Thursday, October 13, 2011

Game Review: Armed With Wings 2

Armed With Wings 2 is (duh) the sequel to Armed With Wings, which I recently reviewed. In it, there's an interesting and entertaining twist: You play as Vandheer Lorde, the final boss of Armed With Wings.

Also, the final boss of Red Moon and (SPOILERS!!) Armed With Wings 3. It's a little inexplicable how he got here, because I'm not sure that Armed With Wings Vandheer Lorde is actually a beatable boss by anyone without absurd gaming skills, but whatever.

Vandheer Lorde used to be emperor, but Armed With Wings apparently beat him up and took the throne. What really annoys me about this story-wise is that Armed With Wings is instantly accepted by just about everyone as somehow better as emperor than Vandheer Lorde, despite coming across in most cutscenes in this and Armed With Wings as a whiny little [expletive deleted].

I'm not going to make a secret of the fact that Vandheer Lorde is pretty much my favorite character from these games, partly because his dialogue is hilariously over the top, partly because he looks interesting and rather evil, and also because he's the most fun character to play, notwithstanding the fact that this game is, like most of them, crammed with super-annoying jumping puzzles (and Vandheer Lorde isn't very good at jumping compared to the Red Moon or Armed With Wings 3 protagonists).

(On a technical level, even Armed With Wings had at least one jumping puzzle, and you couldn't actually jump in that game.) I died a few hundred times here (that is, that single last jump there alone), only getting past by luck, before I remembered that you can "get more air" by attacking in mid-air, and started getting across consistently.

Part of the fun in controlling Vandheer Lorde is that he's got a lot of fun and useful abilities, which are fueled by a rapidly refilling "special" bar. He's got an "ice blast" for long-ranged attacks, which aside from being very useful against most enemies and for puzzles is great for whittling down bosses from a distance.

It's interesting to note that this attack is used by Vandheer Lorde in all of his boss fights.

He also has this great kicking animation.

There are a variety of weapons that you can use in the game, and all of them grant you a special ability. Other than one that requires you to finish the game and then start over, only your starting sword is actually useful, because it lets you heal-the others have ridiculously expensive and narrow magic attacks.

Perhaps a little disappointingly, the default sword is a little boring-looking; on the other hand, it's one of the more realistic video game swords you'll ever see.

I mentioned that Vandheer Lorde (you must ALWAYS type out his full name!!1!) isn't very good at jumping generally; his one saving grace in this department is his "super jump," which I nearly always use over his regular jump: You just hold down the jump button (the "up" arrow key) for a few seconds, and he jumps much higher.

With the additional boost from "attacking to get more air," he actually can get pretty high.

Perhaps his single most fun ability, an equivalent to which is not available to the protagonist of any of the other games, is his "grab" attack, which involves him seizing somebody and tossing them, possibly across the equivalent of three or more screens.

It was one of boss Vandheer Lorde's attacks in the first Armed With Wings, although it was only used in the "kills you every time mega attack" sequence as the opening part. While it doesn't work on bosses and on a few other odd enemies, it instantly kills the basic enemy and if used correctly can instantly kill even the elite guards from Armed With Wings, who here are merely a mild nuisance instead of worse than the game's midboss.

(Momentary aside: In Red Moon, which I reviewed previously without finishing because of difficult annoying jumping puzzle junk, Vandheer Lorde as the final boss has a powerful attack which is more super-annoying than it really should be. Why is it super-annoying?

Because, while it can't knock you off the platform [in fact, Red Moon is the only Armed With Wings-related game with a final boss fight where you don't fight on a platform where you can be knocked off by a cheap shot], whenever Vandheer Lorde uses it, he teleports to the right left [EDIT: Whoops, misremembered while I was typing this what he did!] end of the arena, and you're teleported to the middle.

I cannot even express how much it cheesed me off every time he used that frikkin' attack, although I suppose it's better than getting blasted off the screen anytime you're a little too eager to beat up the boss.)

The bosses in this game are probably the easiest out of any of the Armed With Wings series games, partly because nearly all of them have stages where they just sit there so you can beat the tar out of them. The exceptions are Armed With Wings, who is the final boss-he's effectively immune to all your special attacks, fast, and can easily knock you off the platform the fight is on, which makes nearly all of your losses feel like cheap shots-a dude named Hawken who is like a weaker, quicker Armed With Wings who can't block your ranged attack, and the hilarious Smoking Martillo.

I say that Smoking Martillo is an exception to the attack phase/vulnerable phase boss rule, but that isn't actually to Smoking Martillo's benefit: He actually is too lame to have an attack phase. Pretty much all you have to do to beat him is stay back and lob ranged attacks at him, and he'll just sit there and take it. He'll periodically launch an attack where he turns into a projectile and flies towards you, but if you shoot the projectile, he'll just change back and stand still again.

My point is, most of the bosses? You don't have to work very hard.

Once you've completed the game and sat through the ultra-annoying final cutscene, which shows that all your hard work was meaningless and tells you that you stink, you get to use the incredibly awesome Lightning Blade, which can cut the time it takes to finish the game in half or better, because it lets you spam an attack that KOs bosses in one hit. Yes, even that cheap Armed With Wings. I recommend trying a second playthrough just to have the satisfaction of doing that.

A few peripheral gameplay notes, which I'll mention because I know I'll forget if I don't talk about it now: Some of these games have very good music (at least a little bit of the music is apparently nabbed from somewhere, but I don't mind too much) and there's some very interesting camera actions going on relative to most side-scrolling games in all of the titles. If you're close to a boss, the camera zooms in; if you're far from the boss, it zooms out; if there's treacherous jumping stuff going on, it zooms out; and there's a default distance that works for most other things. It actually works to make the cutscenes a bit less jarring.

This at least borders on my favorite of this series of games, and I can recommend it. (The only reason I say "borders" instead of saying it's my favorite is because Armed With Wings 3 has an incredibly fun gameplay mode that, if you've finished the game at least once, makes the playthrough worth it in spades, even though that playthrough will probably be less fun than playing through this one.)

-Signing off.

No comments: