The recent price drop of the Nintendo Wii further illustrates its imminent death at the hands of the impending Wii U. With that in mind, this would be a good time to consider the Wii as it lived. Over the six years it’s been in the marketplace, the Wii has vacillated between sales sensation and closet-dweller. Yet it remains a videogame console that will be remembered primarily for a handful of titles. Here are my picks for the games that highlight the peaks and valleys of the Nintendo Wii.
Wii Sports/Wii Play/Wii Fit/Wii Resort
Right off the bat, I’m going to cheat some here and lump a few titles together. The bundled ‘Wii Sports’ disc may have done more for Wii sales than any other piece of software on the console, and possibly any game since the days of the NES. The launch-day tennis marathons were spun into sequels that continually sought to get players and their families to use the Wii together, especially around the end of December.
As frustrated as I was by the mini-game-esque limitations of each sport, such as arbitrary rules (Nine inning baseball games? No one would want that; make it three), ‘Wii Sports’ was a game-changer that proved that gamers and non-gamers alike were willing to indulge both motion controls and Mii-games, at least for awhile. One offshoot from this, ‘Wii Fit‘, continues to baffle companies like Nike with its particular ability to entice people the way that old work-out VHS tapes did in yesteryear.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Sequels to several classic Nintendo franchises made their way to the Wii, but only one triumphed on all levels in my eyes. While some players may run from anything close to a fighting game, and others may deride any fighting title that doesn’t have a five hundred hit combo available at any moment, the rest of us can extract endless hours of joy from the combination of accessible, humorous gameplay with a huge cast of popular characters.
Essentially, there’s nothing about ‘Super Smash Bros. Brawl‘ that feels last-generation. This third installment to the franchise expands the character roster to a ridiculous proportion. The new cooperative modes are a game all on their own, and that’s before accounting for user-generated content and online play.
As I accentuate the positive, I’ll refrain from listing all of the other Nintendo heavy hitters that came up short on the Wii and brought little to this generation beyond waggle controls. It’s worth noting that this beloved game allows for a bevy of controls options, including my preference, the WaveBird wireless GameCube controller. This game, released close to two years into the life of the Wii, signaled a shift that allowed the use of dual-layered media (DVD). Although the game also included a mandatory on-disc firmware update that bricked many a Wii, I applied this update to two Wiis, including my personal launch unit without issue.
This is a game worth setting up a Wii for, now and later.
Rock Band 2
Let me keep this short, simple and impersonal: ‘Rock Band 2‘ for the Nintendo Wii offered a phenomenal next-gen experience day-and-date with the PS3 and 360. Granted, using giant plastic peripherals to play a game sounds more like a Wii experience than the Xbox-developed product that it actually was. Nevertheless, the scope of the game, with its nearly endless set of concurrently-running peripherals, ridiculous (and genre-crushing) amount of DLC, and computationally stupid variety of bands, band outfits and venue combinations, was not created with the Wii in mind.
Here’s a review from IGN:
Even if Platinum Games’ wasn’t exclusively bringing ‘Bayonetta 2’ to the Wii U, one of the developer’s earlier efforts, the SEGA published ‘Madworld‘, ranks among the most indelible Wii titles. ‘Madworld’ is a stylistically violent, black, white and bloody action romp that carried the torch for the more mature (as in graphic) and deep gameplay genres.
The end result as a game was certainly flawed. The vehicle sections are poorly-realized low points. The stellar art style cries out for more memory to smooth out the rough edges. More importantly, this game (along with the even less stellar but still wagglefest-like contemporary ‘Deadly Creatures’) taught me, as I’m sure many others had already decided, that waggle controls can quickly turn a fun experience into a tiring bore. For instance, if you miss a chance to finish off a boss, his life meter will partially refill, which guarantees another 15 minutes of waggle, waggle, waggle.
Of even greater significance, this game was an object lesson that the hordes of Wii owners who had been clamoring more than two years for titles like ‘Madworld’ couldn’t be counted on to actually buy it, no matter the marketing expense. In effect, the hardcore gamer segment had already left.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
‘Donkey Kong’ was not a beloved Nintendo franchise along the lines of ‘Metroid’ or ‘Zelda’ or ‘Super Mario Bros.’, ‘Star Fox’, etc. However, ‘Donkey Kong Country’ on the SNES was so good that any attempts to rekindle Rare’s gem were destined to fail. Fortunately, Nintendo placed ‘Donkey Kong Country Returns‘ in the capable development hands of Retro Studios, of ‘Metroid Prime’ fame.
With the exception of that barrel rocket level where the bat chases you with a margin of error so small that a less serene individual might have to destroy a WiiMote or two just to cope, the game excels in nearly every area that you should expect of the Wii. First and foremost, it’s a classic property that can only be found on a Nintendo platform. It’s also a platformer from the House of Mario that does more to modernize the side-scrolling format than any ‘New Super Mario’ anything. Despite not being a mini-game compilation, the motion controls are fun, and the player feels in control when playing. The levels are full of design and art choices that make the game pop without ever hinting at some kind of system limitation.
Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition
This 20th anniversary Kirby collection is my last choice for a number of reasons. Much like the GameCube Zelda collector’s disc that resides in my collection as a compliment to the original copies that I still own, this is the only Kirby collection that I know of, and so it’s also my last Wii purchase. At least, it’s my last day-of-release Wii purchase.
As such, it represents something special about the Wii that was promised well before launch. With all due respect to the Xbox Live Arcade, the initial rumors and announcements surrounding the Virtual Console were compelling in a way that no other digital distribution service has been able to match. The idea was that if you bought a Wii, you’d have access to Nintendo’s entire back catalog of games (titles that appeared previously on Nintendo hardware) and you could get add-ons like a new Zapper or SNES controller to fully realize this experience. Even if you were out of touch with modern games, the Wii promised ideal access beyond what had been achieved on emulators for years.
Of course, the reality was nowhere near as good as the promise. Titles had to be individually released, and then bought. Control options were limited to the Wiimote and Classic controller. After just a few days of VC shopping, I found out the hard way what happens when you try to transfer your purchases to a new Wii. At the time, nothing would happen unless you re-bought everything. Still, I have my Kirby anniversary disk.
Notable titles that I’ve left off that could still be (honorably) mentioned include:
- The WiiWare ‘Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King’ (Micro-transaction level of DLC on WiiWare!)
- Several ‘Legend of Zelda’ titles (‘Twilight Princess’ is a GameCube title to me and ‘Skyward Sword’ isn’t fun to discuss. ‘Link’s Crossbow Training’ was so disappointing…)
- ‘Super Mario Galaxy’ (Is this sub franchise doomed?)
- ‘Monster Hunter Tri’ (I basically hate this game, its tiny environments and tiny menus.)
- ‘No More Heroes’ (Travis Touchdown is better with a normal controller.)
- ‘House of the Dead: Overkill’ (SEGA not at the Olympics.)
- Anything from bit.Trip (initially Wii exclusive)
- ‘Muramasa: The Demon Blade’ (Need more games like this, coming to Vita next year.)
- ‘The Last Story’ (I’ve heard good things about their next game…)