Lost Winds Review

Does Frontier Developments WiiWare platformer meet expectations, or does it blow hard?

WiiWare is finally here Wii owners and from the look of things it may be off to a great start. Today’s WiiWare launch in NA brought with it several promising titles like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and Defend your Castle but what I was looking forward to the most was a quaint little platformer called Lost Winds. Read on to find out my verdict.

Story & Presentation

The story in Lost Winds is pretty straightforward but it gets the job done. You play as Toku, a young boy who is watched over by an old man named Deo. Deo is the embodiment of a spirit which helped to seal the evil Balasar in a spirit stone many years ago. Early in the game Toku meets the wind spirit Enril, who sacrificed himself by dealing a weakening blow to Balasar as the others sealed him into the stone, this trapped Enril with the evil spirit, until many years later Balasar escapes and Enril must find help in bringing him back down. Enril enables Toku to use the power of the wind in order to progress through the game. The two heroes will spend their time finding lost powers of the wind, which could be the games name sake, as well as finding the memories of old Deo who hid them away so he could blend in with the regular villagers. It’s all very simple but it definitely works.

Lost Winds begins with the young protagonist Toku asleep under a tree, After you choose your save file you will be able to stir Toku out of his slumber by waving the Wii remote around him — blowing the wind in his face to wake him up. Toku’s reaction to being prematurely pulled out of dreamland sets the tone for the whole game, it’s cute… very cute. But don’t let that fool you a fairly deep story (as far as DLC games go at least) and remarkable experience await. The menus and interfaces of Lost Winds are all very clean and it matches the style really well. Developer, Frontier definitely had a vision of what they wanted this game to feel like and I think they grasped it. It’s relaxing and incredibly elegant.

This is all very well complimented by the calm and very eastern inspired music which plays continuously in the background. However there isn’t much variance in the music throughout the game but it never really gets too repetitive thanks to breaks in the regular music brought about by enemies. As you encounter enemies it breaks from the usual wind instruments in favor of a swift percussion line, it almost feels like music from a hollywood chase scene. Sound effects are very well handled as nothing is really intrusive to the elegance the game finds but it all still gets the point across. There are some nice touches like the wind roaring when it blows in a cavern or the rustling of the trees as you send a gust across their leaves; it makes the whole experience quite beautiful.

Graphics

As mentioned before, Lost Winds is a very clean game. Menu options tend to take on the texture of canvas and everything remains very stylized. One thing is for sure, this game looks significantly better than many Wii retail games. The graphic style just borders Cel-shading, it’s kind of similar to Toy Story in a way. Character models seem to be relatively high poly count; however textures remain rather dull, again it’s very clean. Shadows cast sharply on characters and the environment which adds a nice touch to the very stylized lighting effects that are present throughout the game.

Where Lost Winds really shines graphically is in the subtle touches Frontier added into the game. For instance, the waiving of tree branches when you let a gust of wind blow by them. Or the way the mother in town reaches to catch her baby who flew from her hands due to a gust Enril stirred up, or maybe even the way you can mischievously try to blow up the skirt of the other women in town (don’t worry Mr. Thompson you don’t see anything). The style and flow of the game tends to be reminiscent of games like Okami, a huge compliment in my opinion.

Gameplay

I’ve spent the last few paragraphs singing praises on how the game looks and feels but all of this doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t play well, which is why I’m happy to say that Lost Winds is not just a joy to look at but it is also an excellent gaming experience. The controls all work very well, though they take a little getting used to. You control Toku with the nunchuck and Enril with the Wii remotes pointer function. When I was first given the ability to make Toku jump by flicking the pointer up I just couldn’t quite get it right all the time, but within 2 minutes of gameplay it had become second nature. Later in the game you get new wind powers which give you the ability to manipulate Toku and the environment in different ways and they really keep breathing life into the game. Much like it was fun in Mario Galaxy to simply jump around and experience the gravity, it is fun in Lost Winds to blow Toku around with the wind to see how he reacts. I spent nearly half an hour simply blasting him across a room filled with mushrooms he could bounce on, while I tried to continually juggle a rock on his head. Its silly yet fun and it really goes back to the general roots of a good game — it should just be fun to play it.

