F5? That’s the Finger of God!
June 15, 2009 – Like so many other Japanese publishers, Konami seemed to be turning more and more toward American developers to create games with worldwide appeal. Zephyr: Rise of the Elementals is a calculated attempt to tap into the Western, childrens’, and casual markets all at once with one of E3’s more unique titles. Konami is taking a chance on newcomer Loose Cannon Studios, but it’s not hard to see why – their staff includes veterans of Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch, and they seem more than at home making colorful cartoon action games.
Amid a sea of genre games, Zephyr is a refreshing change of pace. Best described as a sort of Katamari Damacy-meets-Rampage, it casts you as an “elemental,” capable of transforming into a tornado and tearing up hapless trailer parks down below. These twisters start out on the small side, and you have a limited timer counting down, but each structure you destroy makes you a little bigger and gives you a bit more time. Once you get bigger in size, of course, you can tear down bigger structures, much like a faster paced Katamari, but with a destructive bent.
The hook, here, is that there are elementals hidden inside some of the objects you destroy. You get bonuses for “holding” these and picking up more of them before they’re consumed. This will increase your power and allow you to more effectively tear up the landscape. It’s important, since these structures don’t always come down with a mere swipe; some of them require a bit of persistence and technique to demolish.
In the demo we did get a glimpse of some mission variety, which is sure to be a necessary component for any repetitive action game. There are going to be levels based around collecting certain objects, mission-based goals, and stages where you have to guide your tornado through a series of gates, Star Fox-style (calm down, kids, I know you’re excited). We even got a peek at a brief boss fight where we had to take down a few of a structure’s outer components to expose the center. None of this is wildly imaginative, but Loose Cannon is at least putting the effort into mix things up.
Zephyr is definitely an interesting experiment. The colorful, Looney Tunes-inspired graphics and destructive theme should appeal to just about every eight-year old on the planet, but it may be a tad generic-looking and derivative for the wider audience. From what we played, Zephyr isn’t a simple clone, but it’s still a game that makes its influences abundantly clear. With the Katamari franchise fast running out of steam, it could be a golden opportunity for Konami to sweep up their fans, but it might also be a sign that the audience is just getting bored of the whole idea. Either way, we’ll find out this fall.