Generation Wii-visited Part 2: Off Nintendo's Beaten Path
Welcome back! Last week we started a fun and fantastic journey through the Wii’s library. As we get further and further away from this system and its seismic, industry-shifting effects, it seems that the console’s massive library is becoming more and more obscure. The Wii played host to a number of titles that went on to sell millions upon millions of copies. Even now in 2019 there are still people buying new copies of Just Dance and Mario Kart Wii. But there’s so very much more to the Wii’s back catalog, and with the exception of some straight ports to the Wii U eShop, many of these titles are fading quickly into obscurity.
When the Wii was released, HDTVs were a luxury item. They were clearly the wave of the future, but at the time, their market saturation wasn’t exactly impressive. So while the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 brought the industry into the high definition era, making all of their new games effectively future-proof for the inevitable standardization of HD, Nintendo stuck with their composite cables and Standard Definition visuals. This awarded them plenty of advantages at the time, especially when it came to the cost of creating their games, but it also left Wii titles looking antiquated far quicker than any other home console at the time.
Last week we looked at the big games from Nintendo that are still sitting around begging to be cleaned up in HD, but the big Marios and Zeldas are only half of Nintendo’s story with the Wii. They also put out a number of weird and interesting projects that managed to slide past the Wii Sports crowd just as much as many 3rd party releases did. Some of these games are admittedly not necessarily amazing, but they are all at the very least interesting enough to warrant a return trip for the few who played them, and a new chance to shine on modern hardware. Let’s begin.
Wario Land: Shake It
New Super Mario Bros. Wii may be one of the best selling video games of all time, but when it comes to creativity and artistry, it’s got absolutely nothing on the criminally underplayed Wario Land: Shake It. Wario Land games have never been the powerhouses Mario games tend to be, but they still usually do pretty well for Nintendo. They’re slower, more methodical, and often more expressive than their more traditional counterparts, which is probably why they have such a loyal cult following. While this franchise has several entries that I haven’t spent more than a couple of minutes with, the few that I have played through (Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 and Virtual Boy Wario Land) were some of my favorite games at the time.
Naturally, when they announced Wario Land: Shake it for Wii, I was immediately excited. Not only did it seem like a return to form gameplay-wise after the good-but-not-quite-what-I-wanted Wario World for GameCube, Shake It was presented with gorgeous hand-drawn animation, something rarely seen in Nintendo’s games. No, instead of sticking with the polygonal look that made all the recent Mario games on Wii feel sterile and lifeless, Wario’s world was bright, colorful, and positively oozing with personality. Seriously, this game is just as stunning as Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap or Cuphead, and it predates them by a considerable number of years.
I honestly have no idea how difficult it would be to make a game like this in HD. Are these kinds of sprites easy to up-res? Is it even possible? I don’t know. But what I do know is that this game would benefit greatly from being seen by a new audience, finally getting actual widescreen support, and doing away with the unnecessary motion controls.
ExciteBots: Trick Racing
I could make this case for ExciteTruck too, but honestly ExciteBots is not only a better game, it’s a way more interesting one too.
ExicteBots is a sequel to ExciteTruck, which itself is a spinoff from ExciteBike. In the game you drive around in an animal themed transforming vehicle, pulling off insane jumps and ridiculous stunts along the way. During the race, there are icons you’ll hit that transform the track around you, creating hills and valleys at a moment’s notice, and there are also sporadic mini-missions that pop up to challenge you and reward your success. For example, it isn't uncommon to turn a corner in a course and find yourself faced with a soccer ball and a giant net. Ram the ball and score a goal Rocket League style and you get a bonus. It’s genius.
This game is a blast, and I sold the heck out of it at my store when it was released. I saw very few ever traded in, too. It isn’t a perfect game, but it’s a very fun one that so very much deserves a second life on Switch.
What’s so especially weird to me about this game though, is the way Nintendo just kind of shot it out there to die. They put almost nothing into marketing the poor thing, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. It’s great! It makes excellent use of the Wii’s motion controls, it has some really clever art direction and vehicle designs, and it’s genuinely very fun to play.
This is a game that wouldn’t take much effort to make look pretty in HD. It’s already a very good-looking game, but I can’t stress enough just how much this game would benefit from a non-motion controlled input scheme. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a good amount of silly fun involved in trying to swing your robot animal car thing around those poles by moving your controller around, but everything about it still has a certain level of imprecision to it. Having the ability to actually take this game seriously with tight standard controls would be wonderful.
