Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (Gamecube)
Well, I finally managed to score a copy of this game. Not only did I pay less than the £30+ it normally goes for, but it was a sealed copy to boot! I’m only partway in, but I can already feel the magic. The improvements made in Radiant Dawn are quite apparent, but it’s still got a familiar look-and-feel so I could jump right in and play. My biggest gripe is the lack of widescreen support, but this was pretty much standard on the Gamecube, sadly. Story-wise it’s great to see the events before Radiant Dawn as that game is pretty much a direct sequel without much passage of time. No doubt after playing this I’ll be ready for a second playthrough of that one!
I’ve read comments from people that Path of Radiance is easier than Radiant Dawn, but I really don’t feel that’s the case. I had a few characters die and found myself unable to clear chapter 8 as a result and had to replay from chapter 6 when I lost Oscar; though in Radiant Dawn people were dropping like flies and I was still able to clear missions regardless. There feels like a lot less balance in the weapon triangle as well: lancers do ludicrous damage to people with swords, so I had to have Ike pretty much run away from a lot of conflict which seemed less than heroic.
Nevertheless it’s Fire Emblem and if you like turn-based RPGs with a focus on tactics over running around and chatting to people (not to say that there’s no chat, but it’s more linear and not as key) then you should definitely track it down.
Need for Speed Nitro
I’m not the biggest racing game fan, but I do like a decent arcade racer and this game certainly fits the bill. There’s vehicular damage and a nice bit of crunching when you slam into cars which I love (Destruction Derby 2 being my favourite racer on the Playstation) and a good sensation of speed – especially when you double tap the nitro button. The number of cars is massive and the ability to customise them is incredibly deep with loads of pre-generated artwork you can customise, a dizzying amount of paint colours and then unlockable body modifications and the ability to morph them.
There are some negatives: the fixed camera angle which means your car will sometimes obscure the track ahead, the drifting being initiated with a button press rather than a natural turn of the Wii Wheel a la the Excite games, and the inability to share your cars or race people online. I’d also like to have seen more (and more modern) European car models. There’s just one Renault and two Volkswagens, all of which date from the 60s and that’s about it outside of the odd Italian supercar (okay I think the Audi TT is in there, but I’m not a fan). Very disappointed, but the great selection of American and Japanese motors almost makes up for it.
Despite the flaws it’s an excellent racing game built specifically for the Wii and I’m always glad to see 3rd parties really make the effort. I don’t know how well it sold (I paid full price at retail – well, with store credit anyway), but a sequel that improves on the Wii Wheel control and adds online would be very welcome indeed. I’d love to see Nintendo release Excite Bots in Europe, but until then, this will do me for racing on the Wii.
Blaster Master Overdrive (WiiWare)
Since I sold off my North American Wii I’ve not been able to play the original game on the Virtual Console (I refuse to deal with the PAL conversions we’re stuck with for most games on the European VC) and have been patiently waiting for this to turn up. I finally bought it and have to say that it was worth the wait. Faithful to the original game, but with improved graphics – really, it’s hard to go wrong. It’s formatted 4:3 and 480i, but on the plus side the 4:3 is presented with built-in pillarboxing, so no need to mess with your TV display controls.
I’d still have preferred a widescreen presentation and the game is so close to the original in music, sound effects and gameplay that there’s no real reason to bother with the original game on the VC if you have this and vice-versa. The only other criticism I have is that there’s not enough save points and Classic Controller support would have been nice since more than two buttons are used on the remote. To save you need to find a save-point in top-down mode with Alex in a cave, but only some of the caves have them. The cave with the first boss lacks one and having to backtrack just to save your game is a pain in the backside. I actually beat the boss, but then died afterwards before I got back to the most recent cave with a save-point, so now I have to fight it again – lame!
The open-world play mechanics are excellent and the map makes exploring a lot more intuitive than in the original NES game on the VC. If you don’t already have the game on the Virtual Console (or are just a massive fan and want more) definitely get this one.