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Review by: Ed Humphries
One of the hallmarks of the current console generation has been the increasing dominance of games available via digital distribution. The Xbox 360 has reaped a windfall through the assorted classic arcade titles and original garage games made available on their XBL Arcade service, while the PS3 has opened their own storefront on PSN allowing gamers to choose from an original selection of smaller titles such as Echochrome and fLow. Up to this point, Nintendo had only weakly responded with emulations of classic gaming through their Virtual Console.
While the VC releases have gone a long way toward scratching that nostalgic itch, there’s something to be said (and money to be made) in providing a conduit for independent game developers to give gamers the types of experiences that don’t necessarily require $100 million dollar development budgets. To fill that void and to increase the competition in this burgeoning market place, Nintendo has recently launched their WiiWare service, which competes directly against the original content available via XBLA and PSN. Of the six launch titles that heralded WiiWare’s arrival on May 19th, LostWinds is easily the most ambitious.
LostWinds is a pseudo three dimensional 2D platform puzzler, but while the action occupies the traditional two-dimensional plane that is this genre’s stomping grounds, the characters and environments are given three dimensional depth through the increased polygons afforded by today’s monster consoles. Developer Frontier deserves extra credit for applying some innovative controls in their freshman effort, and their work easily makes LostWinds a no-brainer purchase.
From the initial start-up screen, LostWinds‘ eye candy is on full display with your character awakening in a dreamy cherry blossom orchard that opens up to the pastoral village you call home. With subtle bloom lighting, some excellent depth of field effects and just an all around fine execution of the developer’s artistic vision, LostWinds makes a great first impression. This sleepy little hamlet has lived under the shadow of a dire prophecy. The hero, Toku, encounters a long lost Wind Spirit, and Toku and the spirit are soon sent out on a quest by the village elder to seek out the source of some strange geological events and discover the whereabouts of the other lost Spirits that will aid in the brewing battle against a reawakened evil.
Through the bond with the Wind Spirit, the player is granted control over Toku and the spirit concurrently. The game employs the Wiimote-Nunchuck connection, with the Nunchuck controlling Toku’s main actions and the Wiimote taking control of the Wind Spirit and its interactions with Toku and the world in general. The catch to LostWinds is that you rely upon this symbiotic connection with the Wind Spirit to accomplish everything — from jumping over gaps to igniting or blowing out flames to simply messing around with the game’s NPCs by applying a stiff breeze to their clotheslines.
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