In my last column, I described my pilgrimage into the world of Wii modding, a trek brought about by desperation. Nintendo of America had, by all indications, refused to publish standout Wii JRPGs Xenoblade and The Last Story. Nintendo of Europe, by contrast, had official confirmation of a localized Xenoblade (as Xenoblade Chronicles) and strong rumors of a localized The Last Story. While I harbored some hope that NOA might make a surprise announcement at E3, the conference came and went with nary a whisper regarding either title– or much of anything else worthwhile on Wii, for that matter.
Taking matters into my own hands, I decided to modify my Wii in anticipation of playing the PAL versions of those games. First, though, I decided I needed a guinea pig, a PAL game I could use to put my modded Wii through the paces. I settled on Disaster: Day of Crisis.
Disaster has a bit of history behind it that is worth noting. In 2007, Nintendo bought a controlling interest in the development house Monolith Soft, whose resume to that point included the Xenosaga and Baten Kaitos IPs. Nintendo turned the team loose creating exclusive properties for Nintendo. They subsequently created Disaster: Day of Crisis and Xenoblade. While Xenoblade is an RPG– something the company specializes in– Disaster is an action/adventure title. Depending on who you talk to, the game was either decent or mediocre.
Forgettable graphics helped thwart Disaster‘s chances of success.
Reggie Fils-Aime definitely fell into the latter category. The NOA Godfather told IGN that he found the voice work “laughable” and that it didn’t meet Nintendo’s standards of quality. Reggie also seemed convinced that the game was not worth $50 and would not sell in America. Add in what apparently were not compelling European sales, and you have a title that never saw the light of day in the United States.
Having played the game clear through, I can say that I believe Reggie is right in some respects and wrong in others. I disagree with his assessment of the voice work, which is actually quite competent, if occasionally cheesy in a Resident Evil sort of way. On the other hand, I agree that the game would have sold poorly; the graphics were average at best and there were a few gameplay hiccups. Moreover, the game may well have garnered an M-rating due to language and violence, something that ran counter to Nintendo’s U.S. business approach and something that might have hurt sales on the family-friendly Wii.
In other words, it was like Geist all over again.
Geist, released in 2005, is one of the only M-rated, Nintendo-published games.
I played through Geist– a paranormal shooter– long ago on GameCube. While some of the game was positively aggravating (the final boss was controller-throwing hard), the possession-based premise was so novel that it really was engrossing. Likewise, I figured that, if nothing else, Disaster: Day of Crisis— a disaster survival adventure– was different enough from the standard Wii title to be at least worth a look. Plus, as I said before, it was a chance to put my modded Wii through the paces.
As it turned out, Disaster proved a cooler game than I expected. The premise is so over-the-top and the execution so inventive that I couldn’t help but be charmed by the game. I mean, during the course of the playthrough I found myself trying to survive two different volcanoes, an earthquake, a tsunami, a fiery tornado, a flood, and a hurricane, all while dragging survivors out of rubble, performing CPR, driving through molten lava, and exchanging gunfire with a nuke-toting terrorist organization.
If this all sounds like pure testosterone, you’re mostly right. That makes the next part even more surprising: my wife actually paid attention to the game. My wife cares little for video games beyond the occasional casual foray (if that), and when I’m playing a game she’s usually nearby reading a book. In this case, though, she actually put her book down and watched me from time to time as I guided Marine-turned-rescuer Raymond Bryce’s impossible crusade to save a city, thwart the bad guys, and save the sister of a lost friend. She commented how it was an interesting game to watch, not just for what crazy disaster I would face next, but how the various people my character came into contact with would turn out.
While Monolith’s game sold poorly worldwide, the concept art is certainly nice.
What’s more, the game’s kitchen sink approach actually worked. I mean, The Wii Remote was used in almost every way imaginable, and except for the driving sections (which I found to be a pain) the execution almost always worked well. The sheer variety of different situations, coupled with the well-designed exploration and gunplay sections, kept the game fresh from start to finish. Far from a minigame fest, it felt like a tactile, cohesive adventure. I really enjoyed the various levels and the way Monolith layered it with character upgrades, upgradeable weapons, and the flexibility to go back and play earlier levels to earn various extras.
When I finally crossed the finish line and watched the post-credits cutscenes roll, I had plenty to think about. I had not anticipated much, honestly, but in a year when my Wii hasn’t given me a lot of reasons to cheer, Disaster: Day of Crisis proved a worthy reason to dust off my console. With a barren release calendar ahead, it certainly won’t be the last PAL title I venture into.