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Welcom to Bullworth Academy - AGN Bully Impressions
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 12:29pm 05/02/08 | Comments
New missions, classes and updated visuals and controls across the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, Bully (originally known in Australia on PS2 as Canis Canem Edit) comes back to life in new consoles with more to do, see and play. This is one of Rockstar Games' shining moments, be sure to check it out

Bully - Quick Facts

Platform: Wii, Xbox 360
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Genre: Sandbox Adventure
Players: 1-2
Available: March 7
Rating: MA 15+

There might be a ton of hype behind Rockstar’s GTA IV, releasing April 29, but it doesn’t mean business for the developer/publisher stops there. Prior to the mammoth launch of their hotly anticipated crime sim, Rockstar will also be releasing updated editions of their Bully title (known as Canis Canem Edit here), which appeared on the PS2 in 2006 to great appraisal.

The updated editions of the game will be releasing only on the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360, and both will come with a visual face-lift, four new classes and several new missions all folded neatly into the overall game as opposed to simply being tacked onto the end of the game or as ‘exclusive bonus’ content.

Given the overall differences between the Xbox 360 and Wii hardware, however, both releases are actually fairly different in both visual style and controls. Naturally the 360 version is the prettier of the two with all the bump and normal mapping you could want out of a school bully simulation, while the Wii is obviously far more engaging due to Rockstar’s great use of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination. In terms of content, there is nothing either game has over the other – it’s all aesthetic really, so your final purchase (if you own both consoles) will depend on what you want to get out of the overall experience.

Bully: Scholarship Edition
For anyone who never saw Canis Canem Edit on PS2, Bully (as the game has now been retitled to which is, ironically it’s original title) sees you playing the role of Jimmy, a disgruntled child from a snobby family. His mother has just remarried, and as a result, Jimmy is being shipped off to Bullworth Academy (seemingly get him out of his mother’s newfound hair of happiness). He’s also been expelled from every other school he’s ever attended, which has lead him here; the toughest school with a craziest array of faculty and students this side of whatever school all the gangs from The Warriors attended.

The concept for the title saw the open-world idea of most sandbox titles, and trapped it into the confines of schoolyard life. Not just the playground stuff, but classes, dormitories, student factions and bodies, gangs, girls and that all-important (and timeless) schoolyard right of passage- bullying.

This isn’t to say Bully endorses the act of bullying as throughout the game, if you’re not the bully, then you’re being bullied. It’s something that happens and will continue to happen. There is a definite social statement and observation underwritten in this school-life spoof, and it works incredibly well if you’re open-minded enough to realise the coming-of-age trials and tribulations of being a student are a constant. Rockstar then uses this idea, and adds some much needed humour – this game isn’t about being bigger and tougher than the other kids around you, the game is about being a teenager, having crushes, making friends, learning to obey rules, and then, if necessary, break them. If you remember your time at school (or still are at school), Bully will immediately speak volumes to you.

Bully: Scholarship Edition
Initially Rockstar Australia ran me through the Wii version. Watching the game on their massive 10080p television (in 480p – damn you Nintendo), it was explained I was only seeing the game running through regular AV cables, no component. Yet still, despite this, you could definitely see marked improvements over the PS2 version with an incredibly dynamic shadow system, reflective surfaces, tweaked animations and an overall sense of polish. For Wii component cable bearers this is going to look very nice if you have the right set-up. It’s certainly no Super Mario Galaxy, but not much out there on Wii is, either. But it was still empowering to see Rockstar spending the time with the Wii hardware to make this more than just an arbitrary port.

Obviously one of the biggest draws for Bully on Wii is the way in which you use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and the game doesn’t disappoint in this area. For the most part it’s all pretty intuitive. Move Jimmy about the game-world with the analogue stick and use the A-button to interact with most things. Being a game about angry teenagers though, you’re bound to get into a bit of biffo, and with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk it’s a simple matter of thrusting either one forward for right and left jabs, respectively. The C-button is used to lock-on to targets, while the Z-button performs a grab. From the grab you can keep pummelling them or shift the Nunchuk in whatever direction it is you want to throw them and you’ll send them flying.

Beyond the new controls and aforementioned new classes and missions, the multiplayer mode (especially on Wii) is also really cool. These are all subject-based, and can include a number of class-inspired challenges. The one I was shown in particular saw my two hosts having to dissect a rat. This is done using the Wii Remote first as a scalpel (where you have to carefully cut along an outline), then as forceps to remove the recently cut organs. A time limit keeps you on your toes while you’re equally rewarded for finesse meaning you can’t just go in there and hack the crap out of your hapless specimen. Finally, to add insult to surgery, you have post-game taunts to really piss off your losing buddy.

Bully: Scholarship Edition
Both games are very close with the exception of controls and visuals, but the Xbox 360 version also has Leaderboards for the more competitive of you out there, and although nothing was confirmed, the idea of episodic content for Bully on 360 doesn’t seem that out of the question given Rockstar have plans to do this with GTA IV, though this is more wishful thinking on my part,. But still – if you’re listening Rockstar, Bullworth Academy will need more improvements if it’s to stay open.

For Wii and 360 owners who may have never played this on PS2, I urge you to check it out. Beyond the improvements over its original foundations, Bully of its own accord is an unsung hero in the world of sandbox games, not for its freedom, but for the way in which it encourages you to co-exist with the world. You are attending school, after all and this is something Rockstar have nailed. It’s incredibly witty, harbours one of the best musical scores I’ve heard in a videogame and paces itself just right, which is to conclude to those of you who did play the original, if - like me – you loved the game and now own either a Wii or 360, make sure you take the time to check it out, the new additions and facelift are more than worth the [reduced] price of admission.