Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Exploring the Nintendo Wii

If ever any proof was needed of my lack of enthusiasm for modern gaming, it would be this post. Remember the 'New Arrival' post here at Red Parsley regarding my purchase of a Nintendo Wii? Well, that was well over a year ago now and it's taken me this long to get around to playing all the games and writing this feature! In fairness though, as I said in the previous post, I was a purchase I kind of regretted soon afterwards anyway - it was more of an impulse buy really, if it's even possible when ordering stuff online, and indeed, I have used it little.

Actually, that's probably somewhat unfair. I suspect the lengthy delay in my Wii-ing (chortle) is as much down to laziness and lack of time as it is indifference - I've not used my Xbox a huge amount more, for example - but as I've said before there is an awful lot of crap on this unusual system and it can be quite off-putting. Finding something that can even be called a video game is a challenge at times when looking through the Wii section of a game store. There are a few diamonds in the rough though, of course, and it is these that I intend to seek out and play. I've actually already sought out a decent number of them - they are sitting quietly on my sizeable game shelf, their majestic white covers gleaming like pearls, just waiting for me to get around to finishing this feature so I can play them! Just playing the titles below reminded me of something else I've often found a bit off-putting about the Wii though.

Namely, its biggest selling point to most - its main control method. I'm something of a lazy oaf you see. Most of my interests reflect that, gaming among them, so the prospect of having to actually stand up and move around to use its motion-sensitive 'Wiimote' to play a game... it wasn't thrilling quite honestly, technological innovations aside. I know some games give you alternative choices, such as the analogue Classic Controller pad or even a GameCube pad, but most games were made with the motion controls in mind and some couldn't even be played without them.

That said, I do still look forward to trying at least a select few titles on Nintendo's unique system, and a big part of that is that many of them are not available on any other systems, or at least only on the DS. For the moment though, I've taken a look at only five titles, and here's how I got on with them:

Wii Sports (2006)

While sports games will not exactly make most serious gamers moist with excitement, they are popular among the Wii's target audience, namely casual gamers, so this was a perfect pack-in game - it was instantly accessible, it was good fun for one or multiple players, and it made use of the Wii's signature feature. It didn't take too long to see all it had to offer - there are tennis, baseball, golf, bowling, and boxing games, a training mode for each game, and a fitness mode (which can only be used once a day, annoyingly). Few sports games offer much in the way of variety though - it's not their point really - and there are at least five different sports here. They are each played by using the Wiimote to mimic the real 'actions' required in the sport and I had mixed success with this. The tennis and baseball are tricky but enjoyable (and tiring!) and the bowling is great, but I found the golf tough and I couldn't get the hang of the boxing at all. Appeal is limited for a single player though - this was always meant to be played by several people at once (up to four, though there's no online play), and in that capacity it's hard to beat.

Red Steel (2006)

I was a little surprised to see this game on shelves back when the Wii launched. The Nintendo name doesn't really lend itself to violent gun-fighting and sword-slicing adventures these days after all. I was therefore keen to check it out, and since it's dirt-cheap now, I had the perfect excuse. It's set in LA and Japan and takes the form of a first-person shooting/fighting game wherein your character gets tangled up in a Yakuza plot to regain a precious relic when they kidnap his girlfriend (whose father is some big-shot). You get thrown in at the deep-end somewhat when a dinner with the other half and her old man turns into a firefight, but luckily the game is quite forgiving of mistakes (to begin with at least) allowing decent progress from the off. I made it as far as the roof of the hotel on my first go which I was quite pleased with considering my limited experience with both FPS's and the Wii. The controls are okay most of the time but they made my arms ache too, so I'll definitely need to take breaks when I play this one! I will come back to it though. The visuals are okay, the audio is good (including lots of movie-style incidental music), and the story is great. Plus, I doubt I'll find many similar titles!

Cooking Mama (2007)

Yes, feel free to mock me, but I'd only bought this one for a laugh really. I find the cover amusing and it cost less than tankard of ale so I figured it was worth a quick play for curiosity's sake. It didn't take me long to discover that it wasn't as much fun as I kinda expected it to be though. It's a sequel to the DS original, and like that game it consists of a series of minigames based on the preparation and cooking of various foods or meals. This basically involves using the Wiimote like a knife to chop vegetables, like a hand to crack eggs, or like a whisk or wooden spoon to stir cake mixtures or pots of stew. Prior to play, it seemed like it might be one of those games that's good fun in short bursts, but in practise it soon proved to be quite frustrating, mainly owing to be glitchy, inconsistent controls. Or so it seemed to me anyway, but I guess I'm still not completely used to the Wiimote yet. Still, it certainly makes for a good introduction to the Wii along with Wii Sports, as both make great use of the console's signature features. I think it suits the DS's touch-screen better but I'll probably return to it at some point.

Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City (2008)

Prior to my purchase, this was the only Wii game I had already spent any amount of time with, mainly because a friend of mine absolutely worships the series. He set me up with my own character and house and everything, and I soon found myself working for the legend that is Tom Nook delivering letters and catching bugs and all sorts of other weird stuff. Of course, upon purchasing a Wii, I made sure this was one of the first games I got for it. I had to start over, sadly, but on the plus side, I got to start over, so it wasn't all bad. Chortle! Being serious though, this is a tremendously enjoyable game. Some find it boring or pointless, and I guess I can see why - it doesn't have any explosions or killing or even any proper objectives - but I find it very relaxing, and I always seem to have a smile on my face while I'm pootling around its unique world, and that can only be a good thing, surely? What can be more satisfying than growing a batch of prize turnips, buying a nice new rug for your house, catching a big coelacanth, or trapping a rare insect? Well, there is one thing: catching the latest cool grooves laid down by KK Slider!

Goldeneye 007 (2010)

Like many, I was a big fan of this on the N64 (still am, in fact), so I greeted news of this remake with much enthusiasm. I had assumed it would be a direct remake for some reason, just with fancier graphics and making use of the Wii's unique controls, but it's essentially a new game based on the film. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, but it did mean that I found progress to be unexpectedly difficult. The gameplay has been modernised as well as the visuals and that includes working with another agent (006), shooting from moving vehicles, using stealth (as I suppose spies would), and all sorts of other stuff that's become commonplace in FPS's since Goldeneye's heyday. The main source of my problems, however, was those Wiimote/Nunchuk controls once again, which I found difficult to be consistently precise with. It can also be played with the Classic Controller if you prefer though, and I did. I'm still not sure I'll be getting as far into this as I did the N64 game but it's clearly a quality game and definitely one to keep trying.

Are Nintendo still a big player in the video game business? I suppose with the Wii U's relative failure, it's a question we've been asking again lately, but it was first being asked a couple of generations ago too. Up until the Wii was released it was starting to look like the big N were heading the same way as poor old Sega. Neither the N64 nor the GameCube were much more than moderate successes, and with their pursuit of innovative tech proving costly, it was only their handhelds keeping them afloat.

That certainly changed during the years following the Wii's release though; it was a phenomenal success with over 100 million units sold. That was down to several factors but chief among was the system's appeal to casual gamers. For someone like me, it's a difficult console to evaluate, and there are several things about it that don't appeal to me, mainly to do with the controls. Laziness aside, the Wiimote does work well for things like Wii Sports but I found it overly sensitive for use as as on-screen pointer. I don't like that use of it is mandatory in many games either (surely it would be easy to add a control pad option for most of them?), and I don't like that it takes normal AA batteries which it eats through alarmingly quickly (why the hell are they not rechargable like the PS3?). It's not the best looking machine either - it just looks like an old PC external CD-ROM to me.

I also don't like the graphical style used in many games (those Mii things are not at all appealing), and one common complaint was also that it was underpowered compared to its... well, I was going to say rivals but I don't think the PS3 and Xbox 360 were ever really rivals with the Wii, they just happened to be on the market during similar times. I suppose Nintendo's decision to go in a completely different direction was just as brave as taking on Sony and Microsoft directly though, and it worked too - the Wii was a massive success. It must've surely refilled their bank accounts and then some, and despite its faults, few could deny the impact it had on the gaming industry. Even the mighty Sony and Microsoft had soon followed suit.

Much of that success was down to its controls of course and, as much as I might dislike the idea, it's great that they exist. I'm sure many lapped them up, it's most likely just my old-fashioned mind that prefers an equally antiquated method of playing games. It's those games that I got a Wii for though - not the shovelware bullcrap that so dominates its back-catalog - but the actual proper games, many of which look very good and, in more cases than not, can't be played anywhere else either. It's a strange console in some ways but it's one that needs to be sampled, and I'm glad I finally have. I just hope it grows on me...


