Game: Battalion Wars 2
Platform: Wii exclusive
Rating: 4.1 out of 5Battalion Wars 2
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Battalion Wars 2 (BWii) for the Wii is an excellent sequel to the GameCube predecessor. Developed by Kuju Entertainment and published by Nintendo, BWii combines air, land, and sea combat in a stylized format which takes full advantage of the strengths of the Wii console to provide ingeniously rendered environments, strategic challenges, and rich game play.
BWii is a strategy game at heart. The player controls various types of fighters in a military team including grunts, bazooka troops, recon vehicles, tanks, helicopters, ships, anti-air and long range artillery soldiers. By aiming the Wiimote at the enemys various forces, you can command each particular group to attack separate targets and utilize their specific tactical abilities. The real-time battles are structured to force the player to analyze the threats and address them appropriately with the capabilities provided.
The games weirdly nationalist factions mirror global superpowers with names like the Solar Empire (with decidedly Japanese styling), the Anglo Isles (hmm ), the Western Frontier, the Tundran Territories, the Xylvania, and the Iron Legion. The narrative begins two centuries in the past, the time of the Lighting Wars, and the story arc describes two separate invasions instigated by rumors of rogue nations manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.
As you attack the enemy targets, you can take command of any vehicle or soldier and control the individual in a shooter style while still ordering your various troops about the skirmish. Its a neat concept that is smoothly implemented with the Wiimotes targeting system while the nunchuks analog stick controls the movement of your selected character. Steering an aircraft with the Wiimote is simply a tilt of the wrist and you are banking into a turn. The targeting system is on point, though the auto lock is there to streamline the experience if needed.
With multiple types of attack capabilities there are challenges of perspective. Whether engaged by air, sea, or land a commander needs to have a prime vantage point to survey the battlefield. Fortunately, BWii includes aerial maps along with multiple camera angles which can be toggled from close-up in your face action to a wider angle allowing full observation of the arena.
As you move through desert landscapes, jungle foliage and frozen tundra, you will be impressed by the scope of the adventure while enjoying environmental details such as raindrops clinging to the surface of the TV screen and quietly sliding out of sight.
The pacing of the game keeps the entertainment level high; broken into small missions the battles are engaging but never overwhelming. The controls are simplified preventing the strategic aspect from being more robust. Instead the game concentrates more on production values with excellent voice acting, a memorable score, and no lagging action.
The balance between realism and cartoonish exaggeration in this games design is one thing making the experience such a treat. Numerous modern videogames suffer from over realism, disregarding the cold fact that the CGI capabilities are still not there to make realistic human faces, the current character models are just not convincing.
Too many well written titles are marred by those awkwardly realized plastic-faced puppets hopping around the most perfectly lush environments. Cartooning provides the solution so magnificently illustrated by Pixars The Incredibles: realistic backgrounds with people drawn in a snappy comic book style. BWii balances this combination well, the animations work so smoothly in the cut scenes on the Wii that it shames some of the glitchy, wooden presentations on the other consoles this year.
A direct descendant of Famicom Wars, Advance Wars, and GameCubes Battalion Wars, Battalion Wars 2 upgrades the arsenal with new naval capabilities, expanded engagements and motion sensitive technology to supreme effect. Impressive physics, well rendered environments and handsome presentation make BWii a firefight funfest, blended with the intellectually challenging strategic elements which would fit nicely on any gamers gift list.
Gentle Jones is online right now at http://www.gentlejones.com