Hello, and welcome to the FIFTH installment of my blog-series where I’ll attempt to review every single (worthwhile) Wii game.
If you missed ’em, here are links to the first FOUR entries in the series :
This blog is the FIFTH entry in a series. 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.
Without further ado . . .
2010: Golden Guns, Samus gets girly, and (another) Galaxy
I have a bad way of getting way behind on game releases and then finally playing REALLY BIG games, like, years after they’ve debuted. By the time I’m laying down cash for a big release, the title has already risen, reigned supreme, and fallen off the radar. It’s already happening with 3DS–thanks to Ambassador status, I’m buried in GBA games and a backlog of top-shelf DS titles (Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia up next). But SMB GALAXY 2? I feel like a bad joke to admit that I never even thought about buying this notorious 10/10’er until almost 2 years after its debut. Explanation: I’d heard that G2 was, essentially, the same game as G1, and I wanted to focus on 3rd party titles for a while (the plumber will do fine without my launch-day dollars, while 3rd parties live or die on early adopters and word-of-mouth). BUT . . . As you’ve noticed by now, I’m not spending a whole lot of time actually reviewing this solid-gold Mario game . . .partly because I assume everyone has played it, and partly because you can read my extended review here. But if you need a summary, I can boil it down to a single sentence: If your Wii collection consisted of only Galaxy 1 and 2, the system would have paid for itself. Unforgettable, unbelievable, and overwhelming, the best description of G2 is that single levels are more imaginative and engaging than most other entire games. Take everything you know and love about previous 3D-style Mario games (Sunshine, 64) and multiply it by 100. Res-up the graphics, throw in some new suits, and and a healthy dose of Myamoto’s boundless creativity . . . and that’s it. I’m done talking. If you haven’t played it (or aren’t just saving it for the perfect rainy day), then you can turn in your Wiimote as you leave, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.
GoldenEye 007 (9.0)
Goldeneye for Wii is everything we wanted from other Wii FPS, and moreover, is simply one of the best titles on the Wii, period. While the early games like the original Red Steel lacked the critical online component, and later games (notably The Conduit) included the online component but never garnered a sizable online community, Goldeneye 007 for Wii delivered everything we’d hoped for. Capitalizing on the notoriety of it’s N64 predecessor, this title launched with plenty of community attention, eventually achieving the illustrious benchmark of million-copies-sold. Enthusiasts could buy the game with a special edition dual-analog classic controller (gold, natch) which proved extremely popular with many serious players (though yours truly is an outspoken proponent of the WiiMote’s superior point&click aiming ability). Excellent sales numbers and popular pack-ins gave proof to the mantra of the hardcore Wii player: “if you build us a quality game, we will come in droves”. Developers, take note. Looking back on GE007 is a truly delicious experience for me. The single player campaign mirrors the classic N64 game (and is a complete game in itself), the REAL attraction here–and the reason I list 007 Wii as one of the top 10 “must have” games for Wii–is the multiplayer. Though I’ve mostly stopped playing due to an excessive case of “Wii Wrist” (tendonitis symptoms resulting from excessive Wiimote aiming), I was able to rise to a respectable level 38 (of a total 56) before (mostly) turning in my weapon. Be forewarned, the XP tiers in this game are positively enormous; a serious player should expect to dedicate many hours to leveling up (my own avatar lists over 150 hours of playtime). Worse, not all tiers award new weapons or useful skills, meaning that the extensive grind to glory will strike some players as an endless, frustrating deathmarch. Nevertheless, the allure of powerful firearms to come and improved secondary attributes (such as faster running or increased resistance to damage) may prove impossible to resist. You won’t believe how easy it is to convince yourself that a fancier pistol or assault rifle is well worth “a few more hours” of playtime . . . fast forward to 4:30 AM on a worknight (“just one more game”) . . . and you suddenly find yourself stifling yawns during your 10:30 AM company meeting, third day in a row. Sadly, at the height of the game’s popularity, it was overrun with hackers, cheaters, and host-quitting jerks . . . and yet, in general, I never had too much trouble finding a few good agents with which to while away hundreds of hours. I still tend to pop this one into my Wii on the occasional weekend night, jumping into a few of my favorite old modes (Heroes and Black Box deserve special recognition, but I genuinely loved all of the various games), and if any IGNer wants to get together for a few matches, just post on my wall–I’m always up for dusting off my trusty Vargen for a few more rounds.
This is a game that, simply put, feels out of place on the Wii. Wait, wait—before you misinterpret me, I’m NOT saying the Wii is an inferior system (yawn) or that S&S:SS is too mature for our favorite cartoony, koopa-infested system. Indeed, anyone who’s tried this anime-inspired, bullet-hell wildride will agree that Nintendo platforms could do with a LOT more games in a similar vein. Nevertheless, playing this sequel to an under-appreciated n64 original reminds me more of a brash, boisterous arcade shoot-em-up than the typical fare us Nintendo kids know and love. Star Successor throws more bullets, surface-to-air missiles, and screen-filling explosions at a player than any other game on the Wii system. It’s an on-rails experience, but you won’t have time to think about it very much—the camera swings between firefights so rapidly that all you’ll be able to do is duck, dodge, and launch your answering salvo. The difficulty is higher than your average Nintendo-published product, and honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to find any of the Big N’s standard fingerprints on this title. It’s gritty, a little cynical, and feels like an all-around departure from the rosier sort of gameplay we’re used to. The 3DS installment of Kid Icarus seems to be, for all intents and purposes, a way for Nintendo to repackage the Sin & Punishment formula into one of their more classic characters. Check out my full review here, and then get yourself a copy of this legitimately 9.0 Wii exclusive.
