Hello, and welcome to the FOURTH installment of my blog-series where I’ll attempt to review every single (worthwhile) Wii game.
If you missed them, please check out the earlier entries in the series, all cataloged in the main Wii page of my blog.
And now, for the fourth entry. As we wait for Wii U to arrive, there remain plenty of great games we all missed out on (unless, of course, you’re a compulsive freak that has no life outside of video games). Hopefully, this year-by-year look at the Wii’s back catalog will help you identify some of the great games you missed, and give you one last chance to grab em before they’re buried by the next-gen Nintendo.
Every review includes the IGN score and a handy link to IGN’s own review. All of the writing and reviews are my own unless otherwise indicated (thanks to CharbroiledEwok and Kyliemale for their awesome contributions).
The order of the following list is determined by IGN’s overall score–and don’t forget, you can click the header of each game to link to the IGN official review.
I’m hoping that you readers find these posts useful. Please feel free to bookmark these posts for future reference–in the process of writing this blog, I’ve played a lot of great games that I originally missed, and encourage you to do the same.
The Wiimote gets an Upgrade, (Even More) Plastic Instruments,
. . . and the End of the Road for Prime
2009 saw Wii software heading in a number of different directions, resulting in a welcome variety of types and styles of games. With 1st-party releases including a side-scrolling four-player Mario game, a long-overdue installment of the legendary Punch Out!! series, and a direct sequel to Wii Sports, we all missed out on some of the lesser-known titles from this calendar year. With a respectable amount of support from 3rd party developers, 2009 may include the most overlooked games of the Wii’s entire life-cycle.
Read on, and learn the error of your ways.
Metroid Prime Trilogy (9.5)
Though it feels a little odd for IGN’s highest-ranked 2009 Wii game to be a collection (rather than an original game) this was still a great package deal for anyone who hadn’t already collected the GameCube versions of episodes 1 and 2, or somehow missed the Wii unveiling of part 3. Indeed, the Trilogy package made the single-game discs irrelevant, since the price of the combo package WAS equivalent to a regular top-shelf Wii title. You’ll note that I’m using the past-tense to discuss MPT, because the resale prices for the MPT collection are strikingly high (due to a limited pressing of the 3-game collection, MPT is no longer available at regular retail). Anyway, as a gamer with limited time, I can hardly imagine playing through all 3 Prime games back-to-back–this is a LOT of content, and the games highly similar style and mechanics–but if you’ve even missed a single one of Samus’ first 3D outings, the Trilogy is the best possible way to experience or revisit any of the three. Since Metroid is one of Nintendo’s most popular and enduring core franchises (and probably the most mature), MPT is one of the easiest recommendations for any Wii collection. Featuring improved graphics, Wiimote/Nunchuck support for all episodes, and some minor changes to gameplay and difficulty balancing, Metroid Prime Trilogy is one that many lucky gamers already have their shelves. If you don’t, well, prepare to pay a few extra dollars for the pleasure.
Guitar Hero 5 (9.3)
While IGN’s highest-ranked game for 2009 is a repackage, the runner up tells us a lot about the industry of that year (just take a look at the next several entries). Myself, I was already getting past the plastic instrument crazy by the time GH5 arrived, so I never actually played this one for Wii, but spend some time playing it at a friend’s house on his PS3. Unfortunately, when I read through Bozon’s review of the Wii-exclusive Roadie Battle mode (check it out here–it sounds REALLY awesome), I found myself disappointed that I didn’t experience the Wii version, since he recommended it as thedefinitive version of GH5–PS3 and 360 notwithstanding. The concept of pairing DS and Wii systems in a crazed co-op experience is brilliant, and the Wii version gets equivalent marks in most other categories. Admittedly, I don’t have many local friends who even own a DS, so the Roadie Mode would have been something I loved in concept without getting to play it very often. But for players with a large stable of Nintendo-obsessed buddies, it sounds as if GH5 is THE music game experience to top all others. Myself, I got my fill of plastic instruments via World Tour and Beatles Rock Band, so I’m not likely to play this game, yet I can’t help but wish I had.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (9.0)
Coming in a tie for third-highest ranked of 2009, it’s another sequel. However, TW10 for Wii is one of the rare instances where the IGN score for the Wii version beats that of the PS3 or 360, so don’t overlook this game, even if sporty affairs aren’t your typical cup of tea. Motion controls (enhanced by Wii Motion Plus) make the game as accurate, sensitive and potentially frustrating (hello, sandtraps) as a real game of golf. Furthermore, this game deserves a lot of praise for being able to draw players of all types onto the virtual links–I’m not even the target audience (I have very little interest in sports of any type), yet my friends and I have played numerous rounds of this perfect TW experience. On the other hand, I can’t claim that we’ve finished an entire 18 holes in one sitting though–somewhere around hole 12 or 13, the inevitable sensation of “wow. . golf is a slow, quiet game” tends to set in, and we usually switch over to Smash Brothers or Strikers. In any case, I can see the definite appeal for golf enthusiasts, and even I, a nerdier type who prefers platforming and puzzle solving over any other type of game, suffers from the occasional urge to hit these virtual links for a few hours. Definitely a solid acquisition for any Wii library.
DJ Hero (9.0)
Color me intrigued, but unwilling to shell out any more duckets for one more plastic instrument. Even writing about it now, I feel the lure of the siren’s song, calling me to hunt down a used turntable peripheral and start getting my scratch on. I’ve heard that DJH is notably harder (in some ways) than the parallel Guitar Hero series, and that the soundtrack kicks a$$. Daemon Hatfield’s IGN review gives this game high marks on everything from the track listing (he calls it “Hands down the best soundtrack for any music game, ever”) to the graphics to the general sense of fun and lasting appeal. He also says it’s one of the best music/rhythm games he’s ever played. And damn, if those high words of praise aren’t enough, just re-reading his review makes me wonder if I might be able to find enough room in my house for another darn peripheral. And now I looked on eBay, and the complete set is available for under $30. Damn. . . I’m starting to get that itch.
The Beatles: Rock Band (9.0)
I have a cool girlfriend–the coolest, in fact. I think we were only dating a few weeks when she surprised me with a Playstation 2 for Christmas (she didn’t know I was basically a Nintendo-4-Lyfe kind of guy, but it was still an insanely cool gift). On one hand, I’d gotten her a couple CDs, some books, some art supplies–and she hands me a PS2 and GTA Vice City. Why? “Because I knew you’d like it.” Fast forward about 8 Christmases, and she gets me (along with a slew of other gifts) a copy of Beatles: Rock Band (this was a follow-up to getting me the full drum-kit GH World Tour package a year earlier). Yeah–she’s good. To the point: she bought me a copy of B:RB because we’d had a lot of fun jamming other RB and GH games with our friends, and she loves having company over for game nights, so the Beatles were a perfect fit. And the game is, by far, one of the best entries in the plastic instrument genre. I’d have a hard time calling it “the best” though; the game is strikingly short, and I couldn’t help but feel like we were gypped on overall song selection–especially considering the high pricetag for additional downloads. On the other hand, the graphics and choreography are steps above any other likeminded music karaoke game. After all, the Beatles are one of the most important musical groups of all time, so you can’t go wrong there, and the graphics are often far better than the lackluster stuff found in other similar games (I especially love the Sergent Pepper sections of the game). For anyone who wants to round out their music/rhythm library in style, The Beatles RB is a perfect–and maybe theperfect–choice. Just set aside a few bucks for DLC.
I loved the look, the aggression, the all-original IP, the Wii-excusivity . . .and then I wasn’t crazy about the game. Many reviewers call Madworld one of the most overlooked on Wii, but I unfortunately cannot include myself in that group. I bought it used, I sold it back without finishing it. On one hand, the game has kick-ass graphics, a psychotic storyline, and a level of Mature content rarely seen on Mario’s home console (I don’t think Nintendo has welcomed any other game where a player can jab a street sign through an enemy’s head). But Madworld, to me, was kind of like gaming porno . . . fun to look at for a few minutes, but unfulfilling in the long run. The slash-and-hack action bored me after only a couple levels, and the thrill of throwing baddies into whirling blades of spikes wore out after only a few tries. It’s very hard to pinpoint why a game like, say, No More Heroes can sustain similarly repetitive action through 2 incredible installments, yet explain why a highly similar formula fails in Madworld–but it does fail, for this reviewer anyway. The comic book attitude and stark black-and-white graphics are definitely some of the most unique on Wii, and from what I saw, the storyline seemed promising (though I never made it to the end). In spite of my negative overall opinion, and considering the many favorable reviews (including IGN’s own), I suspect there are several hundred-thousand Wii owners who would love this game. Seek it out for under $20 at your local retailer and decide for yourself.
Love. This. Game. One of my closest friends claims that he found it “far too easy”–a review that surprises me, yet has zero impact on my own feelings toward this smash hit. Myself, I found the difficulty to be perfectly aligned with classic Mario outings like SNES’s SMB World and the more recent NSMB for Nintendo DS. Throw in those challenging bonus levels at the end of the game, 4 player simultaneous play (which really! ramps up the difficulty, if only because your friends are idiots), and a genuinely classic side-scrolling Mario mentality . . . winning, bigtime. Personally, I tend to enjoy flat Mario games a smidge more than the 3D outings (just my personal taste), so this game probably surpasses Galaxy 2in my own “must-have” roster of plumber-oriented Wii titles. The Smash-Brothers-style option to play a Mario game with 3 friends makes me jump for joy, and I’m already crossing my fingers for a direct followup on Wii U. Given the insane sales numbers for NSMBWii, seems a safe bet that Nintendo’s already got this one on the stove.
