The lights are on
Before I start talking about Red Steel 2, do you remember Red Steel? Forget it. This game is completely different. Whereas the first one was an FPS with the occasional boring sword fight, Red Steel 2 is more of an action game or beat em up with a first person camera. You're free to use your sword or guns whenever you like, and you have a wide array of special attacks to use. While the first went for a realistic look, Red Steel 2 is cel shaded and set in a high tech Wild West/Far East.
All the characters from the first game are gone, and the story is completely unconnected. Now you play as a samurai cowboy named called Hero on account of his actual name being taken when he was banished from his clan long before the events of Red Steel 2, and is 4 lines of dialogue away from being a silent protagonist. This time around, Retro Studios helped with the controls, and they made Metroid Prime 3 - the first Wii FPS to make good use of the controller. Over all, a more appropriate name would be Red Steel 2: The First One Never Happened.
The motion controls works perfectly, with the sword following your Wii remote with 1:1 precision. You actually need to use your arm, not just your wrist. Your attacks are stronger the harder you swing, and I highly recommend going into the controls and changing the sensitivity to "Relaxed" so you don't need to swing as hard. While at the beginning you'll have nothing but your standard sword attacks and your pistol, you'll unlock 8 "Hidden Moves" and three other guns, all of which need to be bought. At fixed points in the game, you'll get "Kusagari Powers", of which there are 5. They can be upgraded, as well as your firearms.
By the end of the game you'll be completely unstoppable and I can't think of any other game that captures the feeling of being a badass this well. I personally believe this game has the best use of motion controls to date, yes, even better than Legend of Zelda:Skyward Sword.
flame shield, never leave home without it.
The game leaves plenty of room for experimentation and trying different strategies to kill your enemies. For instance, stun a group of enemies with The Bear, then use that time to charge The Cobra and shoot them all with your pistol. Or shove an enemy against the wall with The Dragon, a move that resembles pushing someone with the force, then dash over to him and finish them while they're stunned with a stab. If your opponent is blocking, use your guard breaking attack and then blast them with your shotgun. All your moves are unique and have several uses, although The Tiger is somewhat over powered. It's a move that can block any attack and momentarily stuns your opponent. While it's not over powered at first, if you upgrade the time frame it stays up and the force of it, you have a relatively long time frame to use it and a longer time frame where your opponent is completely vulnerable. Well, an overpowered defensive move is preferable to an overpowered offensive move.
Yes, the Tiger even blocks that giant hammer.
while most people including yours truly focus primarily on sword fighting, the aiming controls are some of the best on the Wii. It has a Metroid Prime 3 style lock on, which keeps your camera focused on an enemy while allowing you to free aim. It has a decent level of control customization, allowing you to customize your bounding box size, turning speed, cursor sensitivity, and more. There's also a traditional aim assist that pulls your cursor towards the center of your target if you're aiming close enough, but it's redundant. Having AA and lock on? It makes aiming too easy.
You start off with your revolver, but can buy three more guns in addition to that. A shotgun, a machine gun, and a rifle. You can upgrade damage for each of them and three other things that differ from gun to gun. After fully upgrading the latter three, you unlock a special upgrade. The rifle gets explosive shots, the shotgun gains the ability to shred armor like it's made of newspaper, the machine gun can shoot through enemies and destructible objects, and your pistol's shots will ricochet off the environment. You can also buy armor, extra lives, and masks that give you a longer time frame to do finishers on enemies.
The side missions are all very dull, and can be described as this: Find X number of Y and get Z money. Luckily, you have no need to do them. The levels are littered with destructible items that drop money, and a bit of exploring will find you tripping over sheriff tokens that serve no purpose but to give you money, as well as safes filled with gold. I never did a single side mission, and by the end of the game I had fully upgraded two guns, my katana, all the Kusagari Powers (except The Tiger, and that was out of choice), and had bought every Hidden Power and enough ammunition to overthrow Fidel Castro.
The cel shaded art style makes good use of the Wii's limited power, and the games frame rate is stable outside of the occasional, momentary drop. According to this IGN article, it runs at 60 FPS, and is at times locked at 85 frames per second. You read that right, 85. Loading times are frequent and hidden behind doors opening animations that usually last about 3-6 seconds.
It's not unfair to say that the story is just an excuse to give you a gun and a sword. Basically, the villain wants your legendary sword, the Sora Katana. He also wants to make more to arm his army with, because he's evil. No characters have any real depth, and as I said earlier, Hero is 4 lines of dialogue away from being a silent protaganist. They also never really explain why Hero was banished from his clan, but their is some speculation from one character that one of the clansmen predicted that the Katakara clan would come and kill the Kusagari clan (the clan Hero was a part of, just to be clear), so they sent him away with their Sora Katana to keep it safe. Seeing as how Hero pretty much single handedly destroyed the Jackals, Katakara, and Ninjas, wouldn't it have made more sense just to keep him there, and have him be the welcoming committee?
The enemy variety is a little weak. There are only three grunt types that you encounter frequently, one affiliated with each of those three groups I just mentioned. There's also a stronger, more uncommon enemy type affiliated with each of them, as well as Katakara Chaingunners. You occasionally encounter floating mines, but they can all be taken care of by using the Tiger right before they explode. There are also flying little robots armed with machine guns, but unless you count the same enemies with additional armor or guns instead of swords as unique enemy types, that's it. Aside from the five boss battles, that is. They all pit you against a unique enemy who is more or less your equal, some times with their own Kusagari Powers.
The game is also short, I beat the game in under 7 hours on the default difficulty. Of course, it's important to remember I've beaten the game 3 times before this. Red Steel 2 also has a lack of replay value, with nothing to do after you've beaten the game but replay it. It has a hard mode available from the start and a challenge mode which allows you to get money by replaying levels you've beaten with whatever weapons you have. It's also timed, and any money you get breaking crates is added to your score, not the money you get at the end. Being worth the money shouldn't be an issue, given that Red Steel 2 is dirt cheap. But I assure you, it is. I don't give many games an 8+, and if I do that should be taken as a recommendation.
By the way, feel free to rate and comment.
My concern for this game was the controls. I guess they really are good then, huh? If a game can get the motion controls to work than that can be the start of something good.
This game is the best, I still need to finish it.
Another great review, Hawke. I think it's wonderful they came back and really delivered after the first game was such a huge disappointment.