I remember E3 2006 vividly. By that point, Nintendo had already unveiled their new console and controller, and started talking about what this new console would do.
Those were exciting days, so full of promise.
"The games won’t look as good," Iwata said, "but they’ll be different."
"That’s ok! That’s exactly what we want!" nerds everywhere responded.
"The whole point of this console is innovation," Iwata continued.
"Yes, innovation! We like innovation!" gamers frothed.
Being one of the throng at that point, I completely understand why everyone was so excited. What I can’t understand, however, is where all that enthusiasm went. The Wii is here, and it’s done exactly what it was said to do. Where did all of that tolerance and excitement about new ways to play games go?
My only disappointment with the console came from its limited sensitivity of motion control. As it is now, any motion control could easily be mapped to a button — but MotionPlus looks to remedy that qualm. Asking around, that’s not even the chief concern. Gamers largely intone the same mantra; "I haven’t turned my Wii on in months. There are no games coming out. I haven’t played anything since Smash Brothers Brawl." Am I the only one that sees an amusing contradiction in this line of reasoning?
Gamers are used to being force-fed information about video game releases. Advertisements, viral ads, high-profile teaser trailers — all of these things create that coveted "buzz" that elevates games in a potential player’s perception. Wii games get none of this, so gamers are largely blissfully unaware of their presence. These games then become owned by Schrodinger — existing but not existing. They are on the shelf, but if a gamer hasn’t heard of them, obviously they aren’t worth playing. Obviously.
Well, that’s bullcrap. There are fun Wii games out there, you just have to go out and find them yourself. Yes, they are graphically inferior. No, you can’t get achievement points or trophies for them. The only thing these humble games can promise is an experience you won’t get anywhere else. If you actually want something different, you owe them a chance. If not, hell, at least be honest about that fact. In something of a community service, I’ll highlight a few games worth playing on the Wii, and explain why the experience they offer can’t be found on any other console. And before you guess, I’m not using No More Heroes OR MadWorld, that’s too easy.
What it is: Featuring absolutely no violence, destruction, or competition of any kind, Endless Ocean is more digital entertainment than traditional video game. The player controls a scuba diver, and can elect to act as a tour guide, scout out some fish for a researcher, explore underwater caves, or just do whatever the hell he/she wants (including poking a penguin for ten minutes). Endless Ocean never directs the player or berates them for not doing something, only makes suggestions and leaves it at that. Also, the soundtrack can instantaneously cure ulcers.
Why it can’t exist outside the Wii: Due to its open nature and lack of traditional challenge, Endless Ocean is designed for a new type of game player. The game is devoid of traditional thinking, otherwise there’d be some annoying challenge in the game. Stuff like: collect the 200 dolphin icons, swim through the coral reef rings in a certain amount of time, use your harpoon gun to fight off all the frenzied sharks, ect. The expanded userbase of the Wii created a market where such a game concept wouldn’t cause uncontrollable fits of laughter in a corporate planning meeting.
What it is: The game takes place in Chroma City, which has been taken over by the evil monochromatic INKT. These jerks go around sucking all the color from the city, which De Blob must restore by absorbing paint and then hurling himself at buildings. Every time you paint a building, a musical flourish plays in time with the background music in accordance with the particular color used. What’s more, the background track becomes more lively as color is restored to areas, adding some light musical flavor to the game. Visual style abounds as well, as graffiti-style arrows and flowing symbols follow De Blob around, and painted buildings eventually take on a variety of cool-looking patterns.
Why it can’t exist outside the Wii: De Blob started as a free downloadable game by eight students at the Utrecht School of the Arts. THQ, impressed with the game, picked up the rights and handed development to Blue Tongue. The likelihood of this happening on the 360 or PS3 is approximately balls. Those consoles require so much more investment that a relatively risky project wouldn’t make any business sense. While the Wii offers motion controls, it also exists as a platform for games that can’t exist as a mega-AAA production. De Blob boasts artistic soul, which is better than the most amazingly rendered explosion.
Kororinpa: Marble Mania
What it is: You have a marble, you roll it to the exit. You’ve played this game before, but something about Kororinpa is absolutely charming. Maybe it’s the pig marble that makes oinky sounds every time it hits a wall. Maybe it’s music so cheery that Satan himself would squeal like a schoolgirl in a Sanrio store. Perhaps it’s the adorable backgrounds, featuring cakes with dancing strawberries. For me at least, it’s the complete lack of traditional video game tropes. You get a series of boards, your choice of marble, and that’s it. No overwrought story explaining why you need to roll to the exit, no lengthy intro cinematic showing a marble rolling around, no world map with a progression of challenges – just a set of boards and some wickedly difficult rolling. Amusingly enough, the game’s sequel – Marble Saga: Kororoinpa adds all of these things.
Why it can’t exist outside of the Wii: Several stages require that the player rotate the entire stage 90 degrees or more to roll up walls. Such maneuvers wouldn’t be possible without the kinetic movements of motion controls. The motion sensitivity of the Wii remote opens up level design for some crazy stunts. Compare the game to Marble Blast Ultra – a similar game on the 360 – and the difference is obvious.
There are fun games on the Wii that are exactly what was promised – graphically inferior but fundamentally different. Gamers have become used to not fronting the effort in finding games, and as a result, we’ve given marketers control of what we play. Because of this, some very deserving games are going unplayed and unloved. Take charge of your hobby and do some investigative gaming, you’ll like what you find.