I played through this game in about 2 weeks, loving mostly everything about it. The game’s biggest flaw–just to get it out of the way–is that the combat and gameplay is very repetitive, almost entirely focused on classic slash&hack mechanics. Sure, the action is embellished by characters who can soar like anime ninjas and the variety of special attacks is positively enormous-but you’ll still spend a lot of time mashing buttons and slicing bad guys into ribbons. Factor in the need to backtrack on a regular basis, and most players will probably wish there were a little more to the action. Yet, in spite of these flaws, this game remains a kick-ass piece of Wii software. The graphics are among the very best on the system, the story and atmosphere are intelligent and cohesive, and the sheer volume of sword-types (i.e. special attacks) are incredible. With a rapid schedule of weapon upgrades, a player barely has time to get used to a single roster of attacks before you’ve earned new ones, forcing decisions as to what weapons to keep in your loadout and which to retire. Boss fights are truly something to look forward to (indeed, they’re almost the main attraction of the game), and the game’s dual-pronged narrative (featuring two intertwining storylines that can be played together or separately) greatly increases the content and opportunity to fully explore the game world. And though Muramasa isn’t a particularly difficult game (though I got really stuck on the final boss), I think IGN’s score of 8.9 is spot on–a game with flaws, but one that everyone should check out. For my full-length review, check out this link.
I downloaded this beautiful and atmospheric platformer based on a volume of positive reviews. It never entirely satisfied me, but I have to say that the gorgeous art and intelligent integration of motion controls make it stand out as a far better game than almost all other Wii Shop titles. Maybe I was just in the wrong mood when I played it, or maybe the pacing is a little too quiet and subtle to satisfy my hunger for more intense puzzling or action sequences. Nevertheless, it’s easy to recommend LW:WotM because it’s a solid game that hits a lot of right notes. The game is a puzzle-platformer that features a character who can control the wind in a variety of ways. Puzzles must be solved to advance, and as you move through the game, your character will expand his roster of tricks for modifying the atmosphere and air around him. These powers are largely activated via Wiimote motion controls, and for the most part, work very well (albeit you’ll need practice to master some of the more subtle motions). Regardless of my own feelings toward it, I can easily say that this game is well worth a look for gamers who enjoy slower-paced platforming games with loads of polish. In many ways, it’s fair to make a comparison to the Wii version of A Boy and His Blob, but LostWinds:WotM is, in the end, a much better game overall.
Punch Out!! (8.8)
I was there to grab Punch Out!! on launch day, and I’m far from the only fanner who was psyched as hell for Nintendo’s continuation of the Little Mac saga. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: no matter how nostalgic one is for the classic NES and SNES iterations, there is no escaping that Punch Out’s underlying game is founded on a really basic mechanic. At it’s core, PO!! is a rhythm game that leaves little room for experimentation and creativity. Sure, there are hidden variants in every match that allow a skilled player to score extra hits and uppercut stars, but the fundamental game remains the finding and countering of each opponent’s rhythm while avoiding the temptation to get greedy and swing wildly. To address this potential weakness, the Wii episode added optional achievements that encourage more experimentation—a first for the series, and a neat addition (if mostly forgettable). Unfortunately, the roster only featured one new fighter (really? one new fighter after all these years?) and the game isn’t insanely long, so some players weren’t as thrilled as they’d hoped. In spite of all this, I’d still argue that Punch Out!! is a must-have for any Wii collection. The gameplay gets fairly tough in the final matches, not to mention the difficulty of the 2nd playthrough (when baddies unleash new moves and faster routines). I’ll brag a bit here–I finished the entire first circuit using the Balance Board and Wiimote/Nunchuck combo, and if you haven’t tried it, I stronglyrecommend checking it out. I’d be covered in sweat halfway through a single match–and although I’m pretty healthy and in-shape–I could rarely fight more than a few matches back-to-back. Good times for sure–you owe it to your Wii to see for yourself.
I may not be the ideal reviewer, having never played any previous Silent Hill game. But because of my general unfamiliarity with the series, I had no preexisting biases when I sat down with SH:SM. Overall, I definitely enjoyed this unique take on the horror genre. It’s definitely got some problems—I thought the controls and camera were a little awkward and occasionally glitchy, and I experienced some episodes of frame-lag and loading-freeze during action sequences. On the other hand, the genuinely creepy and cerebral storyline are muchmore interesting than most other Wii games, and the scare-factor is amplified by the fact that your only defenses are modest sprinting abilities and a flashlight (neat innovations on a genre that typically encourages wanton use of shotguns and hunting knives). The action can get a little repetitive by the end, but I definitely think this episode of Silent Hill (the only one on Wii) is worth checking out for those looking for a little fear factor in their gaming schedule. It’s got a genuinely great plot and a freaky ending that’s worth your time.
