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Ambitious, But Somewhat Flawed

  • amerk
  • 06/13/2015 04:15 AM
  • 648 views
OVERVIEW:
This has been on my agenda to review for awhile, since at least April, when I promised Fidchell I’d do one as soon as I had the chance. Nearly two months later, here it is.

Ironically, I remember playing this a few years back when it was still in its infant stages of completion. The game was quite a chore in both game play and dialogue, and I finally decided to give it a pass. A few years later and the game is back on the radar with plenty of updates.

Needless to say, I wound up giving it a second try and found the updates to be well worth the effort. Whether you find yourself enjoying this game or not, one thing can be said: Fidchell takes great pride in his project and is usually open to the feedback and suggestions.

GAME PLAY:

Wild Wings may not be perfect, but it is ambitious. It tries to stand out over a lot of RPG Maker games, and in a number of ways it succeeds. While the game is fairly linear, you’ll find yourself backtracking through the game on a number of occasions to take care of side quests or to see if new areas have been opened. This is typically done through a number of in-game features:

Flying Mode: This is probably the most interesting of all features. When you’re not in flying mode, you’re a bat who walks on two legs. I never thought of the absurdity in that until I actually put it into words, but yeah, that’s about it. And Shade, your primary protagonist, is slow in this mode. In flying mode, however, Shade sprouts wings and moves around really fast. Sometimes a bit too past to the point it’s easy to skip over something, but it’s still a large improvement over the slow walk speed. Not to mention, in flying mode you can access areas you couldn’t see or get to in walking mode.

Customized Menus: In addition to the Main Menu, you also have access to other menus, including the above mentioned flying mode, party swap, and some additional extras such as being able to change your window skin and battle music.

Slime Pet: In good old Dragon Quest fashion, you acquire a slime as a pet early on, which then introduces the game to a virtua pet of sorts (not really). You can feed the slime various types of food in order to increase his stats. Higher stats means unlocking slime portals found throughout the game, which often leads to decent treasure. There’s also a Slimetopia where your pet slime can go to compete against other slimes in a sort of arena like setting.

Battle: There are some interesting mechanics here than help spice up the system. One of the characters that joins you early on (albeit temporary) has a Lancet skill to learn skills from enemies. On a few occasions, you need to use specific items in battle to trigger different results.

Mini Games: Throughout the game, you may be met with a variety of challenges that test your reflexes and speed. In one such aim for glory, you need to eat a series of moths under a time limit. Another features a flying game where you need to dodge obstacles to achieve higher rewards.

Dungeon Puzzles: There’s a lot of these, especially in the later half of the game. None of these were ever too difficult to figure out, but it did help break the routine of dungeon exploration.

Touch Encounters: Have I named off enough features yet? Yes, the game utilizes touch encounters, which makes the game more feasible, especially when solving a puzzle.

While I speak highly in regards to the game’s ambition, I must also acknowledge the many shortcomings, a few of which can be quite frustrating at times.

Flying Mode: There is never any incentive not to have this on. As a walking bat, you don’t get anything the flying version of Shade can’t get; not to mention, in walk mode he’s just too damn slow. It’s also kind of odd that you can’t fly over shallow ponds or rocks blocking your path, but I don’t think there’s any real way around that without making the game too open.

Customized Menus: Those extra window skins? As long as the text isn’t green, and the skin transparent over a dark background? I found the default to be the best and never had a reason to change it.

Here is an example of the default and the desert message box, with transparent skins and different font colors. The default wins by a mile!




Slime Pet: Other than feeding him to open up portals, there’s really no use for him. He doesn’t help you in battle, and the things you can do in Slimetopia serve no real purpose or net you combat-related items to help you along. It’s merely a means to spend your hard-earned cash on things you don’t really need. Although you can get furniture to decorate your room, a task which proves meaningless since you leave your home behind in the first act of the game and seldom have reasons to return (except to feed the slime).

Battle: While it does offer some fun features on occasion, it’s primarily a hack and slash game. Most of the skills you get prove far useless compared to their normal attacks, at least until late into the game. A primary example is that Shade and Dick can often equip weapons that attack twice in battle, meaning you’ll often do as much damage with regular attacks, if not more, than what you could with skills.

Randomness: The game feels very random at times, in fact. You never know when or where a slime portal will open, or what the stats will be for using it when it does. You just have to keep going back and searching everything you’ve played through (every dungeon and town) the more into the game you progress. The stats the slime gains also is very random, and whenever he levels all your stats start back at 0. The type of food you eat seems to have no bearing (that I could see) on what stats to alter.

