Well, unless you’re one of those folks holding out for Kids Learn: Pets and Vets Bundle, it’s safe to assume that we’ve reached the end of the line as far as the original Wii is concerned. Through all it’s ridicule from the “core” crowd and a lack of firepower compared to it’s rivals, the little white box has managed to become the top-selling console of the last generation, with the sale of the 100,000,000th unit expected this year. While I have now relegated my unit to feeding my Mother’s insatiable appetite for Just Dance 3, with the Wii U given my full attention, I reckon now is a good time to reflect on my time playing the Wii.
As such, I cordially welcome you to the first Mushie Academy Awards Ceremony! Here, we bestow upon the games and experiences I have encountered the coveted “Mushie” awards, in categories both good and bad. Let’s get this show on the road.
[Note - Before anyone asks about the lack of The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword on this list, I still don't have it, but am informed by my girlfriend that it is brilliant. I'm planning to partner this blog with a Youtube channel, so maybe a lets-play is on the cards. :) ]
Which game was I most impressed with when I first played it? There have been plenty of great games on the Wii, each with it’s own take on tried-and-tested genres, but it’s the games that ‘wowed me’ right out of the box that are in question here.
- Wii Sports - For so many, the first Wii game anyone played. At the time, it was a revolution – testimony to the Wii’s development codename. The idea of a motion sensing controller being used to control actions on-screen was intuitive, and felt immediately natural. Though it has been abused to all hell since, the first time I swung a tennis racket on Wii Sports was one of my greatest gaming memories.
- Super Mario Galaxy – After a year on the market, and a growing gap between the Wii’s limited graphics engine and its competitors, seeing Mario soaring around in space on the big screen restored my hope. Even next to it’s shiny HD counterparts, it still looks beautiful, and plays like a dream too. The grin across my face the first time I shot across the galaxy took hours to shift.
- Wii Sports Resort - With the Wiimote’s motion controls looking basic a few years in, picking up Wii Sports Resort with MotionPlus was like turning the clock back three years. After feeling the precision of the like-for-like movements, going back to the original Wii Sports now feels like settling for so much less. The first game me and my brother played was bowling, and he tried the same code-bending wrist flick he had honed in the original to guarantee a strike every time. Needless to say, his shot went straight in the gutter, and my faith in fair play was restored!
WINNER – Wii Sports - While it has since been bettered by Wii Sports Resort, and now feels fairly primitive by comparison, Wii Sports was a watershed moment in gaming – the moment I picked up the controller and swung my tennis racket for the first time, I knew the goalposts had been shifted. It was the game that launched a thousand ships, and at the time it had me absolutely hooked.
I own plenty of Wii games across many genres, and all use the Wii Remote’s functionality in different ways, to varying levels of success. The following are the most mind-bendingly ill-thought-out uses of motion sensing in my library – but which one is the worst of the worst?
- Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz - A game I picked up at the launch window, having enjoyed the Gamecube versions. While nothing is wrong with the game itself, the controls – moving the map with the Wii remote held like a sandwich – felt plain wrong compared to the accuracy of a good old analog stick. Throw in not one, not two, but dozens of motion-controlled minigames which were hit-and miss to say the least (check out the frog game) and it was a good game wrecked by crap controls.
- The Just Dance Series - It takes a special kind of bravado to build a successful series around an irresponsive game mechanic, but Just Dance has managed it. Testimony to how a few beers (or, in the eyes of it’s target demographic, a bottle of Lambrini) can make anything fun, practically every stupid “motion” you’re required to do for points simply doesn’t register, but we play it at every party nonetheless. My record is about 750 points, which for the record is, quite frankly, shit. I respect the birds who score high in this game – I can only assume they have acheived a “zen” state where they become one with the game’s supsect motion recognition.
- Pro Evolution Soccer Series – In my case, I own Pro Evolution 2009, but they apparently all use the same horrendous system – pointing at where you want your player to run, using some strange waggle mechanics to activate tactical moves and, to top it all off, using the horribly unresponsive and oft-forgotten nunchuk motion sensor to shoot. I gave up and used the classic controller, after which it became a great football game I’m still playing today.
WINNER – The Just Dance Series – not only a tacky motion control mechanic, but a game BUILT around a tacky motion control mechanic. The fact that there have been numerous sequels with no improvement to the flail-wildly-and-hope gameplay seals the win. Any game that leaves me pining for the toilet paper mats of DDR deserves this award.
The Wii isn’t the most powerful console graphics-wise; indeed, it was already weaker than the Xbox 360 on launch. But where developers persevered, some gorgeous looking titles emerged. The following are my personal favourites.
- Super Mario Galaxy series - I’ve already mentioned that this game can hold its head high in a HD world, and is a triumph for Nintendo, both gameplay-wise and graphically. I’ve seen some discussions on Nintendo fansites asking for a high-def remake, but it honestly isn’t neccessary: it’s a beautiful example of what the Wii is capable of in the right hands.
- Xenoblade Chronicles - I confess, I haven’t actually played XC, but I have watched my brother do so, and was amazed by the vast overworld and attention to detail. The graphical style is similar to Monster Hunter Tri, but just that bit more polished. The Wii has been blessed with great RPG’s, and this is one of the best looking ones.
- Okami – Debatably one of the most successful “ports” of recent years, the gorgeous traditional Japanese artwork and cel-shaded style of Okami is a joy to witness. It’s an essential title for any Wii owner, with the storybook design creating a gameplay experience that is both relaxing and exciting in equal measure.
WINNER - Super Mario Galaxy Series – I’m still left in awe by the crisp beauty and detail of Mario’s epic journey into the stars. The game is sheer eye-candy, and stands proud as an example of what the console can do in the right hands.