The Conduit (8.6)
Enjoyed it in many ways, yet the inherent problems are hard to miss. Long before the arrival of Goldeneye 007 (the best FPS on the Wii), The Conduit tried to give us what we wanted. It’s shamelessly modeled after great games like the N64’s Perfect Dark (including a convoluted aliens and conspiracy plot, and I swear they used identical fonts), but The Conduit ultimately fails to go that last mile into “truly great” territory. A lot of players complained about the recycled backgrounds and generally limited scope (you spend a lot of time inside government buildings), yet I found the gameplay and action to be engaging enough to play all the way to the end. But even as an all-Nintendo gamer, I still couldn’t help feeling like the FPS genre has probably evolved a little more than this in all the years between Perfect Dark and this 2009 imitation. In short, The Conduit feels like a great game from several years ago, and does virtually nothing to innovate on a really familiar formula. That said, the Wii is short on good shooter games, so The Conduitdeserves a look if you’re hungry for something other than the war-themed Battlefields and Calls of Duty available on every other major platform. I liked it. Didn’t love it, but liked it.
Dead Space: Extraction (8.5)
If you hate–utterly HATE–on-rails shooters, then you might as well stop reading right here. I tend to like them quite a bit (at least on occasion), so DS:E struck me as a great game with good intentions. I’ve never played a Dead Space game on any other system, so I was actually pretty glad to have the chance to check it out on my Wii console, or at least get an introduction to the universe. Turns out it’s a scary place, and gory, too. Similar in many ways to the Resident Evil “Chronicles” series (the othernotable light-gun shooters exclusive to Wii), Extraction whisks the player through a dark and doomed spaceship storyline, a stage for the massacre that begins the canonized Dead Space series. You’ve got a fair amount of heavy armaments at your disposal, and your inner teenager will be overjoyed to discover that alien dismemberment is a required strategy. I can’t say I was particularly blown away by the game, but having played a lot of the Wii’s on-rail shooting games, maybe I’m just tired of the genre. And don’t get me wrong–I played Extraction all the way to the credits. This is a great game, no doubt, and I’d recommend it as an excellent way to spend an evening with a buddy (two player co-op works perfectly) or even as a single player campaign (it’s got a solid 8-10 hours or more, especially if you play on hard).
The Bit.Trip Series (episodes 1-5, 7.0-8.5)
Man oh man, having to write commentary for this one makes me feel pretty bad that I don’t own the entire collection. I was the biggest proponent of the first episode (Bit.Trip Beat) when it first debuted as a standalone download title. I’m an enormous fan of modern 8bit music, and even before the game, I’d already attended a live show by one of the artists featured on B.T Beat’s soundtrack (BitShifter of NYC). Add in the classic (read: impossible) difficulty level of B:T Beat, the utterly awesome Atari 2600-meets-concert-rave-graphics, and the intelligent use of the Wiimote controller (twisting the Wiimote like a cylinder to move a Pong-style pad)–suddenly I was telling everyone I knew to buy this game. Then the sequels started arriving, and I was ecstatic to see that the designers weren’t simply recycling the same game, but were tweaking and rewriting the formula for each subsequent outing of CommanderVideo. Now the entire collection is available for both Wii (as a physical disc, including additional features) or for 3DS (featuring 3D enhanced graphics). I have yet to invest in the collection (or even decide which version I want more), but rest assured, I Can. Not. Wait. to dig into this insanely creative and entertaining suite of retro-inspired goodness. I can already hear the beat in my ears.
Let’s Tap (8.5)
I’m always compelled to check out games that feature innovations of art style, control scheme, or gameplay, and LT fit the paradigm. Let’s Tap is one of the only games I’ve ever played that boots up and asks you to go get some physical object in order to play the game–in this case, any old cardboard box, upon which players will lie their Wiimotes. The entire game is then controlled by tapping, drumming, and smacking the box–you can even control the menus this way. The mechanic works pretty well, and though you’ll need to remember to lightly drum your fingers (rather than pounding), I found it to be without significant flaws. However, LT is only worth about the ten dollars I paid for it–and IGN’s 8.5 score is definitely too high–but for $10, LT has some fun casual appeal. To get the bad aspects out of the way, the disc includes 5 mini-games, 3 of which I find pretty boring. One isn’t even a game, per say, but just a graphics visualizer that changes graphics based on Wiimote vibrations. Another is a strange Jenga-style stacking game, and though I only messed with it for a few minutes as a solo player, it failed to inspire me to want to revisit it. Rhythm Tap is a Donky Konga clone, falling somewhere in the middle. Tap the remote (or rather, the box) with varying degrees of strength to complete a library of techno-style soundtracks. Not terribly bad, but I don’t love the songs. The two games that really make the game worth an evening (or at least a couple minutes) of your casual game attention are Tap Runner and Bubble Voyager. Bubble Voyager is similar to Nintendo’s own Balloon Fight, updated with polygon-retro sensibilities. You’ll tap a flying robot through a side-scrolling maze of mines and pickups, firing missiles to destroy barriers and landing on various pads. Neat idea, and I’ll probably give this one an hour or two of my life. Tap Runner is probably the most recognizable and memorable game in the collection, though in some ways, is the most straightforward and simplistic. Tap in a quick, steady rhythm to make a neon track-star sprint through a wireframe-retro course. You’ll leap gates, inflate balloons, balance on high-wires, all the while trying to keep a balance between rapid tapping and a careful light rhythm. This is the game’s primary challenge–any red-blooded gamer will tap harder when the excitement builds (and your buddies are speeding past you), yet the game penalizes you for ‘over’ tapping (your character will stumble or leap awkwardly out of rhythm). Part rhythm game, part party game, Let’s Tap is worth adding to a collection for your kids,or even for those gamers who just enjoy having a variety of games around for casual game-night. You won’t be playing it for years, but there are a couple reasons to give it a chance.