Even though we all recognize the problems with numerical scoring systems–and the subjectivity professional game reviewers–I almost feel like 9.0 was a little low of a score for DKCR. I don’t even own the game yet, but having played 6 hours of co-op at a buddy’s house, it’s unquestionable that this game is one of the best in the Wii’s entire library, a “must have” for any Nintendo fan, and–bonus–one of the most challenging and gorgeous-looking titles we’ve seen in this generation. Had I been the IGN reviewer, I’d probably have bumped it up to a 9.5 . . . at least. DKCR is, simply put, everything Nintendo built their reputation upon. Classic platforming, tons of hidden collectables, stupendous NES-era difficulty, and a cartoonish cast of characters straight out of the big-N legacy. What’s more, I say all this even as someone who never quite fell in love with the original Donkey Kong Country series–in the past, I always felt like DK’s movement and gravity were “off”, substituting poor control for genuine challenge. No more. This game controls like a dream and, for anyone attempting to collect the piles of hidden items, is mercilessly tough while still pulling off the amazing feat of being incredibly fun. I prefer using Wiimote-on-it’s side (NES-style) over the Wiimote+Nunchuck combo (the former feeling like a much more reliable way to maintain tight control of DK), but the fact that Retro gave us a choice is a hugely positive design choice. My only complaint–and it’s minimal–is the need to “blow” on so many objects throughout the game (the incorporation is simply flawed). This minor issue aside, the fact that the game supports 2-player co-op (much like New SMB Wii) is just another feather in it’s solid-gold cap–I’m crossing my fingers that Nintendo continues to develop in this direction as we head toward the Wii U . . . because games–even the punishingly difficult ones–are just so much more fun when you can suffer along with a buddy.
Feeling like a gamer who was missing out on something good, I ran out and bought a copy of TvC and figured I’d tune up my rusty fight-title skills. Unfortunately, the elapsed years since my mastery of Mortal Kombat II–and merely competent knowledge of Street Fighter II–left me insanely unprepared for the technical, lightning-fast nature of current Vs. fighting. Even now that I’ve ‘permanently loaned’ my copy to buddy, I remain enthralled with the awesome graphics, crazy lineup, and obvious strategic depth of this over-the-top / smash-all-challengers title. I loved the unfamiliar Japanese-based Tatunoko lineup, and as a newcomer to any modern Capcom brawler, I enjoyed the chance to play as classic heroes in a new arena (I especially liked using Roll and Chun Li). The only problem that I could discover with TvC:UA-S–and it’s a major flaw–was that, in short, I SUCK ENORMOUS ASS and have NO GAME. One of my friends, over for a couple evenings of competitive play, mopped the floor with the carcasses of my players (seriously, the floor was completely shiny when he was finished), regardless of what teammates I chose or “strategies” I used. The friend in question is a seasoned vet of other Vs. games (professing his undying love for the Marvel vs. Capcom series, also mentioned by CBE below), and no matter what tips he fed me, I was literally unable to win a single match–this, in spite of training in single-player mode for around 20 hours. In short, TvC is an obvious example of the high quality, serious gaming that is possible on the Wii system–even if I turn out to be totally unprepared for it.
Another look at Tatunoko Vs. Capcom by CharbroiledEwok: Well, as a comic book fan (and exclusively a Nintendo gamer), I’m still disappointed that this wasn’t a Marvel vs. Capcom game. Still, despite being unfamiliar with many of the characters, I really enjoyed the over-the-top fisticuffs. Of course, I’m no fighting game expert, so I play entirely with the simplified Wii Remote controls (though more complex schemes are available to able-bodied gamers). With gorgeous animations, a healthy roster of playable characters, numerous modes and unlockables, and a unique battle system, I found myself sinking more hours than I expected into this title (including its online mode). My Score: 8.0
Kirby’s Epic Yarn (9.0)
Review by Kyliemale!: Kirby’s Epic Yarn is the equivalent of “Comfort Food” in gaming, and I mean that in the absolute best way possible. This platforming masterpiece is carefree gaming at it’s best. You literally cannot die in this game, the levels are relatively simple, and it can be enjoyed in small doses very easily. While many gamers may see these points as negatives, let me assure you that what Kirby’s Epic Yarn lacks in the challenge department, it more than makes up for in style and gameplay. The art direction in the this game (from the same team that brought us Wario Land: Shake It) is one of the most creative in gaming history. The environments and characters are all based off of a cloth/fabric aesthetic that is executed brilliantly, and the game ends up being one of the best looking games on the Wii. All this being said, Kirby’s Epic Yarn’s greatest achievement is in it’s variety of gameplay. The pacing is genius; I never tired of the gameplay mechanics, instead finding myself excited to move from stage to stage. I played the majority of the game in it’s two-player co-op mode, which I would recommend as the best way to experience the game. Rest assured, this is one of the best games to be found on the Wii and should not be missed by anyone looking for great gameplay experiences on the console.
