With the birth of a new console, comes the death of an old one. The Wii U has launched, selling out almost everywhere within its first week, and the Wii has been relegated to but a distant memory. Despite the system being barely cold in its grave, we have decided to take a look back on Nintendo’s little white box to examine the effect it had on the gaming world.
Rewind to 2006, November 19th to be exact. Saddam Hussein had just been sentenced to death and Daniel Craig suited up for his first Bond movie just two days previously, but most importantly the Wii hit store shelves. With the promise of a new way to play, gamers flocked to stores snatching up every last console available, resulting in a now infamous pre-holiday shortage which saw some dastardly devils profiting on the misery of others by reselling their unopened systems for as much as three times the list price.
Right out of the box, early adopters were able to jump into the new motion controlled action with Wii Sports. While most of us hate sport mini-game compilations at this stage, there’s still a lot to be said for Wii Sports’ bowling and tennis titles. Another title that arrived under a weight of expectation was Red Steel, while it was not as well received, the idea of a first person shooter/katana simulator certainly seemed like a good idea at the time.
Nintendo’s trump card, however, was Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Although also available on the previous generation’s GameCube, the promise of actually being able to slash (or waggle, as we later found out) your way through a giant revamped Hyrule sounded too good to be true. Owners could also look forward to a new Metroid Prime game just over a year later, and there was a genuine sense of excitement surrounding the future of the system – not just from gamers but from the general public as well.
It was the uptake from the latter group that inflicted an almost unshakable stigma upon the Wii console, and one that was only half true in our opinion. The hype surrounding motion control technology, or gimmick, whichever you want to call it, faded quickly. People started throwing around words like “hardcore” and “casual” like Wii Remotes through TV screens. Soap operas found their viewing figures in freefall as soccer moms with too much spare time found themselves losing weight with their balance board at their feet and Wii Remote in hand. This mass market popularity served to create something of a disconnect between Nintendo and the rest of the gaming community.
While there were games like Metroid Prime 3, Super Smash Bros Brawl, and Tatsunoko vs Capcom, the system also played host to plenty of borderline embarrassing titles. For every great game there were ten shockingly bad mini-game collections, movie tie-ins or shovelware aimed at ignorant parents and young children.
Part of the blame can be put on Nintendo; their seal of quality doesn’t really count for much these days, and after the insane success of Wii Sports you can’t really blame small-time developers for trying to make a quick buck with rushed releases. Actually, you can. The Wii lacked in meaningful major third party support, and most multiplatform titles were watered down with waggle motion controls tacked on for effect. It was disappointing to see, but the only place where the Wii really shone was through Nintendo’s first party offerings.
Nintendo has always had a reputation for making strong first party titles, sometimes relying on the same handful of franchises, but always offering fun, fresh and unique experiences to take advantage of the hardware they’re to be played on. The Mario Galaxy series was not only beautiful but also epic. The same can be said for some of the console’s “goodbye” titles. Final send offs like Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which completely revamped the Zelda formula while preserving the Zelda feel; flying through Skyloft was more amazing than riding through Hyrule ever was.
There was also Xenoblade: Chronicles, which wasn’t developed in-house by Nintendo, but rather published by the company in response to fan demand. Operation Rainfall was the accumulation of angered Wii owners who, in a fit of rage, stuck it to Nintendo by signing a petition online demanding the localization of some of the system’s strongest Japanese exclusives. Who knew fighting back could actually accomplish something with a company as large as Nintendo? Easily one of the best RPG’s in recent memory, Xenoblade was a fine way for Nintendo to give gamers one last hoorah with the Wii.
We could go on and on about the lack of volume when it came to Wii exclusives, but titles like Mad World, Sin and Punishment, Red Steel 2, and Muramasa: Demon Blade really made the console unique. With each of those games, we felt that we were given a new gaming experience that simply couldn’t be offered on any other console.
With that being said, while there were some hardcore games, they didn’t necessarily tickle the fancies of the hardcore crowd. Chalk it up to a distaste for motion controls, or preconceived notions that the Wii was the kiddie console, whatever it was; core gamers crowd didn’t hop on board as easily as most publishers would have liked, and that ultimately hurt the Wii in the long run.
Unfortunately, most people will remember the Wii as their grandmother’s console, where her and her friends played bowling without throwing out their hips, but we would like to look at it slightly differently. It wasn’t necessarily the revolution we were promised, but rather a console that changed the way people think about gaming at large, opening it up to a whole new audience and taking the stigma away from our favourite pastime – for better or worse. Thanks for the memories Nintendo.