Review – LostWinds

As I searched for the final area of LostWinds my entire family died in a flaming plane crash. I mean the game crashed as I was going from one area to another. The controller stopped responding and I was once again forced into physical activity by the Wii. I made my way to the system and shut it off, annoyed that I had stumbled upon one of the LostWinds glitches I’d read about but still psyched because I knew I’d finish the game in the next half hour. So I rebooted the console and loaded up the game again. All the save files were gone. Crashing and being turned off during the hang up removed all the progress I had made. It’s safe to assume I am reviewing a game I did not finish.

Technical issues aside, will this game’s voice be heard or will it break like the wind?

Knocking people around with wind is a nice way to spend time after you’re done with the adventure.

LostWinds is the new example of a game that’s more than the sum of its parts. If you enjoy lecturing others about video games (and more specifically why Shenmue is actually great and not boring or stupid) you need to play LostWinds so you can better describe games that have average or good gameplay but still mop the floor with less creative titles. LostWinds isn’t a blast to play. The puzzles it provides pale in comparison to any Zelda, the platforming has been done better in games 20 years older, and a good daydream provides more adventure.

While LostWinds never offers gripping gameplay, the play mechanics are very inventive and make great use of the Wii’s unique abilities, and more importantly complement the rest of the game perfectly. Appropriately enough, LostWinds puts the power of wind in the player’s hands, or at least the ability to control thin streams of wind in a video game. Throughout the short adventure you will gain new windy abilities that are necessary to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will mention that when you reach level 50 you become Storm from the X-Men and at level 75 you become the cause of cyclones and typhoons in Asia (too soon?).

It is really the combined efforts of the sound and graphical presentation with the laid back gameplay that makes LostWinds great. The game is a visual and aural treat to all but the blind and deaf, and it manages to put me at peace like only watching the orchard trees gently sway to the sounds of acoustic guitar melodies in the economic missions of Stronghold could (that’s right, feel alienated because you aren’t part of my personal experience with this somewhat obscure game). The character models could be better quality but the background and environment art is beautiful and as many have observed, better looking than most Wii games though for love and passion, not number of polygons pushed. The way your gusts of wind ruffle trees and bushes, direct flames and guide streams of water is the jewel on LostWinds crown of atmosphere.

Still there are a few things that could be improved upon. The characters are not particularly interesting, despite their quirky visual design. They generally have very little to say to the point that most townsfolk repeat a single line of dialog the entire game. The setting, while beautiful, could stand be to fleshed out more. I want to know more about the enchanting world I am blowing. These shortcomings are likely due to LostWinds being designed as a short and relatively cheap title. Success was uncertain and crafting deep backstory and rich characters conflicted with the goal of getting a nice looking, fun game out as soon as and as cheaply as possible. Just think about old games if you doubt plot and characterization aren’t the last things on most designers list.

Images of the game say LostWinds so you know you’re looking at LostWinds.

Developer Frontier has already announced a sequel is in the works and this leaves me with mixed feelings. It is a clear chance to make the improvements I just suggested, but it is also a chance to fail (the lesson is never try). By making a three hour game that rewards the player with a new mechanic every thirty minutes or so Frontier has essentially removed the filler that bloats most games. If the sequel does not follow suit by constantly offering interesting twists on wind (which will be very difficult to do) it may be three hours of filler excised from a better game. I’m sorry, but the princess is in another castle.

Finally there is WiiWare itself. Nintendo will have to step up their quality control if they want WiiWare games to be seen as worthwhile titles in smaller packages instead of cheap underdeveloped crap. If Lost Winds weren’t as good as it is I’d be much more likely to dismiss WiiWare as a whole after running into that time erasing bug. Gamers may be stupid enough to continuously buy broken PC games then wait for patches, and stupid enough to buy broken console games that are never patched and then rave about them online, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to abuse us.

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16 years ago

Nice review, you’ve hit upon basically everything I felt about this game, concerning its awesomeness. I actually never heard of that save-file erasing bug, however. It did not occur with with my system in the 4+ hours I spent with LostWinds. But now as I say this, my Wii system probably died. Oh yeah, and probably my 360.

I will agree that the universe could have been fleshed out a little more. However, I did enjoy the way they presented the overall story arc, what with the Wind Waker-esque stills, and I’m assuming we’re up for one epic battle when we finally meet Balasar for the first time.

16 years ago

Jay this sounds very interesting, but i’m a little unclear on what the gameplay is acctually comprised of. So, you control gusts of wind? And then that does what? Is it a puzzle game?

16 years ago

just finished this (more than we can say for our reviewer here) and i am mostly pleased with it. the game froze on me once when i left one area for another, but after getting up to reset (the remote stopped responding) i was able to reload and finish. annoying, but not game breaking. the unfortunate thing about jay’s experience is that i think most of the best sequences are towards the end of this game.

isnt nintendo known for its quality control? its strange they would let something like this slip through, and i dont really see the company using “its wiiware, what do you expect?” as an excuse. i agree with jay’s criticisms, and while i understand the aesthetic decision to have little to no interface on the screen, i would like to see the devs come up with some way to point toku in the right direction. possibly let those characters who repeat the same sentence all game break their habit and provide that service?

i never heard it mentioned, but isnt this game another example of episodic content? it was clearly never designed as a stand alone game, and it doesn’t even seem as though one more 3 hour game would finish off the story.