Review: Brave: A Warrior’s Tale (Nintendo Wii)

coverBrave: A Warrior’s Tale
Developer: Collision Studios
Publisher: SouthPeak Games
Genre: Action Platformer
Release Date: 08/10/09

Pulling from the mythologies of the Native Americans, Brave: A Warrior’s Tale tells the story of Brave through a series of flashbacks and then through Courage, the young warrior set to take up Brave’s position as village hero. While the game sounds interesting, it’s an expansion of a game that came before it: Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer for the PS2 which came out in ’05 in Europe and was brought over the US in ’07. Will this one breathe new life into the series, or send it to live with its animal spirit in the afterlife?

Story/Modes
The story on this game is pretty wonderful. It uses a ton of references to Native American mythology and fells very rich as you play along, picking up different abilities and animal summons and learning more about your tribe. The story starts off with Courage, who can be a boy or girl depending on your playing preference, running to his village to listen to stories from one of the village elders who you come to find out is Brave, who the game is named after.

He starts telling the tale of how a great evil came to haunt his village and he had to learn to fight it by moving from one great spirit or shaman to the next to learn abilities and get new weapons all in the hopes of finding Spirit Dancer, who defeated the Wendigo the first time around. There is a little bit of humor here, and you can tell it’s geared for a younger crowd but it is entertaining.

Until you get to the new content. You see this is a slight conversion of the original PS2 title and has some new content added in, hence your character of Courage who you pick up at what should be the climax of the game and then have to start all over again with Courage learning how to get around and doing various mini-games that you’ve already went through with Brave. It’s frustrating and really kills the momentum that was building up.

If the new elements had been added in a different way instead of being shoe-horned into the later part of the game, maybe broken up Brave’s story a bit or had Courage do things at the beginning of the game to get past the learning part of Brave’s tale it could have gone smoother. As it is it feels like they have a good thing going and then you hit a brick wall of fetch quests.

Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable

screen 01Graphics
Being a port of a PS2 game with new content, this game could really have used a go-over with some updated meshes and textures. The original title on the PS2 wasn’t exactly ahead of its time and this one is lagging behind with face meshes you can literally see the lines of the mesh in. It’s a bit distracting and really kills the experience.

On top of outdated textures and incredibly detail deprived character models and environments, the screen has a tendency to jerk around, especially in cut scenes, but even during gameplay. It’s like watching a movie on your PC only your PC really can’t read the DVD fast enough to keep the movie running smooth. Inexcusable, especially when the LAST generation of Nintendo console could outperform the aging PS2 system.

A bit more effort would have gone a long way here to making this look like a stellar title and less like the rest of the shovelware that has inundated the Wii.

Graphics Rating: Poor

Sound
I’d love to say that this is where the game really shines, but it’s only ok. The voice-acting isn’t bad, but not noteworthy. Nobody made me cringe and look for the mute button. The music was pretty driving and did it’s job pretty well. That is until you were moving into another area.

You see the game breaks up areas with long winding paths you have to make your way through to get to a new area and thy are pretty long. But whether it’s to let you know you’re in one of these areas or need to get to one, the music just stops. This is where music is needed as most of the trips are long and tedious and boring, except for the challenging ones like the canoe trip, but a little music would have held my interest besides just trudging along some unknown mountain or forest path.

Sound Rating: Good

screen 02Control and Gameplay
Let me get something out of the way here. The gameplay in this game is varied and fun and I’ll touch on it in a minute, but first we’re going to tackle the controls you have, or rather the LACK of them. The force is not with you in this game young padawan.

The controls use none of the wii mote’s abilities like you’d think. Instead you use the wii mote to look around in first person mode (which didn’t work very well at all and I ended up staring at the ground most of the time as I turned in a circle) and to light fires and to ice climb with. Firing arrows or throwing tomahawks is all done with the press of the down button and you have to hope that you’re facing an enemy enough to actually hit them.

You move with the analog stick on the nunchuk and can track things using the z button and the c button centers the camera. While we’re on the subject of the camera, it’s terrible and you will fight it the entire time you’re playing this game. Whether you’re meandering around a level or in first person view mode, the camera never behaves. It’s either too far back, too far up, not angled enough to see where you’re going to land when you’re jumping, stuck in rocks while you’re getting pummeled by a grizzly, or looking at the ground while you’re trying to get a good look at some furry woodland creatures.

