Right, it’s that time of year again. No one wants to write about the “best Wii games of 2010” so they get ol’ Nintendo fanboy Elston to cobble a list together. Well, you know what? Screw you guys. Wii takes a lot of shit from all sides, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are outstanding games coming out (almost) every month. C’mon, once you get past the shovelware, the needless motion controls, lackluster online support and sub-HD graphics, there’s… uh, OK yeah that sounds awful.
But even with all those setbacks, these 10 non-Nintendo titles managed to create interesting worlds, new ideas and memorable stories that so many of us “real” gamers passed on.
Red Steel 2
The quick sell: The best use of MotionPlus to date, engrossing combat and visuals that won’t make your eyes rot.
Considering how hard we all were burned by the first Red Steel, it’s easy to understand why so many completely ignored the second. We were promised a mix of motion-controlled sword fighting and accurate first-person shooting, but what we got was a drab, janky FPS. For the sequel, Ubi ditched everything related to the first game and reinvented Red Steel as a sci-fi Western tale of revenge. Sort of like Firely mixed with Borderlands and samurai.
So it was better than the first – big deal, right? Oh, it’s much more impressive than that. Red Steel 2 made expert use of Wii MotionPlus, giving you a remarkable amount of freedom when it came to slicing and dicing the bad guys. In addition to the usual slashes, you could thrust enemies into the air, sneakily stab someone behind you or break their defenses with an aggressive overhead chop. But the waggle isn’t tacked on at all – you must use all of these moves to survive, and the game does a great job of keeping you in practice with all the various attacks. I see a lot of other games touted as “the best FPS on the Wii,” and it’s never Red Steel 2 – so apparently even most of the games industry didn’t bother playing it either.
Red Steel 2 review – 9/10
The quick sell: An incredibly dense 3D platformer featuring the most meaningful motion controls to date.
If anybody caught more crap than Epic Mickey’s camera, it was us for calling it “better” than Super Mario Galaxy 2. Perhaps a better choice of words would’ve been that it’s more “impressive” or “ambitious,” but hey, we don’t rate games for what they almost did. Epic Mickey mastermind Warren Spector addressed his critics by making the claim that third-person cameras are notoriously difficult, and that nobody’s really gotten it 100% right. We can’t help but agree, and to that end, you could argue Galaxy 2 didn’t really try.
It’s not just that the surprising sequel didn’t innovate much, when you look at Epic Mickey’s branching, Disneyana-infused ecosystem that responds dynamically to the player’s choice; it makes Mario’s floating, wall-less islands and their clearly defined paths and nearly static cameras look decidedly last gen by comparison. As troublesome as you may find Epic Mickey’s flaws, they don’t outweigh all the nuances that make for one of the most substantial evolutions the genre’s seen in years.
Epic Mickey review – 9/10
The quick sell: The best NES game you never played
Even though Cave Story’s been on PC since 2004, a surprising number of dedicated gamers still don’t know it exists – I sure didn’t prior to this month. Once I got around to it though, I found a loving homage to 8-bit games like Blaster Master and Metroid that anyone born in the ‘80s should play. Great sprite graphics, upgradable weapons, fantastic NES-style music, it’s all here. Cave Story is a double-tough sell (not just Wii – WiiWARE), but c’mon guys, give it a shot.
And let’s say you DID know about Cave Story, the free PC game that you totally played two years ago and are so over. Well, this is an expanded version, and more importantly, its sole programmer can finally get some cash for his years-long labor of love. God forbid you give him $12 for all his trouble!
Cave Story review – 9/10
No More Heroes 2
The quick sell: The biggest, bloodiest, silliest, most game-referencing punk-rock lightsaber-assassin brawler ever to appear on a Nintendo console.
If there’s any consolation to be had in the dismal sales of the No More Heroes games, it’s that we can say the franchise is simply too awesome to live. Centering around the insane, hyperstylized adventures of embarrassingly geeky punk assassin Travis Touchdown, No More Heroes 2 is a fast, endlessly fun brawler, but there’s a lot more going on here than just simple hack and slash. There are also incredibly slick visuals, smartly realized game and anime parodies, wildly original themed bosses, some of the most satisfyingly nasty violence you’ll find on any console, and, well, this:
More than just an extension of the first game’s action, NMH2 streamlined the experience, stripping out the clunky free exploration and replacing the tedious between-mission jobs with surprisingly fun 8-bit minigames. It also introduced a couple of new playable characters, and while playing as Travis’s self-proclaimed student Shinobu introduced one of the game’s only boring bits – her awful jumping puzzles – she and Henry (Travis’s long-lost twin brother) were still a couple of the game’s highlights. Also, while NMH2 wasn’t waggle-heavy (you attacked with buttons, the way God intended), it let players ditch the Wii remote entirely and play with a Classic controller, an option we’d like to see more games offer. If you ignored this – and, let’s face it, odds are you did – you’ve missed out on one of the most unique experiences of the year. The good news is that it’s since had its price slashed down to around $15, so grabbing it now shouldn’t be too difficult to justify.
No More Heroes 2 review – 9/10