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Wii Retrospective: A Gamer's Guide (List 1-A)
As a gamer, I found the Wii a fascinating and intriguing console. Not Nintendo's best (I personally reserve that opinion for the SNES and DS), but a fascinating console all the same. The Wii was not my most-played console of the generation--the Xbox 360 and DS were played far more. Never the less, I would be a pretty bad gamer to have just dismissed the console, but that appears to be exactly what happened to it by a lot of people. Which is unfair to the developers, to the Wii, and to oneself as a gamer. What kind of gamer chooses to limit his options by ignoring any console?
I'm not saying we should all buy every console--indeed, the more alike any two consoles are, the less logical reason there is to own both. I have both the X360 and PS3, and ultimately, one of them was played constantly, and the other was routinely ignored because their libraries are roughly 85% identical (this is something I recently calculated by taking lists of total games and factoring exclusives per platform). The Wii lost out on multiplatform games, but it would seem that this was by design. Nintendo has always been big on crafting consoles with large exclusive libraries, be it with horrifying contracts on the NES, cobbling together an exclusive "Dream Team" on the N64, or merely stepping way outside the box with the DS or Wii.
So, here's one half of a retrospective on the Wii by a gamer. Follow this link here for the other half of this list by your favorite poster on the site, Hawk/Edward Roivas. This is not going to dwell on the negatives--what's missing, what it didn't get, or any of that nonsense. That is an overly, dare I say, deliberately negative way to view a console. Do we judge the Xbox 360 for not having Zelda? Do we judge the PSP for not having Halo? Of course not. So we're not going to judge the Wii here for missing BioShock.
Nor are we looking at the obvious titles. You will not find Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, or Kirby in these lists. Nor are they focused on casual or family games. Rather, these lists are to chronicle the 3rd party offerings, exclusives, former exclusives, and lesser-known Nintendo pieces. And a few are thrown in here largely because of their value in collector's circles. Why? Because that's largely who this list is for. The gamer looking for those final rare Wii gems, the collector looking for those rare pieces, and those who are looking for the titles that truly define the Wii as a console. And because of the way it was treated by too many gamers, chances are, we missed out on too many of these. Some are imperfect, some flawed, and not all are exclusives.
Let's get started:
30. Let's Tap
Let's Tap is a gimmick. And one that could only work on the Wii. It's a rhythm game, of sorts, where a player places the Wiimote upside down on a box and "taps" on the other end of the box to affect gameplay aspects. Considered solid and fun, but a bit shallow, it was released at a budget price, then appeared to unfairly vanish into obscurity. A unique title that adds to they mystique of the Wii itself.
29. NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams
NiGHTS, despite being annoying to spell, failed to set the gaming world on fire with this revamp. In hindsight, many seemed to feel that perhaps nostalgia was clouding hopes for the game. Critics had mixed feelings, but gamers have apparently had high praise for this title. Not particularly rare (I think I see it at Target every time I go), it never-the-less seems as though the title may remain an elusive Wii exclusive.
28. F1 2009
This title is on here for a very specific reason--it's collectible. It is about the defining F1 racing option on the Wii, and appears to have had a short production run. It has since become pretty hotly collectible, particuarly among the F1 community. The game is solid and well made, but strict--as expected--on it's realistic racing physics. And even more rare version came with another Wii Wheel.
27. Excite Truck & Excitebots
Excite Truck is a spiritual successor to the Excite Bike franchise. Sort of. Instead of the customizable race options from the classic Excite Bike, Excite Truck has players modify the very landscape in-game by hitting certain triggers what quickly deform the upcoming environment to create massive hills, jumps, or plunging valleys. The game thrives on hectic arcade-focused gameplay and insanely unrealistic physics and stunts. You can actually "win" a race merely by having a higher score based on stunts than on actually getting first place. The follow-up replaced the trucks with robots, and massively stepped-up the stunt aspect.
