Hands-on: Castlevania: Judgement, Mushroom Men: Spore Wars

Hands on: Castlevania, Mushroom Men

We take a break from the interviews portion of our Nintendo Power party coverage to give you two hands-on reports of new games featured at the show.

After interviewing James Clarendon of Red Fly, I got the chance to play his game, Mushroom Men: Spore Wars for the Nintendo Wii myself.

The first area is a tutorial area, though most of the controls can be figured out on your own. In the first couple of areas, there’s not much that you’ve never seen before in a platform game. The cap glide move is great, where instead of a double jump, you glide around, somewhat similar to Super Monkey Ball’s glide mechanic.

The rest of the controls were great, as well. From the simple, intuitive motion controls (slash downwards for a simple attack with a slashing weapon, thrust forward if you have a thrusting weapon equipped, etc.). If you’ve played any platform games at all, and played any Wii games at all, this should be very easy to pick up and play.

The animation, camera, and overall playability was remarkably smooth, especially for a pre-gold build. The camera takes a little time to get used to controlling at first, as it’s controlled by the d-pad; however, it never backs you into an awkward corner, and always gives you a solid, wide view of the area.

There is definitely tons to explore in this game. In the time I spent with it, I found only half the items I could in the first area. You’ll notice I keep saying “area” instead of “level.” There are not traditionally levels or bosses in this game. The enemies do get progressively harder, but the areas are more denoted by the items you can find in them than “level one complete.” This is common in current action/adventure games, but relatively new to platformers.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the game is the weapons-building system they call the “Scavenger” system. With this, you collect between 3 and 6 items around the world. As you’re controlling an anthropomorphic mushroom, the items you collect are small everyday household items. One weapon I built used a DS stylus as its base. Rubber bands, thimbles, twigs, and glue are just a few of the other items you can pick up. Conveniently, the game tells you if you should be looking out for a particular item in that area- it specifically tells you which can be found in each section of the game, so you’re not frantically looking for the safety pin when it doesn’t exist.

Overall, this is looking to be a solid platform game. I didn’t really get to play with the telekinesis mechanic yet, but with the Scavenger system and the Cap-Glide, this is already offering something new to the platform adventure genre. I was also told there are no shoe-horned in mini-games, a common issue with Wii titles. This is a platform game through and through. I look forward to getting my hands on the final version of the game next in about a month and a half.

Konami didn’t have any representatives at the party, but they did have playable builds of two of their big fall titles: Rock Revolution and Castlevania Judgement. These were the Wii versions, obviously, as the event was at Nintendo World Store.

Castlevania Judgement is a motion-controlled fighting game, somewhat in the vein of the frankly terrible Soul Calibur: Legends. In this build, there were only four playable characters, but each one played remarkably differently. I was impressed by how varied the moves and animations were for the four different weapons, lending a unique feel to each fighter.

The game is a pretty standard 3-D, One-on-One fighting game. The control stick on the nunchuck controls movement, while quick, smooth motions with the Wiimote control all your attacks. You can’t just wave it around frantically and hope to win; you have to actually plan out your attacks a bit more. Beginner’s luck will never win over strategy in this game, at least based on this early build. The A or Z button, along with control stick motions, alters the basic slash attacks to execute special moves. A charge bar along the bottom of the screen fills up as you attack successfully to allow for a charged super move. There are also pick-ups that can be found by destroying containers or defeating random old Castlevania baddies that show up to harass you and your foe. Most of these only take one or two hit to go down, so they don’t get in the way for long.

This is certainly better than SC:L. In fact, for an early build to control so much more reliably than a finished game is very impressive. Most importantly, as my wife and I hacked and slashed at each other (I totally won, for the record), we were both having fun. We felt like we were playing a motion-controlled Soul Calibur 2, and that’s high praise. This just may be the weapons-based fighter Wii gamers have been waiting for, and offer a challenge to the midi-chlorian-infused fighter coming up from LucasArts.

As for Konami’s other game showcased at the event, Rock Revolution, well, it just felt empty. They didn’t have any instrument-based controllers on hand (and won’t; Konami recently announced they won’t be making their own guitar, and the game will ship only with the gigantic 7 piece drumkit or no instrument at all), so bass, guitar, and drums were all played through waggles of the Wiimote and nunchuck. Basically, that amounted to the game feeling just like any other rhythm-based mini-game on the market for the Wii. As there are about eight thousand of those already available for the Wii, this seems so far to be “just another.” While air-drumming can be kind of fun for a song or two, it’s just not something I could possibly see doing for an extended period of time.

It is good to see that some original games are coming to the Wii, with less of a focus on “how many games can we get in here” and more of a focus on “how can we make a good Wii game.” Time will tell if the promise (or lack thereof) will wind up paying off on these titles, or if these can possibly stand up in the extremely cluttered market that includes a lot of anticipated sequels this holiday season.

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