In terms of how you progress through Lost Winds, it is actually very similar in design to Metroid, something I really wasn’t expecting. You are given a vast world to explore but you must unlock certain abilities to progress into the deeper areas of the realm, as opposed to having you simply progress from level to level . As you progress you will have to solve increasingly difficult puzzles.(between {{brackets}} I will be telling spoilers so if you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read between them) For instance in one cavern I went through I had to {{activate a switch which released a platform which dropped a rock onto a lower platform which I then had to go to a lower level to release another switch which dropped the rock in front of me. I then had to get past a series of crystals which I tried throwing the rock at as well as simply trying to cut through them with the wind but neither worked. I then realized the rock had a hole in it and blowing wind through it created a sound frequency which resonated with the crystal and caused them to shatter; it was really clever and very satisfying to solve}}

Combat also plays a significant role in Lost Winds and though it probably won’t be enough to satisfy the action junkie, it is still a well done aspect of the game. Toku is completely defenseless without Enril, so he must rely on Enril’s wind powers to take care of enemies. There is something really satisfying about whipping one of the little, black, goo balls into the air on a jet stream and then slamming them down onto the ground, only to see them explode into a little blue cloud of spirit energy for Enril. Enemies begin to get harder and harder throughout the game and they even start adapting to Enrils wind powers. For instance some will cover themselves in leaves so the wind simply makes them fly, but blowing some flames on these enemies will make short work of their Wile E. Coyote like contraptions.

The game is unfortunately short, only about 4 or 5 hrs to be exact. It seemed as if I was just really getting into it and it was already over. But that’s definitely not a deal breaker since I am already playing my second time through and fully intent on going back for a third round. This combined with the humble asking price of $10 makes Lost Winds a great bargain; remember NinjaBread man is $30.

Lets Wrap it Up

It’s games like Lost Winds which really put fuel on the fire for the “Games as art” debate, because it facilitates the same emotional reaction achieved by listening to an elegant, beautiful, yet simple etude by Chopin or gazing at a Monet. In an interview with Nintendo Power, Frontier founder David Braben stated that “The concept of having a… vulnerable character able to be moved by the wind yet at the same time protected by it somehow felt really beautiful.” I could not agree with him more, Lost Winds is beautiful in many ways and it doesn’t hurt that it is a whole lot of fun.

Most importantly, Lost Winds sets a precedent for WiiWare. This game tells gamers that WiiWare is not going to be a place to facilitate lazy arcade ports or shovelware and it shows developers that as gamers we are going to demand quality out of WiiWare titles, because Frontier did it on day one.

Final Score: 90/100

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7 Responses to “Lost Winds Review”

  1. Cool 🙂 I’ve been looking forward to this more than a lot of ‘major’ releases.

  2. Underscored Says:

    Thanks, I had to check out a couple of reviews because the asking price is so high. I’m not the kinda to replay games so I’ll probably feel ripped off.. but if you say it’s as fun as Galaxy then okay.

  3. gamewhisperer Says:

    Yeah, if you don’t want to feel “ripped off” since it is kinda short just take your time through the game, it’s really relaxing so it’s not to hard to slow down a bit 🙂

  4. Slim says : I absolutely agree with this !

  5. rinkydinkydan Says:

    Totally agree, great review of a great game.

  6. … yes it is cute relaxing and beutifull.
    But coulden’t they get it to be eny longuer? I know that withaut a disc that is harrd but couldent they… maby ad a hard mode or something?

    also after you colect the 24 jar things they do nothing, and theres not even a congratulation mesege.

    PD: Enril is a she, not a he.

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