Boom Blox Bash Party (8.5)
I hate that there are so many games on this list that I don’t actually own . . . yet. Nevertheless, as an avid reader of reviews and a gamer of 25+ years, I feel that I have a pretty good radar on must-have games. Given the social nature of the Wii system and the undeniable popularity of party gaming for a vast number of users, this followup to 2008’s Boom Blox seems like a no-brainer for most self-respecting Wii collectors. This sequel includes all the features that made the first episode fun (knock over towers of “blox” using motion-controlled weapons and items–imagine throwing a baseball at elaborate stacks of carnival-game milkjugs) but now includes a better level editor and the all-important ability to share and download user-generated content. Though Wii U will (hopefully) bring Nintendo fully into the modern age of social online gaming, titles like BBBP have been quietly moving in this direction for years. Mark me down for a copy, just as soon as I find the time.
Little King’s Story (8.5)
I’ve long been divided as to whether LKS is the kind of game for me. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of sim-style games, often preferring straightforward puzzles and challenges over open-world/at-your-own-pace gaming. That said, the good reviews and mixed-genre format of LKS have caught my interest for a long time, and I hope to grab it at discount someday. The infamous Bozon reviewed this one for IGN, recommending it as an entertaining mix of sim and RPG. The control style of the game sounds like something akin to Pikmin (which I love), situating the player as the commander of an entire kingdom, omnipotently controlling the every move of your subject population. While giving the game high marks for pure fun and a comic sense of humor, Bozon did knock it for a lack of motion/IR controls (an obvious fault in a point+click style game) and deducted some points for a blurry graphic style that lacks polished resolution (I had negative feelings toward this aspect of Skyward Sword, making me wonder if I’d be bothered by LKS as well). Given that I’ve spotted Little King’s Story at retail for under $20, I hope to give it a spin sometime and see if Bozon was on the money by saying that the positives outweigh the negatives. He’s usually right with his pronouncements.
I’ll be the first to admit: I don’t always judge games by traditional standards. While I agree presentation and story can make or break certain titles, it’s more important that the game be fun, interesting, and make innovative use of the hardware. I first experienced NyxQuest via a free downloadable demo, but it didn’t take long for me to drop $10 for the full version. While some gamers may be turned off by the slow, methodical pacing, I enjoyed how the developers deftly blended action-platforming with manual physics puzzles. It’s a perfect fit for the Wii’s control scheme (think: Boom Blox meets the original Prince of Persia). More importantly, the steady introduction of new concepts and abilities throughout the game keep things fresh (e.g., the “Fields of Argos” level). To you graphics snobs, you’ll be glad to hear that this is one of the prettiest WiiWare titles available, with music and art design consistent with the mythological theme. My Score: 8.5
Rabbids Go Home (8.5)
I’m not a huge fan of the Rabbids, but reading through Casamassina’s IGN review makes me see the places where a game like this one might suit some of my tastes in gaming. First of all, it sounds like a hilarious romp–a game as much about entertaining the audience as solving puzzles or completing achievements. After all, the subtitle of RGH is “A Comedy Adventure”, so it sounds like Ubisoft was trying to say “this one is for fun, not necessarily a test of skill”. Secondly, the underlying goal of the game–build a tower of junk to the moon–seems like an undeniably awesome premise for the game. Working against it, though, is Casamassina’s warning that the game becomes repetitive after hours of playing similarly-styled levels. He indicates that the challenge never really ramps up, feeling more like a series of strung-together levels (rather than a linear quest with tiers of difficulty). Given that I’m currently struggling to stay interested in one of Rockstar’s awesome-yet-repetitive games (Bully), it’s a bad time for me to be encountering a game of this nature. On the other hand, IGN’s review gives the game high marks in almost every category, and ultimately a strong 8.5 recommendation (albeit with a warning that the core gameplay is repetitious, and load times are bad). So check it out–given the recent release of Rayman: Origins, there’s probably something good to find in this one.
