Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
When the original “Red Steel” launched alongside the Nintendo Wii back in 2006, it was highly anticipated. Marketing and hype made it seem like a potentially genre-changing first-person shooter, brilliantly combining swordplay with gunplay.
Unfortunately, it sucked. Pretty badly. The disappointment stung a lot of new Wii owners, and we felt as if a dream was shattered.
Now, I want you to forget that game ever existed, because “Red Steel 2” is absolutely nothing like it.
The only thing connecting “Red Steel 2” to its predecessor is the concept you use both a sword and a gun regularly. Everything else, from the art style, gameplay, story and quality, is totally different.
While the first game tried to utilize realistic (for the Wii) graphics and a super serious story about a stolen fiance and the Yakuza, “Red Steel 2” takes a much more artistic approach with cel-shaded graphics. Rather than bouncing between Los Angeles and Tokyo, the game takes place in a sort of fantasy/science-fiction Western environment, where the East meets the Old West.
This setting actually turns out to be quite interesting, but unfortunately we don’t get to learn a ton about it. The story, although present, definitely takes a back seat to the action, and only average voice acting performances don’t help move the plot along.
Since the bulk of the game is devoted to action, the good news is the gameplay is actually really good this time around.
I should start off by saying the game requires a Wii Motion Plus peripheral for the Wii Remote. If you’re like me, you already had a couple of these lying around after purchasing “Wii Sports Resort,” but if you don’t already have one, you can buy a bundle that includes “Red Steel 2” and a Wii Motion Plus for $60, only $10 more than the game by itself; a good value, considering a Wii Motion Plus on its own costs $20.
The developers at Ubisoft really put the Wii Motion Plus to good use, delivering a gameplay experience superior in every way to the original. Shooting is smooth, allowing all the accuracy you need to pull off tough shots, and the swordplay is frantic and accurate. In fact, I never felt like I struggled with the controls at all.
I will say, though, the first thing you should do when starting up the game is mess with the control settings. There’s a large array of customization options &- from rotation speed to sensitivity to the size of the bounding box &- but they make it easy to mess with them until you get everything the way you like it. I had to change everything quite a bit from the default settings (I like a really small bounding box and a fast rotation speed), but once everything was customized I was extremely happy with the controls.
You point and shoot just like you would in any other Wii FPS, but you can also swing your sword at any time by simply swinging the Wii Remote. It’s extremely intuitive and works really well. Your arm might get tired, but I had a lot of fun even when playing for hours at a time.The mission structure is surprisingly open, and is somewhere between a linear shooter and an open-world experience. You’re still confined to moderate-sized levels, and once you finish them you can’t go back, but you’re given quite a few options as to which direction to head in, which mostly encourages you to do side missions.
You don’t gain experience or level up, but you do collect money which you can use to improve your skills and buy new weapons, so there’s certainly some character progression throughout the game that keeps things interesting. Some of the later moves you learn, for example, look really cool and make combat even more fun.
“Red Steel 2” is a game very set in its fantasy ways. Late in the game, you even have a few battles underwater, in which you’re not only just as fast as always, but you’re also still able to fire your guns. But the ridiculousness really plays to the advantage of both the gameplay and the story. Your character acts the part of an anime-Western badass, and you love him for it.
The main game will probably take you between eight and 12 hours, and after that there’s not much to do. There’s no multiplayer whatsoever, but that’s probably for the best. It allows for a more polished single-player experience.
All in all, “Red Steel 2” is far and away a better product than the original, and a darn good Wii game to boot. If you have a Wii and have been at a loss lately for what to play on it, “Red Steel 2” should definitely be a contender for your next purchase.