Friday, 1 July 2011

Nintendo: 5 Landmark Wii Games

The Nintendo Wii is something of a difficult and sore subject. Its huge success, both in expanding the “gamer” demographic and selling a bucket load commercially, has led some so-called core gamers to deride it. Couple this with the unimpressive graphical heft of the console, something which has led many third-party developers to all but ignore the system, and the frankly poor online capabilities and you’re left with something of a conundrum. This is a console that has made a lot of money and received some fantastic first-party games but has failed to capture the hearts and minds of gamers and also failed to provide a platform where third-party core software sells.

But there is something that can be said for the Wii, the constraints of the platform coupled with the range of innovative input methods first demonstrated by the Wii mean that it has played host to some innovative and influential games. In this feature I’ll be highlighting what I consider the games that are milestones in gaming, games that for whatever reason should be played if you want to understand how gaming has developed and what influence the Wii has had on gaming as a whole.

Super Mario Galaxy

Although the sequel, Super Mario Galaxy 2, is hailed by many as the better game, in many ways it simply refined the ideas originated in the first game. Super Mario Galaxy was by all standards a revelation – and importantly a game that demonstrated, although the Wii lacked physical grunt, it could still make a beautiful game. What marks Super Mario Galaxy out, and guarantees it a spot on this list, is its sheer playfulness and creativity. Rather than run with the single stand-out concept that underpins the games – the concept of small planetoids with their own gravity – the game regularly rolls out astonishing ideas in single levels that many other teams would have expanded into full games in their own right.

Wii Fit

Wii Fit is a perfect example that a relatively expensive package that includes a game and peripheral controller can be a massive success and won’t necessarily deter casual purchasers. The reason for this is simple – Wii Fit blurs the lines between what can and can not be considered a videogame. A genuine innovation, the Balance Board in theory operates on a scale of input not hugely distinct from an analogue stick (you are able to, by shifting your weight, replicate the movement and variable range of an analogue stick). The difference? You are the analogue stick. But Nintendo didn’t stop with the peripheral, the game itself not only features your to-be-expected minigames but also innovates with a fitness and yoga regime that carried a genuine appeal to those who had never even picked up a videogame controller before. Although some may argue that widening the boundaries of those who played computer games is a negative, one which dilutes the purity of gaming, it would seem to me that, in not only making games more acceptable to those who would have normally dismissed but actually encouraging them to put money into the industry, these widening boundaries can only be a good thing.

Just Dance/Just Dance 2

Perhaps a surprising choice, but Ubisoft's Just Dance games have had quite an impact on the industry with the first game being the fastest selling third-part Wii game and Ubisoft's most successful Wii release (Wiki). Although reviews weren't hugely positive for either game (with Just Dance 2 performing better than the original), sales have been consistently strong. Like a number of other titles in this list, Just Dance succeeds on the strength of its concept. Both games present inventive well-choreographed routines that work fantastically in a party or group setting. Although the movement detection isn't as accurate as would be desired, it doesn't actually hamper enjoyment. The second title in particular makes great strides towards being a great videogame, offering a good range of DLC and different game modes. Be sure, neither of these games offer the level of enjoyment or innovation that, for example, Super Mario Galaxy offered. Nonetheless, they are in their own way responsible for the further widening of the gaming demographic and they also helped to revitalise the staid dance-game genre - surely influencing the development of Dance Central for Kinect.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess is a curious specimen, a 'flagship' Wii title that is actually, essentially, a GameCube game with added waggle. Despite this, it's an important title and one whose importance was echoed by the subsequent releases of Metroid Trilogy and Okami. The reason for this importance is not that Twilight Princess is a fantastic game, which it is, but rather because it demonstrated that it was possible to not only have a core-gaming experience on the Wii but one that motion control didn't in anyway detract from (although I am sure there are those who would debate this). This was followed by the shining example that was Metroid Trilogy - a bundle that some argued corrected the original GameCube games primary fault, it's awkward controls.

LostWinds

Nintendo's approach to online is at best naive, at worst a shambles. Friend codes offer a prime example, it's incredible that someone actually came up with the hideously obtuse system in the first place let alone that the company, beyond all sanity, green-lit it. Similarly Nintendo's Wii marketplace, headed up in the first instance by just the Virtual Console, didn't so much get off to a flying start than crawl out of a mouldy old grave. Despite the obvious upsides of the Virtual Console, the Wii was crying out for original downloadable content, a cry that WiiWare eventually answered in 2008. Fortunately for us all, when WiiWare did launch in May 2008, it launched with a corker. LostWinds is a charming, beautiful slice of platform gaming that makes deft use of motion control. It paved the way for a succession of strong WiiWare titles, many ports but good games nonetheless, such as Cave Story, World of Goo and the Bit.Trip games.

Conclusion

Nintendo's Wii strategy paid huge dividends financially and commercially - all the more impressive considering some of the catastrophic mistakes made along the way. A great deal of this success has been down to innovation; Ubisoft's Just Dance games proved popular precisely because they offered what other games hadn't previously. Likewise Wii Fit offered everyone, not just gamers, new experiences. The games I have chosen here are not necessarily the best Wii games, and certainly I have left off a few great titles such as Okami, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii, but rather those that have played an important role in the Wii's story, a story that for better or worse is now coming to a close. Perhaps more than any other console previously, the Wii has been the home of innovation, it's influence felt, whether Sony and Microsoft would admit it or not, in the production of motion controllers on the other home consoles, and for this it should be commended.

Disagree? What do you consider the landmark Wii games? What have I left out? Please comment and discuss below!

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