26. Bit.Trip Complete
As we're focused on physical releases, this is the only way to get the Bit.Trip games on here! Bit.Trip Complete collected together the previously released (on Wii Ware, and a few on PC) Bit.Trip games of old-school challenges with sleek, modern aesthetics into a retail package. Not only that, but it added numerous levels and challenges to each of the six games giving players an unbelievable list of challenges. Each game was designed to operate on the Wii in different and creative ways, helping move the Wii Remote from gimmick to the versatile controller it was intended to be.
25. Endless Ocean/Endless Ocean: Blue World
At a time when Nintendo was routinely targeted for making "too few new franchises" (and yes, I was one of them), Nintendo slipped out these non-game games. I personally know of little about these titles, except that they are light in plot or story, but that there actually is something in the line of a story there about exploration and discovery. Which is pretty much the entire point of the games. Take your Wii Remote, dive, and explore. And that's about it. However, they're not entirely original, since the developer, Arika, had previously made similar titles for teh PS2 called Everblue. That said, the style of these games found a home on the Wii, outselling the Everblue series by roughly 1.7 million copies overall. Perhaps not terrible collectible, but arguably important titles for the console overall.
24. Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors
This is perhaps the most unusual Dragon Quest title ever developed, in that it eschews many of the traditional elements of the franchise to create an experimental on-rails First-Person adventure. It is not quite the same kind of game as it's franchise counterparts, and is considered somewhat shallow (battles are no longer randomized), but the game is considered functional. Reviews were mixed, and were stronger from the Japanese perspective than the Western one. A unique experiment worth a gander at the very least, and another title made possible by the abstract way some developers looked at the Wii.
23. Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Now available to Vita owners, this initially exclusive title helped add some seriously gorgeous and entertaining gameplay to the Wii library. A hack-n-slash side scrolling RPG, Muramas proves that the Wii Remote is not necessary for a game to be great on the Wii, and embraces that the console had options. Easily better played on a Classic Controller, Muramasa offers old-school side-scrolling flavor with some of the most breath-taking and artistic graphics on the system.
22. Dokapon Kingdom
This is another title that shares a release with the then out-going PS2. Essentially, picture Atlus making Mario Party with RPG elements. That's what you have here. The game has held it's value rather surprisingly over the years and manages to remain consistently sought-after in collector's markets. The Wii version was nominated for Best RPG by IGN in 2008, and it's party-focused gameplay aspect likely works somewhat smoother on the Wii than the PS2 which required an adapter for more than two players to play.
21. Castle of Shikigami III
If you claim to be a "hardcore gamer," this is the kind of game I expect you to be playing. Because it is designed for the most hardcore and rooted in twitch gameplay, self-improvement, and stern challenges. Call of Duty is a casual gamer franchise, this is a real hardcore gamer's game. Castle of Shikigami III is a bullet-hell shmup, and a rarity not only on the Wii, but on modern consoles in general. Solidly made, it features an absurd anime storyline of utter nonsense, and you play as flying humans rather than ships like Ikaruga or Gradius. A heavy emphasis is made on "quality" gameplay over collecting massive weapons, and increases weapon power and score by taking risks--such as moving too close to enemy bullets. I have seen it in stores exactly one time over the years--and that was the day I bought it.
20. Ghost Squad
Many complained on end about the Wii having "too many rail shooters" from the ye olden days of arcades. I always found this confusing because I was thrilled that the Wii was finallya home console that made those games relevant to home gaming. These shooters are often brainless, but fun, and challenging. Ghost Squad is a short experience, but lengthened by boatloads of unlockables and repeat challenges. It was notable because it was the moment when Sega refined this style of gameplay for the Wii and came to truly define it--so much so, that a skilled player could play without an on-screen reticle. The game is fairly common and very affordable now, but set the Wii on a new path of higher-quality arcade-style rail shooters.
19. House of the Dead 2&3 Return
If you haven't played a House of the Dead game in an arcade, you either grew up in the wrong era, or are doing something very wrong as a gamer. While unfortunate that HotD1 isn't in this set, getting 2 & 3 is pretty nice. The game suffers from balance issues between the two--3 is harder than 2, but more forgiving in it's eventual unlimited continues (like an arcade and a pocket full of change). Ridiculous storytelling, dated graphics, but boatloads of fun, especially with another person. The Wii may have had "too many" of these games, but then, no other console ever made them so relevant and easy to play.