Monster Hunter Tri (8.8)
When I picked this one up, I had little idea what I was getting myself into. Those first few days of playing were sometimes boring, sometimes frustrating experiences. My only foreknowledge about MHT was that it was getting great reviews across the gaming spectrum, and that it was some kind of action-RPG game with a huge Japanese fanbase. I figured that a mature-looking Capcom-published game should get at least a quick look, and I dove in. More than two hundred hours later (and I don’t even qualify as “hardcore”), I’m a big fan of the series. However, I want to go on record as admitting that I definitely considered returning it after the first afternoon of clunkily swinging my sword in the wrong direction and being forced to accept that I, a hardcore vegetarian of 13+ years, would need to ignore the game’s Man vs. Beast hyper-meatheaded ethos (after all, it’s got “hunter” in the title–I should have seen it coming!). Newbies be forewarned, MHT is the kind of game that requires long-term commitment in order to get any significant returns. Rather than leveling up in standard RPG style, you undertake (and repeat) series of quests in search of specific items and, er, monster “parts” (such as their bones, skulls, etc) which are used to forge armor and weapons. Confusing at first, your character will never “upgrade”–his stuff will. Simultaneously, you’ll be collecting literally hundreds of items, almost all of which serve some (eventual) purpose, such as making medicines, potions, ammunition, and more. There is so much to learn that a new player can get quite overwhelmed, and this doesn’t even address the battle system. Learning to fight is a matter of learning to manipulate the camera as much as your weapon. This can be frustrating until you get the hang of it, but after a while, I found the experience to be genuinely addictive. Rather than moving my character, I often find it easier to swing the camera first, then aim my next strike at the raging dragon in front of me. Speaking of dragons, this game’s most awesome appeal is the sheer titanic size and scope of monster battles–though you’re required to face enemies several times in order to fully “harvest” their assets, your opponents are truly awesome, overwhelming creatures that will really test your skills and smarts as a gamer. Even early face-offs can last more than a half-hour, and later in the game, you’ll realize that the clock may be your worst enemy. There’s nothing more nerve-racking than realizing you only have 5 minutes left to conquer a foe who you’ve been battling for almost an hour . . . and then the SOB fire-breathing lizard retreats into his mountain hideout, leaving you (and your co-op buddies) to race madly across the map, counting the remaining seconds, praying for a buzzer-beating victory. MHT is one of the Wii’s most excellent instances of online support. With lobbies that don’t require friend codes, you can join forces with 3 additional hunters (for a total of 4 per quest) and even share items (but not weapons) between teammates. I’ve never experienced any significant lag in MHT, and overall, the game shines in almost every category. My only complaint is the degree of required repetition; even good players must face the same monsters again and again (even after you’ve completely harvested their attributes). Other than the RPG-style grind, the game is simply one of the best on Wii, a title with true depth that many players will still be visiting even after Wii U arrives in our living rooms.
Man, I am SO keeping this game near the front of my Wii library forever–when I was only halfway through the game, it had already earned a permanent place in my heart. Ever since my first experience with Suda51’s demented brand of gaming (Killer 7 for Gamecube), I fell head-over-heels for his style, attitude, and truly cinematic mastery of the game medium. No More Heroes 2 is even better than it’s predecessor, and though it sheds some major elements (most notably, the sandbox exploration of Santa Destroy is completely gone), this weighty decision is a mark of intelligent, brave game design–like a great writer, sometimes a game director needs to delete entire chapters, even if it means losing some decent scenes. Otherwise, NMH2 is highly similar to the first installment, and for anyone who hasn’t played the original, both chapters are equally awesome, changes aside. The belly laughs start from the opening scene–rather than explaining what’s happened between since the first episode, the 4th wall is shattered when the lead characters remark that the story would just bore the hell out of the audience, and you’d probably skip it anyway–so they don’t even bother telling it. Instead, you’re launched straight back into the action, handed the same motive from episode one (achieve the rank of top assassin (this time, to avenge the murder of your best friend)), and the bloodletting begins without further ado. Besides having some of the best cut scenes and intelligent dialog of any game on Wii (though anyone under 14 will catch hell from their parents if mom overhears the pottymouth language or spies the perverse sexual content), NMH2 is an unabashed tribute to Nintendo’s own 8-bit roots. Between killing sprees and truly epic boss fights, you’ll earn money playing what amount to classic NES games (rewritten with not-so-subtle jibes at the limiting conventions of those early days). And though that’s about all there is to NMH2–sidequest NES games and insane boss battles–this humble formula is enough to make for hours of really engaging fun. Maybe I’m just the perfect audience (an adult gamer with a deviant sense of humor who grew up playing NES), but NMH2 strikes me as one of the Wii’s best, no contest.
