The Wii is roughly equivalent to one of those obscure bands that you love until they get all popular, at which point they suddenly change and sell out and you can’t ever stand to listen to them anymore. Where once was the promise of a revolutionary new kind of videogame system, there is now only a gradually expanding mass of casual, grandma-oriented gaming that threatens to engulf everything we love.
It’s not about us anymore: For its longtime fans, Nintendo’s most successful strategy has also been its most horrifying. By downplaying the role of traditional “core” gamers and filling its ads with celebrities and oldsters, Nintendo has single-handedly transformed the landscape of the game industry, and it’s done so at the expense of the people who’ve supported it for years. No longer is it about Mario and Metroid; now the face of Nintendo is a beaming puppet playing a trumpet. Probably while standing on a balance board.
Above: Nintendo's bold vision of the future
Probably the biggest unintended side effect of Nintendo’s casualcore strategy is that there’s now…
Zero quality control: Ever wonder why so many of the Wii games choking retail shelves are horrible third-party shitfests that seem deliberately designed to trick you into confusing them with other, more tolerable games? That happens for two reasons: first, every shitheel sixth-rate publisher on Earth sees the Wii as a potential goldmine, with an underinformed customer base so large that trying to sell them crappy games is like asking a hundred strangers to sleep with you: sooner or later, one of them’s going to say yes. Second, Nintendo long ago ditched the quality-control restrictions that made its official seal actually mean something, and is now content to sit back and rake in licensing fees from Billy the Wizard, Ninjabread Man and innumerable crappy versions of formerly free-to-play Flash games. And this thing:
Above: YAY NINTENDO APPROVED OUR GAME FOR PUBLICATION
Of course, Nintendo’s own games are still almost uniformly good, but once you start nosing around third-party games, you’re swimming in open water. Which may also be why…
Good third-party games die: Much as we like to complain that the Wii has nothing to offer hardcore gamers, that’s not really the case. In fact, a handful of publishers have actually done their best to push the limits of “hardcore” on Wii, with awesome games like No More Heroes and Okami using the console’s bells and whistles to their fullest. These games all have something in common, however: they’ve all died, or are currently dying, horrible deaths at retail. And you may be part of the problem.
Above: Oh, Okami! Will there ever be an article we can't shoehorn you into?
If you’re among the seemingly endless numbers of people who bought a Wii and now complain that there’s nothing on it that interests you, do yourself and the industry a favor: dust it off and at least try Madworld, Deadly Creatures, No More Heroes or any of the honest-to-God innovative action games that came to Wii and were immediately ignored. Then again, if you do, you might just find yourself choking on the…
Last-gen graphics: We’d never think of ourselves as “graphics whores” - a phrase that, incidentally, we don’t see Nintendo loyalists lobbing around so much these days – but after nearly four years of 360/PS3-quality visuals, it’s getting harder and harder to look at a machine with slightly better-than-PS2 graphics and take it seriously. Talented developers have been able to squeeze some fantastic visuals out of the Wii’s last-gen hardware, but those games are rare.
Above: What a difference two years and a big step back in power make
And even when we see a game like Madworld, which looks uniquely amazing, we can’t look at it for long before wondering how much better it’d be in genuine HD.
Above: Seriously, just think of how this would look on the PS3 or 360
Controls are a whole new kind of pain in the ass: Good lord. Remember when everyone was all excited about the Wii’s motion controls and how they’d bring a new level of interactivity to videogames? Yeah, what the hell was wrong with us? What once seemed to hold limitless potential turned out to do little more than replace button-mashing with stick-waggling. And in the Wii’s more complex games, trying to memorize all the stupid motions required to do anything cool does little more than add a thick, gauzy layer of separation between you and the action onscreen. This shit isn’t putting you in the game – it’s taking you out of it like never before.
Wii Motion Plus: Speaking of shitty controls, remember when the Wii first came out, and the one phrase on everyone’s lips was “lightsaber fencing game?” And remember how we didn’t get one, ever? It wasn’t until E3 2008 that we learned the real reason for that: the Wii remote isn’t actually equipped to reflect 1:1 movement. That’s why you get the same result whether you’re swinging the Wii remote like a sword or just twitching it slightly – the system can’t always tell the difference. Turns out the Wii’s perceived promise was never really a promise at all, but here’s the good news: soon, you’ll be able to buy an add-on that adds the functionality you thought you were buying in the first place.
Also you’ll get a 1:1 kendo game with it, which doesn’t feature lightsabers at all. After seeing the Star Wars games that have come out for the Wii so far, though, are you sure another one is really what you want?
Friend codes: When you want to add someone as a friend on Xbox Live or PSN, it’s as simple as searching for their gamertag, sending them a request and adding them to your ever-growing list of online playmates. On the other hand, if you want to do the same thing on Wii, you’ll need to exchange your unique, 16-digit number with someone else who has a 16-digit number, manually enter it into your Wii using the remote and hope they don’t forget to do the same. Oh, and we should probably mention that each game assigns another unique friend code, which again, you’ll need to mutually exchange before you can meet up online.
Above: Just enter a whole bunch of ridiculous number strings and you too can do what other console gamers take for granted!
Christ, playing Doom on a dialup PC modem was easier than this.
Shaky online: Assuming you get all your friend codes exchanged and properly entered, there’s still no guarantee you and your new friend will have any luck meeting up online. We learned that the hard way the last time we tried to play Mario Kart in the office; despite being a few feet away from each other and all connected to the same network, some of our Wiis just couldn’t join up properly. Add in chronic lag problems and crappy online matchmaking, and you’ve got online play that’s years behind Xbox Live, PSN and the standard PC.
Loves to waste batteries: The PS3’s Sixaxis and DualShock 3 pads come standard with batteries that recharge whenever the controllers are plugged into the system. Microsoft sells a charge kit and rechargeable batteries for its wireless pads. Nintendo, meanwhile, throws you a pair of batteries and leaves the rest up to you. There are a number of third-party recharging options, of course, but charging docks take up space, and third-party electrical gear for videogames has had a long and storied history of accidentally catching on fire.
Above: Just one of many exciting options!
Meanwhile, Nintendo comes off looking like it doesn’t care about the wastefulness and expense of disposable batteries. Nice.
New Play Control series: We know, we know: Nintendo’s re-releasing ancient GameCube games so that people who never played them the first time will have a chance to experience them, and they’re adding Wii controls so that the experience won’t be jarring to grandmas who like playing with the remote. They’re not for us. But it nevertheless makes our blood boil that Nintendo would simply rehash ancient games and re-release them for $30. The fact that they still look state-of-the-art on the underpowered Wii only makes it worse.