|System: Wii (WiiWare)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Oxygen||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Oxygen Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 21, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
It's no secret that pirates have fascinated the collective consciousness for hundreds of years. But, it seems only recently these buccaneers have invaded the world of pop culture and have really had a strong presence in movies, TV shows, and now, video games. Titles like Sid Meier's Pirates! and Pirates of the Burning Sea have given this emergent sub-genre some real quality, but the fact is that most titles really fail to capture the real pirate fervor that other media have been able to conjure up.
Pirates: The Key of Dreams tells the story of a member of the British Royal Navy who has been charged with masquerading as a Pirate in order to infiltrate a prominent Pirate's crew. He'll have to forsake all his training, tactics, and morals in order to fool the other pirates into thinking he is one of them. And what is his motivation behind all this treachery? It has been rumored that these Pirates possess a magic key with terrible power and it will be up to you to get it back for queen and country!
So, how do you accomplish all this? By shooting everything! Basically everything on the map will be a target, and it doesn't really matter whether or not they are a former ally or foe! The gameplay, at its core, is essentially just like any vehicle-based, third-person shoot-em-up. You navigate your way around the map avoiding obstacles, collecting power-ups, and, of course, shooting everything in your sight.
Generally, each map will have five or six different areas, each with a different objective. You won't be able to open the gate to the next area of the stage until you complete each specific goal, which could be anything from gathering a certain amount of plunder to destroying all the other ships on the sea. Along the way, you will also be able to gather treasure as well as pick up other new crew members from ships you have sunk.
The gameplay feels a lot like the Castle of Shikigami arcade series, except the gameplay is much slower and, of course, you are in a pirate ship. However, the main concept of flying through stages and just shooting everything remains in place. Though, there is one major difference between this title and other shooters of its kind: the lack of scrolling gameplay.
I can't particularly say I miss the scrolling aspect of the standard shooter, but I feel I must mention it, as many arcade purists will probably find this new approach a little disagreeable at first. The non-scrolling aspect does make for a lot easier gameplay, make no mistake, but this works well for this title. Because it has a kid-friendly feel to it, and it is a WiiWare title, I can forgive it for being on the easy side, and I think it makes an excellent entry level shooter. Do I think Ikaruga should switch to a non-scrolling format? Absolutely not! But for what it is, the format works very well, and once you get used to setting your own pace, the gameplay feels very natural.
However, there are quite a few issues I have with Pirates: The Key of Dreams. First of all, even though I would classify this as an entry-level shooter, it really misses the mark in terms of enemy frequency. One of the big things people always recall about shooters is the sheer amount of enemies these titles confront you with. Many times, you won't even be able to see the level at all because your screen will be chocked full of enemies. However, this is not the case with this title, and you'll be lucky to encounter more than five or six enemies on screen at a time. Sure, there might be eleven or twelve in the entire section, but there seems to be somewhat of a cap on how many opposing ships can be on screen at once, which really hinders the difficulty of the gameplay as well as its arcade feel.