  1. The Wii was the last console I was genuinely excited for and I have to say it lived up to my expectations. I have a sizeable collection and no nasty filler or junk. Wii Sports was amazing back in 2006 and I wish I could still play it but alas, a rearrangement of the room means I don't have the space anymore!

    I have a lot of the RPG's and more involving games which are absolutely brilliant (Xenoblade, Last Story etc.) but I reckon you'd be more up for the action titles or platformers perhaps? I would personally suggest Kirby's Epic Yarn, Geometry Wars Galaxies, Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Super Mario Galaxy 1 + 2 for starters. All of these have minimal motion controls and are great fun in their own different ways.

    If you enjoy arcade lightgun shooters as I do then there's Ghost Squad, House of the Dead 2&3, House of the Dead Overkill and the Resident Evil 'Chronicles' games amongst others.

    If you get adventurous and want to explore motion controls then I can't recommend Disaster: Day of Crisis enough. It's a natural disaster-themed action game mixed with Time Crisis style shooting sections and it uses the remote in so many different, interactive ways - ways that all work properly. The whole game is like a ridiculous Hollywood blockbuster.

    With regards to remotes not being re-chargeable, I would assume that trying to wave them around while they are hooked up to the console to charge would be an issue! There are 3rd party battery packs + charging stands but some of these have been known to explode or leak battery acid so choose carefully! Personally I use rechargeable AA batteries.

    This is probably the longest comment I have ever written...

  2. I could imagine you being grumpy about the Wii if you spent a lot of money to get one (and in the UK, you probably did). But the systems have gotten ridiculously cheap in the United States; I managed to bag one for $10 at a yard sale last October. Granted, it was buried in at least three layers of dirt, but it was nothing a little cleaning couldn't fix. Plus, I convinced the seller to throw in a copy of The Last Story as a bonus! (I really ought to get back to that one someday...)

    But yeah, the Wii was ultimately nothin' special. Part of the blame goes to Nintendo for that, but I think third parties deserve the rest. They didn't want to use the hardware creatively and just pumped out enough idiotic licensed games to embarrass even the Game Boy Color. There are good games hidden in the detritus, but there is a lot of that to dig through...

    Anyway! The best part of the Wii is that it's reasonably easy to hack. The Wii half of my Wii U runs GameCube games straight from an SD card (oh, the convenience!), plus several emulators, and it doesn't look like Nintendo will fix that exploit any time in the near future.

    And oh yeah, there's Kirby: Return to Dreamland. Very similar to the excellent Triple Deluxe for the 3DS, except even prettier. It forces you to use motion controls (and for the dumbest reasons), but it's worth the trouble.

  3. Hi Mr. DS90 :) Thanks for the recommendations too. I've got around 20 Wii games so far including Murumasa, Mario Galaxy 1, and Geometry Wars. The only titles I still have to get that I already know I want are the more expensive ones (mostly Nintendo IP's including the Kirby games). Day of Crisis sounds interesting, I'll definitely give it a try if I find it for a good price.

    Regarding the batteries, I see your point but I never use my (rechargable) PS3 controller while it's plugged in - the lead is less than a metre long so it wouldn't even be practical. There's no reason that I can see why the Wiimote couldn't be the same. Many thanks for your longest comment ever, I appreciate it :)

  4. Hi Mr ArugulaZ - Thanks also for the long comment! :) You're right, I shouldn't be grumpy really - I didn't pay much for my Wii, I think it was £25 :P You're right about the Wii's software library from what I can see. It's pointless even trying to find any decent games in shops - it's just licensed games, shovelware, or both. I've been searching for games that look interesting online which I will try getting for good prices on eBay. The Kirby games are actually among the ones I want the most but they're not cheap like most similar games for it.

    I've been advised to hack my Wii my several people now, and it's apparently quite easy too, so I guess I'll give that a go at some point too :)

  5. I'd also recommend MySims Agents on Wii. Despite the Sims branding this is a point-and-click 3D adventure game and very polished with hours of gameplay. Very nice hint system (in the form of "clues" in your detective notebook) means you don't get stuck and there is plenty of gorgeous locations to explore and many tools like the F-space manipulator (create piles of crates to climb up). There are also minigames like making molecules (for forensic analysis) and picking locks (essentially Rush Hour).

  6. Thanks for the suggestion sir. I must admit, the 'Sims' name does give me The Fear but it sounds pretty interesting :)