Return with us to those glorious days of yesteryear, when men were men and the seas were plied by only the scurviest of watery knaves. In the service of a great power Pirate Kings and Buccaneers sailed, wooed Governor’s daughters, and played far into the night. I’m talking, of course, about the late 80′s. Back then, anyone who had a PC, Amiga, or Sega Genesis knew the love that was Sid Meier’s Pirates. A game that put you in charge of a 30 gun War Galleon and dared you to follow your own path in a digitally recreated Spanish Main.
The game quickly became a classic and then a legend and a 2005 faithful remake earned even greater praise. Now it’s come to the next generation of consoles, the Nintendo Wii brings back Pirates and the family-friendly action is just as good as it’s always been.
Pirates works because it was brisk, fun, and most of all: gamey! Everything is abstracted. You control your ship in a 3rd person isometric or behind the sail view; a duel with an enemy captain simulates boarding operations. The captain with the most men gains a speed advantage. Shore battles work like a tiny turn based strategy game, trade fluctuates. You can influence the world by escorting immigrants to local towns that fly your flag; you can hinder the enemy by intercepting their troop transports. Hunt down your family, one member at a time, or track notorious pirates like Harry Morgan or Blackbeard himself.
Taverns provide items you can use to enhance your abilities or stave off the effects of aging, a ring to impress a pretty lady, a white puffy shirt to help you duel, dancing slippers to … dancing is a new addition and it’s used to woo the various Governor’s daughters. A worthwhile endeavor, they provide a lot of information.
The game is paced like a Sid Meier game always is. Relentless. There’s always a new goal, you never lose track of what you’re doing, and you never get board (though some of the animations get old fast). Don’t be surprised if you find yourself playing until you capture Blackbeard and then saying, “I’ll quit for the night after I recover Stede’s Treasure.” Then “I’ll go to bed after I conquer Havana.” And “I’ll quit after I get one more map piece from Raymondo.” And so on until morning light causes you to curse the name Sid Meier.
Yes, it’s that good.
The game is E-10 and that seems about perfect. While there are missions, Pirates is too abstract for younger eyes. The suggestive themes are mainly your ability to seduce one of the Govener’s pretty daughters. It’s a dance minigame, so, it’s actually not really suggestive. The alcohol is references to Rum.