Red Steel 2 (8.6)
You end up wishing that some games had arrived much earlier in the Wii’s life-cycle. By the time Nintendo got around to “patching” the Wiimote’s motion tracking problems with the the motion-plus accessory, many hardcore gamers had already written off the Wii (and it’s ‘gimmicky’ new remote). Though RS2 didn’t do badly in terms of sales (reaching a half-million global units), it’s a cryin’ shame that such a nicely stylized, fully-original IP had to wait for technology to catch up to the developer’s imagination. Had RS2 debuted earlier, it would have sold even better and garnered a lot more recognition from a wider audience. Yet, RS2 is a fabulous game that holds a lot of value no matter when you get around to playing it. This “sequel” doesn’t even attempt to relate itself to the first Red Steel entry (a Wii launch title that tried its best with limited tech and development time). Updated with an incredible comic-book artstyle and a neat wild-west-gunslinger/kung-fu plot, RS2 is an all-original game that deserves a spot on every Wii library shelf. Though screenshots make it look like a FPS, the game combines swordfights and gunplay, typically focusing on the former over the later. Fights are won by mastering elaborate combo-moves that combine bullets and sword-slashes–a heady mixture that lends a larger-than-life superhero ethos to every encounter. These combo moves sharpen the entertainment value of RS2–a very positive thing, since most of your time will be spent progressing in fairly linear fashion from point A to B, killing anyone that gets in your way and collecting (relatively unimportant) treasure and items. The swordplay definitely requires a player to utilize the enhanced motion-tracking of the motion-plus accessory; though not as specific as Skyward Sword, the concept is in the same ballpark, and you’ll probably need to sit up or stand while playing RS2 to ensure your swings hit their target. The game does suffer from a bit of one-sidedness; whereas Zelda makes sure to space out the swordfights with puzzles and exploring, there isn’t a whole lot of that here; RS2 is more like Madworld’s mindless mayhem than Link’s measured adventure. I also tend to agree with IGN’s Craig Harris–by the end of the game (or even the middle), a smart player can get your hero so powered up that the game becomes too easy. I never got too bored slicing and dicing enemies into tiny piles of bleeding refuse, but it never felt very tough, either. RS2 includes no multiplayer or online modes, but the basic mechanic of this game isn’t particularly suitable to those options anyway. Again–looks like an FPS, but it’s more like a brawler. In the end, though the reply value might be somewhat limited, there’s no doubting this is one of the good ones, and I’d still recommend RS2 as one of those Wii-only gems that really shows what the system was meant to do.
Metroid: Other M (8.5)
It’s become so fashionable to hate on the plot and voice-acting of Metroid’s latest installment that I’m not going to spend a moment defending or even discussing these tired old topics. On the other hand, the actual GAME that surrounds these controversial features is a really good one. If you think otherwise . . . fine. Different strokes. Other M is definitely NOT “Prime”, but after 3 installments, I was becoming a bit worried that the series might have stopped evolving–so I was really happy that Team Ninja changed it up, and honestly, I was pleased with the results. By mixing elements of side-scrolling and first-person Metroid universes, Other M turned out to be a slick, ingenious way to avoid becoming just one more first-person shooter, or from simply regressing to an imitation of the series’ greatest early 2D installments. I loved using the Wiimote to flip between 1st and 3rd person views (it gave me an incredible feeling of immersion into Samus’ battle visor, more even than the full FPS style of the Prime series), and I found the graphics and level design to be so incredibly polished and modern that I’d gladly put these elements on par with the series’ best. I didn’t find the game to be incredibly difficult, but the added challenge of finding 100% of all items kept me playing past the end credits (something I rarely do), and moreover, I simply liked the game so much that I wasn’t quite ready to give it up. Feel free to click over to my full review here . . . and don’t believe the haters. This particular incarnation of Samus Aran might do her monologs like a total whiny baby, but who ever played Metroid for the cutscenes, anyway?
Cave Story (8.5)
I could wrap up the entry for Cave Story in a single line: if you haven’t played this game on one of the many available platforms, then all that’s left to decide is how you want to play it—not whether or when. The game remains freely available (legitimately free, not pirated) for Mac or PC, but for those who don’t mind paying a low price for a truly magnificent piece of gaming lore—think Castlevania, only with blasters instead of whips, and a touching story akin to a classic JRPG–or, if you’d just rather play a widescreen version on your television instead of on the computer, the $12 WiiWare download is a very viable option. The Wii version of this retro-to-end-all-retro-NES-style game adds a few new options including a Boss Attack mode or the ability to play through the game as one of the popular supporting characters, but in honesty, these strike me as tacked-on afterthoughts to a game that achieved genuine perfection in its original freeware iteration. So, my recommendation for WiiWare Cave Story is a strange one—as an enormous fan, I can’t emphasize how valuable this humble little game truly is. Anyone with the tiniest shred of nostalgia for the original NES must play this game, regardless of which system you chose to play it on. Cave Story is just good beyond my ability to describe it, so the only thing that remains is for you to choose your platform. Wouldn’t hurt to support the author with a paid download. You’ll never regret it.
