Wii's Lifecycle in Review (by Carl B.)
November 30, 2011, by Carl B. - No matter what Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime may claim, the Wii's last great title has already released; that is, of course, unless gamers are really looking forward to Fortune Street and Mario Party 9, which are essentially the same game. Fils-Aime is, in all likely-hood, blowing smoke when he says that there's still great content to come on Wii. If he's referring to an incredibly unlikely localization of The Last Story and Xenoblade Chronicles in North America, the point still stands as those games have released already in other regions: the Wii's days of producing high quality content are over.
It's been a strange five years for Wii, filled with unfair hate from gamers and journalists alike. Looking back at the system's lifecycle it's a fallacy to say that the console was horrible – but it wasn't particularly great, either. As someone who bought a Wii during launch week, I've been through all of the system's rough patches.
These rough patches, unfortunately, were frequent and long, especially early on in the system's life. There was a time period where there was nothing worth playing on Wii, aside from Twilight Princess). It lasted for a pretty long time, too. The next worthwhile game was Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and that didn't release until August 27, 2007, roughly nine months after the system's launch.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
The days between the system's launch and up until the release of Corruption were filled with remakes and shovelware, something that seemed to stick with the Wii even to this day. Nintendo's console was selling insanely well, and as such, small developers spammed the system with cash-ins geared toward a casual audience. The same thing happened with Sony's PlayStation 2 a generation before it, only Wii's problem was that so few quality games were releasing – there was Zelda, Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, Metroid, and a bunch of shovelware.
But the Wii did get its first masterpiece in 2007 in the form of Super Mario Galaxy, the highest rated game to release this generation. Super Mario Galaxy looked gorgeous and played beautifully, but it really didn't make use of the Wii's coveted motion controls. In fact, the only titles up until this point that really enhanced the gameplay with motion were Corruption and Resident Evil 4.
Blame it on the system's lack of power or Nintendo's constrictions, but high profile third party developers largely stayed away from Wii. It wasn't until 2009 and 2010 when the Wii started getting its due respect in that area; in 2008, however, a lack of third party support added to the game drought that early adopters suffered through during large parts of 2007.
Who doesn't love No More Heroes?
There were some good third party titles released on Wii early on, however. Capcom's Zack and Wiki has become a cult hit, and Suda 51's No More Heroes, which released in early 2008, became a fan favorite as well.
Nintendo started to pick up its pace in 2008, and the Wii added some high quality games to its library. Super Smash Bros. Brawl released in March after tons of hype, and Mario Kart Wii released a month later in April. These games showed completely different sides to Nintendo's policies and their strategy with Wii: Brawl was geared more towards the core, and Mario Kart Wii to the casual, yet Brawl's online mode was mostly broken while Mario Kart Wii was filled with online functionality. I'm still not over the disappointment that was Brawl's online, and I'm glad to hear the rumors of third parties – such as EA and Valve – helping Nintendo out with their online functionality for Wii U.
2008 was also the year of Nintendo's infamous press conference where the publisher went super casual. They showed off the sub-par Animal Crossing: City Folk and Wii Music, and the conference was so terrible in general that I was convinced Nintendo would redeem themselves with a Zelda reveal at the very end. No such reveal happened, and 2008 carried on with not a single quality release after Mario Kart Wii.
Third party developers warmed up to Wii a little more in 2009. The Conduit released in June, and while it received mix critical response, it showed how to create Wii shooters with controls superior to that of dual analog – every Wii shooter since the release of The Conduit has featured a similar fully customizable control scheme. Capcom also released Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles later in the year, and one of this generation's most unique games, Little King's Story, hit store shelves in July. Unfortunately, the only big first party release of the year was New Super Mario Bros. Wii, an incredibly mediocre game that simply cashes in on Mario's brand power.
Mario Kart Wii's online modes were surreal for a Nintendo game.
Wii had a respectable library heading into 2010. It wasn't fantastic by any means, but there was plenty of variety and high quality in a select few third party titles and most of Nintendo's first party offerings. 2010 changed everything, for the system, however, and is easily the greatest single year of releases for any console in this generation.
The year started off with a bang, as both Tatsunoko vs Capcom and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle released on January 26. Both games received critical praise, and TvC is by far the best arcade fighter on Wii and one of the best to release in the past decade.
In years prior, two or three great releases were all the Wii had for any given year. 2010 continued with two more fantastic games in March: Fragile Dreams and Red Steel 2. Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is an incredibly unique and visually stunning post-apocalyptic JRPG that many thought would never be localized. Red Steel 2, on the other hand, was a major change from the mediocre first title in both visual and artistic style. It's one of the best looking games to release this generation, with beautiful cel-shaded graphics running at a flawless 60 frames per second. The game also featured great gunplay with 1:1 sword controls in first person.
Red Steel 2 is a gorgeous game.
One month later, Capcom released the highly anticipated Monster Hunter Tri in North America and Europe. Not only did it get the high praise it deserved, but the title sold well enough for Capcom to announce a 3DS-exclusive Monster Hunter 4. I've played Tri for a total of 237 hours since its release – it has an insane amount of replay-ability, and is the best online Wii game.
2010 was so amazing that Nintendo's next console Mario title, Super Mario Galaxy 2, wasn't even saved for the holidays. Like Super Mario Galaxy before it, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a masterpiece and one of the greatest games to release in the past decade.
Six great games weren't enough for Wii in 2010. Metroid: Other M released in late August to a decent amount of praise. As a Metroid game it was sub-par, but the gameplay was top-notch for an action title. The system's momentum continued when Activision released Goldeneye 007, a remake of the classic Nintendo 64 title, exclusively for the system. Goldeneye has gone down as one of the best shooters on Wii, and is a faithful re-imagining of Rare's masterpiece.
The holiday season was so rich for Wii that my PlayStation 3 was left neglected. Kirby's Epic Yarn and Call of Duty: Black Ops (which is quite good on Wii) started things off and, in the case of Kirby, received plenty of praise for its unique take on the series. The year ended with the excellent Donkey Kong Country Returns and Disney Epic Mickey, two highly anticipated games that didn't fail on their promises.
Monster Hunter Tri.
After an absolutely amazing 2010, Wii came back down to Earth in 2011, at least in North America. A total of three worthwhile games have released in the region this year: Conduit 2, Kirby's Return to Dreamland, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Those of us lucky enough to import The Last Story (in-depth review can be found here) and Xenoblade Chronicles have enjoyed little drought, but most gamers in North America haven't had that luxury. I've criticized Nintendo of America several times in recent months due to their reluctance to bring these great titles to North America. They would instead prefer to release Fortune Street and Mario Party 9, two games which are no doubt going to be mediocre to below average.
Nintendo took a risk with Wii and it paid off for the company, something that was essential after the poor sales of the GameCube before it. Despite what ill-informed pendants say, the Wii does have a fantastic library, mostly thanks to an amazing year of releases in 2010. What Wii lacks, however, is a plethora of online enabled games. There are a few – Monster Hunter Tri and Call of Duty: Black Ops, for instance – that go above and beyond what Nintendo has done in the online space.
The legacy Wii will leave behind is no doubt a controversial one. Some like to say that motion control is nothing but a fad, but the current trend in gaming says otherwise: Microsoft has made plenty of money off of Kinect, and there's no reason to think that their next console won't feature some sort of motion control. Most games have been either hit or miss as far as motion is concerned – games like Skyward Sword and Red Steel 2 control amazingly well, while other games rely on waggle. It most certainly isn't a gimmick anymore, and several titles have proven that motion control can be far more intuitive than traditional button presses when done correctly.
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