18. House of the Dead: Overkill
HotD: Overkill took the franchise to it's logical next step--playing up the traditionally awful storytelling and couching it in Grindhouse-style (complete with a hilarious "scene missing" segment) language and imagery. The result is a hilariously entertaining title slamming into the Guiness Book of World Records for a full 5% of it's language being just the "f" word. Characters are enjoyable and the shooting aspect is completely revamped from traditional HotD gameplay of "just rampant shooting" to a much more skill-based focus that rewards accuracy. Like most in this genre, it's not terribly long, but focused on replayability. Perhaps humorously, it was developed by the same team that made Nintendo's Battalion Wars 2.
17. Deadly Creatures
Deadly Creatures remains one of the most unique titles on the Wii. In a way, this is one of the most classic games to appear in years. Go back to the early Atari days, and playing as bugs or other creatures is not as uncommon as now, where soldiers fill out the industry. Deadly Creatures plants players into roles of a tarantula and a scorpion with a human drama holding the backdrop which causes the lives of these two creatures to intertwine. Surprisingly realistic graphics and animation belie the arcade-like creative beat-em-up gameplay that moves the game forward. Imperfect in some technical aspects (such as loading), the game is beautifully atmospheric, uniquely creative in level design, and surprisingly, the motion controls work generally quite well. Something this unique and creative should not be overlooked.
16. Lost in Shadow
One might be forgiven for drawing parallels to Limbo with Lost in Shadow. Both are hauntingly dark, melodramatic titles. A boy is, for all intents and purposes, killed except for his shadow. He begins an arduous quest to climb a tower to re-attach himself to his body, and defeat the shadow being that did this to him. The core is a puzzle platformer where players must traverse shadow-based puzzles and moving lights. The game is a little longer than it needs to be, but the bleak, dark, moody story wraps this title into a surprisingly haunting package.
15. Boom Blox & Boom Blox Blast
Before Steven Spielberg was apparently making Halo stuff, he "had a hand" in crafting Boom Blox for the Wii. Despite it's surprisingly uncreative characters and "story," the game succeeds as an extroardinarily robust physics-based puzzler and party game. The physics are impressive, the gameplay is solid, and the titles are entertaining, and beyond that, they're defining moments for the Wii console itself. One of the many times that the motion controls not only worked, but simply made sense.
14. Fritz Chess
This is another one placed up here due to it's hotly collectible status. According to internet lore, Fritz Chess (yes, from the same Deep Silver that gave us Dead Island) is a well-crafted, "official"-level chess game released possibly only or largely in Canada, and pretty much no where else. If you find it, you should probably get it.
13. Shiren The Wanderer
I own this and have not actually played it yet (got a bit much on my plate right now). The Wii/PSP version was published by Atlus, whild a DS title was published by Sega. There doesn't seem to be a lot of old-school rogue-like dungeon crawlers that randomly generate dungeons these days, but here's one of them. Being an Atlus title almost automatically means it's a low seller and somewhat difficult to find. Interestingly, its sales apparently stalled in Japan because it was actually too easy compared to traditional titles in this manner. Reviews are mixed and range from the 70's to the 90's.
12. de Blob & de Blob 2
Believe it or not, the core story of this game is a lone hero attempting to topple an oppressive totalitarian regime. But that hero is a blob who is "fighting the man" by coloring the world that they'ved grayed with their totalitarian propaganda. That is what this game actually is. But, it's child-friendly. de Blob is charming, colorful, creative, and vibrant. Essentially a quest-based platformer, the game was another title that took the "be creative" aspect of the Wii and ran with it. For the most part, the game is very entertaining, but needing to jerk the Wiimote up to jump was a tad unintuitive. The multiplatform sequel, however, seems to have sold fewer copies combined than the original Wii version did alone.
