Endless Ocean – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Endless Ocean Title Screen

Endless Ocean Title Screen

Endless Ocean was developed by Arika and published by Nintendo for their Wii console in 2008. Many critics seem to consider it to be an adventure game. My current impression is that Endless Ocean is an exploration and collecting game, in many ways similar to Pokemon but without combat. The game is set in the fictional waters of the Manoa Lai sea.

Map of Manoa Lai sea.

Map of Manoa Lai sea.

The game begins with a tutorial where the player learns how to use their wiimote to swim underwater while wearing their scuba gear. Katherine Sunday, the player’s partner, instructs the player on what controls to use. The controls seem a little awkward and I’m not sure they were the best choice for underwater swimming. In order to swim, the player presses the B trigger button and then points with the wiimote in the direction they want to go. The wiimote must be pointed at the screen when the player does this since the player’s direction is based on the position of the infrared camera inside the wiimote. If the infrared camera is not detected by the Wii’s sensor bar, then the player halts movement. This was mildly aggravating when people would walk in front of the screen while I was playing.

I found a new fish!

I found a new fish!

Pressing A on the wiimote, the player can interact with various sea creatures. Using the D-pad, the player may pull out food to feed creatures encountered or select the option to return to the boat. When the player first returns to the boat, they are greeted by their partner Kat. She explains how the player’s job and her own are sponsored by the Marinas Foundation. Periodically missions will be sent to the player from the Marinas Foundation that provide direction to the game. Kat makes it very clear, however, that just because the Marinas Foundation writes the paychecks that doesn’t mean she nor the player have to do anything they say. I get the impression Kat would never make it in the corporate world. It is also discovered early on in the game that Kat cannot swim and is therefore not a licensed scuba diver.

I'm Katherine Sunday. I'm kind of a big deal.

I’m Katherine Sunday. I’m kind of a big deal.

While seemingly short on underwater ocean skills, Kat is supposedly an expert regarding all things wildlife. She has been compiling an encyclopedia of all ocean life around the Manoa Lai sea. The encyclopedia acts as a scrapbook of sorts. There are forty pages of wildlife that fill in when the player discovers them, and there are three types of study milestones that can be achieved with each creature.

Each discovered creature shows up in your encyclopedia.

Each discovered creature shows up in your encyclopedia.

The underwater scenes were somewhat breathtaking for the Wii at the time Endless Ocean was released. Given that the Wii’s graphical capabilities are limited to 480p, the graphical experience is somewhat underwhelming today. This might be a good title for Nintendo to release an HD version. The soundtrack is calm and soothing. It appears there are several tracks that can be unlocked as the game progresses which can be selected from the load screen as the player is diving from the boat into a mission underwater.

Some creatures come visit you on your boat.

Some creatures come visit you on your boat.

Endless Ocean appears to be a fantastic game for the gamer who loves to explore and collect on their way to completing all the tasks offered. The map and the encyclopedia are inviting, and the atmosphere is calming. This might be an excellent title for adolescents who are old enough to grasp the handling of a wiimote controller. Since I found no overtly frustrating gameplay in Endless Ocean, I would imagine this would be a good game for children who are easily frustrated by more unforgiving and challenging games. Endless Ocean won’t be for everyone, but it may surprise you how much fun this non-game like game is to play through.

Endless Ocean Game Disc

Endless Ocean Game Disc

Battalion Wars 2 – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Battalion Wars 2 Title Screen

Battalion Wars 2 Title Screen

I purchased my Nintendo Wii right before I graduated college. I actually had it set up to host a post graduation party at my then new apartment. The Wii was relatively new at the time and given that I had scored a new software development job, I decided to make the Nintendo Wii a graduation gift to myself. Coming from a computer gaming background, probably my favorite game genre at that point was real-time strategy.

Consoles are not typically known for their real-time strategy titles. There are many reasons often given for this. I have heard it implied that the game pad controllers are not a good fit for strategy titles. This sounds like a cop out to me. I could imagine it may be difficult to provide a good competitive real-time strategy experience between multiple players playing on a split-screen where everyone can see each other’s troop movements. I’m not sure this would stop such a game from being fun though, and many console strategy titles have some very solid single-player campaigns. I wager the greatest historical reason why gaming consoles did not see many real-time strategy releases was due to the lack of online multiplayer capability.

