Windy x Windam (DS) review
"Meet Izuna. Some of you might already know her from her starring role in The Legend of the Unemployed Ninja. As the title implies, she hasnít been working for a while now. Itís understandable; regardless of how undeniably awesome ninjas are, there just isnít a need for them anymore. The days of shuriken slinging and stealthy assassinations have long passed. Why pay some masked killer a small fortune to carry out a deed that could be solved with a well-placed grenade or a few dozen machin..."
Meet Izuna. Some of you might already know her from her starring role in The Legend of the Unemployed Ninja. As the title implies, she hasnít been working for a while now. Itís understandable; regardless of how undeniably awesome ninjas are, there just isnít a need for them anymore. The days of shuriken slinging and stealthy assassinations have long passed. Why pay some masked killer a small fortune to carry out a deed that could be solved with a well-placed grenade or a few dozen machine gun rounds? Ninjas just arenít practical anymore. Itís not like thereís such a thing as ninja pension, either. Not surprisingly, Izuna has fallen on rough times. Not only has she left her homeland in search of work, but her gaming genre as well; sheís desperate enough to enter a fighting game.
Itís not a glamorous job, but at least it pays. Besides, Izuna gets to dish out some ninja-styled punishment on a handful new foes. At least, they seem original at first glance. Fighting game aficionados, however, will be quick to realize that many in this assortment of warriors are anything but; a good portion of the roster has been blatantly ripped from the Guilty Gear series. Aside from The Unemployed Ninjaís Shino as an unlockable and a few unique contenders, the majority of the cast are pale imitations of established fighting game characters. Youíll have to clash with a suave, handsome vampire that looked like Slayer clad in a scarf. If it werenít for the flopping hat and an arsenal of projectiles, Stin could pass for Bridgetís identically androgynous twin. Kibikou looks like the bastard lovechild of Ky Kiske and Cloud Strife. Thereís even a lightweight Potempkin clone trying to pass himself off as professional wrestler. Such half-assed designs demonstrate how little thought went into creating the game.
While the lack of originality is bland enough, the gameplay is even worse. It operates with the most basic features of a 2D fighting game. Each character is allotted a small assortment of punches, kicks, and throws that vary in strength depending on which buttons you press. There are a few special moves as well; Jack the Slayer Wannabe can sling flaming lanterns across the screen, Ashley can summon waves of dark magic to knock her foes off their feet, and even Izuna comes packing an infinite supply of throwing stars. Thereís nothing too over the top or unconventional; youíll get to perform shield bashes, upward slices, arrow barrages, and plenty of other boring stuff. Even the supermoves arenít very impressive; filling up the gauge at the bottom of the screen will might net you a Spinning Coffin of Doom or summoning a screen-filling laser beam. The only remotely interesting part of the combat is its dashing system; pressing the shoulder button allows you to expend energy to rush forward, boost your jumps, and potentially avoid an oncoming attack. Itís the only feature that separates Windy x Windam from the fighters of the early nineties.
Itís not like any of that matters, though. Every aspect of the gameplay is so atrociously designed that youíll never have to use any tactics to win a match. Beating the game is simple; you choose any character, button mash the strong attack command to pound your foe into a corner, and keep doing so until the match ends. Nothing more, nothing less. Since there arenít many differences between weak and strong attacks, youíll never have to rely on weaker attacks to get the job done. Since thereís such a ridiculous amount of lag time after landing a hit, itís easy to perform infinite combos on any of your opponents, regardless of the difficulty level. If you can send an enemy airborne, you can literally juggle them to death with twenty, even thirty successive hits without any fear of retaliation. The hit detection is so poorly managed that you can occasionally dish out attacks on fallen foes without having to crouch or get closer. Or if you want to end things quickly, you just have to jump near your enemy and mash the attack button; youíll easily unleash a brief torrent or rapid-fire blows thanks to the choppy animation. You wonít get to use it that often, though; the unresponsive controls rarely work consistently. Considering how horrendously inept the AI is, such handicaps wonít prevent you from demolishing anything that gets in your way.
Besides, there arenít many incentives to keep playing through this pathetic excuse of a game. Sure, unlocking Izuna and Shino may satisfy the fans of the main series, but there isnít anything else worth mentioning. Itís not like youíll ever have to use the Practice Mode; the flawed controls and shallow gameplay mechanics are easy to understand and master. Given the lacking difficulty, there isnít any need to develop strategies or technical approaches. Thereís the Versus Mode, since it only supports local multiplayer, youíre going to be hard-pressed to find someone else unfortunate enough to have gotten the game. If you take the fighting mechanics out of the equation, the lack of extra features is probably the most disappointing aspect of Windy x Windam. The DS is capable of games like Jump Ultimate Stars and the Bleach series, all of which feature tons of extra content and replay value on top of quality gameplay. Even Street Fighter Alpha 3 on the GBA had more stuff than this. Where is the online multiplayer? What happened the bonus challenges? There are so few characters to choose from, and yet theyíre all so poorly made. Perhaps the game deisgners assumed that they could get away with flaunting Izunaía face on the cover to net some profits.
She looks pretty good in-game, all things considered. Fans of the series will like seeing Izuna converted into a 2D fighter sprite; you can see her yellow scarf flapping in the background and her enormous chest jiggling in her frantic standing stance. Even if most of these warriors are cheap knockoffs of other characters, they have enough detail to keep them from looking like giant blobs of pixels. You can see Ashley tapping her foot to the beat of the bland background music, or how Stinís bouncy headpiece and feminine dance moves could put Bridget out of business. Despite such qualities, however, the attack and movement animations are stiff enough to make the fights seem awkward and strained; the fighting hardly flows at all. Itís not like the game tries to distract you with any eye candy, either; each character is only given a single character portrait as opposed to unlockable artwork or many costume options. While these portraits are drawn reasonably well, thereís only so much of Izunaís mug you can take before you start looking for something better.
You know what the sad thing is? Some people will buy this game due to their love for The Unemployed Ninja series. Considering the obscurity of this title, they might be the only ones who have even heard of it. So for those precious few, misguided folks that are looking into this game, Iíll warn you: stay away. Far away. Windy x Windam is easily the most flawed fighting game on the DS, and is quite possibly one of the worst titles in the handheldís entire library. Every aspect of the game horribly designed; the characters are unoriginal, the attacks are bland, the mechanics are shallow, the controls are pathetic, and the AI is laughably bad. You donít have to rely on strategy or timing; you can just mash the attack button and pummel your foes into infinite combos with no effort whatsoever. Even if you put up with this game for the sake of unlocking the more famous characters, there is no other incentive to keep going. Donít blame everything on Izuna, though. Just hope she finds a real job.
Community review by disco (August 14, 2008)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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