Absolutely amazing, but undeinably short. No that wasn't a euphemism.
Created by Frontier Developments as a launch title for Nintendo’s WiiWare service, Lost Winds is a charming side-scrolling puzzle-based platformer game where players must use the infra-red pointer on the wiimote to control the wind in order to manipulate their surroundings and progress through the game. It was met with a generally positive response from critics and is generally regarded as one of, if not the best game available on WiiWare and it won several awards during the year of its release. Having recently picked up the game myself now that the sequel has also hit WiiWare for purchase, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the game.
During the course of the game you take on the role of Toku; an adventurous young lag clad in rather fancy red clothing and an absurdly large hat whom discovered a mysterious stone after he plummets through a breaking bridge and into a cavern below. The stone turns out to be a fragment of a mythical relic created long ago and it contains the Wind Spirit Enril whom explains to Toku that some time prior to the events of the game the Spirit of the Sun and Moon Balasar went against the code of spirits and had humanity worship him as a god, at which point the rest of the spirits created the Spirit Stone in order to imprison him. Balasar proved to be too powerful to simply be contained so Enril effectively gave her life in a heroic sacrifice by transforming herself into a tornado to bind Balasar while he was sealed. However as time went on Balasar’s hatred transformed him into something far deadlier than anyone could have anticipated and he shattered the stone and escaped, whilst Enril remained stuck in a fragment of it with very little of her power left. Toku agrees to help Enril search for the other spirits and the two set off on their journey which results in them learning that Enril’s powers can in fact be restored through the use of shrines built by a mysterious race called the Melodias, and that Toku’s grandfather Dio whom also happens to be a spirit has sealed his memories away and that by restoring them and his powers he’ll be able to contact the other spirits.
I’m sure you’ve gathered from that description that Lost Winds has a pretty simplistic storyline and besides two sequences that are told in a ‘storyboard’ fashion the majority of it is explained through speech bubbles during interaction with other characters. Lost Winds is the first part of a series of chapters that are going to be release to WiiWare as time goes on (The second part is actually out at the time of writing this) and as such Lost Winds effectively serves as the ‘prologue’ to one whole story, but this does little to detriment it. You don’t really need an elaborate storyline for a game like this that prides itself in amazing simplicity, and what story there is works fantastically for what it’s intended to be.
Why does everyone around here have absurdly large hats?
Visually the game is simply stunning, every single bit of the game looks absolutely incredible and I challenge anyone reading this to even try and disagree. The environments are beautifully crafted thanks to some incredible art direction that leads to an assortment of stunning environments that are all brought to life by Frontier’s superb in-house engine that enables what are quite frankly among the best visuals available on Nintendo’s platform. As you explore the world of Mistralis and head through villages, caverns, mines and meadows you’ll be hard pressed to find a single moment in Lost Winds where you aren’t marveling at how good it looks. There’s simply no way to do the charming visuals of Lost Winds any justice through description, it’s simply beautiful.
Similarly the game’s soundtrack is about as beautiful as the graphics; the music is incredibly relaxing and further adds to the charm of Lost Winds. From the title theme to the credits the music never ceases to be as soothing as possible and it really adds to the visuals, creating an immensely pleasing presentation that few games manage to achieve. Some of the tracks are arguably somewhat repetitive but they’re so charming you’ll never find yourself irritated by them unless you’re incapable of relaxation in which I ask why you’re even looking into Lost Winds to begin with.
Super Toku Away!
Getting past the incredible presentation and into the game play itself; Lost Winds is a very much an ‘original Metroid style’ Platformer in the sense that you’re not given a real sense of direction, you have no map and you’ll often find yourself simply exploring blindly looking for ways to expand your range of abilities in order to further explore the world you’re in. As I briefly explained earlier the main gimmick of Lost Winds is that you use the wiimote IR pointer in order to direct the wind which can be done by holding down the A button and drawing a line in whatever direction you want the gust to blow. You can do this to make Toku jump or to manipulate objects in the environment such as boulders are to knock fruit from trees. Speaking of which Toku’s health is measured by a heart divided into four quarters, and falling from heights or been harmed by enemies will remove a fraction of this and you can restore it by eating fruit which can be knocked from trees are pulled from the ground in some circumstances. Just like in Metroid you’ll find that your exploration will be limited to certain areas until you gain more abilities, which let you further explore the environment and play an important role in completing puzzles.
As you explore the environments you’re presented with you’ll encounter a variety of enemies called ‘Glorbs’ which are essentially black blobs created from the decay of Balasar. The basic ones can only harm you by sticking to you and you dispatch them by smashing into things with the wind, but as the games goes on you encounter variations of them including flying ones armored in leaves that you’ll have to use the environment to defeat and crab-like ones covered in rocks that you either dispatch with fire or use as a weapon with the ‘Vortex’ ability you get later on. There are roughly five or six different kinds of Glorb and as a general rule you’ll find that they serve more as obstacles than they do enemies but all the same they present some challenge as you work out how to dispatch the more advanced variations of them. There’s also a single boss fight at the end of Lost Winds, which is a surprisingly inventive battle but I’ll avoid spoiling any details regarding it. Needless to say it’s an interesting, and rather inventive confrontation.
Burn baby burn
The puzzles in Lost Winds are all generally very inventive although you’ll probably expect this considering the game’s main mechanic. Most of the time you’ll find yourself using your wind powers to manipulate the environment; from guiding fire into vines obstructing your path using the slip stream, or gusting boulders on to switches and using them as cannonballs with the vortex ability. At times you’ll also find yourself having to make use of plants that can either fire you up to higher areas or effectively let you ‘fly’ for a certain amount of time, and you’ll find that it isn’t uncommon for you to have to burn them down to seeds by blowing fire into them and then plating them in alternative locations and watering them in order to make use of them again. On the whole you’ll find that most of Lost Wind’s puzzles are incredibly inventive and actually enjoyable to tinker around with and solve because of the nature of the mechanics. The game is simply ingenious in its use of simple mechanics in relatively puzzling manners, and it never once does it cease been enjoyable.
Unfortunately Lost Winds isn’t entirely perfect, primarily because of the ‘episodic’ format it’s part of. Been the first in the series of chapters that effectively make up a whole game, Lost Winds almost serves as the ‘prologue’ or ‘tutorial’ to the overall series, and as such you’ll find there’s very little difficulty to be found throughout the title. Now whilst this can be overlooked considering Lost Wind’s generally relaxing nature, the biggest problem in Lost Winds is the fact it only lasts about an hour and a half, maybe two hours depending on how good your are at puzzle solving and whether or not you seek out the Melodia Idols which effectively serve as collectables, which unfortunately are often easily located and there’s only 24 of them in total. It’s unfortunate because Lost Winds is practically perfect in almost every way besides length and difficulty, but the fact remains you’re paying 1000 Wii Points for a one hour experience, when dozens of games including Lost Wind’s sequel are sold for the same price despite been much lengthier. As much as I love the game, it’s hard to really give it general recommendation at the price it’s at, which is a shame because it truly is one of the most unique and enjoyable games of the last decade.
Why do all video games give caverns a blue tint?
Lost Winds is an inventive and enjoyable puzzle-based platformer game that offers amazing presentation and unique and innovative game play but unfortunately suffers from a lack of difficulty and serious lack of length and replay value besides the fact it’s so damn fun. If you’re looking for a really enjoyable platformer or puzzle game you’ll be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable and innovative game than Lost Winds, but unless you’re specifically looking for a game in this style you’ll probably find that Lost Winds seems somewhat overpriced.