and guiding both Toku and Enril works just fine and never gets confusing. The puzzles take little more than a moment of thinking to figure out, but I'm sure things will get harder later on. Accompanying you on this somewhat linear adventure is a soft and calming soundtrack that quickly grows tense when an enemy approaches. It's an incredibly unique title, and so far seems well worth my 1000 Wii Points. If you get the chance, I suggest checking this one out.

If you like playing Flash games online, chances are you've dabbled in Defend Your Castle. The classic action-strategy game by XGen Studios has been a hit on many websites all around the internet, and today it made its debut on WiiWare for 500 Wii Points. Is it worth paying for a Wii version of a free Flash game? So far, I'd have to say yes.

For those of you not familiar with Defend Your Castle, here's the basics. The player takes the role of a cursor floating around the field. When an enemy roams into the field, players can pick them up and whip them into the air, killing them on impact. If picking them up doesn't work, players can also employ their own units to do the job, from archers to magicians to explosives experts. Upgrades can be purchased with points after each round, and then the next level starts.

First of all, there's no need to worry about having to learn a whole new control scheme. If you can pick up a Wiimote, you can play this. Just point at a baddy, press A to grab him, lift him in the air and release A to drop him. In fact, pointing and the A button are pretty much the only controls in this game. Very, very easy to understand.

Second, Defend Your Castle actually takes some strategy in addition to fast reflexes. Figuring out how to properly distribute your troops is key to surviving. Should you make more archers, get another magician, hire a stone mason, or just keep someone on hand to become an explosives expert? There's a surprising amount of thinking involved here.

Finally, this game is just a pleasure to both play and watch. Tossing several enemies in the air and watching them all plummet to the ground at random intervals in hilarious. It's raining men! And the animation style brings a whole new meaning to "homebrewed games". With Popsicle stick battering rams, bread clip cursors and construction paper castles, this is certainly a unique looking game.

Defend You Castle on WiiWare is certainly a step above the original Flash game. If you're a fan of the original, or you're looking for something unique, this is for you.

And finally we have the highest-profile of all the WiiWare games, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A King. By mega-company Square-Enix, My Life As A King takes place after the first Crystal Chronicles game (Gamecube).

One thing's for sure, My Life As A King is one of the best looking WiiWare games we've seen. With a huge draw distance and lush environments, it's certainly a beauty of a game. Of course, all this graphical prowess is directly related to what sets this game apart from any other Final Fantasy: You can never leave the town. You play as a king, and it's your job to help rebuild the town that was destroyed in the events of the previous game. In order to build, you need material. This is where your warriors come into play.

You can send warriors to caves and dungeons near your town, and they'll spend the whole day fighting monsters and exploring, bringing home money and materials to build more houses and stores. And that's the basic extent of gameplay as far as I know. Really, I haven't had much time at all with this one, as I only downloaded it about four hours ago. All I can say for sure is that it starts off slow, but starts to pick up after a few in-game days.

The music and sound effects scream Final Fantasy. It's just so very fitting! And the characters certainly reflect the creativity of Square-Enix as well. Talking penguins? Hey, sure, why not?

If there's one apparent shortcoming thus far, it's that the characters have the same facial expression permanently glued to their head. Everyone is slightly happy all day long, no matter how amazing or terrible an event is. Would it have been that hard to add in a few more facial textures to show emotion?

Aside from this one problem, everything seems to be going great so far. The storyline is beginning to show itself, and my curiousity has definitely been piqued. I eagerly await more on just what exactly is going on! My Life As A King looks to be a major time-eater for me these next few days.

To make an early judgment, LostWinds, Defend Your Castle and My Life As A King are all pretty darn fun. They're certainly a unique bunch of games, and I honestly can't get enough of any of them. I'll be playing all three of these for quite some time to come. Probably the best $30 I've ever spent!

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