But perhaps the biggest part of the flaws?



Bugs… nasty buggers, they are!

There are times that the game will crash on you, or glitch to the point you have to reset, and this happens in more than one area. I found one with a slime portal I could enter, but couldn’t return. I’ve been in dungeons where traps will hit you into a wall and you can’t move (which I believe has since been fixed). And in one area, my brother decided to play and discovered an area where you wind up triggering a series of random battles in an endless loop (this last may be a fluke with our sprite touching an off-screen event).

See that portal? Yeah, don’t go in it like I did because you’ll never be able to get back up.



The only advice I can give is to save, and save often, and in multiple slots. There is nothing worse than having gone several hours and winding up with a useless save file.

One last important advice. On occasion, your party members will no longer be in your party, even though the party swap still has them turned on. To fix this, you will want to turn them off and then back on in the party swap menu. This typically happens after a major cut scene or spending time in Slimetopia.

My rating for Game Play is 3.5/5. Outside of the occasional game crasher (which Fidchell is working to fix), the game is quite ambitious. Even if some features wind up being more of a gimmick, their additions do enhance the experience.

STORY:
Wild Wings is a sort of light parody variation to the Silverwing series, as written by Kenneth Oppel. Outside of some backstory, names, and locations, it follows its own plot completely independent of the series.

You primarily control Shade, a newborn bat into the Silverwing colony, and your first tasks are to learn to fly, to be able to handle combat, and prepare for migration. Early on, you discover you are the ring bearer (no relation to Lord of the Rings) of a mysterious Tetsu ring. You find yourself caught in a struggle between two warring gods, one of which is evil and wishes to use the ring’s powers to break free of the prison which currently binds him.



This is where the story really takes an odd turn. Along the way you will fight against a variety of villains, many of which have come from NES classics. Link, Kirby, and Pokemon are just a few examples. While they are written in a fairly planned and entertaining way, I couldn’t help but feel as if it was even necessary. The core story of Silverwing is already interesting and original enough that it didn’t need to be turned into a parody.

On the plus side, taking the role of a tiny runt of a bat, seeing the world through his eyes, including the behaviors of such rodents, gives the story a unique touch. Not to mention, it’s very well written and thought out.

If there is one thing to take away from this... it’s that I prefer a silent Link over this.



My rating for Story is 3/5. The inclusion of old NES heroes as villains is a bit odd, but entertaining at the same time. I particularly enjoyed the story, but it can come across as somewhat juvenile at times.

RESOURCES & LEVEL DESIGN:
While some of the resource selection is okay, and the mapping is decent (for the most part), there are times when the resources clash. Audio seems to be a mixed breed of RTP, Final Fantasy, and other familiar tracks, whereas the resources try to mix the RTP in with Mack and Blue sets.

Meanwhile, in 2K3 RTP Land:



However, it’s imperative that I mention that Fidchell (if I’m not mistaken) designed his own character sprites (heroes and villains alike), including the battling enemies. And they look pretty good for a fan-game. In the end I felt that it was really the little things he did add (including one hell of a nightmarish dungeon) that tipped the score in the game’s favor.



My rating for Resources & Level Design is 3/5. Perhaps a little less reliance on existing game music, and being a bit more consistent in the resources used, but overall it’s decent, and the little things do add up.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
It’s a fan-game, but at least it’s something different from the usual Final Fantasy / Dragon Quest clone. And it’s quite reminiscent of old school classics, complete with exploration, puzzles, zany mechanics, a slightly over-the-top story, and a magical ring. And you also get to play as a bat.

Final verdict is 3.17/5.

Posts

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Hey, Amerk, thanks a lot for the review. You've brought up a lot of valid points. :) I guess I can only polish this game so much before I have to move on. I'm going to make an attempt to fix the slime portal crash you've spoken of. Are there any other game-crashers you can think of?

Also, have you given the first episode of the sequel a try or are you waiting for the full release?
I'm planning to play the sequel's demo, although not sure if I'll play it all the way through, since it tends to spoil me for the final release. The only other thing I can really recall was the path to the fly-off, the screen that is left and south of where you encounter Link for the second time and the blob guy comes.

On that screen if you make your way around and up to the chest, touching the left side of the screen resulted in my brother triggering an endless amount of random encounters. We couldn't duplicate it since, so it may have been a fluke, or maybe you had an invisible event there that was meant as a test or variables for the touch encounters.

Otherwise, I agree, if you keep working on polishing the details here, you may never get the sequel finished. I'm hoping to see the end of Shade's journey and return to the sun at some point. :)
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