The original Red Steel was a launch title for the Wii that quickly garnered a reputation for being a terrible game that should be avoided at all costs. People who had never played the game or did not even own a Wii told me flat out “Don’t buy Red Steel”.  Though I personally don’t agree with the hate surrounding this title, one questions why Ubisoft decided to title their next first-person Wii game “Red Steel 2” (especially when it is in no way related to Red Steel). Perhaps they thought “Any publicity is good publicity”.

Though better received than its predecessor, many people had several complaints with Red Steel 2, including no story, no character development, no exploration, and lengthy loading times between areas. Let’s take these complaints one at a time shall we?

 The story is admittedly bare-bones: You are “Hero”, the last of the Kusagari Clan on a mission to get back the clan katana from a local gang called the Jackals and kill as many of them as you can in the process to avenge your murdered clan-mates. Character development is non-existent, which makes sense seeing as the characters are clichéd and given no background. You have the old sensei, the gruff marksman, the tech-savvy girl, and… that just about covers it. Exploration is also mostly absent from Red Steel 2. Like Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii, areas in the game are segmented into interconnected pockets in an attempt to increase graphical output and minimize load time between areas. Though linearity doesn’t totally infect Red Steel 2, there is only light exploration. Bars of gold, tokens, and sheriff stars are speckled throughout the map and, if found, can be used in the shops to upgrade your weapons and armor. The load times between areas can last anywhere from 1 to 8 seconds, but is done is a clever way. All loading takes place as Hero opens doors, making it slightly less noticeably.

 Never the less, flow of the game is still broken. All of these complaints certainly are fair for shooters like Modern Warfare and The Conduit but that is not what Red Steel 2 is. It is a beat’em up at heart so the star isn’t the story, the environments, or even the main character. In this title, controls and kills are king.

Despite what people say, not all the environments are desert.

 

The controls in Red Steel 2 are fantastic. Unlike its predecessor (which had sword fights as separate events), the transition between slashing with your sword and shooting with your gun is seamless. Swinging the Wii remote triggers a 1:1 movement onscreen and pointing at the screen and pressing ‘B’ shoots your firearm. Swinging your Wii remote harder also translates into harder strikes in-game (this is required to break armor). Switching between your four types of weapons (six-shooter, shotgun, rifle, and tommy gun) is done with the D-pad. Tapping ‘A’ triggers a dash, while holding ‘A’ will raise your blade for defense. All the other nuances are in the context-sensitive combo system. [Combos are explained below]

Throughout your quest you will unlock multiple over-the-top sword and gun moves. These can be used in combination and also used as finishing moves. For example, “The Reaper” is a move completed by dashing backwards and slashing horizontally. Normally, your character will run straight at the enemy and slash their stomach, breaking some armor if they have it. When an opponent is ready to be finished off, this button combination will trigger a “Reaper Finisher”. Your character will dash to the side of the enemy while slashing their stomach, and afterwards stab the enemy in the back. Different finishers also activate depending on what type of enemy you are killing. For example, when finishing an easier baddie with “The Shot”, you will dash forward, hold their head with one hand, and shoot them through the chin. While finishing a larger enemy with the same move, you will hop on their back and shoot them through the ear. These are just a few of the varied ways you can kill a man in Red Steel 2 and this is the true reason to play this game. Remember that great feeling in Resident Evil 4 when you shoot a cultist in the knee and proceeded to suplex him? Red Steel 2 continually provides that feeling because of the variety of combos and kills. Never have I had so much fun or felt as bad-ass beating up baddies.

Seconds before cleaning out Big Bill’s brains.

 

Some final strengths worth mentioning about Red Steel 2 are the graphics and setting. The cell-shaded graphics are crisp, clean and gorgeous. And this is said without the typical “for the Wii” tacked onto the end. It’s somewhat reminicient of last gen’s XIII, but smoother and much more detailed. This combined with the bizzaro world where Japanese temples and samurais co-exist with saloons and cowboys, really sets Red Steel 2 apart. To be fair, a large portion of the game environments look more or less the same but, again, that isn’t the focus of this title.

Pictures do not do this game justice.

 

Red Steel 2 proves to be miles beyond its predecessor in every aspect. Though well received by most critics, the average bro-gamer stuck up their nose at this game because it’s on the Wii while Wii gamers snubbed it due to its title. Those who take the time to give Red Steel 2 a chance will be treated to a wonderfully stylish game with great controls and some of the most satisfying kills they have ever executed. Do yourself a favor and pick up Red Steel 2 today (don’t forget your Wii Motion Plus!).

-Silver Mongoose