Platforms: Nintendo Wii
Magic – it’s a quality in short supply in a lot of the games we’ve seen so far this year. We’re not talking technical innovation or bullet point features for the back of the box. We’re not talking hype, nostalgia, eye candy or any of the other qualities that are often pushed on us as the key ingredient of a great game. Instead, we’re talking about those rare moments where ingenuity, technical skill, art, wonder and passion combine to make something that just hits you in the face and makes you think – this is amazing. Super Mario Galaxy had it. Bioshock had it. In its own weird way, GTA IV had it. And now, a little title that seems to have come from nowhere has it. LostWinds isn’t quite a masterpiece, but if you want magic, it’s your game.
Frankly, if you have a Wii and a wireless Internet connection, there’s really no excuse not to try it; like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, it’s one of the launch titles from Nintendo’s new WiiWare download range, and it’s available for a measly ￡7.
As it’s developed by the UK’s own Frontier Developments, you can even call the purchase patriotic. Don’t let the low price fool you, either. The funny thing is that, while a cheap and relatively tiny download, LostWinds is actually more visually impressive and polished than an awful lot of full-priced Wii games I can mention.
For a British title, LostWinds looks surprisingly Japanese. With its stylised cel-shaded characters and scenery, it reminds me a bit of Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, yet at the same time the luminous lighting is a little Ico while the verdant landscapes, rippling streams and cherry blossom are clearly inspired by Okami. You couldn’t call LostWinds magnificent in the God of War or Bioshock sense, but it’s certainly very pretty.
The character design and animation is more the sort of thing you’d expect from Nintendo or Capcom than a British developer, and the gentle, oriental music fits the game’s chilled-out mood perfectly. It’s a look that kids will love, but adults can enjoy without feeling nauseated – all in all, very nice work.