Originally Published in 2014, for TAT Games
Sleeping Dogs: Bonus Wii Edition
Wait a minute! Wasn’t Sleeping Dogs supposed to be finished? It was after all a perfect trifecta. However, when composing those magnificent pieces, I became aware that the Wii had many other games that were worth your time – so I scoffed a 1-up, and went for one more go. Enjoy!
Little King’s Story
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Ever since the Wii Remote was first unveiled to the salivating masses in 2005, one aspect of Nintendo’s wonder-wand became ripe with opportunity – and that was its pointer controls. Of course, images of shooting games popped-in everyone’s heads – but another genre that would benefit greatly would be the RTS. Traditionally the domain of PC gamers, the Wii played host to one of the best strategy games of the last generation: Little King’s Story.
Designed by Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada, Little King’s Story is a brilliant and quirky game that mixes civilisation management with hands-on adventure gameplay and army-building. Taking the role of a lonely boy named Corobo, the game begins when he wanders into a strange land after chasing a group of rats from his home. There he finds a crown, which enables him to issue orders that cannot be refused. Like any 10 year old boy who would be suddenly blessed with such an awesome power, he uses it to rule the kingdom of Alpoko – whilst giving his best friends Liam and Verde the positions of ‘Minister of Anything’ and the ‘Record Keeper’. It’s a hilarious opening that sets the tone of the rest of the game – and it only gets crazier from there. Corobo is also accompanied by his trusted adviser, Howser the Bull Knight, who guides him in his ultimate goal of unifying the seven kingdoms by liberating each of them of their bizarre kings.
Essentially, Little King’s Story is split into two different gameplay styles. The first is the strategy aspect, which entails building your land and issuing commands to your subjects. In addition to constructing training facilities and shops, Corobo can walk around and recruit individual villagers to aid him in his quests, whilst also ordering them to perform various actions. Depending on their job classes, they can be more proficient at certain tasks; which opens a layer of strategy to whom you choose to have accompanied Corobo. For example, a soldier would be better at fighting monsters – but would in turn be pretty lousy at cultivating crops.
This ties into the action-based segments of the game. In addition to combating enemies and invading territory, Corobo must ‘fix’ the lands by using builders to construct bridges, miners to dig caves and clear landslides, and farmers to cultivate the fields. Of course, riches can be accrued and sent back to Alpoko, which makes invasion all the more addictive.
Ugh, that sounds horrible.
In a wonderful twist, Alpoko also has a massive parade the day after every ‘liberation’, which renders Corobo unable to complete many missions; simply because every person is too busy partying to listen. There are many other special days like this – holidays and festivals that add some flair to an already-colourful game. I won’t spoil ‘em though.
With a stirring soundtrack by Yutaka Minobe and Kingdom hearts composer Yoko Shimomura, Little King’s Story is an exuberant game that is one of the Wii’s best. It has also been a re-released on the PS Vita (under New Little King’s Story), but for my money, the original is superior.
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars
Did you know? Capcom is famous for its fighting games. Yes, it’s true!
All right, so we all know about the legendary Street Fighter II – perhaps the greatest fighting game of all time – as well as the innumerable spin-offs and sequels that have followed in the proceeding 20 years.
But the venerable Japanese publisher is equally famous for its ‘Vs.’ series – most notably, Marvel vs. Capcom. However, there was another lesser known crossover that made an appearance on the Wii in 2010 (2008 in Japan) – but one that was just as frenetic and grand.
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is a celebration of the coming-together of Japan’s most venerable cartoon institution, and Capcom’s most famous faces.
Wait… Tatsu-what? Don’t worry; you’re forgiven for your unfamiliarity of this particular brand. Though relatively obscure in the Western world – you still may recognise some of its cartoons like Battle of the Planets (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) and… Er… Well.
Okay, so they are really obscure.
Which, it turns out, was one of the main criticisms of the game… After people begged for it to be released in English. You just have to love gamers some times.
But to be honest, I personally believe this is one of the main appeals of the game. Instead from filling the roster with tried-and-tested characters, Capcom took the plunge and introduced a wide range of new colourful fighters in the attempt to introduce us to the Tatsunoko franchise. From the aforementioned Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, we have Ken the Eagle, Jun the Swan, and Joe the Condor – three Power Rangers-esque crusaders that are clad in bird suits. There is also the android Casshan (who was the inspiration for Mega Man’s abilites), lance-equipped space knight Tekkaman, morphing superhero Hurricane Polymar, boy wonder Yatterman-1, his girlfriend Yatterman-2, and their statuesque nemesis Doronjo, the bloody warrior Karas, robo-soldier Ippatsuman, Tekkaman Blade, and the giant golden robot Gold Lightan – who is so big, he is considered two characters.
Phew. That’s a lot of Japanese names. But fear not, because there are an equal amount of recognisable Capcom favourites who are also ready to do battle!
Who, you may ask? Well, how about Ryu, Chun-li, Alex (from Street Fighter III), Morrigan (Darksiders), Batsu Ichimonji (Rival Schools), MegaMan Volnutt (Mega Man Legends), Kaijin no Soki (Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams), Roll (Mega Man), Saki Omokane (Quiz Nanairo Dreams – a Japanese dating sim), Viewtiful Joe, PTX-40A (Lost Planet), Frank West and Zero. Not a bad little list, huh?
