If all sequels were like this one words like rehash would not be a part of any gamers' vocabulary

User Rating: 9 | LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias WII
Sequels, some gamers love them for giving developers a second chance to expand upon a solid gaming concept, others hate them and fire at companies for being too lazy to come up with completely new ideas. For the former group they are an opportunity to enjoy a variation of their favorite games yet again, but for the latter they are just rehashes. In the market there are plenty of examples to back up each one of those groups, but when sequels improve on their predecessors it becomes clear that those games can be fantastic experiences when handled brilliant developers that are never satisfied with the quality they achieve in their products.

LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias is one of those games. Every newly released system needs a launch title to show how great things can be if a software is done right, and WiiWare had its first star on the original LostWinds which featured outstanding graphics and an adventure that made creative use of the Wiimote and its capabilities on a system where most of the time the innovative Motion Controls feel tacked on.

Winter of the Melodias begins right after the original with a mysterious gameplay sequence that does not include Toku, the game's protagonist. From the get go it is easy to see how much the storytelling has been improved for since the beginning of the game there is always a mystery to uncover or a feeling of incoming threat in the air. Toku jumps into the action as his mother is found to be lost at the Northern region of the continent which is ironically named Summerfalls, an unknown territory that has been suffering from an endless winter for many years. Differently from the original Winter of the Melodias does not end suddenly, instead this one actually features a satisfying conclusion and feels like a complete package.

Toku and Enril are controlled on a 2-D perspective, in pretty much the same way as in the original and start with almost all of the abilities acquired during the previous title. For those who are not familiar with the series, Toku moves around with the control stick while Enril, the wind spirit that accompanies the boy, is represented by the pointer on the screen and by using the Wiimote and its motion players can use windy powers to make Toku jump higher, move objects via wind streams, manipulate water and fire, and many other amazingly unique skills.

Winter of the Melodias, like the original, takes place on a vast fully-connected overworld made up of different environmental sections with no loading times between them, the same kind of linked organization you would find on a Metroid map. The overworld is fully explorable, but certain areas can only be reached after acquiring specific abilities. Each of those areas presents a delightful mix of platforming and puzzle solving powered by the creative use of the Wiimote to summon the wind.

Most of the puzzles are of an environmental nature and are arranged into mini-dungeons that require a lot of thinking and display the outstanding level design abilities of Frontier and its developers. A few of the puzzles are reminiscent of the prequel, but most of them are completely original and are bound to provide many awe inspiring moments.

However, being stuck with the same old abilities would have severely limited the possibilities of Winter of the Melodias, and knowing that the creative team came up with many brand new powers that take the whole experience to new level. For example, in the game players will be able to summon mighty hurricanes by holding the control in an upward position while making circling motions. Not only is the execution of this one skill fun, but it also opens up an exciting deck of possibilities to be explored as hurricanes will move vast amounts of water from one place to another, allowing Toku to dry up a small lake to later fill a nearby waterless gap with rain.

Still, creating hurricanes is not the game's most amazing ability as this particular award goes to the season changing abilities the main character gains during the adventure. Many games have implemented such a system, but not many of them were able to get as creative as LostWinds with this brilliant gameplay mechanic.

The sheer joy of changing the seasons is not limited to the puzzles it provides though, because Winter of the Melodias is a big treat for the eyes and the two totally different environments show how careful with detail Frontier was. The original LostWinds was still holding up as the best-looking game on WiiWare, but the sequel improves on what was thought to be the very peak of graphical achievement.

The 3-D environments are brighter, more colorful and, most importantly, extend much deeper into the horizon. It is simply impossible not to stop for a while and marvel either at a lakeside village in the middle of the woods with many vivid waterfalls in the background, while birds move around and villagers go about their business or at the frozen beauty of a river that was stopped at its course while the mountain on the back is slowly covered with falling snow. The LostWinds series is the perfect example of artistic beauty combined with great technical execution.

There isn't much to the game's soundtrack though, in fact there are only two tunes throughout the adventure, but that does not mean the game's audio work is below average in fact it is fantastic. Winter of the Melodias makes use of environmental sound effects to create a very immersive atmosphere, you won't be hearing any tunes along the way, but you will be involved and, sometimes, carefully attentive at the sounds surrounding you.

Unfortunately, LostWinds is not without its few issues. While the game does feature collectable statues scattered around the world for those looking for full completion those are way too easy to spot, and so the game does not give much to those who want to go through it again. There are also some minor control issues that are surprisingly exclusive to the abilities from the previous title. The brand new skills will always work, but the motion for some powers that were already faulty in the last game is still a little bit unresponsive. Besides, the game is still a little bit too easy even though it is harder than LostWinds.

Fortunately none of those really hurt the game. Winter of the Melodias still manages to be the best game you will find on WiiWare. Whether or not you played the first, Winter of the Melodias will welcome new players with arms wide open as it doesn't rely much on what happened in the previous title. With improvements on pretty much every single area you could possibly think, including its overall presentation with the addition of world map, the game clocks in between 4 and 5 hours and every single one of its seconds is delightful. If all sequels were like this one words like rehash would not be a part of any gamers' vocabulary.