Excitebots: Trick Racing (8.4)
Besides the generic arcade-style soundtrack (I found it cheesy and annoying) and the weird motion-blur that occurs at high speeds (a limitation of the Wii, I suppose), I love this game. Excitebots is the sequel to 2006’s Excite Truck, and I’m willing to bet, was overlooked by 99% of Wii players because the name sounds like some awful kiddie cartoon or stupid movie tie-in. Including worthwhile Wii Wheel support and a fully original approach to the (non-realistic) racing genre, Excitebots feels like a cross between an arcade-style speedway and the madness of a classic Mariokart throwdown. The “bots” part of the game is totally forgettable; your ‘kart’ is actually a transformer-style, creature-shaped racecar that occasionally morphs into a stampeding two-legged giant. The main—and most memorable—things about this game are the epic launch ramps and omnipresent high-speed insanity. By shooting your vehicle off of even the tiniest bumps, hillocks, or towering cliffs, you’ll be flying as much as racing, and there is a great deal of replay value in searching out hidden jumps and finding new ways to speed boost through a whole course. This isn’t a typical racer–it’s cartoon warfare at hyperspeed. Tracks are covered with extra goodies that include insane mini-games (taking place while you’re throttling at full speed), a variety of weapons for smacking other players, and shortcuts that make the world feel more open and unlimited than almost any other most racing game I’ve played. Excitebots is 100% fun for single or multiplayer, so it’s definitely worth tracking down, even if you don’t have a lot of other buddies to play with.
This one is tough to comment on, because I’d never recommend NPC!DKJB to anyone with the time and money to track down the GameCube original. I myself missed the game at the time of the original launch (grad school has the annoying effect of stealing away all of a would-be gamer’s free time), yet I cannot adequately state how important the physical konga drums are for a real experience of DKJB. The NPC! version has my gratitude for exposing this truly awesome game to a whole new set of players (it’s an ingenious platform-style experience somewhere between New SMB and Donkey Kong Country Returns) but playing without the original hand-drum peripherals would be like porting Wii Sports Bowling to a classic controller scheme–it’s the same beloved game, but you’ve lost the unique feature that made it famous. With all that in mind, some players may still need to try out DK:JB without the use of kongas, since, as of late 2011, new Wii consoles no longer include GameCube controller slots–or maybe you just have nasty neighbors who hate late-night hand-drum concerts. In that case, NPC!DK:JB is a decent alternative IF you lack an original Wii console, IF you lack the wherewithal to buy kongas and the GC disc on eBay, or IF you simply don’t possess the strength of character needed to enjoy a content-heavy, top-notch terrific, all-original Nintendo 10/10 game (in my humble opinion, anyway) that invites you to smack a set of gorilla drums until your palms are sore and the people below your apartment are tired of hearing your monkey-induced glee. The choice is yours.
Wii Fit Plus (8.2)
I’ve only ever checked out the “+” version of Wii Fit at a friend’s house, but I wish I had waited for it. By the time this expansion arrived, I was kind of burned out on my balance board (but not before putting in over 50 hours of practice on the original Wii Fit’s roster of toning exercises, games, and calisthenics). For anyone still wondering if Wii Fit is right for them, you should simply buy the Wii Fit Plus version of the game and skip the original—it includes all of the first installment’s activities but greatly expands the lineup of options and activities–and allows users to create continuous custom workout routines, rather than having to select each exercise one at a time. Most welcome are the new Mii-style games included in WFP—this is where Wii Fit really shines, achieving the toughest thing imaginable—making exercise fun. . . .for gamers.
First, check out my review of 2007’s RE: The Umbrella Chronicles. Then feel free to click through to my reviewof this more recent episode (hosted at my private blog). Yep, this one is nearly identical to the preceding episode–on rails zapper, revisits all the previous REs without adding much new plot or content, and it feels like a lame apology for Capcom’s failure/inability to bring RE5 to the Wii system. I still like the game though–I’m a fan of both light-gun-shooters and the RE universe in general. The graphics are polished, the voice acting is appropriately cheesy, and this second installment adds leaderboards (though you’re still unable to actually play online). I feel like the difficulty was turned down a notch in Darkside–headshots seem a bit easier to pull off, and I actually miss the process of shooting every single background item to find hidden bonuses (a major aspect of Umbrella Chronicles, altered in this sequel). Bottom line is that if you, like me, enjoy on-rails light gun gaming, then this one is a great addition to your collection. It might even be a bit better than the first Chronicles, though I still love the first one a bit more.
Klonoa wasn’t a game that I was terribly thrilled with. The art and overall aesthetic is childish, the storyline is definitely aimed at kids, and the game isn’t very long. I have to admit, without sounding terribly harsh, I don’t really understand why this one lands on so many “most overlooked” lists of Wii software (trust me, it won’t win in my survey). I’ll concede that the platforming is polished and looks great, the game’s primary grab-and-launch mechanic is unique and definitely a cool innovation, and the way that levels scroll in curved layouts (requiring the camera to swing along) is a nice hallmark of above-average development. Klonoa, in some ways, is a decent knock-off alternative to the superior Mario platforming universe, yet it just didn’t feel very satisfying to me. The game is shockingly easy, and the cartoon cutscenes were so nauseatingly sweet that I found myself mashing at buttons with all permissable force to skip even a few seconds of barf-inducing dialog. In spite of my personal reservations, I am still compelled to list Klonoa in my “best of Wii” collection, if only because so many fans seem hell-bent on singing it’s praises. To each their own, for sure.