All your other actions are separated amongst the wii motes buttons, like jumping, throwing your tomahawk, using a melee attack or firing off an arrow. Overall the controls aren’t tight either, so most of the time it registers your jumps but if you wait too long you won’t jump and will just end up falling off that cliff edge, or end up plowing into that log you thought you were going to be able to avoid in your canoe and end up sinking. The platforming with the awkward camera doesn’t help as you often end up over-shooting platforms you can’t really see or over-shooting ledges you thought were further away than they were.

screen 03This game does have quite a variety of gameplay options. The boss fights are all interesting and varied. The first is the grizzly bear and you have to chase and beat him with a stick that’s on fire. Another is a long chase while you’re riding on the back of a giant eagle like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, and one involves fighting a giant troll by summoning down lightning strikes with the aid of a wind spirit. You don’t keep your various weapons for long as you pick up something that’s better suited to whatever area you’re moving into. The only real recurring enemies you’ll bump into are some pretty big bugs and even then they’re not everywhere. There’s a nice variety to this game that I found great and well used, but the controls and terrible camera just ruin it. I really wish I could rate gameplay separately on this one.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Below Average

Replayability
You’re probably not going to want to play this one much after your first run through. There are some hidden totems you can collect in each area, but I don’t know why you’d torture yourself to play this over again to find them. Sure the story is cute and it’s nice to see something other than Greek mythology or futuristic guns blazing with an action title with some platforming in it, but really the camera and controls keep this title from being fun. Not to mention the lackluster visuals.

Replayability Rating: Pretty Poor

screen 04Balance
This game doesn’t really get harder as you go. It’s pretty much the same difficulty level as you move through it, you just have more at your disposal to get around things. The boss fights are all set up around the ‘avoid getting hit and unleash massive attack when time is right’ mechanic and they pretty much all follow that theme. Seeing as this game is aimed at a younger audience I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but people who enjoy having a challenge aren’t going to find it here.

The game is selling for $30 which is a bargain title, but for the same price you could grab the XBox 360 version that has slightly better graphics. Really, there are better older titles out there that fit the younger crowd’s action need that you can pick up cheaper. If you really have your heart set on this one, wait a bit and let the price drop.

Balance Rating: Mediocre

Originality
Sorry, but porting the game over and adding a few new control options and shoe-horning in some extra content does not a new game make. Sure the original had a lot going for it and if this one played better it would have to, but honestly they could have just brought over the game as it was on the PS2 and it’d have the same impact and maybe play better as they wouldn’t have had to spend so much time adding in new content.

Originality Rating: Bad

screen 05Addictiveness
I really did like playing this game. Or rather I wanted to if I didn’t have to fight with sloppy controls and a bad camera. Even with that I kept playing it in several hour chunks, and it’s not because I like inflicting pain on myself. There is an interesting and fun game in Brave: A Warrior’s Tale, they just needed to spend more time polishing it before unleashing its fury on an unsuspecting Wii crowd. This game has a lot of neat gameplay choices and mechanics in it, they just needed to be handled with a little bit more care.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

Appeal Factor
A nice family friendly title for the Wii that anyone could get enjoyment out of, if the above mentioned issues were taken care of. It’s decently priced for the most part, but it costing the same as its big brother XBox 360 version is a bit much and I can see people passing on it for that version if they have an option. Or if you have a PS2, pick up the original for $10 cheaper. It might have an audience, but really there are other titles out there that will get more attention.

Appeal Factor Rating: Poor

screen 06Miscellaneous
I really did want to like this game. The art style is a bit weird, and the graphics are way out-dated as well as all the control and camera issues. There’s something about the story that is fairly engaging until it hits the breaks later in the game. It’s really got me curious and I probably will play it again, if nothing else just for the variations on gameplay that make it so much fun.

The flight sequences were handled pretty well, which I thought was surprising after the disaster that was the canoeing section. There is a lot ot like in this game, it just needs some more love on the developing end to be a lot better than it turned out.

Miscellaneous Rating: Good

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable
Graphics Rating: Poor
Sound Rating: Good
Control and Gameplay Rating: Below Average
Replayability Rating: Pretty Poor
Balance Rating: Mediocre
Originality Rating: Bad
Addictiveness Rating: Good
Appeal Factor Rating: Poor
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
FINAL SCORE: MEDIOCRE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresize An erratic and sometimes possessed camera along with ho-hum and lackluster controls really prevent this former PS2 game from shining on the Wii. The added content feels just like it is, tacked on, and really breaks up what should be a great climatic sequence in the game by hitting the breaks and basically running you through a bunch of hoops all over again. With this title on the XBox 360 for the same price as the Wii version I can’t see why you’d pick this one up if you own the 360. It is a fairly fun game and is definitely aimed at a younger audience. It just needed a little more work to make it something special and that just isn’t there.

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