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A Film Issue

Dawn of Discovery

Most people are familiar with SimCity, and anyone who's been playing PC games for a few years is bound to have heard of Sid Meyer's Civilization. Dawn of Discovery is a cross between those two games.

Photo by Dan Siney

DAWN OF DISCOVERY

Platform: Nintendo DS

Publisher: Ubisoft

Most people are familiar with

SimCity

, and anyone who’s been playing PC games for a few years is bound to have heard of Sid Meyer’s

Civilization

.

Dawn of Discovery

, also known as

Anno 1404

in non-North American venues, is a cross between those two games, set in a heavily fictionalized Age of Discovery. There are a couple of versions of this game, some more serious than others, but the one I have, the one on the Nintendo DS, is light in tone—generic European kingdom is suffering from a famine, so generic European king sends his two sons to colonize the many islands in the kingdom’s waters, develop them, and start shipping food and resources back home. One son is a warmongering fuckup, and the other is a peace-loving… whatever the opposite of a fuckup is; of course you play the latter and the former constantly causes problems for you while you try to develop peaceful relations with the generic Arabian civilization you bump into along the way.

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The story doesn’t actually matter. The game is about building little developed nations on little islands, managing little economies, and (eventually) fielding little military units to defend yourself from pirates and other nations. There’s a campaign mode, with an actual plot and characters and scenarios with goals and things, and a freeform mode, where you’re just put on a map and given a bunch of islands and some rivals to out-develop. Like

SimCity

and

Civilization

,

Dawn of Discovery

is

addictive as hell

. I lost hours to this fucker. I have to commend them; the campaign mode is a great introduction to the mechanics of the game. The only time I felt overwhelmed was when they decided to introduce ship-sinking pirates about three levels before they introduced any player-controlled military—I got really tired of my settler ships being sunk on the way to new islands with no recourse but frantic dodging. Later on this got a lot easier when I could just make troop ships to sink them instead. If you’re in the market for something like

Civ

but in real-time, you could do a lot worse than

Dawn of Discovery

.

METROID PRIME TRILOGY

Platform: Wii

Publisher: Nintendo

So in the middle of 199-fucking-4, Nintendo released

Super Metroid

on the SNES, the third game in the Metroid series, starring Samus Aran, famous Space-Pirate-hating bounty hunter, and set her loose once more on planet Zebes to fight her nemeses Ridley, Kraid, and Mother Brain.

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Super Metroid

, like

Metroid

on the NES and

Metroid 2

on the GameBoy, was a 2D side-scroller with an expansive map that encouraged nonlinear exploration, with gameplay centered around wandering about, finding impassable barriers, and eventually fighting bosses to get tools to turn those barriers into open doors, progressively unlocking more and more of the map until the reaching the endgame. Everyone loved

Super Metroid

and wanted more, so naturally, the Nintendo of that era being the Nintendo of that era, for the next eight years we got nothing. Capcom eventually came to the rescue with the excellent

Castlevania: Symphony of the Nigh

t, which made everyone so happy they promptly decided that genre of play would henceforth be called “Metroidvania” despite

SotN

bringing essentially nothing new to the table.

Then news came that in 2002 we’d be getting

Metroid Prime

for the GameCube, a 3D outing for the Metroid franchise developed by untested American newcomers Retro Studios, and not just as a 3D game but as a first-person shooter. This caused much consternation and doomsaying, because traditionally, when a 2D franchise that isn’t Mario or Zelda (or Duke Nukem) makes the jump to 3D, the result sucks balls. It didn’t help when Nintendo began frantically assuring us that even though it’d be in first person, with shooting, it wouldn’t be a first person shooter as such.