11. Sakura Wars: So Long My Love
This one might be a bit of a cheat as it was released on the PS2 in Japan--five years before it was released on the PS2 and Wii in the US--in 2010, handily after the heyday of the PS2, but smack in the middle of the strongest years of the Wii (let's face it, those later years weren't doing so well outside of Kirby and a few fabled "rainy" titles). This title is bizarre to the gills and described as a tactical RPG with dating sim elements that happens to follow the exploits of a transplanted Japanese naval ensign in 1920's era New York who is part of a group evidently disguised as a musical troupe. Bizarreness aside, the game reviewed well but appears to be somewhat rare (like Shikigami III, I have only seen it once in a store, but it was grossly over-priced), but probably deserves a second look to anyone looking to complete that "defining" Wii collection.
10. Tenchu: Shadow Assassins
Originally announced as an exclusive, it was only during this writing that I realized it was ever actually released elsewhere (the PSP). Never the less, Tenchu was intended to be a return to form for the long-troubled franchise, which saw dismal releases on the DS and Xbox 360. Tenchu was noted for it's excellent graphics and for being once again developed by the teams that originated the franchise and made the highest-reviewed titles in the franchise. Some control and camera issues were the only things preventing it from reaching the full glory of it's past, having to merely contend with being the "best Tenchu game since the first two," but a generally solid experience overall.
9. Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles & Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles
Now that the RE series has become a full-blown shooter franchise, these seem almost par for the course. These titles exist to both replay Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, and Code Veronica with a bunch of extra elements and new backstories, all of it done through a rail-shooter adventure. Imperfect and somewhat repetitive, the games succeeded with generally solid controls and an appeal to hardcore RE fans. Boss battles were high points, often featuring a size and scope that put the Wii through it's graphical paces. Later ported to the PS3 for Move play, the games will remain strong points to most any Wii library.
The Wii was intended to inspire some unique gameplay concepts and design ideas, as well as to allow more classic style games. MadWorld certainly took that inspriation and ran with it. Bizarre story, bizarre characters, unique beat-em-up gameplay, stark black-and-white comic-inspired graphical style, and boatloads of violence and blood. MadWorld is almost too easy to add to this list. Everyone knows about it, it reviewed well, and it even drew the ire of Wacko Jack Thompson. MadWorld is the eponymous video game version of The Running Man--the story of a game show of pure violence where people are pitted against one another in a ruined city by a corrupt organization. Despite a bit of a learning curve, the motion control-heavy slaughter is actually fun, and in the category of "why the hell not?", Futurama's John Dimaggio (Bender) adds commentary to the backdrop of the game's festivities.
7. Geometry Wars: Galaxies
Arguably the most well-known shmup on the console (sharing a DS release), Geometry Wars: Galaxies wasn't just some simple upgrade to the old XBLA shmup. Rather, it was a MASSIVE upgrade of the old title, adding a multitude of upgradeable secondary weapons, stages, challenges, leaderboards, and control options. The game is smooth, challenging, and visually stunning as Geometry Wars always was. In my view, a must-have to any Wii owner looking for a true hardcore title.
I never liked Punch-Out, despite finding it somewhat fascinating. Because I sucked at it. Turns out, I really just didn't know what I was doing. Saying this Punch-Out is just a remake is somewhat accurate, but also a little unfair. The controls are smooth, the graphics impressive, and the overall design quite flawless. It allows very old-school controls, and even a full-blown Balance Board & Wiimote-Nunchuck set-up. The only downside to this is that it feels a little more robotic in this set-up, but it works. Punch-Out is great because it shows that in a sea of Mario sameness, Nintendo hasn't completely forgotten it's roots. The versus mode is rather flakey, but what the game delivers in pure skill-based gaming, it does it almost perfectly.