The Wii’s simple online offerings have come in for a lot of criticism, with cumbersome friend codes and no cohesive account system. But for random matches online, there are plenty of games which will have you on the edge of your seat.
[ Note: I haven't played Monster Hunter Tri online, and despite knowing how good it is supposed to be, I am informed that the servers are shutting in May this year. Since I hope this list will act as a future guide for prospective gamers, there's no point in advertising something that no longer exists.]
- Mario Strikers: Charged Football – The first game I played online on the Wii, and still a laugh now. Matchmaking is quick and easy. It soon became apparent that the skill taken to beat the game is nothing compared to the fast reflexes and quick thinking you need to survive online. Anyone using Donkey Kong, however, can suck it.
- Mario Kart Wii – A large community, which runs smoothly, with a well-devised ranking system that puts extra pressure on the top drivers to finish high, while being more forgiving to those with lower rankings. Cursing that bastard with a Blue Shell is even more apt when you’re racing fellow petrolheads from around the world.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl - Recall what I said about skill being needed for Mario Strikers? Multiply that by ten and you’ve got the brutal collosseum of skill that is Smash Bros online. Any victory in Brawl on the internet – even a decent finish – is hard-earned, and up there with the acheivements of the most socially-inept CoD fanboy.
WINNER – Mario Kart Wii – For its sheer accessibility – whether holding your country’s honour with a friend on Rainbow Road, or trying for a high points ranking, you’ll be hooked in minutes – Mario Kart Wii is great online, as testified by it’s huge userbase.
I’ve had a lot of hype for a lot of Wii games over the last few years, and it’s fair to say that not all of them have lived up to my expectations. Out of these three, it’s tough to choose which felt like the biggest waste of my money.
- Disaster: Day Of Crisis – When the first demos emerged of Disaster: Day Of Crisis, I was psyched. It looked like a playable The Day After Tomorrow, published by Nintendo itself. After years of obscurity and completely missing the release, I got my hands on it to find a generic shooter with some rather silly dialogue, clunky platforming elements and tacked-on motion controls. There’s a reason Nintendo didn’t give it much of a fanfare after the initial demos – it was crap.
- Red Steel – The game that, for a short while, lead the Wii’s charge for a hardcore market was given rave reviews and I fell for the hype. Again, the shooting sections were poor, the superficial swordplay was worse and the voice acting – expect to hear suspiciously similar-sounding goons shouting “Stop, you bastard!” every 15 seconds – was laughable. I think that we Nintendo die-hards were so desperate for this standard bearer of “hardcore” gaming to be good that we fell into denial during the launch window, but go back to Red Steel now and it is, quite frankly, awful. It was never any good in the first place.
- Animal Crossing: Lets Go To The City – I’m a mad Animal Crossing fan, and am psyching myself up for Animal Crossing: New Leaf this June. I still adore the original and enjoyed Wild World too, so was naturally excited for a fresh take on the console experience. What I found, however, was lacking. Sure, there was more to collect, but the City element was very limited, and the music – wonderful on the Gamecube – was exactly the same as on the DS (which was a bit pants, to be honest.) The cherry on the arsecake was Animal Tracks, an ill-thought-out mechanic that was supposed to make paths appear over time, but which instead leads to your town resembling a desert after a few months, and the process of reversing this process destroyed any joy I got out of the game. I gave up, and went back to the far superior Gamecube version.
WINNER – Red Steel – While I regret purchasing all three, it is Red Steel which I was foolish enough to lie to myself about, pretending I enjoyed it. It’s liberating to say that it was, indeed, crap, but knowing me and so many others were led up the primrose path on this one annoys me. With ZombiU in a similar position on Wii U now, people at least know about the mixed reviews, and that not everyone will love it (for the record, I do.) With Red Steel, it was implied that this was some sort of killer app for the system, which turned out to be a load of bollocks.
Finally, out of all the games I’ve played on Wii – 30 or so – which one is my personal favourite? It’s a tough call, so I’ve gone for the three that kept me playing and playing and made me grin from ear to ear while doing so.
- Okami – A simply wonderful game. I’ll be the first to admit that RPG’s aren’t my forté (I only completed the NES Zelda this week, years after I first picked it up) but the characters, lush game world and excellent use of the Wii’s unique features made this a joy to play. With the game relatively easy to find at bargain prices – certainly a lot more so than it’s DS sequel Okamiden, there’s no excuse to omit this classic from your Wii library.
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii - It has divided fans, but this was my favourite of the “New” series for everyone’s favourite plumber. The step up to the TV was well-handled, with lovely graphics, tight controls and a well-handled difficulty curve. The introduction of co-operative multiplayer was the clincher for this one, and it’s shaking up of a classic formula, for me, means that it trumps the Wii U version. A joy from start to finish.
- Super Mario Galaxy – You’re probably sick of hearing me carp on about Super Mario Galaxy by now, but it’s simply such a great all-round game that it deserves to be on so many of these lists. Creative level design, beautiful graphics and a demeanour that makes you feel like a child playing his first ever game again. There’s enough content here to keep avid fans busy for a long time, and that’s only the first of the two games…
WINNER – Okami – Capcom pulled out all the stops to make the Wii version of Amateratsu’s quest the definitive version. Whatever the reasons for it’s criminally low user uptake (it holds the Guinness World Record for the least successful “game of the year”), this is one of the best games I have ever played. You should look to give it a go yourself – it’s the least we owe Capcom for supporting the Wii’s meagre hardcore offering with a stone cold classic.
So that wraps up the first round of the Mushie awards. Remember, these choices were based on my own personal experiences and my game library. If there’s an amazing game that didn’t receive a nomination, chances are I don’t have it.
But whatever your thoughts on these choices, one thing is for certain – I’ve had a blast playing the Wii, and I’m excited to be embarking on another gaming journey with the Wii U.