New Play Control! Pikmin (8.0)
I never even knew a single person who bought this upgraded Pikmin release (maybe a clue as to Nintendo’s abandonment of the NPC! line), so I can’t say much about it. I mean, if you never played Pikmin, this game is an awesome chance to experience one of Nintendo’s most recent all-original IPs (and to study up in advance of the long-anticipated Pikmin 3, coming to Wii U). On the other hand, Pikmin 2 (also on GameCube) is actually the better game, so a newbie might be better served to simply grab a classic controller and a copy of the GameCube sequel off eBay. Hard to say. In any case, the Pikmin series is a good fit for Wiimote controls (imagine a point-and-click mouse-driven PC style game), so picking up NPC! Pikmin for Wii might not be such a bad idea after all.
Dawn of Discovery (8.0)
Throughout the life of the Wii, I’ve been pretty ‘tuned in’ to the notable games for this system. Dawn of Discovery somehow slipped through the cracks, although none of my friends seem to have heard of it either, the decent reviews convince me that I should list it as one of those “lost games” that might be worth checking out before Wii U arrives. IGN’s review compares DoD to Civilization Revolution and awards this strategy/simulation/city-building game high marks for graphics, voice-acting, and implementation of the Wiimote cursor control. On the other hand, IGN notes that some pacing elements and artificial restrictions on your progress keep the game from achieving “must-have” status. Overall, I get the impression that the IGN reviewer liked this game and is essentially saying “good for people who like this sort of game”. Not being much of a sim/strategy guy myself, I’ll be skipping it, but an 8.0 score probably means some of you will want to give it a look.
Wii Spots Resort (7.7)
Mixed feelings about WSR . . . though there is no way a true Wii fan could really avoid this game. Not only did WSR expand the content of the original Wii Sports, it shipped with the Wii Motion Plus, a hardware patch intended to correct the problems of the Wiimote’s often-janky control. And it works . . . sort of. With the add-on of WMP, the Wiimote can detect finer shades of angle, speed and motion, so activities like sword fighting and swinging baseball bats now have a higher degree of accuracy and nuance. The controls still aren’t perfect, and you’ll surely tire of the need to “re-center” your aim, but given that Skyward Swordwas WMP-mandatory, it looks like Nintendo plans to keep using it straight through into the coming Wii U era. In any case, Wii Sports Resort had some fun, worthwhile activities–I especially liked the jet-ski event, the sword fighting, and the (highly challenging) dog frisbee game–but many of the events felt somewhat clunky or simply boring (the canoe never felt like more than a mildly frustrating way to waste five minutes of my day). Overall, this game can be a fun diversion for a family get-together or causal play with friends. It isn’t perfect, and has some lackluster moments, but it’s worth checking out for sure.
A Boy and His Blob (7.6)
I just started playing the Wii version of aBahB in time for this article. As one might guess from my IGN avatar, I’m a fan of the original NES title. I’ve always had an undying fondness for the roughly-hewn/ultra-clever/ridiculously-difficult nature of that unusual game. The graphics were blocky, almost pre-8-bit (similar to the graphics found in old Apple and Commodore games), the concept was goofy and original (a jellybean-eating alien sidekick?), and the challenge was enormous (I never quite finished the game, though I got very, very close a few times). That said, fans of the NES game shouldn’t expect a lot of similarities in the Wii update. The underlying concept is still here—you’re still a kid with a blob-buddy acting as your all-purpose slave—but the vibe of conceptual weirdness has been replaced with a boy-meets-dog sacchrin-sweet plot (which isn’t all that bad, but it’s not the same). Moreover, a game that was punishingly(!) difficult has been retooled to be easier than anything I’ve played in recent memory—losing lives means nothing at all, since you’ll respawn within a few inches of your last death, no limit. Finally, the NES graphics—with their Atari-era appeal—have been upgraded into a truly beautiful watercolor art-style . . .probably the best thing this game has going for it is that it is damn good-looking. . . . and strangely, I think i still prefer the original look. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m having a tough timegiving a “recommended” stamp to this game—I mean, it looks great, and it’s heartfelt simplicity is a welcome relief from a game-market overcrowded with redundant FPS and death-dealing space marines. But this modern BahB is pretty shallow, too easy, and feels like a title aimed at kids who have no memory of the NES, much less the dastardly sewers and the poor collision detection that made the first installment so infuriating, but yet so memorable. Maybe it will get harder when I make it back to Blobonia. We shall have to see . . . if I stay interested long enough.
