Cowboy Ninja Wii
April 2, 2010 1 Comment
Red Steel was one of the earliest releases for the Wii console, and it was met with heavy criticism for not living up to the hype Ubisoft mustered up. Personally, I quite liked the game and felt that the shooting mechanics were very well done, although I’ll admit swordplay was not. I think many people were so annoyed about the game not executing the sword fighting properly that they refused to consider any part of the game as being good.
A few years later and we now have Red Steel 2. With Wii MotionPlus affording the Wii with the 1:1 motion control that Nintendo promised us in the first place, the sequel looked to be capable of fulfilling gamers’ wish for a proper sword game.
Do I think it worked?
But before I get to that, the rest of the game deserves consideration also.
First off, I have to question Ubisoft’s decision to call this game Red Steel. Everything about the game apart from the fact that you have a katana and guns is completely different from the original. While the original dealt with a modern real world setting in which an American man was caught up in a Yakuza fight, Red Steel 2 is a fantastical wave of anachronisms. The game is set in Caldera, in ‘The Red West’ which at first seems a lot like your traditional western setting with saloons and barrels and funny hats and whatnot. But then out the back of the saloon is a Japanese temple with bamboo and an old Asian guy . Then there’s the steampunk technology. If you’re not ready for it, all of this is very confronting, as everything is so vastly different and clashes so much. Luckily it meshes better as you go on, but most players will dislike the setting, at least at first.
The art direction is pleasing to the eye, and I’d compare it somewhat to Borderlands, but not quite as striking (I didn’t really like Borderlands’ art, but Red Steel 2 is softer and more enjoyable). Enemy designs are also reminiscent of Borderlands, although without the psycho midget crap. Enemies in the beginning are mostly bandits with masks and sometimes metal body armor. Later enemies, such as the Katakara, take elements of the western setting and merge them with the Japanese influences more. The design for the nameless player character is brilliant and reminds me of Trigun’s Vash the Stampede with a cowboy hat, which is quite badass. The clashing elements of the game world more or less fit together well, but the bright red steampunk doors seem very much out of place. Overall, art is good and it fits the game. Not mind-blowing, but satisfying.
Now to the controls and gameplay. Gameplay involves getting missions from the saloon or wherever and then going to kill stuff. That’s really about it, the game doesn’t have a huge amount of depth. Sure, some missions involve activating a communications tower or something after killing a whole bunch of guys, and there’s the occasional video sequence with action commands, but the killing is the main part. Therefore, the actual fighting is a huge aspect of the game, and so many players will weigh their opinion of the game on combat. Fortunately, Ubisoft have done a commendable job on combat, making it a complex and intricate system, although it depends on how willing a player is to get involved, as you can get through many fights without using combos or parrying and just slashing or shooting lots.
Swordplay works well, and although it still doesn’t feel perfect, as it isn’t quite 1:1 and feels more as if the directional control from the first game has simply been refined and disguised. It does however demand the player interaction that we wanted from the first game, so it is definitely a step forward. I found that the free movement in combat meant I dodged more often than I parried, but this may not be the case for all players and is probably just me being lazy, because the parrying system is quite well thought out, and uses the 1:1 control of the sword as best it can. Combos and such make the experience deep and the fact that you must unlock many of them gives the swordplay extra playability and enjoyment.
Gun fighting however seems to have taken second seat now, and I felt that gunplay was not as fun as in the first game. The zooming ability from the first game is gone, and reloading is now operated with the – button rather than a nunchuk gesture. There is also less guns and it feels as if Ubisoft have really focussed all their attention on enhancing the sword experience and have neglected to keep the shooting portion of the game up to the standard of the original.
The game is a strange mix of western and Japanese influences which feels mostly like an excuse for the controls, which are admittedly well done. Ubisoft haven’t really created the engaging single player experience they wanted, due to a dull story, and it’s a shame that they didn’t include multiplayer as the combat system in a multiplayer setting would probably be great fun. The game isn’t really a stand-out title, and I’d be lying if I said it’s a great game. It’s a decent game with a semi-unique control system that is worth experiencing, but maybe not buying.