The infamous summer drought is thankfully almost over, but the pickings have been and still are quite slim. With that in mind, SouthPeak Games (publisher of Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball) and Collision Studios aim to offer Wii owners a grand adventure to see them through the meager times. Does Brave: A Warrior’s Tale save the day, or is this a story best left untold?
Upon loading up A Warrior’s Tale, you’ll be asked to choose to play as either a girl or boy character, with no real distinction between the two in terms of gameplay or story. However, the tale is experienced through the eyes of one of the game’s great tribal elders, Brave. You’re part of a Native American village, and Brave will convey his trials and tribulations to you in hopes that one day you too may be able to stand strong against whatever evil comes your way.
The game first tasks you with simple goals in order to walk you through the basics, and the pacing and story structure are solid throughout. You’ll receive a charm early on in the game that will allow you to consult your mentor at anytime during the adventure, and it’s basically a hint system that does a fair amount of handholding.
There are a surprising number of very inspired gameplay mechanics in A Warrior’s Tale, though the entire experience is bogged down by an incredibly primitive foundation. The camera system is certainly the main culprit in terms of causing endless frustration during play, and the visuals (more on that later), too, play a large role in holding Brave back from its true potential.
You control your character with the analog stick on the Nunchuk, jump (and double jump) with the A button, attack with the B button, and the Z button plays into a host of extra abilities that are mostly context sensitive. When coming upon a tree sprout, for instance, you can press Z to pluck the sprout from the ground and either wield it as a weapon or ignite it over fire for use as a torch. You can also press the 1 button to go into a first-person mode in order to mimic creatures in the environment. Mimicking certain animals will reveal secret items or passages throughout the game, as well as uncover footprints that might lead you to your prey.
These are all great mechanics, and though combat is rudimentary and button-mashy, it’s still quite satisfying. Jumping works fine as well, and the collision detection is doable. However, an almost-broken camera system sucks the fun out of much of the game’s exploration. Additionally, though the game instructs you to control the view with the analog stick while in the first-person perspective, control is also mapped to the Wii Remote’s IR. Unfortunately, the IR sensitivity is downright horrible, so you’ll be fighting between the two inputs to get the mechanic to work as needed. Since you’ll be forced to enter this perspective often in order to progress, it’s an element of the game that, once again, drags the experience down.
On the plus side, the level design is well thought out and has a comfortable flow reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda games. There’s a nice balance of combat and adventuring, and a few throwbacks from Rayman 2: The Great Escape will probably capture the imagination of older gamers.
The game also does a really good job of meshing the gameplay with the story and setting. Like in a Zelda game, you can cut down plants and various other objects throughout levels in order to get health back. However, you’ll gain new abilities by stumbling upon cave paintings. These ancient stories will teach your character the ways of the warrior, and it’s a neat mechanic that ties everything together nicely.
You’ll gather new weapons and abilities as you progress through the game, and you can power yourself up temporarily (when your spirit gauge is full) by pressing up on the D-pad. There are spirit feathers hidden throughout the game, and your ability to power up will get stronger as you add additional feathers to your headdress.
No matter how you slice it, though, Brave: A Warrior’s Tale feels incredibly dated. For all intents and purposes, this is an N64 game for your Wii. The camera is re-aligned behind your character’s back by pressing the C button, but like many of those older games of generations past, the camera will often flip and flop wildly or not respond at all when in tight quarters.
The presentation, too, comes to Wii as something of a relic from yesteryear, and the story often takes substantial leaps from plot point to plot point, leaving the player to fill in the gaps. It’s a method of storytelling that worked a decade ago, but feels sorely out of place in today’s world of epic production values.
Perhaps the biggest offender of the game in terms of feeling outdated is the visual presentation. The game is two generations out of date, and with the exception of the added bonus of texture filtering, it’s a game that probably could have easily been produced on Nintendo’s handheld system.
Truly, A Warrior’s Tale looks as though it was made 10 years ago and then pulled out from a vault somewhere, only to be partially dusted off. The character models are blocky and exhibit very little detail, though to the game’s credit, the animations are fairly competent. The environments, however – though they would be pretty on DS – look laughably archaic on Wii. On the extreme end of the visual equation, the cutscenes sometimes stutter so badly that they may cause real problems for folks who have issues with spastic lighting.
On that note, the lighting will often be another sore spot as you make your way through levels. There were ample moments throughout the game when we could see nothing but our character onscreen, leaving us to fall blindly into chasms and such. Even with the polar changes in contrast, however, the lighting does nothing to enhance the appearance of characters or environments.
Unfortunately, the game’s aural elements don’t fair much better. The voice work is well delivered and has a fitting charm for the game’s art style, but the music often gets lopped off suddenly when moving from one area of a level to the next. The sound effects, however, do a fine job of adding visceral satisfaction to combat and platforming.
SouthPeak is asking about $30 at retail for Brave: A Warrior’s Tale, and though that’s a substantial savings from your average Wii release, it’s still about $20 too much. There’s a solid adventure here, one that will offer hours of playtime, but it’s far from up to snuff for this generation of games. From top to bottom, A Warrior’s Tale feels like a Virtual Console game, and as such it should be priced accordingly. It’s a shame it wasn’t presented as a WiiWare offering, as the game has plenty of potential for folks hungry for a more classic-style adventure. It might still be worth a rent if this sort of thing is what you’re hankering for, but we think purchasing the game would send the wrong message to the publisher. The Wii is all about innovation in gameplay, and Brave opts, instead, to take two steps backward.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.0 Graphics
On Nintendo’s N64 system (from two generation ago), this would be a good-looking game; on Wii… not so much. Issues with lighting and framerate cause constant frustration throughout the adventure. 3.2 Control
Most of the core mechanics work well and feel good, but they’re not always well matched with the narrow environments you’ll find yourself in. The camera system, though not entirely broken, is a thing of the past that should have stayed in the past. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Themes are enjoyable and fitting, though they often get chopped off abruptly. Sound effects and voice work make more of a positive impression. 2.9
The gameplay and story are worked together nicely, and the level design is paced well. The entire production, however, is just so outdated. You’ll likely have fun with the game if what you’re looking for is a classic, N64-like experience.
2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.