LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias

System: Wii Release date: 09/10/2009

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After you have completed the purchase, the content will be downloaded to the applicable system linked to your Nintendo Account, or your Nintendo Network ID in the case of Wii U or Nintendo 3DS family systems. This system must be updated to the latest system software and connected to the internet with automatic downloads enabled, and it must have enough storage to complete the download. Depending on the system/console/hardware model you own and your use of it, an additional storage device may be required to download software from Nintendo eShop. Please visit our Support section for more information.

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Introduction

When the WiiWare service launched in May 2008, one little adventure shined more brightly than any other, captivating players with its ingenious use of Wii Remote controls. The serenity of the game world and its beautiful atmosphere caused players to immerse themselves in the adventures of Toku and Wind Spirit Enril as they set out in search of Enril's lost powers. When the game was over, players were craving more - but then everything around LostWinds went a little silent and they were left to wonder if the LostWinds had lain down forever...

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Now the wait is over as Toku and Enril are set to return with more tricks in their bag, an adventure grander in scope and with much more at stake – not to mention an even more gorgeous and detailed world to discover. Welcome to LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias.

Visit game developer Frontier's official LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias website.

Story

Little time has passed since the events which unfolded between Toku, Enril, Deo and Magmok in “LostWinds”.

The famous explorer Notéa's sudden return from an expedition brings with it saddening news. Whilst searching for the ruins of the Melodia City, Toku's mother Magdi has mysteriously disappeared. The only clues to her whereabouts lie within the tattered remains of her treasured journal.

As repayment for saving his life, the ancient Guardian Magmok pledges his assistance to Toku and Enril as they head up into the mountains in search of Magdi.

Toku and Enril arrive at Summerfalls Village, a picturesque location that has been beset by an eternal winter. Even more worryingly, its people now live in fear of ferocious monsters who hide in the snow.

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Fearing the worst, and with the chilling cold taking its toll, Toku and Enril seek the help of Sonté the Spirit of Seasons. Sonté's season-changing powers will provide the key to unravelling the plight of Summerfalls, and unearth an ancient curse that haunts the Melodia City.

As events continue to take unexpected turns Toku and Enril venture onward. Wielding their new powers with care in the face of potentially fatal dilemmas, Toku and Enril are plunged into a race against time to save not only the life of Toku's mother but also the future of Mistralis...

Preview - Part 1 - Any Way the Wind Blows

There’s a cherry blossom tree right outside the offices of Frontier Developments Ltd., the Cambridge-based game development studio whose creative environment nurtured an idea borne from the wind rustling through its leaves. That idea was LostWinds, released to critical acclaim on WiiWare in 2008, blowing a fresh wind into the platform genre with a little help from a Wii Remote.

Inside the office, we’re meeting with some of the key people behind LostWinds and its sequel deep into development, LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias, for a sneak peek at the follow-up to their original WiiWare offering.

It’s clear from the start that we’re meeting a creative team that knows how to take ideas and run with them. Stacks of concept art, character renders and level layout maps are strewn across the meeting room table, painting a rich, mashed-up picture of what we’re about to see on screen.

David Braben, chairman and founder of Frontier, leads the way: “When we set out to develop LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias, the challenge was to deliver the same level of innovation and surprise as the first game rather than rest on our laurels and 'knock out' more levels, so we focused on major new gameplay elements that combine seamlessly with the powers from the first game.

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“We made the characters and story more important for those who want it, the new environments in Mistralis are more varied, the directional hints given to the player are improved and we've continued to put in lots of small touches and polish that make the world even more interactive and rewarding of exploration.”

While the Frontier men don’t like to talk of their new game merely in terms of “more”, the sheer amount of things there are to talk about, and the passion for these that they bring to the table, speaks volumes. Director of Production Johnny Watts shows detailed maps plotting out all the possible paths for the player and explains how game development is all about the careful introduction of each gameplay element at the right point in the flow of the game.

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“You’ll see that the graphics, at the moment,” he says, taking a brief pause trying to hide a little smirk, “…while we’re actually pretty pleased so far… are not yet in a polished state. That’s because we want to nail down our gameplay first: our puzzles, the interactions with the environment, and the way the player traverses it with new possibilities at different stages of playing through the game.” Watts produces one example after another of how the gameplay’s new building blocks interact and create new spheres of possibility. “It’s all about balancing the gameplay. We want players to experiment with their new powers, to discover new things.”

