Dark Wind

From the first bout it's clear that Dark Wind is squarely and unashamedly aimed at a male audience. This is a fighting game set in a fantasy world where men are men and underdressed pneumatic women are the order of the day.

The Gametrak controller is unique, and fairly easy to get used to. You wear gloves which are attached by wires to a weighted base unit, and there's also a small foot pad. You begin by calibrating the controller to your height, and once this is done successfully the motion tracking is surprisingly accurate. This responsiveness makes the Gametrak a pleasure to use, and contributes considerably to the enjoyment of playing Dark Wind

To begin with there's a choice between three single-player modes, unless you have bought two Gametrak units, in which case you can also play the two-player mode against your friends. In arcade mode you must beat each character twice, although this mode is quite forgiving and allows you to lose once against each character without losing a life. In One on One you fight against any character you like, and this is really the practice arena because you can spar as often as you like against anybody. However Kaden's Story is the best place to start, because as well as telling the story it also has all the tutorials.

Unfortunately the nicest thing to say about the Dark Wind narrative is that it's embarrassing. The whole thing is riddled with clichés, narrated in the third person without any dialogue or realistic explanation of events, and frankly dorky. This doesn't make for an involving storyline that makes the player desperate to continue just to find out what happens next. The poor script is undoubtedly Dark Wind's greatest flaw. After you complete Kaden's Story, Syrah's Story is unlocked. But her narrative is disappointingly similar to Kaden's and doesn't improve matters.

This is a game that's all about the fighting, and luckily this aspect is very well done. To progress you will need to master a variety of skills such as blocking, sidestepping, and magic gestures. Each opponent has a different style of fighting, so learning the ways that they usually attack will help you immensely. Mere brute force will not get you far. There's a satisfying, if fairly linear, progression as you defeat opponents and unlock new modes, backgrounds, levels of difficulty, and playable characters.

Even if you're used to active games, don't expect to automatically do well at Dark Wind. This game will work your upper arms and shoulders intensely, involving plenty of quick, jabbing movements in short bouts where speed is more important than stamina. There is feedback on how many calories you have burnt, the time each bout has taken, and top punch speed. The statistics for calories and speed are not saved in any form from one bout to the next, so you can't track the total calories burnt or the fastest ever punch speeds very easily.

In spite of the nonsensical script, Dark Wind is enjoyable to play and has plenty of longevity. Due to the violence it's rated as not suitable for children under 12, and your opponents do get realistically bloodied as you fight them. The steady learning curve and well-designed battle system make this a challenging yet satisfying game.