NBA Jam (8.5)
Anyone who remembers what it feels like to shed an entire paycheck into the upright Rampage machine at their local pizza parlor will have fond memories of NBA Jam. One of the most recognizable arcade games in history, NBAJ was revolutionary for it’s inclusion of real NBA players as well as a cast of goofy unlockable characters (a revolutionary idea in itself). But besides the use of a ball and court, NBAJ isn’t basketball in any conventional sense—this is more like a 2-on-2 fight punctuated with street-thug fisticuffs and soaring, backboard-splintering dunks. Hit three consecutive shots and the ball catches on fire, burning through the net and giving your player increased accuracy and speed. When the updated Wii version was announced, I, like so many other gamers, gave a shout for joy (“Boom-shaka-laka!“), swept away with half-forgotten visions of epic arcade recollections. Yet I, like doubtless many other Wii owners, failed to pick this one up at retail. As mirrored in Craig Harris’ IGN review, my hesitation was due to the fact that the game’s core mechanic is pretty simplistic—brawl, ball, dunk, repeat—and my fears that a console release of NBAJ would wear out quickly. The Wii version lacks online support as well (I get so tired of typing that. . .Wii U can’t come soon enough . . .), so this title is probably only recommended for gamers with nearby friends (or siblings) with whom you’d want to start a vicious basketbrawl rivalry. According to IGN’s review, the Wii version does include some workable motion controls alongside classic control support, and also includes a few extra bonus modes and requisite unlockable characters. Given that I’m spotting eBay copies as low as $15 (free shipping), there’s no doubt that some gamers might want to revisit the glory days of arcade madness with a few hours on this vicious, no-holds-barred court.
Sonic Colors (8.5)
Review by CharbroiledEwok!: After seeing what SEGA did with Secret Rings, Unleashed, and The Black Knight, I was understandably leery of ‘Colors’. Well . . . color me surprised (*cue rimshot*). It’s by no means perfect, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The visuals are clean and detailed, the music is the typical Sonic pop music fare, and the controls are simple and tight. I especially liked the clever use of the Wisp powers, a new feature that harkens back to the glory days of platformers and power-ups (before everything was turned into an RPG). My only real complaints would be the uneven difficulty (expect plenty of “cheap” deaths), and the lackluster multiplayer (though, who really plays a Sonic game for the multiplayer?). My Score: 8.5
Mega Man 10(8.5)
Yet another great review by CharbroiledEwok . . . It takes a special type of person to truly appreciate Mega Man 10. No, you don’t need to fondly remember the original (read: homoerotic) He-Man TV series – you just need to enjoy the classic art style and grueling platforming challenges of the 8-bit era. Unlike the NES titles upon which it’s based, Capcom opted to include multiple difficulty settings, a second playable character (Proto Man, who appeared only as DLC in MM9), an in-game item shop, and a dedicated Challenge Mode. Though it was slow to trickle out, MM10 also offers slightly better DLC than its predecessor: a third playable character (Bass who, like Proto Man, plays differently than Mega Man), three special stages/boss fights (which award you their abilities), and an Endless Stage (similar to MM9). My score: 9.0
I got this game in the first round of Nintendo Club game rewards—finally, something WORTHWHILE to buy with my meticulously-collected coins (yeah, the Mario desktop calendar wasn’t really doing it for me). Even as a launch-day Wii owner, I still have only a handful of downloaded titles after more than 5 years. Fluidity is, thankfully, one of the good ones. It’s light, yet challenging fun can fill a few minutes or a few hours, and seems to have a fairly large amount of content. At it’s core, Fluidity is a physics-puzzler—a cute game good for the “whole family”, yet manages to harvest a good deal of fun out of a relatively simple concept. Tilt the Wiimote (no nunchuck) to move a blob of water around a 2D landscape–and this mechanic works really well, including basic commands like shaking the remote to turn from gas into liquid (make it rain, baby) or just the back-and-forth sloshing of water (the tilt-control function of the Wiimote is very responsive and is a perfect example of well-implemented motion controls). You can make your blob jump, change form (freeze or gaseous), and carry objects. Don’t let too much of your water get separated from the pack (this amounts to dying) while you solve puzzles to collect ‘rainbow drops’ and other hidden items. It sounds almost too simple to be fun, but in honesty, Fluidity is amazingly entertaining, doing quite a lot with a stripped down cartoony art-style and a few basic rules. In an era of $1 apps, a $12 download title might strike some as a bit overpriced, but I’m willing to say that for gamers who like puzzles and experiencing the Wiimote’s motion controls at their best, this one is worth a look.
It feels a little silly for me to be writing a second summary review for a game I’ve never played (either the original or sequel), but the high IGN score for DJH2 compells me to include it in this list of all-things-Wii-worthy. Dameon Hatfield reviewed this one for IGN, confirming that the DJH series remains his preferred form for the plastic-instrument genre. From the sounds of things, DJH2 is more of the same; an entertaining dance/hiphop-oriented music game with many similarities to the guitar-and-drumkit sister versions. Hatfield notes that the tracklist in DH2 seems oriented to a wider audience than the original (less variety, more pop), but still gives the game’s 83 remixes high praise for polish and appeal (scoring the audio at a respectable 9.5). From the sound of things, some of DH2’s new features aren’t exactly improvements (vocal accompaniment is confusing, and career mode is unsatisfying), but the 2-player call-and-response battles are actually better than the original. I hope to find time (and the space) to add a plastic DJ table to my own collection, and based from the sound of IGN reviews, either the original iteration or this sequel are very safe bets for their entertainment value.