But Winter of the Melodias is meant to bring more than just new gameplay possibilities. It is after all the continuation of a story that started with so much left to tell. Managing Director David Walsh explains: “We’ve created this narrative universe where there are so many things left to explore, and this game really expands on what we started, while at the same time not forgetting where it began. We’re really exploring the world of Mistralis in a lot more detail, elaborating the mythology. People wanted more and this one definitely delivers on that.”

Preview - Part 2 - Playing it Cool

Then lead designer Steven Burgess – whose breeze-borne inspiration led to the idea of controlling a character with the power of wind - grabs a Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo and begins to take us through the game. His enthusiasm is contagious and abundant - it’s clear that he’s passionate about his new baby.

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“It picks up pretty much where you left off,” Burgess says as we see a familiar scene of Toku taking a quick nap before adventure comes blowing in the wind once more. “Toku has lost his Jumbrella [a cape Toku acquired late into LostWinds, bestowing the player with the power to draw flight paths high into the sky, Ed.], but Enril still has all the wind powers you had at the end of the first game.”

After hearing that his mother Magdi has gone missing, Toku receives a little help to get going from Magmok, the recently liberated ancient Guardian who has pledged his assistance to help his friends climb the mountain towards Summerfalls Village where Magdi was last seen. “This section is like a tutorial for newcomers,” explains Burgess, “while for veterans it takes them directly from the one game to the next as they reacquaint themselves with Enril’s powers of wind.”

He deftly guides Toku up the mountains; every now and then getting a hand from Magmok to climb up high cliffs or to get rid of a massive boulder blocking his progress.
“If you played the first game you might miss the Jumbrella at this stage, but don’t worry, Toku will get it back eventually,” Steven chuckles.

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Upon arriving in Summerfalls, the village turns out to be in dire need of a tourist brochure update. Frozen waterfalls and relentless snow showers have cast the idyllic locale in an eternal winter. Scary-looking snow monsters lurk in the background and evil new mutations of Glorbs – the poisonous pests spread like a plague across the lands of Mistralis by the evil spirit Balasar – attempt to thwart Toku’s progress.

“When you first arrive, Toku isn’t equipped to deal with winter’s cold,” Burgess continues. “We’ve introduced a temperature bar that decreases as he ventures into the cold. Toku needs to reach torches to warm up at certain intervals. This brings a different dynamic to exploration, as venturing into a cave could lead to new discoveries but also to danger for Toku’s life.”

Preview - Part 3 - Cyclone

We’re asked not to divulge the reason why Summerfalls Village’s climate changed so drastically, but it doesn’t take long to discover that another elemental spirit had some part to play in that. Toku and Enril soon encounter Sonté, Spirit of Seasons, albeit in a guise unexpected of someone of her stature. Sonté bestows the pair with the power to instantly switch seasons when they spot one of her totems. The effect is marvellous – even in its unfinished state – as the blue-ish hues of winter recede to reveal lush greens and vivid browns of the locale in its summer state.

Waterfalls run through the scenery and bushes dance in the wind as we see Toku take a dive deep into a pond where before there was only ice. “The changing of the season opens up new possibilities for exploration,” says Burgess as he guides Toku through an underground lake with a graceful arch of the Wii Remote.

The attention to detail is striking: we see a school of fish carefully approach the floating Toku, then quickly disappear as he makes his way back to the surface before he runs out of oxygen. Equally, our little hero himself has been granted a fresh set of animations that have a cute way of displaying his relative helplessness – he slips around a little on ice and performs a quick roll when he grabs onto a ledge now. The guy’s certainly trying, but his movement – guided by the Nunchuk’s Control Stick – is still no match for the wonderful powers of wind controlled by the Wii Remote.

The first of Enril’s newly rediscovered powers is Cyclone, which allows the player to create just what it says on the box by a firm shake of the remote while the A and B Buttons are pressed. Burgess makes a small cyclone appear that a quick gust of wind easily sends towards an unsuspecting, new kind of Glorb. “Like Enril’s other powers, such as Gust and Vortex, the Cyclone power allows you to aid your progress in a variety of ways. You can use Cyclone to suck the water out of a shallow pond, creating this cloud of rain that you can guide elsewhere, to make things grow or to extinguish a flaming Glorb, for example. Later on in the game you’ll even be able to dig into soil by simply creating a cyclone that works as a drill.”

