Review: Transformers: Prime – The Game for Wii
Unlike their last attempt at delivering a Transformers experience to Nintendo’s line of consoles in lieu of the popular Cybertron third-person shooters for other platforms, Activision has instead chosen a different tact with their latest release. Instead of presenting an ill-received companion piece as Transformers: Cybertron Adventures proved to be, they’ve instead looked to the far future– and Hasbro’s television network, The Hub– for something to satisfy the Nintendo crowd.
In many ways, the decision makes an odd sort of sense– many consider Nintendo’s line of platforms to skew younger than their Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC contemporaries. By adapting the current cartoon, Transformers: Prime, it stands to reason that they might more easily reach the younger fans of the cartoon and toyline through the brand name and designs.
At the same time, though some sort of broad-strokes logic which only Hasbro seems to really understand– Transformers: Prime and Fall of Cybertron both occupy the same “Aligned” continuity, albeit at opposite ends of the timeline. This, in effect, makes Transformers: Prime (and thus, Transformers: Prime – The Game) something of an indirect sequel to the last release.
Of course, the very notion of “continuity” within the Transformers: Prime name alone is rather nebulous. While an Activision producer stated at the official Transformers convention known as BotCon that the game takes place during the cartoon’s second season and could be “wedged in” at any point, the presence of many Decepticons seldom seen together during this period makes for, as the Transformers Wiki entry puts it, “a real tough wedge.”
As an aside, the new Autobot recruit Smokescreen, who joins the group later in the second season, is nowhere to be found. So in case he’s one of your favorites (as he is mine), you might be disappointed by his absence. Incidentally, this also narrows down where the game can take place even further, and it’s probably just best to treat the game as a separate entity altogether (as many licensed games tend to be anyway).
The story itself sees the Autobots pick up readings of a large meteor comprised of Dark Energon being hauled to Earth by the Decepticon flagship, the Nemesis. Led by Optimus, Team Prime (consisting of Arcee, Bumblebee, and Bulkhead, assisted by Ratchet and the humans Jack, Miko, and Raph back at their base) warp to the meteor to stop the Decepticons from reaching the planet with it. In the process, the meteor shatters and falls through the atmosphere anyway, with the Autobots being scattered with it.
From there, you take control of each of the four “field” Autobots in different scenarios and attempt to reunite them so they can work together to foil Megatron’s evil scheme.
Compared to Fall of Cybertron‘s sort of war movie-like atmosphere and presentation, Prime feels a little more like an action-packed martial arts television show, which actually fits with the cartoon nicely. Rather than cover-based shooting with a lighter emphasis on melee, hand-to-hand combat is essentially at the core of this title, with most of it performed by waving the Wii Remote in a fashion not unlike The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and each character possessing their own strength and speed for their movement and attacks.
Each Autobot has their basic “standard” attack set, i.e. left hook, right hook, big finish, or some variant of that. You can mix it up, however, by including jump attacks, building up a special meter to use your special weapons, or my favorite: Transforming to vehicle mode and building up speed to either ram your foes, or transform with the force of your momentum powering your attack.
That isn’t to say that shooting isn’t a part of the game, however. You get a special lock-on not unlike more recent The Legend of Zelda titles or Mega Man Legends, and you can still take cover when it’s available as you fire on your enemies. Similar to the melee strikes, your firepower varies by character, with Arcee the weakest and fastest, while Bulkhead is seemingly the strongest and slowest. You can charge your blasts as well with a double-tap of the button, which can be a little tricky to do sometimes; simply holding the button instead gives you rapidfire.
One of the cool features of the game, and what really helps it feel like a Transformers game is, of course, the transforming. There is less variety than in Fall of Cybertron, however, as there are no combining giants, no dinosaurs, and not even any aircraft– on your side, at least.
Each member of Team Prime changes into an Earth-styled ground vehicle, and unlike FoC, the driving feels a lot more intuitive. Which is a good thing, because in addition to using it whenever you feel like in combat, some stages also have certain racing portions which add a bit of excitement as you pursue or escape from your enemies. Plus, these vehicle modes come equipped with hidden artillery, which act very much like they do in the robot modes.
Overall, the way transformation is implemented here as a part of combat, stage navigation, and its own portions actually feels better than some portions of Fall of Cybertron. Controlling land-based forms in that game was a bit clunky and unwieldy, but comes a lot more naturally here and is blended quite well into the action as you race, shoot, jump, and even transform into an attack before doing it all again.
While the game plays well, it isn’t without a few grievances. In particular, the difficulty takes a bit of a leap midway through, at least when facing the Decepticon Dreadwing. In the show, Dreadwing is one of Megatron’s strongest and most clever warriors, capable of fighting Optimus Prime himself to a standstill. The game version feels every bit as strong and shrewd as his television counterpart, and you’re stuck fighting him as… Bumblebee.
If you watch the show and know the characters, then this battle plays out exactly as you would expect it to– a testament to the developers’ faithfulness to the source material, but also endlessly frustrating as he seems able to arbitrarily ignore and counter your attacks whenever he deems it necessary to do so. On top of that, I would find myself waving the Wii Remote frantically to no avail– literally, as Bumblebee would do anything I told him to but attack. If Dreadwing was capable of feeding on my aggravation and sheer rage, then he no doubt would have had an extremely satisfying meal.
Graphically, the game isn’t especially great, but it doesn’t feel too bad, either (though your opinion may vary). Characters, settings, and so forth are all recognizable, and even look good in motion, but are clearly inferior to the television show, and even the Wii can surely do better than this (the Wii U version appears sharper, but otherwise not much different, from what I’ve seen). The quality didn’t really bother me as I was playing, but any time you stop to look at it, you feel like it could have been a little bit better.
On a sound level, however, the game is great. The voice cast of the TV show all seem to be here to reprise their roles, from Peter Cullen’s Optimus Prime to Frank Welker’s Megatron to Jeffrey Combs’ Ratchet to R2-D2’s Bumblebee. The music might be the same as the show; truth be told, most of what they have there is ambient, and no themes really stick out to me as in many other Transformers cartoons, and the game is no different in that regard.
There are also some museum and multiplayer features which are neat and add some replay value to an otherwise short game. The multiplayer is basically the same style of gameplay as the story mode, only you can beat up on a friend instead of the computer (though the computer can play, too, if you wish). Several characters are locked, however, so you don’t have a big roster to begin with in this mode.
Overall, I found Transformers: Prime – The Game quite enjoyable– at least, up until I hit Dreadwing. It feels like a big episode of the television show (complete with the show’s opening sequence at the start), sort of like a season opener/finale, or a straight-to-video movie or OVA (original video animation)– not quite as big and epic as your Fall of Cybertrons or even the Michael Bay movies (for what that’s worth), but still big for the cartoon.
If you’re a Transformers fan, and one who likes the Prime cartoon in particular, there’s a pretty good bit to like here.
Transformers: Prime – The Game was released for the Wii, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS on October 30th, 2012 for $39.99, $29.99, and $29.99, respectively, and for the Wii U on November 18th, 2012 for $49.99.
A review copy of the Wii version was provided for review courtesy of Activision.