Pirates: The Key of Dreams Review for the Nintendo Wii

Pirates: The Key of Dreams Review for the Nintendo Wii

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 screenshot

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.

Pirates: The Key of Dreams screenshot

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.

Pirates: The Key of Dreams screenshot

Another issue I have with Pirates: The Key of Dreams is the monotony of levels. The various objectives do provide a bit of variety, but the levels are all structured essentially the same way. Each level involves a number of stages, where you’ll have to beat some ships, get a few items, beat some more ships, and then beat some harder ships. The repetition can really get to you after awhile, and it makes this title pretty hard to pick up after an initial play through.

Pirates: The Key of Dreams screenshot

In addition to the repetitive nature of the various objectives, the level design adds to the monotony of this title. Each level looks almost exactly the same as the level prior, with the only real change being the color scheme. Trees, ships, and other landscape features don’t change from level to level, and after a few rounds, it is very easy to get bored with the level design.

In addition to the main single-player mode, there is also a multiplayer mode that supports up to four players. This mode is basically a shooting free-for-all, and the object is to reach a set goal of pirate takedowns. You can choose from any of the 35 stages you have played through in the single-player mode, and even if you haven’t played through it, all the stages are unlocked. So, if you’re itching to jump right in and play with your friends, you won’t be bogged down with having to complete the single-player mode. Although the multiplayer mode is fun for a little while, the maps are way too small, and the multiplayer mode just feels like it is tacked on.

Graphics are minimalist to say the least, and there is hardly any action on screen. As I said before, enemies are few and far between, and you end up staring at the blue void that represents the ocean for the majority of the game. The animations you do see are solid, and there are no framerate issues, but there just isn’t enough here graphically to make this game look like a current-gen shooter.

One area that definitely shines in this title is the control. There are two options available, and you can use either the Wii-mote turned on its side or the classic controller. Either way, the control scheme uses one button for propulsion and either the control pad or thumbstick for steering. There will also be two buttons used, one for primary cannon fire and the other for special weaponry equipped on the map. The controls are tight, work well, and the option to use either controller gives you a lot of freedom.

Pirates: The Key of Dreams is a title that is definitely unlike its pirate video game predecessors because it takes a much different approach to the subject matter. Instead of having an adventure or strategy-type game, Pirates: The Key of Dreams goes for a strict arcade-style shooter approach. Unfortunately, though this approach makes for some fun at first, especially for casual gamers, the gameplay gets old rather quickly due to the repetitive nature of both the level design and lack of enemies. There just isn’t enough to this title to make it worth 1000 points, and if you need a frenzied shooter fix, you could do a whole lot better than Pirates: The Key of Dreams.

Graphics are very basic, and there is little to no variation or movement in the frame. It’s just you and the ocean, baby! 4.0 Control
Controls work well enough, with the option of using either the Wii-mote or the classic controller to steer (or commandeer) ships. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While there is no level music or voice over to be heard, sound effects are alright, and the whole thing is quite unobtrusive. 2.5

Play Value
The game itself is quite short, but it feels a lot like an arcade title in this respect. There are several difficulty levels, as well as multiplayer functionality, so you can replay this one a few times. I just wish the gameplay was memorable enough that you would want to.

3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Defeat enemies with Cannon, Chain-shot, Skim-shot, Flame-Cannons, Mines, and Rockets.
  • Sail and plunder Port Royal, Porto Bello, and the Persian Gulf.
  • Enhance ships with expert crew: gunners, navigators, lookouts, and shipwrights.
  • Single and Multiplayer “Salty Sea-Dog” skirmish.
  • Up to four enemy pirates to challenge in 35 battle arenas.

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