The link above will take you to the 2010 IGN entry; this is the last version of the game that IGN scored or reviewed, though there are more recent updates available for Wii. As I mentioned in my few other ‘serious sport sim’ reviews, I’m not an ideal reviewer of sporty titles (never play ’em), so this entry is best taken as a stub serving as a reminder of the (few) decent sport games that exist for Wii. Pro Evolution Soccer gets consistently decent reviews from IGN (2008 = 8.6, 2009 = 8.5, 2010 = 8.1) and seems like a worthy recommendation for gamers who use Wii as their primary/only console and enjoy a birds-eye game of soccer. IGN’s 2010 review gives the game credit for good use of motion controls and including classic controller support, going so far as to say PES is the sort of game where you’ll wish the Wiimote could be used to play the same game on other platforms (where better graphics and sound are available). IGN warns that the online community was smallish when the game launched; I’m compelled to wonder if the situation has improved for the more recent versions. Wii gamers already know that the graphics found in a Wii title will suffer when compared to other platforms; other than this obvious flaw, IGN’s review seems to indicate that PES is one of the worthwhile Wii sport series. The call is yours.
PoP has become an institution; with iterations dating all the way back to 1980s PC gaming–and now a Hollywood film adaptation–the humble little prince has come a long way. I was a young kid when I played that first installment on my trusty Apple computer, but I still remember loving the rudimentary platforming, the devious traps, and sensing that there was a sophisticated design to the game’s puzzles. Fast forward to the modern era, TFS is a Wii-exclusive “side story” that is parallel to, but different from, competing versions on other platforms. Though “Wii Exclusive” can often translate to “recipe for disaster”, I’m glad to report that Forgotten Sands is a cool treat worth your time and money. For starters, the (Wii-only) point-and-click gameplay elements are excellent innovations that are genuinely fun and add to the game’s appeal. Creating wall-hooks, jet-streams, and hovering bubbles with your Wiimote feels natural, easy, and entertaining. On the other hand, the combat elements are pretty awful. Sword swings and attacks feature a lot of waggling, and a lot of the earlier fights can be won without any strategy at all. More annoyingly, the camera is pretty wonky in free combat situations, and the lack of a target/lock-on system feels like an amateur oversight. You can chose an advanced method of camera control (I recommend this) but your view still ‘sticks’ to enemies when you don’t want it to, and ultimately feels, well, annoying. But back to the good: the game’s real strength is, as always, the breathtaking platforming elements . . . running along walls, scaling sheer rock faces, balancing on precarious ledges over gaping chasms…these aspects are simply great, just like every other PoP game. The visuals are excellent, and the music/voice acting nicely reflect the game’s middle-eastern setting. The protagonist controls responsively–even too responsively, perhaps. To clarify, I sometimes feel disconnected from the game, as though the careful leaps and climbs are so carefully choreographed that I’m not really “playing” a game as much as pushing it along. It’s hard to describe, but a platformer with this much polish can have the drawback of often feeling a bit too easy. Along these lines, PoP:FS a wonderfully cinematic game, if not all that hard. I solved many scenarios in a matter of seconds, and even when the going gets tougher (around the 7 hour mark) I never found it to be overwhelmingly difficult. The disc offers some valuable retro-appeal by including an unlockable version of the original (2D) SNES game, plus some especially cool bonuses in the form of a ‘2D’ modern PoP and a creepy dungeon labyrinth sub-game (I really loved this, so don’t overlook it). Given that this installment of PoP includes other add-ons such as an achievement system and a speed run mode, I’m quite willing to recommend this PoP episode for old fans or new inductees. After playing through the entire game and clocking in at a respectable 10.5 hours, I’d say that IGN’s 8.0 is eminently fair–perhaps a smidgeon low, even–and you can’t beat that $10 used price.
And Yet It Moves (8.0)
Here’s another chance to give Wiiware download service a little bit of love before it’s (hopefully) surpassed by a far-superior online store for Wii U. Retailing at $10, AYIM may be overpriced by a couple bucks, but it’s the kind of game that catches my interest due to a bleak-cool artstyle (looking like a nightmarish collage of torn pages and paper-cutouts) and a simple puzzler-premise. No enemies or boss-fights here—just escape from a maze by spinning the world around your character. Since AYIM arrived on Wii in 2010, we’ve gotten a few other games that feature similar gravity/screen-shifting mechanics (I’m thinking specifically of VVVVVV for 3DS), so the premise isn’t as fresh as it might have been a couple years ago. Still, Jack’s IGN review makes the game sound generally fun and worth a few hours of a devoted puzzler’s gaming life. I’ve wanted to check this one out for a while (I almost just want to support a game with such a cool title) and I may still find the time. Below, a link to an IGN-sponsored video, perhaps the best way to get a clear picture of how this game feels and looks.
Tetris Party Deluxe (7.5)
As noted in the IGN review, the biggest problem for this in-store release of Tetris Party is that it costs twice as much as the version available on the WiiWare shop, but really only adds a small number of improvements to the same game that was available for download two years previous. That said, I am well aware that many gamers still prefer disc/manual/case releases, if only to have a permanent plastic trophy for their game library (I can’t say that I’m totally immune to it myself). This updated release includes the ability to game against owners of the download version (a critical and welcome detail) and a number of new modes for the true Tetris fanatics. If you’re a gamer that prefers the retail pack-ins and don’t mind waiting a few days for delivery, I’m spotting numerous copies at eBay between 16$ and $20, shipped. The Wiiware version runs for $12, so with such a small difference in cost, seems like the choice is yours.