5. A Boy and His Blob
Modern gaming, and the Wii specifically, is no stranger to remakes of very old games (indeed, Punch-Out was noted just before this and there was a dreadful Pitfall revival Activision lazily crapped out), but A Boy and His Blob is an interesting revival. There was only ever two original Boy-Blob games, and the last one was in 1990 on the Game Boy which seems to have received mixed reviews. The revival merely modernized the classic concept (the original game can be unintuitive) and delivers it in a living cartoon intended to tug at as many heartstrings as possible--and with an unbelievably adorable "hug" button (seriously, you'll see it in the first YouTube walkthrough, check it out), it would seem to have succeeded. Like many WayForward titles, it didn't tear up the sales charts, and can now fetch a pretty penny in the secondary market. We collectors might want to pick it up now, before it becomes truly obscure.
4. Dead Space Extraction
Starting with Ghost Squad, rail-shooters gradually improved in overall control quality and style on the system until we reached this point. Dead Space Extraction was a prequel to the first Dead Space, and took the rail shooter one step further, by maintaining the intensity, but adding in a variety of challenges that players must face to survive. Puzzles for closing doors or solving other problems present themselves during heavy attacks, which added a new dynamic to the rail shooter. The game was unfairly dismissed by too many as "not a real Dead Space game" (despite the franchise having only one other game at the time), even though it managed to maintain its horror atmosphere while expanding on the story and further adding to the concepts behind rail shooters. On top of that, it was made by the same developer. It was in good hands from the start, and is arguably the perfect evolution of the rail shooter genre. The later PS3 port apparently had bonus materials removed from the game, but may be the rarer version.
3. Little King's Story
Picture a combination of Civilization or SimCity and Pikmin. You now have Little King's Story. Bet you didn't realize that's what this game is! Yep, it's a city/kingdom builder and the strategy game in the style of Pikmin--except instead of little vegetable-like creatures, you're actively sending citizens to their deaths! Whoo! The game is easy to pick up and play, damnably adorable--but still flatly earns it's Teen rating with a surprising amount of violence and not-so-child-friendly content. Despite the surprisingly mature elements, the game is extraordinarily charming and almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face while you play it.
2. Tatsunoko vs Capcom
These days, gamers are facing a bizarre hypocrisy from EA who proclaimed support for the Wii U, and proudly stated that Frostbite would run on it--only to suddenly turn around and claim the opposite. A similar issue occurred around this title--Capcom said the Wii couldn't handle Street Fighter IV (though it's on the similarly-powerful 3DS now--granted, Capcom tried to play the "not enough buttons" angle at the time), but the Wii easily handled it's own Capcom fighter. Tatsunoko is a Japanese entertainment company along the lines of Toho (the guys that make all the Godzilla movies), but more focused on anime. Several Tatsunoko franchises make an appearance in the game, and if you're like me, you're probably not familiar with a single one of them. But then, who cares? You have a roster of familiar Capcom characters, and unlike the Marvel vs Capcom games, you get a mech from Lost Planet in addition to Ryu and Morrigan. The game plays exactly as expected--as a team-based Capcom fighter, perfectly fitting on the Pro Controller, and at one time including it's own arcade stick. Tatsunoko is the flashiest, most over-the-top fighting game of it's type I've played. You don't just do 5% damage, you do a staggering 5.5 BILLION damage. The combat system is as deep and satisfying as any other Capcom fighter, and the characters are fascinating and varied, even if the SF characters are a bit too predictable. I dare say, if you consider yourself a "gamer" and dismiss the Wii without playing or owning this title, you have no reason to dismiss the Wii. TvC is a pure blast of Capcom fighting goodness, and the Wii is the only place to get it.
1. Xenoblade Chronicles
I am no fan of anime. I often find the stories to be hyperactive, unrealistic, flakey, shallow, and burdened by stereotypes rather than realistic characterizations. They are flash and pizazz while lacking in substance, humility, and humanity. They are sterile, uncomfortable, and "mature" in the most childish of ways--replacing real maturity (in characters and storytelling) with rampantly unnecessary foul language, laughable violence and gore, and sometimes, the most insulting kind of rampant sexualization of female characters.