Tales of Monkey Island (Episodes 1-5) average of IGN scores: (7.3)
Noting the metacritic score of 79, a ranking counterbalanced by a 5-user score of a whopping 9.4, I thought I’d include this one near the bottom of 2009’s notable Wii releases. I would be an ideal fan for this rebooted later-day sequel to the infamous Lucasarts Monkey Island franchise; only problem being, though a lifelong fan of Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, as well as many other excellent games in that stable…I never played the originals of Monkey Island. Therefore, I’d rather go back and visit the first installments before diving into a new version, given that these games are all plot and narrative, and much less about gameplay. Playing a modern iteration without knowing the full backstory seems, to me, like a recipe for missing half the punchlines. In any case, I’m sure there are a few Wii owners who never got around to visiting this welcome update to a classic point-click/fetch-use/puzzle-cartoon adventure, and it remains available as a Wiiware download (though $10 per episode seems a bit high to me). IGN reviewed episodes 1, 2, and 5, and entirely skipped reviews for parts 3 and 4–not sure what to make of this. Part 5 got the highest score of the series, meaning that the best stuff may only be seen by the most dedicated fans of the series. Check it out for yourself, especially if point->click->laugh is your preferred style of game.
I almost pulled the trigger (pun intended) on this one so many times, and that damn IGN “7.0” held me back every time. Then Goldeneye 007 came along and eliminated any need to play COD:MW:RE, which was described (by Bozon) as having a choppy framerate and some significant cursor problems. It’s odd, because when you read his review it sounds as though he’s telling us to avoid the game, yet it ends up scoring an “average” 7.0 score. Based on that confusing review, it sounds as though the biggest problem for Reflex Edition is it’s inevitable comparison to the versions on other systems. Once again, one can therefore assume that if one only owns or playson Wii, COD:MW:RE is a decent game to add to the collection. Otherwise, probably something you’d best avoid. Me, once I found paradise in Goldeneye, I didn’t have any reason to try other shooters. But it’s here if you need it.
and now . . . .
Wii Game of the Year for 2009
New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I’m not giving it to Prime (after all, it’s a collection, not an original game) and I can’t see handing GOTY to a plastic instrument or a straightforward (though wonderful) golf game. So yeah, though I enjoy seeing other winners take the top slot, 2009’s most important game has got to go to the brothers that started it all. I can’t overstate how much I appreciate the concept of four-player cooperative competition, the “bubble” mechanic that allows less skilled players (i.e. your girlfriend) to play along without killing the team, or the fact that Nintendo was able to deliver a great balance of casual appeal while also giving the veteran players a game to sink their teeth into. Once again, anything with “Mario Bros.” in the title simply delivers the best experience money can buy. If only Hotel Mario had included “Super” or “Bros.” in the title, maybe it would have worked out better.
Runner Up Wii Game for 2009
Punch Out!! It’s not long enough, it’s not a complicated game, and maybe I’m showing my NES-era biases by putting this game into the #2 slot for 2009—but I don’t care. For me, Punch Out!! was a heck of a lot of fun, even though the game failed to give us more than a single new fighter or update the formula in any appreciable way. Then again, when something isn’t broken, there’s usually no need to fix it, and so in the end, I was happy enough to play a modern update to a classic game that, 25 years on, remains on most Nintendo enthusiasts “best of all time” lists. I totally understand why some readers would give this #2 slot to another game, but I’m betting I’m in good company to call Punch Out!! a “must have” for any serious Wii collection.
Most Underrated Wii Game for 2009
The Bit.Trip series. This was a really tough call to make, given the competition for “underrated” is pretty thick in 2009. My runner-up choices for this award would be Excitebots, Muramasa, and Dead Space—and I’m sure that many of you would argue that Madworld, The Conduit, or Klonoa deserve the nod. Making it more complicated is the fact that the Bit.Trip series actually stretches across 3 years, with only the first 3 installments taking place in 2009. However, when it comes down to it, I feel as though this imaginative and unique retro-modern series deserves the win for a few reasons. Firstly, given that it was released through Wiiware, I’m betting that 99% of Wii owners never even heard of these games, much less downloaded them. Secondly, the series delivered a welcome hybrid of classic visuals and difficulty (B.T is ridiculously tough, akin to quarter-eating standups of yesteryear) with modern musical soundtracks and humorously self-conscious retro-appeal. Finally, the episodes themselves are just ridiculously cool, bringing games back to a place where having fun is more important than a complex concept, and true mastery will elude all but the most devoted players. Individual episodes are still available via the online store, and the entire collection is now available in a complete retail package for Wii or 3DS—so there’s no time like the present to become a fan.
That’s it for 2009! WHAT A YEAR! A pile of great games (more even than I had the space to include here), a wide variety of genres and styles, and a serious competition for your gaming adoration. Could 2009 be the best year for the Wii? We’ll have to wait and see. . . until the next installment of my blog!
I welcome your comments, corrections, and proposals for games I’ve forgotten to include. I’m just one guy, and I can only research and play so many games at a time.
2010 coming soon….