Let’s get the really shocking stuff out of the way first: due to hardware limitations, the Wii version isn’t as awesome as those found on the other current-gen systems. Surprise. With this groundbreaking piece of information out of the way, IGN’s review still manages to award a fair score to COD:BO, noting that the flaws found on other systems (specifically the single-player campaign) are still present in the Wii port—so these don’t represent specific deal-breakers for playing BO on Nintendo. More interesting, since the Wii version (naturally) allows players to use the Wiimote for this FPS, some gamers may even find the Wii COD superior in the controls department (I myself thought the Wiimote/nunchuck were the ONLY way to play Goldeneye—point and click Wiimote being far superior to clunky old analog sticks). For those not interested, classic control support is still available and customizable. For the requisite online two player modes, I’m definitely intrigued by the sound of “wager matches” (you’ll gamble in-game currency on matches) and the vast variety of COD online match options that can handle up to 12 players. With other cool-sounding features like Nazi Zombie mode (less voluminous than the other systems yet still present), seems like COD:BO on Wii isn’t the worst bet you could make.
Trauma Team (7.5)
I played and enjoyed the original Trauma Center on DS, right around the same time I played the first entry in the Phoenix Wright series. Back then, I was still surprised by the relatively new trend for games to include “mundane” characters like lawyers and doctors, rather than the more “normal” mutant monsters and mustachioed plumbers. I never quite found the appeal in Phoenix Wright (too scripted and slow-paced), but definitely found some appeal in that first experience with the Trauma Center series. Using my stylus to cut, stitch, suture, and save lives was a unique and entertaining experience, but I can’t say that I was left particularly hungry for more . . .which is probably why I never tried this Wii sequel. According to the IGN review, this latest installment retains the goofy anime sensibilities and the surgery-“sim” elements of previous games, but also adds some point-and-click adventure elements that provide a bit of welcome contrast from the standard (and still interesting) surgery puzzles. In this episode, your work is divided into six areas of treatment, with most fields mirroring the gameplay from previous episodes, though offering a few areas that expand beyond the standard series concepts. On the other hand, the IGN reviewer finds some control elements to be frustratingly flawed and repetitive, leading to a “mixed bag” of gameplay and a lower overall score. I’m not going to be grabbing this game anytime soon, but with an average reader score of 8.8, it must have something going for it.
Dragon’s Lair Trilogy (7.0)
The scene: 1985, small-town department store, a young boy begs his mom for quarters. Knowing that the boy will harass her through the entire shopping trip, mother hands the boy three singles, extracting a promise that he will clean his room that evening. He’s gone before she can finish telling him to meet her at the front of the store in one hour—like a lightning-bolt, he’s headed to the video arcade. . . . That boy was me, and among my cherished early gaming memories, Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace stand out among thousands. If you ever encountered these games in their heyday, you’ll know why. The laserdisc graphics were light-years ahead of the pack; while other games still relied on crude sprites (or, God forbid—LCD vectors), here were games that looked even better than a lot of Saturday morning cartoons—these games were in the ballpark of feature-film Disney epics. The only problem was that, as a kid, you couldn’t figure out how to play the damn things. Dragon’s Lair, it’s sequel (Dragon’s Lair II) and Space Ace were the first mass-market iterations of what we now know as “quicktime events”, though nowadays QTE’s are typically used to break up the primary action of a game—not staged as the foundation for an entire game. So, here’s the problem for a young kid with only three bucks to spend: these fabulous-looking Don Bluth-animated games typically cost .50 cents a play, while all other games only required a single quarter. No game-loving kid could walk past any of this “trilogy” without giving it at least a single try, but when you (immediately) realized that Dirk or Ace’s actions didn’t directly correspond with your mad thrashing of the joystick (or hapless smashing of the buttons), you quickly surrendered, hoping none of the big kids noticed how fast you’d lost your quarters. Nowadays, with fancy graphics as a fundamental piece of most games, DL and SA have lost some of their unique appeal. The Trilogy for Wii is essentially a DVD encapsulating 3 laserdiscs of (incredibly-well-animated) quick-time events. Craig Harris reviewed the collection for IGN, giving it high marks for visual and sonic presentation, and optimistically noting that the games are entirely identical to the arcade versions. But newcomers should be warned: all three games rely heavily on trial-and-error (i.e. experiment, die, start over) and lightning-quick (i.e. sometimes unfair) reflex actions, and though I’ve never gotten quite good enough to finish any game in the series ( . . . yet. . . ), none of them would require more than a few minutes to finish on a perfect playthrough. Yeah—sounds kind of boring in a world of fully cinematic HD gameplay, doesn’t it? Still, in spite of the incredible upgrades we’ve seen in gaming in just two short decades, that arcade kid in me (still alive and kicking in my heart) cannot wait to get a copy of this Trilogy, if only for the express purpose of mastering every last quicktime event. The next time I stand in front of those upright machines, I’ll be able to wow everyone around me with a perfect playthrough of these solid-gold classics. Even the big kids’ jaws will hit the floor. Sometimes, nostalgia is the only reason you need to love a game.