That all said, Xenoblade Chronicles succeeds in being my all-time favorite Wii game. It defies the harsh stereotype I have that so much other anime delights in maintaining. The story is not hectic or overly stylized or unnecessarily flashy. The characters, for the most part, are likable and believable. Dunban and Ricki, not quite as much as Dunban still oozes the stereotype of the "nothing bothers me" unrealistic tough-guy while Ricki is just silly, as if designed to be a character for children. I don't understand the appeal of Japanese developers in creating these characters, but then, George Lucas did it, too.
Xenoblade succeeds in being everything the naysayers and fanboys claimed the Wii could not be and could not have. It is a gigantic, awe-inspiring open world. Time and time again, you are dropped into areas that define and redefine "epic." No, it's not the Fallout 3 kind of open world, but it is very much the Kingdoms of Amalur kind of open world. Vast, enormous, and filled with life, explorations, and options.
Xenoblade's characters feel genuine, the story largely stays rooted to a human aspect while, quite literally, standing on the shoulders of epic pseudo-deities. Beyond the story, the gameplay is refreshing and I echo the sentiment that it was a vibrant rebirth of the JRPG. Xenoblade nixes the slow, archaic menu-heavy battle systems of old JRPG's for a very active one, where players move about the battle space (which takes place in the overworld itself, not some battle stage) and where attacks have benefits when performed in specific areas and sequences.
The game is vast beyond a giant world, epic battles, deep combat system, and it's 400+ available side-quests. Even after a good twenty-thirty hours, I was still discovering depth to the game's system. Complex relationship systems between player characters, and with the player and their environment. Massive collection systems, a gigantic item and item management system--and beyond that, an element and gem crafting and collection system to further modify the weapons and items of the characters.
This defeated Fallout 3 as the single longest I have played any one game's story, topping the 95 hours I invested there. At 95 hours, I thought I was almost done with Xenoblade. How big could it be? At 115 hours, I finally finished it. This made JRPG's good again, largely by combining the best of WRPG's within it. And while largely happenstance that it had a British voice cast for the English-language version, it only further added to the overall experience.
Remember, when concerning this title, that Nintendo of America mistreated it and released it in grossly limited quantities, and through only one retail outlet. It's already highly collectible, and will continue to be in the foreseeable future.
WFT Bonus Mention 1: Escape from Bug Island
Arguably the first "so bad it's kinda good" title to be released on the Wii, Escape from Bug Island supposed to be a survival horror title where your first melee weapon is a tree branch. Considered crap on many levels, the game still managed to earn an above average review from Famitsu in Japan. Based very clearly on B-horror-movie concepts, the game wasn't intended to take itself seriously, so maybe we shouldn't either? Thankfully, if you wish to experience this calamity yourself, despite being somewhat difficult to find, it's actually pretty cheap online. And I firmly believe we all should play bad games now and then, if for no other way than to better understand gaming as a whole.
WTF Bonus Mention 2: Target Terror
Where titles like House of the Dead: Overkill and Dead Space Extraction elevated the rail shooter to new levels, expanding and improving the formula, Target Terror clings almost shamefully to a broken past. A port of a 2004 arcade game, Target Terror uses hilariously dated live-action visuals straight out of 1995, cartoonish levels of blood splatter, and utterly nonsensical, borderline broken gaming. Another one to file under the "so bad it's kinda good" category, it was somehow made by the same guy that gave us Robotron 2084, the Cruis'n arcade racing games, and Smash TV! Videos of people reveling in it's awfulness popped up online shortly after release. Prices of new copies are surprisingly high.
Finally, do not forget to seek out Hawke's list (List A-1), because neither list is more important than the other, as we have placed them on equal ground. His list will be up shortly, and if you feel that we've overlooked something, by all means, let us know. Just skip the obvious--Mario, Zelda, Kirby, etc, if you will.
And again, here's Hawke's: http://www.gameinformer.com/blogs/members/b/edward_roivas_blog/archive/2013/09/11/wii-retrospective-a-gamer-39-s-guide-list-a-1.aspx