Empress Lei-Qo of the Sun Empire.

Empress Lei-Qo of the Sun Empire.

I remember the first time I saw a gaming console play a multiplayer real-time strategy game. The game was Command & Conquer: Red Alert on the original Sony Playstation. Two of my friends had hooked their Playstations together using a link cable and were playing two separate sides on two distinct television screens. This seemed ground breaking for consoles to me at the time, but in truth I already owned Starcraft on the PC and was playing it on Blizzard’s Battle.net nearly daily with millions of people around the globe.

Anglo Military Intelligence is second to none!

Anglo Military Intelligence is second to none!

I was a little conflicted on whether I should purchase a Nintendo Wii. On one hand, everyone who had one seemed to be having a lot of fun with it. The Wii-mote controllers were incredibly novel, and worked well. I played extensively with a Wii my friend had. We had some great late-night experiences playing mini-games of Wii Play, Wii Sports, and WarioWare. The Wii seemed like a remarkable party console, and one I wanted to collect for eventually, but wasn’t sure if I needed one right then.

Player begins controlling one person as in a third-person shooter.

Player begins controlling one person as in a third-person shooter.

I don’t know how I heard of Battalion Wars 2. Somehow I think I was complaining that there weren’t enough strategy titles for game consoles. The first game console I had ever purchased was a Sony Playstation 2. One of the first titles I purchased for it was Goblin Commander, a real-time strategy title that was published for the Microsoft XBox and Nintendo Gamecube as well. I figure I must have complained to the right person who encouraged me to look into Battalion Wars 2. I read several positive reviews, and that’s how I got sold on purchasing a Nintendo Wii.

Take command of multiple types of units.

Take command of multiple types of units.

While Battalion Wars 2 used to have the ability to play multiplayer over Nintendo’s Wifi platform, this service is no longer operational. These days a gamer has to be satisfied with its single-player campaign if they wish to play it. In spite of this limitation, I have experienced a great deal of pleasure replaying Battalion Wars 2. Battalion Wars 2 is a real-time tactics game for the Nintendo Wii and was released in 2007. It was developed by Kuju Entertainment and published by Nintendo.

Battalion Wars 2 takes the approach of being an action/strategy hybrid. The game tutorial begins with the player controlling a single commander unit. This commander may be freely moved around the game field from a third-person perspective. The player may target enemies and fire upon them as if they were playing any other third-person shooter console title.

Hopping into a tank and shooting anti-aircraft missiles is fun.

Hopping into a tank and shooting anti-aircraft missiles is fun.

As the player progresses through the tutorial they encounter other units that they may then recruit and command. This opens controls for the player to command units while simultaneously dodging enemy fire and engaging in active combat along-side the player’s troops. In the first mission, the player is then taught to view the battlefield from a bird’s eye view in order to better command the troops under their command.

Battalion Wars 2 is specially designed for the Wii to best use its controls. It never attempts to be another Starcraft or Command & Conquer. It is Battalion Wars 2, and it’s really good at it. There are five different single-player campaigns that may be played: the Solar Empire campaign, the Western Frontier campaign, the Anglo Isles campaign, the Iron Legion campaign, and the Tundran Territories campaign. In my first few missions playing the Solar Empire campaign, I realized how much I had forgotten of the storyline in the ten years since I last played, but have been greatly impressed with how well the game has held up in those years.

The player can get a bird eye's view of the battlefield.

The player can get a bird eye’s view of the battlefield.

The design choices of the races in the campaigns of Battalion Wars 2 are interesting. The Solar Empire, clearly framed as a force of good and light through the beginning of the game, appears to be modeled in many ways after Japan, while their immediate enemy in the first campaign’s missions is the Anglo Isles whose characters are clearly of English decent. Given that this is a Japanese strategy title dealing with military themes, it’s probably one of the few games I have seen provide a Japanese take on modern military politics providing a different view in a genre typically dominated by developers with a western cultural background.

Battalion Wars 2 Game Disc

Battalion Wars 2 Game Disc

There is so much more to be said about Battalion Wars 2 that I will need to save for a more in-depth review. This is in my opinion one of the best titles on the Wii. I purchased a Wii to play this game, and ten years later I have not regretted it. If you come across Battalion Wars 2 and you are a fan of tactics and wouldn’t mind a little action mixed in, I would highly recommend it.