This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Red Steel 2.
The term "innovative Wii title" is about as redundant as an Internet café in a nudist colony, and it doesn't exactly moisten my bed sheets, because innovation has never been the Wii's problem. Just dodgy hardware, poor third-party support, and processing power from somewhere around the Battle of Waterloo! The Wii MotionPlus has solved one of those issues, and after the bland, happy-clappy casual gamer feeding trough of Wii Sports Resort, it's finally time for a hardcore title to make use of the technology. It would be churlish of me to dwell on how long it's taken for the Wii to start sucking less, which is why I'm going to so. Three and a half years 'round about, Nintendo! That's decent speed for a fucking glacier!
But anyway, here's Red Steel 2, and I've got to admit, this is probably the best motion-control combat I've seen on the Wii. Of course, it still isn't very good. It's like being the best at jerking off to your sister in the shower: you only won because no one else entered (and you probably shouldn't have been doing it in the first place.)
You may recall that Red Steel 1 was a launch title intended to showcase the Wii's potential as a hardcore gaming platform and was so miserably awful it was like cutting off your own head to showcase your potential as an umbrella stand. Red Steel 2 follows on from the first game, but takes the perspective of a different character, a different setting, time period, and art style, with completely different gameplay. Okay, so it's completely unrelated. But since Red Steel 1 had little in the way of redness or steel, I suggest just calling this new one Red Steel and retroactively renaming the first game Ubisoft Did A Whoopsee In Its Pants.
Red Steel 2 is a slightly Taratinoesque amalgamation of Western and Samurai story about a bloke who comes to some city in a desert - apparently for a cosplay convention - and who gets beaten up by bullies for his big, gay, red coat. And who vows to fight back against them in a convenient ascending order of strength. And has a cel-shaded art style, because this is the Wii processor we're talking about, and it's either that or looking like an episode of ReBoot.
Unlike most Wii games, where the various Wii flails could easily be exchanged for pressing buttons on a nice, traditional controller, and you wouldn't have to look like you're slap-fighting your imaginary friend, Red Steel 2's sword combat actually needs the motion sensor; you have to slash, thrush, and block in various ways to break and counter corresponding enemy strikes and blocks and swipe wider and faster for strong armour-breaking attacks. And if there are lots of armoured dudes around, then there's no faster way to dislocate your shoulder besides maybe jerking off a wind farm.
However, the marriage between Wiimote flingy sword slashes and pointing at the screen to aim and look around is an unhappy one, with lots of furniture breaking and milkman fucking. Try to turn around too fast, and you might end up seriously menacing a nearby pot plant. And since in sword fights I usually hold the sword vertically, whenever a fight ends my character immediately looks up into the sky as if the murdering has made him suddenly introspective.
The game has a sort of hub-based mission structure, but since the missions are all given in a strictly linear order anyway, its only purpose is to mercilessly pad out the time you spend in these samey desert ghost towns until you acquire a conditioned hatred for Team Fortress 2 maps. It just means having to traipse back to the mission room after doing everything to get a pat on the head and a biscuit from your sensei, who will more often than not teach you a new technique.
Now it must be said, Nintendo really don't think much of you. The fact that they actually released Wii Music, rather than, say, murdered the creator and burned all his writing, speaks well enough to that. Not only does Red Steel 2 insist upon making you play a tutorial for every single new move you learn, but it won't be satisfied until you can demonstrate it 5 or 6 times! And it shows a little video of a non-threatening, attractive young white person doing the motions in case you jammed the sensor bar up your nose and forgot what words mean. Together with the fact that the game literally forces you to watch a five-minute video in which a lady explains how to use the Wii Motion Plus to her dyslexic two-year-old, it makes you wonder why Nintendo releases products at all if they're afraid we'll all decapitate ourselves with the warranty cards.
Red Steel shares the increasingly common problem of a poorly implemented upgrade system, bends the difficultly curve over a snooker table and labors exhaustingly at its upper thigh region. You start off the game as a mewling schoolgirl flailing a switchblade comb at the ankles of big lads, and by the end of it you're plowing through them so hard they barely have time to give a contemptuous guffaw before their tongue waggles gurglingly at the spot where the upper portion of their heads used to be. A game has to balance player upgrades with increased enemy threats. While you're learning five hundred ways to put a bit of shiny metal between someone's ears and sellotaping new bits of armour to your coat, the enemy aren't doing much more than figuring out how to block basic attacks.
About halfway through, you learn a special move called "The Tiger" and the game is officially over bar a few more hours of shoulder exercise. It's a block that stops any attack and immediately breaks the enemy's guard, leaving them open to becoming the deadest thing since sliced bread. And this applies to any enemy attack, including bosses. It's like setting the cat among the pigeons, and the cat has an assault rifle. And this is the sort of game where pocket change flies out of broken pot plants, so while not needing them in the slightest I bought all the life and armour upgrades, because there weren't any sounder investment opportunities for the two hundred grand in my pocket. Then I was just a tuft of flesh bobbing around somewhere inside a ball of unbreakable steel and leather.
Thinking back about Red Steel 2, my memories blur together somewhat. A dreamlike haze of orange scenery and acoustic guitar, sprinkled with arbitrary samey gang fights with Jason Voorhees' samurai friends. After a while, the awful dialogue and mission briefing started to sound like the adults in The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, and I fell into a trance, following the little green arrow like it was a carrot on the end of a fishing rod, winning fights and completing missions with no difficulty or understanding. While the shell around the swordplay mechanic is a rather empty and uninteresting one, I will admit that the swordplay itself is quite invigorating, in a way that using a normal controller wouldn't be. But my question is this: what other kinds of hardcore gameplay could the Wii Motion Plus possibly be used for? What else besides sword fighting combines a life-threatening scenario with holding a straight object at different angles for various situations? Because all I can think of is being an air traffic controller at the Hindenberg disaster.
You killed his father prepare to die: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Of course it's well known that you can block bullets with katanas but traditionally you're supposed to move it around as you do so
My personal fighting style is the "Startled Gazelle"