In terms of gameplay, it echoes past ‘Vs.’ games, where tag-team fighting is the order of the day. Compared to the technicality of Street Fighter, the controls are relatively simple – with only three attacks at your disposal; light, medium and strong. Directional inputs enable some variety, as do the Hyper and Team Hyper Combos, which are suitably seizure-inducing.
Unfortunately, with the end of the Tatsunoko partnership, Capcom has ceased production of the game – making it a truly monumental task in finding a copy. Fortunately, it’s also available as an arcade unit, which makes it a little easier in experiencing the game. Either way, you should really try and find it. It’s quite good.
Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure
Publisher: Nintendo of Europe
Much like first person shooters and real time strategy games, another genre that was ripe for the Wiimote-picking was the classic point n’ click adventure.
Hampered by the traditional d-pad/thumbstick set-up of past home consoles, the pride and joy of the PC crowd was finally allowed to spread its wings and find a wider audience thanks to the Wii. Though acclaimed titles such as Telltale’s Back to the Future, Sam & Max and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People were all good fun – it was Capcom’s Zack and Wiki that stole the crown.
A stunning, cel-shaded puzzler, Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure was one of the Wii’s first must-have third-party titles. Following wannabe pirate Zack and his flying golden monkey Wiki (so clichéd); the game takes you through a plethora of colourful and imaginative environments as you try to find the bones of Barbaros – a sentient golden skull who promises to lead the duo to the legendary ‘Treasure Island’. Along their journey, they’re accosted by ‘The Rose Rock Pirates’, which are comprised of the brattish Captain Rose and her simpering, love-struck crew. Fortunately, Zack and Wiki are supported by ‘The Sea Rabbits’ – a motley crew of inimitable folks that look like they were ripped straight from a Nintendo game. Truly, the character and art design is one of the best things about Zack and Wiki – and some of the best work to ever emerge from Capcom. The levels too, are incredibly inspired, with wonderful creatures and truly unique puzzles that can be as brain-bending as they are enjoyable.
And when I say ‘unique’, I really mean it. You see, the game doesn’t play like a conventional point ‘n click; you take control of Zack as he wanders around the game world and interacts with a wide variety of objects and enemies. This is where Wiki comes in; by shaking the Wii Remote, the polished primate transforms into a bell, which can be rung in order to turn certain creatures into usable tools. When Zack arrives at the appropriate spot, the game enters a first-person mode as the tool is used.
As you’d probably expect, this is done via the wonder of motion controls. Wait! Don’t go! Come back!
Because believe it or not, this is actually quite brilliantly done. Despite having about 80 different tools throughout the campaign, the designers never make it a tedious chore. In fact, I would say that it perfectly encapsulates the core appeal of the Wii by genuinely improving the traditional gameplay experience. For example, thrusting the Wiimote backwards and forwards will make Zack saw into a tree in order to make a bridge, or twisting it will make a key unlock a door. At one point, you even have to cradle the thing in your arms like a baby, in order to stop it from crying! It really is cool to try out all the different combinations – and though it could be argued that such ‘actions’ is simply a gimmick in the long run – they’re fun nonetheless. Again, it really is a testament to Capcom’s talents that so many options have been squeezed out from such a simple device like the Wii Remote. They really succeeded where so many others have failed.
If I had any criticisms, I would say that Zack and Wiki can suffer from logic lapses, which can lead to unfair deaths (forcing you to restart the level). In order to alleviate this, Platinum Tickets act as an extra life, and Oracle Dolls issue hints for those who are truly stumped.
Unfortunately, Zack and Wiki bombed badly at retail, which put the kibosh on any potential sequels. Maybe you should fix that, eh? Buy a copy or three and let Capcom know that we want more from them besides Super Mega Ultra Super Duper Street Fighter IV EX Alpha Arcade Edition Vol.XXVII.
2017 Edit: It’s on the Wii U eShop!
Developer: Platinum Games
So once again, we have a Platinum Games title taking a coveted spot within this feature.
Following the awesomeness that was Vanquish and Bayonetta, we now take a look at the company’s most infamous game; MadWorld.
Chastised by family groups for its violence and vulgarity, MadWorld was one of those rarities – a Nintendo-exclusive mature videogame. Though calling it ‘mature’ would be a little too complimentary, because this is as far as ‘mature’ a videogame can possibly get. However, I would say that this is a main reason for its charm, as the title doesn’t pretend to be anything else other than a Grindhouse-inspired piece of schlock.
Basically, the premise of the game is that of a death-laden reality game show. A terrorist group known as ‘The Organisers’ attack an island known as Varrigan City; by eliminating all transport and communications, before unleashing a deadly virus amongst the populace. If those infected wanted a vaccine – then all they had to do was kill. Enter Jack Cayman; a mechanic and ex-military man with a badass robotic chainsaw arm. Sponsored by the mysterious Agent XIII, he enters Varrigan to ‘play’ the game, as well as to rescue the mayor’s daughter.