Much to everyone’s surprise,

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Metroid Prime

was

great

, and like Mario and Zelda, made the transition to 3D perfectly. It was also sufficiently unlike traditional first-person shooters that against all odds everyone agreed with Nintendo that it wasn’t an FPS. It was a

first-person adventure

. Wandering around a nonlinear map progressively unlocking more and more geography is great, as it turns out, even in 3D, and the various elemental beam weapons and assorted gadgets Samus finds along the way are all great fun to use. Retro then went the extra mile and added a narrative that didn’t suck, told through computer terminals Samus could scan, a narrative that told of an increasingly frantic, panicky Space Pirate mining operating being progressively dismantled by a terrifying, unstoppable metal-clad hunter—Samus herself, of course.

Then in 2004 came

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

was good insofar as it was basically

Metroid Prime

, again, with a worse weapons selection and more repetitive maps. It’s difficult to be bad with

Metroid Prime

as a foundation, and indeed

Echoes

was not bad, but it was not great. Set on a planet split across two dimensions by a meteorite strike,

Echoes

had Samus traversing back and forth between a relatively friendly light world and its mirror, a hostile, corrosive dark world, while pursuing and being pursued by her own evil doppelganger. Honestly? It’s one of two Metroid games I’ve played that I haven’t finished, the other being the original NES Metroid.

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In 2007, Nintendo released

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

, the first Metroid game on the Wii. Unlike

Echoes

,

Corruption

showed us something new, namely a remote-and-nunchuck control scheme that remains the best FPS control scheme I’ve seen on a console. Never quite reaching the heights of the original

Metroid Prime

,

Corruption

was nevertheless better than

Echoes

.

Metroid Prime Trilogy

is all three of those games, on one disc, with the first two being altered to make use of the Wii-remote-and-nunchuck control scheme of the third. It is, largely, a compilation of historical video game success. As the Internet folk say, it is made of win, awesome, and fucking awesome. If you haven’t played the Metroid Prime games, then you should, and if you have, you should be able to imagine how kickass the first two are with the control scheme of the third. Since it’s essentially three full-length games in one, I can recommend

Metroid Prime Trilogy

with no reservations at all, even as I advise you to feel free to skip straight from the first to the third if the second is boring or annoying you.

WII SPORTS RESORT

Platform: Wii

Publisher: Nintendo

Wii Sports Resort

is two things: A sequel to the

Wii Sports

game that comes bundled with the Wii, and a vector for the spread of the new Wii remote peripheral, the Wii MotionPlus.

The Wii MotionPlus is a little thing that plugs into the back of your Wii remote in the nunchuck slot (you can plug a nunchuck into it, so there’s no choosing between one or the other) and makes the remote’s motion-sensitivity even more sensitive, so that it can tell which way it’s pointing even when it’s not pointing at the sensor bar. This allows for a wider range of meaningful motion inputs.

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Wii Sports Resort

, the game, is essentially

Wii Sports

all over again—not in that it’s a superfluous xerox, but in that it approaches the same sort of subject matter with the same degree of attention to quality. It’s a collection of twelve sports-themed minigames for you to navigate using your Miis, most of them tuned to make use of the Wii MotionPlus. Unfortunately this makes it a bit difficult for me to properly evaluate them, because a lot of them look like they have really cool multiplayer, but I only have one Wii MotionPlus so I couldn’t do that. For example, there’s a flight game where you hold the remote like a paper airplane, and then there’s a multiplayer dogfighting game where you try to pop balloons tied to your opponent’s plane, but dogfight is multiplayer only so I have no idea whether it’s as fun as I imagine it is.

(The whole game takes place on a single big island resort, so when you cycle you do it on the road surrounding the island, and then you fly over the island in flight mode, and zoom across the ocean around the island in wakeboarding and jet ski power cruising, etc.) One thing

Wii Sports Resort

does have that the Wii in general hasn’t yet, despite everyone wanting it, is a decent swordfighting game. Oh, boy, is it decent.

Wii Sports Resort’s

Swordplay mode is awesome.

Wii Sports

has never been a favorite of mine—I prefer your

Resident Evils

and your

Metroid Primes

. I don’t have anything against casual games, they’re just not the games I’ve learned to really like. But I know a lot of people really like

Wii Sports

, and having played it and this, I can’t imagine a universe where you’ll like the former and not the latter.