Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Recent Misconceptions Debunked

I am making a new topic to defend some misconceptions made about the game and further add to my previous Two-Hour review.

First, to anyone who has unlocked the SNES version of POP, show me. Yes, I am fully aware that IGN states in their review and preview information that the 1992 version (SNES Konami) is available on the Wii version of Forgotten Sands, but I have not found it. Instead, I unlocked in the first five or so minutes the MAC version optimized for the Wiimote (NES style), which is near identical to the port available on Sands of Time. If you have found SNES version, please let us know, preferably with a guide or walkthrough so it can be confirmed. But DO NOT come here, use IGN or some other gaming review site as a source for your information, because we are all aware of what we have been TOLD, just not what has physically appeared on the disc. I have searched and looked and found nothing, with nothing in the game even indicating it is present. I’ll let you know if I find anything.

Despite this game still being new, people are very quick to accuse the Wii version of being a watered down shadow of its next gen peers. This has to stop now. I am not gonna tell you that the Wii version is better because I don’t know; I probably never will. What I do know is that they are completely different games with different stories and gameplay mechanics. I do know I picked the Wii version due to its enchanted atmosphere more akin to Sands of Time rather than the generic epic view depicted in the next gen versions. I wanted a POP game more like SOT, in which FS has delivered in spades. In fact, regardless if you like the Wii, hate the Wii, hate or love SOT, FS has a LOT of polish. From a load of extras that add more depth to the game, to the Jade Engine being pushed to its maximum output, this game is quality. Wii gamers argued that making ports of 360/PS3 titles doesn’t work well, so Ubisoft took FS very seriously and made a unique title with the franchise. Now you same critics are complaining you aren’t getting the same experience as 360/PS3 owners. I don’t care if you choose to be a hypocrite – just don’t disillusion or give false information to those who want accurate information. Do not be afraid that FS for the Wii suffers from any “multiple platform release” problems or “movie tie-ins.” Forgotten Sands for the Wii feels like it has been in development for a long time, perhaps to make up for not POP release on the Wii in 2008. I’d even argue it looks like it was being developed way before FS for 360/PS3 as it looks more finished and complete. But whatever – naysayers, you have been warned.

The camera problems from previous games, specifically WW and TT, are fixed in FS for the Wii. This is coming from someone who never had a problem with the camera in SOT but noticed bad angles in the sequels. FS uses a smart camera and for any positions that aren’t ideal can be re-triggered to default (behind Prince) or shifted around using the C Button along with Wii remote. It is intuitive and feels right. Because POP games, with only a few exceptions, are paced at the helm of the player, the player will never feel rushed or that the camera control s unresponsive. Complaints of the camera seem null and void to me as any issues can be eliminated easily by the player. Also, the Bird’s Eye View mode is back from SOT again and always offers a great view of everything.

Controls in this game are simple and fun and feel right. I have already gone over this in my previous review, but it deserves mentioning again. 1up complained of having to point at objects in a 3D plane using a 2D interface. Never once, with incorporation from the camera system have I had a problem. I firmly believe complaints of this nature come from the reviewers’ inability to recognize their disdain for the respectful franchise in question, with POP being the case here. If you loved SOT, you will orgasm over the control scheme found in FS for Wii. You have my word.

The combat is a return to SOT roots. What does this mean? It means what POP fans have always known, which is that the POP franchise is not a brawler and never excels when it attempts to be one. POP shines in its platforming, with its combat acting as a force to motivate the player forward as well as offer a break from a tricky wall running segment. That break is what gave SOT its sublime pacing - whenever the player felt a slight inkling of monotony, the game shifted to combat or platforming to give the player a pseudo variety show. FS for the Wii acts on the same principle - Ubisoft Quebec must have known what classical music composers and movie directors have known for years, which is that tension can only build up for so long until it exasperates itself or fizzles out. SOT was a constant joy ride due to its pacing, in which FS is no different. The combat is pretty and lends well to the Prince's skill sets; he is an agile dancer/warrior who is most interested in proving his prowess over unsurmountable forces. The blue-light-shaded enemies are bright and wonderful and all of Prince's attacks are exciting. It isn't deep or trying to be a DMC/GOW clone, instead finally understanding what makes a POP game.

All that said, the combat has some RPG leveling to it that prevents it from being as droll as SOT. SOT was simple once you learned how to suck out sand from enemies directly after jumping over them. FS for the Wii has an RPG element that allows the prince to fill up a gauge which unlocks certain attacks/defenses/strengths for the Prince, much like Onimusha practiced almost a decade ago. It works really well and prevents FS's combat from being a completely mindless button masher. The combat has some levels of depth and is entertaining at exactly the right points, but is still just a break between the platforming, as it should be.

Lastly, I’d like to back a claim I made earlier on this board. I said, which I am paraphrasing, that FS for the Wii is the NEXT LEVEL in POP gaming. Some of you may not believe my lofty claims, which is understandable. Today, after a very brief two-hour gaming session (I had to spend time with the Wife kept me from playing more), I have come across a point in that game that truly redefines POP, 3D Platforming, and Wii gaming in general. I discussed previously that the Prince encounters powers which can be used in specific areas that allow him to reach places he couldn’t before – hook plates, whirlwinds, and bubbles. After about four hours, you become a master of these powers and are able to easily go through any obstacle; no matter how challenging the level design, it is always surmountable. After a period of time, I was questioning how long I could stay interested in the game, given that nothing that was thrown at me was much more of a challenge. I then also noticed there were several areas I still couldn’t reach, which made me upset because I am a completionist when I play games (remember I said the level design is so good you can always go backwards). After a certain key point in the game, you are then given the ability to use these powers WHERE EVER and WHEN EVER you want. The game no longer holds your hand by having blocks indicate where and which power should be used when. It becomes up to the player now to navigate through seemingly impossible sections of the level using his powers. This blows the linearity of the POP design out the window for more open-ended gameplay. This is revolutionary and fantastic – from a gameplay standpoint, this game already blows the might SOT out of the water.

The above described attribute is the single reason that any POP fan needs to pick up this game. I don’t know if the 360/PS3 version has this same feature (I have read it doesn’t, but we all know how “thorough” reviewers are these days), but regardless of whether or not it does, this game triumphs on every level. This game embraces its heritage – an unlockable 2D secret level is available for purists and offers a bit of challenge, along with a slew of other unlockable levels that test your brain and ingenuity; the costumes from the previous POP games (SOT and Dark Prince from TT) are unlockable: developer diaries displaying how the game was made; artwork galleries; the original POP (possibly the SNES version as well, we will see); and a completely tongue ‘n cheek achievements system that adds depth and encourages multiple playthroughs of the game. Add to that fantastic music, graphics, and a compelling story (though not arguably as good as SOT at this point) and you have a near perfect POP game. POP fans, we don’t deserve this game. Yet someone at Ubisoft Quebec is smiling on us.

Please, critics and Wii haters and non-believers: get your brain out of the tunnel and into the light just this once to realize greatness. At the very least, get out of the way of those want to

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