Though the plot seems simplistic, it’s actually quite interesting and well-told, and Jack himself cuts and interesting figure. Of course, this being a Platinum game, the main selling point is the high intensity gameplay – and MadWorld delivers in spades.
The most immediate striking feature is the game’s graphical style, which riffs on the comic Sin City. Presented in a cel-shaded black and white style, the only colours shown during gameplay are the comic book-style onomatopoeia – and the red, red blood.
And there is a lot of blood.
Compared to the high octane thrills of Bayonetta, MadWorld is relatively simple – though equally as satisfying. Jack will hack and slash though countless goons as he makes his way through the city. On top of his chainsaw, he can grab a wide array of tools and weapons to use, as well as clutch his enemies and toss them around like rag dolls. Combat is accompanied by a score multiplier, which rewards you for stylish kills. There are plenty of context-sensitive areas which can end in a bloodbath, like meat grinders, acid baths, and lawnmowers. Offing foes in this manner results in the environment being drenched in crimson, but higher scores can be obtained if Jack tortures his foes beforehand. For example, throw a bloke (or even a chick) in a buzz-saw may result in a good score – but throwing a rubber tire over them, impaling their head with a metal pole, and then chucking them on the buzz-saw will result in an even better score.
The thing we do for high scores, eh?
That’s not all. Minigames can be found throughout the levels – which are introduced by the foul-mouthed Black Baron. These range from whacking adversaries onto a giant target with a baseball bat, throwing them in front of a moving train, and even shaking a champagne bottle – before jamming it into their heads, and watching them fly away in a cacophony of blood and foam.
So yeah. Not for the faint of heart, then. Bosses are also present, and they’re both very well-designed and great fun to combat. In addition, a commentary team comprised of Howard “Buckshot” Holmes (voiced by Greg Proops) and Kreese Kreeley (John DiMaggio) talk throughout the action – and their observations are both offensive and hilarious.
So check out MadWorld. It’s a somewhat overlooked piece of Platinum’s history, and offers a fascinating glimpse into just what kind of content Nintendo allowed on the Wii.
The Last Story
Developer: Mistwalker/AQ Interactive
In past Sleeping Dogs pieces, I talked about Operation Rainfall titles Xenoblade Chronicles and Pandora’s Tower, and how you should totally buy them.
Since I’m doing this bonus Wii edition, I thought I may as well shine the limelight on The Last Story… And how you should totally buy it.
Designed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, The Last Story is an action RPG much like its Moogle-filled forebear – but with some key differences.
The most evident of these differences is the battle system. Presented in a semi real-time manner, The Last Story’s combat has more in common with Final Fantasy XIII or Xenoblade, where Zael (the main character) can freely run around the environments while his partners generally take care of themselves. There are no items to use, and each character has five lives per battle (making the game way too easy). Still, it does have its unique hooks.
Thanks to an early plot twist, Zael gains a mysterious power that allows him to perform a move called ‘Gathering’. Basically, this makes all enemies focus their attention on him, freeing his comrades from being bothered as they try to cast spells and such. Additionally, Zael can ‘Focus’ on key areas, like weak points on bosses, and even bits of scenery that can be destroyed; for example, enemies hanging of chandeliers can be destroyed by a fire spell, or a bridge can be toppled, bringing its denizens down with it. That’s not all – in a neat twist, spells can be ‘combined’, which creates new moves. Each spell has a circle representing its range, and Zael’s own ‘circle’ can be mixed with different results – he can even negate the effect of enemy magic. In an odd design choice, Zael can even take cover behind walls much like a third person shooter, and can take pops at his foes with a crossbow, or stealthily eliminate them by stabbing them in the back.
As I mentioned, The Last Story is very easy – though it is still a fun game nonetheless. The narrative is very well-told, with genuinely likable characters and quality voice acting. Though pretty clichéd, you’ll still find yourself invested in the plot. Zael is a mercenary who dreams of one day becoming a knight, and his dreams eventually come true when he crosses paths with Calista – the princess of Lazulis Island. Eventually, he and his friends become embroiled in the conflict between Lazulis’ ruler, Count Arganon – and the orc-like race of people called the Gurak. Of course, there are plenty of twists and turns throughout the 20 hour story – but there is also a surprising amount of depth to the sidequests littered throughout the game.
The central hub to everything is Lazulis City – a large, medieval-style town that is jam packed with secrets to find and people to interact with. Aside from the obligatory fetch quests and “come find me!” hide and go seek games; there are also plenty of cool distractions that can suck away hours. The centre of the city is home to a battle arena, where cash and equipment can be won. Blacksmiths can craft new items, rare dragon armour can be found by amassing dragon coins, the subterranean depths can be explored, and there’s even a haunted mansion to investigate. The game can be hysterical too, with well-written jokes and slapstick humour aplenty. Just wait ‘till you make people fall over endlessly on banana skins and bits of fruit. Good times.
The Last Story is a majestic game that is well worth dipping into. Though the graphics are jaggy and the framerate can jerk wildly, it more than makes up for it with a wonderful environment and character designs that really makes Lazulis feel like a real place.