Red Steel 2 is a complete overhaul of its disappointing predecessor. Presented in smoothly animated, vibrant cel-shaded graphics, it ditches the Yakuza setting for some alternate Old West inhabited by ronin, biker gangs, and near future sci-fi technology. The nameless protagonist is modeled after Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name archetype popularized in spaghetti westerns, just a lot more ninja-like.
This setting is really just a good excuse to use both swords and guns, because we gamers love swords and guns. It’s also an ample opportunity for people who have clearly Asian features to speak with a Texas twang. The awesome soundtrack also reinforces the western atmosphere. In essence the setting is really close to Joss Whedon’s Firefly series. But the main question is: how does Red Steel 2 play? In short it’s a vast improvement over the original, but not without its flaws.
I think I expect too much from my Wii Remote. Wii Sports Resort showed us the type of precision possible with the Wii Motion Plus, but don’t go into Red Steel 2 expecting the realistic feel of the sword fighting game from Sports Resort; otherwise the only thing you will know is heartache. Simply holding the Wii Remote like you were holding a katana will not correspond to your sword being held in any particular position onscreen; it only follows attack and defense commands.
This doesn’t mean that the sword fighting is clunky and unwieldy like in the original Red Steel, and it’s nowhere near as bad as Samurai Warriors: Katana. On the contrary, the onscreen sword action follows your arm motion competently. Horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and stabbing motions correspond correctly to your arm movements, albeit with a slight but noticeable delay. Wider arcs result in more powerful, armor busting swings as well. Along the way you will learn a slew of techniques and combos, offensive finishers and defensive parries, counters and even a few gun combos. Side stepping, special attacks, and even air juggles are thrown into the mix. This lends an almost fighting game-like depth to the game. It can almost be classified as a first person fighting game, along with the obvious first person shooter elements. The game does a good job with move tutorials allowing all the time you need to get comfortable with new techniques. An attractive young woman even appears onscreen to demonstrate the required motions with the Nunchuk/Wii Remote. Enemy minions are just stupid enough to let you abuse them with your many skills, but numerous enough to pose a fair challenge. Elite enemies and boss fights keep things interesting.
In between slashing and shooting enemies the protagonist can engage in safecracking, finding tokens, disposing of your “Wanted” posters, and activating communication towers. It’s nice that objects strewn throughout the environments are destructible. They net cash that helps with the purchase of weapons and new techniques. The levels themselves are unremarkable and feel a little confining- it would’ve been nice to traverse a vast open area now and again. Load times are cleverly disguised as difficult to open doors. That’s definitely better than staring at a load screen, for sure.
Red Steel 2 is a fun diversion on the Wii. It addressed the problems of its predecessor, and thankfully the only thing it has in common with it is its name, along with the whole bringing a sword to the gunfight thing. Although it looks like we’re still ways off from a truly virtual katana wielding experience that we’ve desired since playing with toy lightsabers as adults kids, Red Steel 2 does a competent job in coming close.
- Responsive controls
- Fighting game-like depth
- Generous checkpoints
- Some blah side quests
- Unremarkable level design
- Arm fatigue