We’re shown several smaller puzzles where the new power is employed to alter the environment and clear a path for Toku, one step at a time. A switch submersed in a shallow pond is flipped by using Cyclone to suck the water out of the pond and then in winter dropping a snowball onto it. In the absence of a Jumbrella, Cyclone also proves a fine tool to take Toku to higher ground, while even adding new ways to deal with a particularly pesky breed of Glorb that preys on unwary trespassers and snaps out of the ground as they approach.

Powers transported from the previous title have been given new possibilities as well. The Vortex move, still executed by drawing a quick circle with the Wii Remote while the A Button is pressed, allows Enril to gather snowflakes into snowballs, which can – naturally – be employed in a variety of ways.

Preview - Part 4 - The Feeling of Discovery

Next up is a glimpse of what’s in store once Toku reaches the inhabited parts of the village. Watts divulges another aspect of the game elaborated on in the sequel. “There are many different characters to encounter this time,” he says, “There’s going to be a lot more interaction. Toku can now go into people’s homes and help them out with missions, such as catching fish or bringing relief to a burning house.” The villagers reward Toku with a gold coin that can be taken to the local smithy who will melt it into an object that Toku is going to need to help Mistralis.

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The growth in scope of the title is unmistakable. With so many new environments and gameplay elements to explore, Frontier certainly seem to have upped the ante in every way. “This duality of seasons gives the player a lot more to discover since so many elements of the environment are affected by the type of season,” Watts underlines. “This alone makes for a significantly longer game experience. Also, in this game, if you return somewhere, you will find different enemies there, so the experiences of backtracking won’t be as similar.”

Braben is quick to point out that it is not simply a matter of adding more and making the game last longer. “LostWinds is about maintaining the feeling of discovery for the player. It’s about experimenting by combining new powers with existing ones,” he explains. “We have this story that we want to guide the player through, but we want them to play around while they’re at it.” When we ask if it’s difficult to keep a fresh perspective on the possibilities when the goals have been so meticulously plotted, he responds: “We have a lot of our own people, who are not part of the development team of LostWinds, working on focus testing precisely to maintain that perspective. They haven’t been living and breathing LostWinds like these guys have and they bring that fresh point of view that a player has.”

That afternoon we’re shown a lot of sequences that we would not reveal for fear of spoiling the story, including several major characters that imbue the plot with interesting twists as well as new layers of gameplay that affect what trials and tribulations await when the game is complete. The appearance of one new enemy whose menace is felt throughout the game reminded us of one of the more sinister embodiments of Majora’s Mask, the eponymous adversary of The Legend of Zelda’s Link in his adventures in the land of Termina. Let’s say that the theme of duality runs through Winter of the Melodias in more ways than one, and it is all the more captivating for it.

It’s evident from our session that Frontier have been listening to the players of the original LostWinds and are committed to meeting the demands of those who want more. Another such inclusion is a map that provides an overview of the larger environment and subtle hints to prevent players from getting lost. This time around, aside from more dramatic encounters with numerous characters, the story is told largely via the lost pages of Magdi’s diary. Hidden throughout the nooks and crannies of Mistralis, the pages of the diary can be easily flicked through at the push of a button, or, in another proof of the team’s attention to detail, a flick of the Wii Remote.

So far the winds seem to favour Frontier’s WiiWare endeavours, making us pose the question whether another part of the tale could be told on Nintendo DS as well in the future. “We certainly think it could work,” muses Walsh. “At the moment it is simply not our focus, but I feel that with LostWinds we created a very rich universe and we could clearly conceive of spiritual powers that would benefit from the system. We are constantly thinking of new ideas, and looking for ways to use them in the game. A lot of the ideas that you see in this sequel were first conceived for the original, but at the time we could not make them fit.”

For a WiiWare title bursting at the seams with so many fresh ideas and such loving eye for detail, the thought that some parts might by necessity end up in another future sequel seems like an easy pill to swallow. With the safe knowledge that there is much left to discover, we leave the Frontier offices as one of those typical Cambridge afternoon winds blows through that tree outside their office again, bringing, no doubt, a steady stream of fresh ideas for the future of LostWinds.

Categories

Adventure, Platformer

Players

1

Publisher

FRONTIER

Developer

Frontier Developments Ltd.

Age rating

  • 7

Wii

System

Wii

Release date

09/10/2009

Age rating

7

Controllers

  • Wii Remote & Wii Remote Plus