Tomorrow should be a good day on the Virtual Console, what with the rumored Splatterhouse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. Seriously, Nintendo. How hard would it be to have a simple “Coming Soon” list? Hudson and Sega offer one, and despite the protests and mindless defending of the Nintendo Zealots-types on Nintendo.Com’s message boards, I can do without the “grab bag mystery” tactic you try to pull every week. Besides, every other gaming site on the ‘Net ruins your little “surprises” with an 80-90% accuracy.

I think today’s post is coming exactly from dealing with the “Nintendo Zealot”, the ones who think “Nintendo Can Do No Wrong”, and everything they do is part of “Some Grand, Masterful Plan”. I love Nintendo. I’ve played their game systems for over 20 years, but they are at the end of the day a gaming company. A really great gaming company, but I can’t blindly defend them. Their poo at times does stink. If it didn’t, we would have seen fan-begged for over a decade franchises such as Earthbound, Kid Icarus and Punch-Out!! reappear a long time ago. For far too long, Nintendo’s turned a deaf ear to the fan requests on those, and don’t get me started about losing Rare to Microsoft, or the Virtual Boy, for that matter.

But if there is a point to my above tangent, is that Nintendo does at times make mistakes. More often than not, however, The “Big N” more than makes up for it with their games. Current case in point being the DS and Wii. Both great systems, and quite guilty of eating my free time.

I was thinking about the Wii this weekend and it’s future. Where can it go from here, and what has it already done. The control gimmick is wacky, it’s different, and with the right game, it’s a lot of fun. What I’m growing more and more curious about is how developers are going to keep approaching the Wiimote. Will it push innovation, is it going to be a slapped-on requirement, or are some developers going to forego it altogether?

Currently (and not counting VC games), I have six Wii games: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Metal Slug Anthology, Sonic and the Secret Rings, Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, and Wii Sports. I think playing six game is enough to make a fairly educated judgement, at least regarding the first six months of the console’s life, and provide a breakdown about how effective the Wiimote really is, from worst to best.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance
and Metal Slug Anthology could honestly do without wacky Wiimote wavings, and truthfully, benefit more without it. You can tell trying to implement motion sensor-based gameplay was more tacked-on for the flash than anything else.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is by all means a great game, and the Wiimote does work, but again, largely tacked on. Sure using the Wiimote as a hookshot and bow is actually quite good, and swinging your sword is fun, but there’s really no control over the sword. Link goes through a whole cycle of animation of swings, thrusts and stabs, and regardless of what you do, it’s the same motion. You can swing the Wiimote back and forth, and Link will stab, when the player’s not made the appropriate move to do so. Once the sword swinging novelty wears off, it really starts to become apparent, that while fun, there are limits. I hope in a sequel, they refine it and make it fully immersive.

Wii Sports. Fun title, and more responsive, but some games like Boxing are really hit and miss, and even Baseball is kind of “eh”. Bowling, however, is dead accurate, and Golf isn’t too bad. Neither is Tennis, but there’s still a margin of ball swing/hit/miss error that should have been addressed.

Sonic and the Secret Rings and Wario Ware: Smooth Moves are so far the best examples of integrating the Wiimote motion fully into the gameplay experience. Swinging and tilting the Wiimote actually feels vital to the gameplay experience, and not so much as an afterthought.

Which leaves us to now as the User base increases, and the Wii begins to wean from its infancy stage. Are developers comfortable enough to actually implement the control scheme into gameplay, or is it going to be some useless tacked on feature because swinging the controller around like a madman is to be expected? The latest/last Mortal Kombat game is coming to the Wii soon. Sure you can swing the Wiimote around to do moves, which could admittedly be fun, but there’s an option to use the Gamecube or Classic Controllers as well. Who is going to go for “wacky” over “traditional” for a fighting game? Even the latest Smash Bros. is going to use a traditional control scheme, and I believe Fire Emblem is as well. Even Nintendo realizes that all the swinging isn’t always going to be practical.

I’m not saying that every Wii game needs to have motion control just for the sake of having it, but as in the case of Metal Slug and Marvel, I don’t want to see developers slap some gimmick on a good game just to say that it supports motion control when the implementation doesn’t make sense or is ultimately useless. And I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of that from developers who don’t quite get what the Wii is about yet. The “novelty” factor has worn off for me. Now I want to see it do something cool and unique.

Metroid should be good, as could any FPS on the system. The control set-up is perfect for a lightsaber game from Lucasarts. Driving/Flight games can also benefit from the controls, as could games you could also find on a PC, like Sims. Fighting games could work, but it would have to be done right. Any genre could work technically, but it’s got to be done right.

So far, the Wii has got a good thing going, but it’s got to shake free of its “could have been conceived for Gamecube, but got ported to the Wii” hurdle I can see in some of these earlier titles. I think once Wii gets over that, it should be a lot more interesting… provided developers actually design games with the Wii control scheme in mind. I like that “wow” factor the Wii has gotten from me quite a few times in being made to play games differently, because when it works, it’s pretty awesome.

But when I do something, I want to feel like I’m actually doing it, not just shaking my controller around.

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Filed under: wii gaming