Need for Speed: Most Wanted U
I’m not a huge fan of racing games generally. The things I most get out of them are the thrill of high-speed driving and viceral enjoyment from spectacular crack-ups at high-speeds. Basically the things I don’t get out of driving in real life. Racing around a track has little appeal for me (outside of fantasy tracks like Mario Kart or F-Zero) so this game definitely ticks the boxes: really fast cars and a game engine tuned to give you a sense of high-speed (without a corresponding lack of control), a “real-world” environment to race around in and fabulous smash-ups with effective use of slow-motion to sell the moment.
The developers have built a wonderful, self-contained city with surrounding countryside and plenty of bendy roads to drive your super-cars around. The Wii U shows it’s stuff not only in consistently high framerates and beautiful detail on the cars, but a lack of load times despite the large environment: you can drive non-stop for hours around town doing nothing more than blowing by speed cameras and running from the law without feeling limited by the size of the game world.
Of course eye-candy is just that and without a fun game surrounding it, wouldn’t count for much. I enjoy the Wii Wheel control option (though annoyingly you have to select the Remote from the Gamepad control menu every time you play): it provides a nice pick-up-and-play arcade feel. Everything in the game can be accessed in a couple of ways and there’s loads of achievements for those who like ticking boxes. Although a huge list of cars is immediately available, you can find others in hidden locations or earn them by scoring points via races and other achievements. The sooper-dee-dooper cars can be unlocked via the “Most Wanted” races against tough AI opponents.
You can jump into new cars on the spot via an on-screen menu system or the Gamepad and you can find cars in various locations (“jack spots”) allowing you to jump into the car at that location. Races can be started on the fly from a menu or by going to designated race areas and spinning your wheels. The variety is nice and caters to those who just want to start playing as well as people who like to drive around and explore or set missions for themselves. There are other achievements than finding car “jack spots” like blowing by speed cameras dotted about and if you sign up for the EA online account you’ll be set challenges based upon what your Wii U friends are doing in the game, as well as having the option to race with people online.
Whilst there’s no true local multiplayer, a second player can use the Gamepad to tweak things like night and day settings, traffic, car selection and mess with the cops whilst someone else plays with the Wii Remote. You can even take over the controls: kind of like a driving instructor with a second wheel. It’s a great way for a more skilled player to help a novice; alternatively for a non-player to participate.
So much for this being a mini-review, but Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is so much fun and so much care was put into it by the developers that anything less wouldn’t feel right. If you have a Wii U and enjoy racing or fast cars at all, get it!
BIT.TRIP Presents…Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
I loved the original BIT.TRIP Runner so much I gave it a perfect score in my Nintendo Life Review. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought it was the best of the WiiWare series as Gaijin Games decided they needed to do a sequel as their inaugural HD game.
This game is similar to the original Bit.Trip Runner in basic structure: CommanderVideo runs and you press buttons to guide him past obstacles, collecting gold bars and items which boost the musical dynamics on the way to the finish. It would be unfair to simply write this off as a derivative sequel, however as changes made beyond the graphical facelift provide additional challenge and make the game more accessible at the same time.
As with the first game there are different stages in each level (world), however there’s now optional checkpoints at the halfway point of each stage in the form of a gate operated by “Uncle Pickle” (don’t ask). Jump over the gate to get bonus points (and respect) or break through it to avoid starting over at the beginning if and when you slip up and run into an obstacle.
In addition to unlocking a bonus round by collecting all the gold bars you get to try to score extra points by launching CommanderVideo out of a cannon into a bullseye. Frivolous? Yes, but if you’ve got Wii U friends who are also playing (and I certainly hope you’ve got friends that cool) that extra dose of perfection can be what you need to get the top of the online leaderboard, so drop the attitude!
There’s extra stages to unlock by finding secret keys and a fabulous/bizarre looking world to enjoy narrated by the Voice of Mario himself, Charles Martinet. I don’t know what else I need to say to convince you to buy this game – how about DLC in the form of alternate characters including Quote from Cave Story and Dr. Fetus from Super Meatboy? BUY IT!!!!
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
After greatly enjoying Samurai Warriors 3 for the Wii I sold that game and bought this, foolishly thinking it would be a logical replacement for it on my shiny Wii U. After all the same characters are in it and the game mechanics are the same. With HD graphics on top it would tick all those boxes and then some, right? Well, no, actually, not really.
The Warriors Orochi series appears to be a way of making a bit of extra dough by re-using assets from other games. It’s a mash-up of two different series: Dynasty Warriors (an action spin-off of the classic Koei strategy series “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” based upon the same legendary Chinese work.) and Samurai Warriors. That’s a bit unfair given there’s new voice work and stages, but the fact is there’s a lot of character design re-use and duplication (compare Kotaro Fuma’s profile image from Samurai Warriors 3 with Ma Chao’s in this game if you don’t believe me). Couple asset re-use with the thinnest veneer of a storyline that serves as an excuse for this rather bizarre combination of characters from wildly different historical eras and you end up with something that doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense other than trying to sell an extra game on the back of two others to the same niche audience.
It might sound like I really dislike Warriors Orochi 3, but that’s not really the case. I enjoy the beat-em-up style, the over-the-top combat and mowing down a seemingly unending series of demon warriors, but it’s just not gelling for me in the same way that Samurai Warriors 3 did. The Warriors games at their heart are a dramatic re-telling of historic events. Dynasty Warriors covers the expansive journey of China toward a unified state, whilst Samurai Warriors deals with the Japanese period of civil war following the decadent Heian period into a new empire. Although it’s true that there’s a huge cast of characters in Warriors Orochi as a result, the fact is that you don’t get to know about these characters like you do in the separate series they come from and the weaker narrative interconnecting the battle sequences makes for a less-compelling game.
I still replay Samurai Warriors 3 (I’ve since re-purchased it) and despite the extra game modes in Warriors Orochi 3 (which I still haven’t finished even several months on) I expect I’ll end up continuing to play and enjoy Samurai Warriors 3 a great deal more in the future, simply because the re-imagined history it portrays is more compelling than the goofy mash-up story from Warriors Orochi 3 (and the horses cannot jump *sigh*).
If you’re a massive fan of these games then you’ll get some enjoyment out of it, but if you’re new to the Warriors games or the main selling point for you is the story and character development, I think you’re better off sticking with Samurai Warriors 3.