LostWinds: An iOS Port Done Right

As I’ve intimated previously, I’m not a huge fan of non-traditional video game controllers. After over five years on the mainstream market, both touch and motion controls still feel gimmicky as all hell, and in 99% of all cases, using a traditional gamepad instead would vastly improve the controls. Despite the seeming popularity of motion and touch controls, Nintendo and Apple have fractured the development industry, forcing developers to either learn how to create games featuring these controllers on the fly (often with poor results) or forgo releasing games on these consoles at all.

Occasionally, we do get an exceptional original game designed for the ground up for these alternative control schemes (World of Goo comes to mind), but it’s rare that we see a game that is improved by porting it to one of said schemes. LostWinds began life on WiiWare in 2008, where it got pretty decent review scores (though it could be argued that those scores were facilitated by low expectations, given that LostWinds was one of the only games on Nintendo’s downloadable service at that time). In my opinion, the game suffered because of its motion controls; the Wii Remote is a surprisingly unintuitive controller for “painting” lines on the screen, which is the game’s main gimmick (you “draw” wind currents to move Toku around or blow fire onto wooden doors).

I recently picked up the iOS app for free, so I figured I’d give the game another shot. Believe me when I say that this game is vastly improved by touch controls, to the point where it feels like it was meant to be on this system.. A virtual D-pad allows you to make Toku run, and unlike other onscreen D-pads (I’m looking at you, Zenonia), LostWinds‘ D-pad feels great. It’ll feel very intuitive to anyone who has experience with the 3DS’ Circle Pad. Furthermore, a swipe of the finger sends out a wind gust quickly and accurately, making triple jumps much easier than they were in the WiiWare version. I’ve been playing with my left thumb on the D-pad and my right index finger controlling the wind, which I’ve found is a pretty good setup, but a number of different control options are offered, including a “tap and hold to walk” scheme reminiscent of adventure games.

The actual game itself is pretty short and laughably easy, but it’s also pretty relaxing. Actual enemies are few and far between and are easily dispatched when encountered, and the environments are bright, colourful, and breathtaking. Like most iOS games, it’s a game that can provide a distraction for someone who’d just prefer to chill for a little bit, but it offers a fair bit more substance than the high-score chasing of Angry Birds or Super Crate Box. Had iOS been the lead platform rather than WiiWare, there’s no doubt in my mind that LostWinds would’ve been considered one of the platform’s AAA titles.

Many people seem to think that a AAA iOS title equates to squeezing a touchscreen version of Gears of War onto a cell phone, but that’s generally not what the audience wants or needs (Ryan Payton and Camouflaj had this problem when trying to drum up support for Republique earlier this year). AAA iOS titles take advantage of the demographic’s casual mindset and the device’s unique capabilities, all while crafting a user experience deeper than Angry Birds, but less involved than Metal Gear Solid. We need more games like LostWinds on iOS.

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Square Enix’s Insane iPhone Pricing

Earlier this summer, I upgraded to an iPhone 4S not only because I wanted a smartphone, but so I could play a few games that were either iPhone exclusive or Playstation ports (I’ve never owned a Sony console). I ended up buying Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions after some debate, mostly because I felt that, at $17, it was a tad overpriced. It’s hard to say whether it was worth it, because I did enjoy the game very much (definitely one of the deepest games on iPhone), but it was also quite glitchy, the controls were brutal, and, well, most iPhone games aren’t $17.

It’s very likely that I’m spoiled by Steam and its deep discounts, as well as the general $0-$5 range of most iPhone games, but I still have a hard time justifying paying that much for an iPhone game. I’ve heard that the game is $10 on PSN, which would have been hella more reasonable, and it would’ve been a no-brainer purchase for sure. $10 for Chrono Trigger is a fair price considering how fantastic that game is, but $8 for the incredibly dated Final Fantasy? $16 for Final Fantasy III (a DS port)? $32 for the full version of Final Fantasy Dimensions? $20 for a gimped version of The World Ends With You? Yikes.

I got burned on the atrocious Final Fantasy IV: The After Years for WiiWare a few years back, where the main game was $8 and subsequent episodes were $3 apiece, with the full game totaling 32 frickin’ dollars. The game’s pricing structure seems to have been the inspiration for that of Final Fantasy Dimensions, which is…disappointing, to say the least. $32 for a cell phone game. What gives, Squeenix?

In my opinion, Capcom got episodic pricing right with the Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective iOS port. The first two chapters are free, and the rest of the game can be bought in $5 bundles, with $10 being the cost of the complete game. Like The World Ends With You, Ghost Trick is a DS port from only a few years back. Like TWEWY, it was pretty good. Unlike TWEWY, the iOS version of Ghost Trick is discounted to fit in with conventional App Store pricing, albeit marked up a bit from the typical $0-$5 range since it’s a meatier game than Dragon Fantasy or Jetpack Joyride.

I’d like to play pretty much every game Square Enix has ported to iOS because the general opinion is that they’re all pretty decent RPGs, something the iPhone could use much more of. The ass-crazy pricing is what’s keeping me away, though. Unfortunately, Dragon Fantasy looks like the only iOS RPG really worth my time (and at $3 for ALL the episodes, it’s an incredible steal of a price). I still have a shit-ton of games that I want (the Steam version of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Pokemon Conquest, Borderlands 2, the Mass Effect 3 Leviathan DLC, FEZ, and Pokemon Black 2, just to name a few), so it will probably be some time until I purchase another Square Enix iPhone game. Hell, I’d even buy the recently-rereleased Final Fantasy VII PC port before a Squeenix iOS game since it’s so reasonably priced ($10 for a legendary RPG that I’ve never played before…sounds good to me).