Disaster: Day of Crisis is a game that I'd been hunting on and off for a couple years. It's a Wii exclusive, and it's game that was never released in North America - both categories I LOVE collecting. A couple weeks back, a friend on Racketboy - JoeAwesome - sent me a PM mentioning that he'd found a copy and asking if I wanted to buying it since he remembered that I'd been hunting it. Obviously, I said yes, and he gave me a good price, so this review is dedicated to Joe.
This game was not what I went into it expecting, and in this case, that's neither a good thing nor a bad thing. I expected a non-stop cheesefest on par with one of the greatest motion pictures of all time, Sharknado. It certainly had a bit of that B-movie cheese feel, but the game had much higher production values than I expected (although really, I should have expected high production values from a Monolith game, especially after Nintendo bought them). The basic premise of the game is that this one guy who works for his city's crisis management team has the shittiest day ever. First there's a CATASTROPHIC earthquake. Then that triggers a series of devastating tsunamis. Then there's a massive eruption from the volcano right by town. All this happens while he's trying to rescue his dead best friend's sister from some ex-Marine terrorists who stole nukes. Then the city he chases them to ends up being dead in the middle of the path of a category 5 hurricane. tl;dr this guy's day sucks ass.
Being a Wii exclusive, it obviously has some "waggle" controls, but (with a couple of notable exceptions I'll address later), they're not overdone, and they're well executed. The actual gameplay really nails keeping a nice variety. Most of the game is played out as a third person adventure game where you run around the area going to the next objective and rescuing any people you find along the way. When you encounter terrorists (who, for once, are neither Muslim nor Russian), it switches to an arcade light gun format. You can hold a button to hide behind whatever cover you're near and pop out to shoot the enemies when you feel the time is best, and you can use restorative items or switch weapons, but other than that, the controls are pretty standard light gun - you can't move, only shoot and reload. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't a more traditional cover based combat system at first, but the more fights I played, the more it REALLY began to grow on me.
There are also several driving segments, and these have you disconnect the Nunchuck and turn the Wiimote sideways. 2 accelerates, 1 is brake/reverse, and A is the handbrake. You steer by turning the Wiimote like a steering wheel. Normally I hate this control scheme because it very often doesn't work at all, but in this case, it works quite well. Not perfectly, but well enough for me to get a lot of enjoyment out of it. A couple of the later driving segments are also among the toughest stages in the game IMO. Controlling somewhat similarly to the driving portions are the underwater portions. You hold B to swim forward and use the Nunchuck stick to control where you're looking.
There are a few less-often used segments that I won't describe in much detail like sprinting away from whatever's trying to kill you or swimming towards whomever you're trying to save, but suffice it to say that in the gameplay department, Disaster has more than enough variety to keep things from getting stale.
Graphically, I was actually fairly impressed. It's not as gorgeous as, say, Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3, but it's one of the more visually pleasing Wii games I've played, to be sure. The audio design is also pretty well done. The background music complements the mood of the game nicely without being distracting, a balance that a lot of games mess up by either being too intense or too bland.
The one biiiig gripe I have with the game is with the final boss fight. It's a two stage fight, and that's not too bad, especially considering that there's a checkpoint between the two phases, but the last phase is complete bullshit IMO. It's all QTEs. Now normally, I really like QTEs. I'm pretty good at them, and I just find them enjoyable (might be part of why I love Shenmue). The except to this are when gesture based inputs are used. Unless you're using Wii MotionPlus (which this game does not), I just don't think the standard Wiimote is accurate enough to base QTEs on gestures, ESPECIALLY when some of the parts are instant kills if you fuck up (and this fight has one of those). I probably died 10 times before I finally just lucked out and managed to beat it. It's the last boss, though, and the game is great otherwise, so that definitely isn't a deal breaker for me.
A bit of irony I found amusing is that the game takes place in the United States, the characters are all American, and the voice actors (as far as I know) are all American, but of the four major regions (Asia, Oceana, Europe, and North America), we were the only ones NOT to get a release of this game. That's a shame, too, because while I wouldn't say that this game is "amazing" or "groundbreaking," it's a damn good game, and it's a good exclusive for the Wii. A game doesn't have to redefine a genre or push the limits of hardware capability to be a good, worthwhile game, and that's how Disaster is. It's probably not going to show up on any "Best Wii Games" or "Top XX Wii Exclusives" videos, but it's a good game, and anyone collecting for the Wii would be remiss to pass on this one.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.