by William Thompson
reviewed on WII
It is about time...
I'm showing my age a bit here, but I played Pirates! on the Commodore 64 way back in the day. It was the first game that got me hooked on computer/video games. Sure, there had been other games that I had enjoyed, but the openness of Pirates! and the fact that no two games were alike drew me in. I spent countless hours of my childhood sailing the Caribbean in search of pieces of eight. I'm pretty sure my geographical knowledge of the Caribbean was better than anyone in my class at school. Who says computer games aren't educational? Even the huge manual wasn't just a "how-to-play", but had plenty of interesting information regarding pirates of the era. When Sid Meier's Pirates! was remade back in 2004, it was one of few games that I'd ever pre-ordered. The chance to relive some gaming memories was just too great, and the game proved to be a worthy remake. Now, after six years, the game has finally been ported to the Nintendo Wii.
The story so far...
The game starts by giving an account of the main protagonist's background. His family has been abducted by the evil Marquis Montalban and is being held captive somewhere in the Caribbean. After growing up, our hero gets the opportunity to find his family and seek revenge on Montalban when he heads off as a crew member aboard a ship sailing for the Caribbean. He is eventually made captain of the ship and this is where gamers begin their journey.
Starting off from one of your chosen starting nationality's towns, you are then free to sail the Caribbean in whichever manner you choose. You can immediately start searching for information about Marquis Montalban and your family, you can hunt pirates, you can even play a peaceful trading type game where you sail between cities buying items low and selling high. I guess that is the joy of the Pirates! series - it's all up to you.
We are sailing, we are sailing.
No matter which path you choose to take, you will be sailing from one port to another for the bulk of the game. Sailing is extremely easy, with the directional button being used on the Wiimote to manoeuvring the ship. Sails can also be raised or lowered depending on the conditions. Sailing eastwards at times can be very slow and dull, but personally I don't mind it as it helps to make the game a little more realistic. You do on occasions get the opportunity to auto navigate to particular destinations and this certainly helps from getting lost at sea.
Along your journeys, you will no doubt pass hundreds of ships, some who may be friendly towards you, others not so much. With each ship there is the option to get some target practise for your cannon-firing crew. Once the attack begins, you will be shown a close up view of the battle area with your ship and the enemy (sometimes multiple enemies) ship readying themselves for battle. Ship battles are immense fun, but be warned that if you get on the wrong side of the enemy ship, it could spell trouble. Firing off your cannons is simply a matter of aiming the side of your ship at the enemy and pressing the fire (A) button. You can have three different types of cannon shot, including cannonballs which do damage to the hull, chain shot which tears through enemy sails and grape shot which cuts down enemy numbers.
Upon completing the Ship Battle mini-game, if the opposing captain has not surrendered to your forces, you will enter into a Sword fighting duel. Before playing the game, I was expecting something like the sword-fighting used in Wii Sports Resort and to be honest was a little disappointed that this was not the case. You still need to wave and thrust the Wiimote around a bit like a sword as well as parrying and dodging attacks from rival captains. Winning the duel results in the losing captain falling overboard (personally I liked the original C64 version where the captain simply dropped to his knees and yelled "I surrender") followed by the option to keep or sink the ship.
Sinking or capturing ships of your nationalities enemy can be highly rewarding. Upon sailing into a friendly port you can sell your ill-gotten (or possibly legally received) goods, fix and upgrade any damaged ships of which you can have a maximum of five in your fleet, visit a tavern for a top up of crew or to hear gossip about the local comings-and-goings or you can visit the local Governor for information about the nations status. If you have been doing his bidding by attacking enemy ships and towns, he will often reward you with a promotion as well as some land to use as your own.
Open world with ability to do as you please in the Caribbean. Wii exclusive mini-games are fun additions.
Mini-games can get repetitive. Manual was a waste of paper, with no useful info about the game.