Wii Game of the Year for 2010
Super Mario Galaxy 2: In a year that includes one 10.0 game, FIVE 9.0 games, and TEN games scoring 8.5 or higher, 2010 is arguably the strongest all-around year for the Wii. And I’m going to come clean, right now: handing the win to SMG2 isn’t entirely reflective of my own opinion, but is instead my acknowledgement of the larger community consensus. Seriously, I’m sitting here writing this entry thinking things like “But Galaxy 2 isn’t really innovative–should it get the win?”, and in reality, G2 is pretty much the same game as Galaxy 1 . . . but it’s still so incredibly, unbelievably good. . . . and deserves every inch of that 10.0 rating. Looking down the list of other great titles, I can’t see any other game that captures as broad a spirit of imagination or pushes the limits of the Wii hardware as much as this second installment was able to do, and even if I got 10x as much playtime out of Goldeneye 007 and 20x out of Monster Hunter Tri . . . neither game achieves the soaring heights and majesty as Mario’s second cosmic adventure, and so Nintendo fans can rest easy once again–Mario is STILL the king of his own system. Kudos, good plumber.
Runner Up Wii Game for 2010
Donkey Kong Country Returns: HARDEST. PICK EVER. Same as with the GOTY category, I’m sitting here looking at the choices . . . Goldeneye, Sin & Punishment 2, Monster Hunter, No More Heroes 2, Red Steel 2 . . . and still, again and again, time after time, Nintendo just proves that their own IPs are the best thing on offer on their own consoles. I say this as a gamer who never entirely loved the N64 versions of DKC–yet even a few minutes with this modern installment was enough to convince me that this return to the country is one of the best games to grace the Wii system. Hard as nails, gorgeous beyond description, cooperative and intelligent gameplay…this game is a love-letter to oldschool Nintendo fans, when games were tough to even finish, and verging on murder to complete 100%. Even in early stages, finding all the hidden rooms, side-games, and collectibles is a nigh-impossible task, yet I never find myself getting annoyed at the game–it’s simply too perfect, too polished. Playing with a friend makes the game all the better, and even if you give up before making it to the end credits–this country is one beautiful place to explore, delivering the best possible platforming experience that money can buy. The ape is back, and it’s a pleasure to say, better than ever.
Most Underrated Wii Game for 2010
This is easily my toughest call in the entire series. “Underrated” can refer to simple sales figures, or can indicate “under-appreciated” by the people who bought it. In terms of pure sales figures, No More Heroes 2 is incredibly undervalued (considering how excellent the game really is), selling only 170,000 units in the USA (340,000 worldwide). On the other hand, Monster Hunter Tri sold a respectable 500,000 units in the USA, but was buried by the one-million plus figure in Japan (where that series reigns supreme). However, No More Heroes 2 isn’t the sort of game that everyone can appreciate (it’s simply too gory and childish), so it probably shouldn’t win this category. Nor is it sensible to call a game with over two-million sales worldwide “underrated” (even if Monster Hunter isn’t fully appreciated by American audiences). Therefore, in the end, I’m going to hand 2010’s Underrated title to GoldenEye 007, for one specific reason–the multiplayer. Please note, GoldenEye is NOT winning this category for the single player campaign (which is respectable and well-crafted, balancing loyalty to the N64 classic with modern sensibilities of a FPS). No, the truly underrated aspect of GoldenEye is most definitely the multiplayer feature. After years as Nintendo owner yearning for a really good online experience, 007 finally brought a highly playable multiplayer co-op/competitive game to the Wii, complete with interesting game variants, worldwide leaderboards, worthwhile achievements, and crazy leveling tiers that led some players to get really addicted to the game. Sure, there are a TON of flaws with Bond’s latest Nintendo installment–rage-quitters suffer no penalties (even when hosting matches), there’s no voice chat support (not even for the terrible Wii Speak), and the entire leaderboard and weapon tiers were undermined by hackers who simply skipped the leveling process and awarded themselves the maximum loadout capabilities. Yet IN SPITE of these many complaints, the online GoldenEye experience was often excellent, especially for those of us that formed guilds or even collected just a few online friends to game with. Really, I didn’t spend half a year of my life playing this game for no reason–GoldenEye really had something great going for a while. And (insert personal brag) I even killed PrinceLuigi twice (the leaderboard’s legitimate top player) . . . although he proceeded to tear me to shreds for the next several minutes. Ultimately, I’m giving the Underrated title to Goldeneye; although the sales figures were reasonably good for this game, I suspect that a lot of players never spent enough time in the online matches to acquire a full appreciation of the game’s underlying excellence.
That’s it for 2010! Looking over this list, I’m ready to conclude that 2010 was MY favorite year for the Wii, given that my time spent playing Monster Hunter Tri and Goldeneye 007 are probably close to the sum total of the rest of my Wii library. No kidding. These two games alone could have held me over until Wii U . . . but there are just so many great games on this system to try out. ;’]
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.
Seriously, leave me some comments. TELL ME YOUR TOP 3, OR WHAT I GOT WRONG!! Comments are my favorite part of the whole “blogging” process. I’d be especially interested to hear what YOUR nominations for GOTY and ‘Most Underrated!
Or really, anything. Drop me a line!
2011 coming soon….