LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias WiiWare
When Nintendo’s WiiWare service debuted in 2008, its initial launch of original download titles ranked between decent time-killers (such as Final Fantasy: My Life as a King and Defend Your Castle) to forgettable fodder (TV Show King, Blackjack Casino). The most memorable of WiiWare’s launch titles, however, was LostWinds, an original episodic effort by Frontier Developments that featured a lovely marriage of classic 2D gameplay and Wiimote controls, with some beautiful eastern-inspired graphics and music to complement the ceremony. Now, nearly a year later, the second title in the soon-to-be-classic series has been released, carrying over everything that made the first game a hit along with a few new Wiimote-waving abilities and puzzles.
Taking place immediately after LostWinds, Winter of the Melodias continues the adventure of child hero Toku, who must travel to Summerfalls (which, despite the misleading name, is actually a land covered in perpetual winter) to find his missing mother, and soon after embark on a quest to discover the truth behind the Melodias, and ancient civilization that mysteriously vanished, setting the events leading to the invasion of evil plaguing the lands.
The gameplay of LostWinds remains largely unchanged; players control Toku with the nunchuck, who primarily can only move from left or right, and can also pick up certain key items. Aiding Toku is wind spirit Enril, who is controlled by players with the Wiimote to protect and assist Toku across Summerfalls with the power of the wind.
In addition to retaining all of the abilities from the first game, the wind waker (sorry) will also obtain new powers, such as a powerful cyclone that can be used to propel Toku to new heights, along with several other useful features that prove necessary to proceed further into the branching areas. There’s a host of enemies that seek to impede the progress of our two heroes, but enemy encounters serve more as momentary obstacles than actual threats. A quick flick of the Wiimote is enough to gust most enemies out of the way, although certain types of newer (and much bigger) threats require a more evasive maneuvers. Regardless, LostWinds is more of a puzzler than an action platformer, and knowing where to go and how to get there remains the ultimate gameplay objective.
The game contains the usual trappings of door-opening switches, sturdy but structurally weak blockades and out-of-reach chasms, which usually require players to figure out how to proceed further, but a couple of new elemental hazards have been thrown into the mix. The snowy terrain of Summerfalls can make certain areas completely inaccessible, but early on a new ability will be obtained that can advance the weather from winter to summer, instantly changing the frozen environments into a grassy, sunny paradise. Knowing when to switch seasons is just one of the many gameplay mechanics to master, but it doesn’t take much ingenuity to know how to use the wind to direct a stream of fire to burn down a wooden barricade, or to round up a clump of snow to serve as a weight for a far-away switch. The aforementioned cyclone carries many useful tricks, such as using its strong force to burrow under solid rock, or to collect water from a nearby lake to form a cloud capable of rain, which can then be used to fill empty chasms with water. These unique innovations all make up an addictive, easy to pick up gameplay experience.
The strong audio and visual aesthetics go a long way in creating a relaxing, almost zen-like feel when playing. The original LostWinds featured a cute and colorful art-style filled with many little details, such as villagers and background objects reacting to wind-bursts from the Wiimote, to the seamless manipulation of the elements (water, fire, and wind, naturally). These details have carried over to the sequel along with even more animations and colors, although the extra additions lead to slight slowdown here and there. The music is just as wonderfully composed as before, with a distinctively eastern tone conveying the silent emotions teemed from the quaint villages and grimy temples. Much like Okami, Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus, LostWinds is an art piece in motion, and goes so far as to make up one of the prettiest looking games available on the Wii.
The same minor criticisms remain, however. Shaking and spinning the Wiimote to proceed in the game can prove a bit tiring on the wrist, as the game requires some rather large motions to register actions from the player. The game’s length remains roughly the same as well, which is a scant few hours, the only incentive for replays being the hidden idols scattered throughout. Collecting these idols updates a character gallery, which is a nice bonus, but ultimately not the biggest motivator to press on through.
Regardless, the gorgeous visuals and music, along with the finely tuned motion controls and cheap price point make Winter of the Melodias a guaranteed purchase that is anything but a load of hot air.