Disaster: Day of Crisis
I hear this game is terrible in the best way possible. Reggie himself stopped it from coming out in America because he didn’t think it was up to Nintendo’s quality standards.
I say he was missing the point.
I don’t know how tongue in cheek this game is really supposed to be, and honestly I don’t think I care what the creators intent was. Everything I’ve seen about this gem looks hilarious and I’ve been dying to play it since it was originally announced. I’ll never get to play Project HAMMER, but Disaster was actually finished, and it was released in Japan and Europe.
It’s time for this wonderful disaster to find its way to American audiences. We bought Night Trap for crying out loud. There’s no way Disaster in HD, fully embracing its reputation as a hilariously overly melodramatic and ridicule-worthy action game wouldn’t find success on Switch.
For anyone who doesn’t know what this game is about, you play as a generic action dude running around in a city trying to save people from a series of ridiculous natural disasters. Seriously, look it up and tell me you wouldn’t want to play it. It probably doesn’t hurt that the game comes from Monolith Soft either, the people behind the suddenly popular Xenoblade series. That alone should get the game enough interest to make its port worthwhile.
Reggie isn’t here to say no anymore. Let’s do it.
I own both of these games and I’ve never actually turned them on. I bought them because I was curious exactly what kind of games they are. Everything I’d seen pointed to them just being scuba diving simulators, which honestly doesn’t sound too bad if I think about it. So, you just swim around and look at pretty sea life? That sounds… like something I could probably use more of in my life.
There aren’t a lot of games out there explicitly designed around being relaxing, but Endless Ocean and its followup Endless Ocean: Blue World seem to be exactly that. Sure, there’s some danger involved just like in real scuba diving, but for what I can tell this is a game about appreciating the majesty of sea life, and doing so in HD would be even better. Lots of weird stuff sells on the Switch now, and something as unique as Endless Ocean would stand out really well. And honestly, the game got a sequel, so how bad could it be?
Battalion Wars 2
It’s really weird that there hasn’t been a new Advance Wars game on the Switch. People love those games, and they were pretty darn successful. They released on Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and then they just stopped. And that’s just an American perspective. In Japan the series started way back on the Famicom and went strong ever since. Until again, it just sort of stopped. This is probably thanks to the surprising and sudden rise in popularity of their Fire Emblem series. Fire Emblem is a freaking powerhouse now, but Intelligent Systems used to be known for a lot more. They brought us the Pushmo series and Paper Mario, to name a few. Maybe it was the complete flop that was Codename STEAM. Maybe it was that they had to put all their effort into making new Fire Emblem games. Whatever the reason, there’s a giant Advance Wars shaped hole in the Switch’s lineup.
Battalion Wars II wouldn’t necessarily solve that problem, but I feel like it would give Advance Wars fans at least a reason to hold out hope for a new release. Battalion Wars doesn’t really play much like Advance Wars, but the DNA is there. The first game came out on GameCube, and it did well enough to get a Wii followup, so there’s clearly something there. I never actually played the game though, so I can’t testify to its overall quality all that much, but I remember hearing it was at the very least “pretty good.”
Bringing this game and its GameCube predecessor into HD probably wouldn’t be the most taxing project in the world, and who knows? Maybe in the process they can build the framework for making a proper Advance Wars sequel.
Mario Strikers Charged
Like Battalion Wars, this is another franchise that started on GameCube and died on Wii. While I can see how a game like Battalion Wars didn’t exactly set the world on fire, Mario Strikers Charged is a freaking mystery. This game is so much fun to play!
Imagine if you will, a soccer game that’s a cross between traditional soccer and freaking Mario Kart. That’s what the Mario Strikers games are, and it’s as fun as it sounds. It’s been a very long time since I’ve actually played either of these games, but I remember working in a Game Crazy back when it was released and my staff and I had an absolute blast playing it for weeks.
Unlike the Mario Baseball game that came out on Wii, Mario Strikers doesn't look like other Mario games. There’s this crazy stylized art direction blazing across the game’s promotional material that partially carries into the game as well. All the athletes wear cleats and soccer gear, and act a little more aggressively than you would normally expect them to. I mean, you’re playing soccer with turtle shells and Bob-ombs flying around the whole time. It makes Mega Man Soccer look downright tame.
It even held the distinction of being one of the first Wii games to feature online play, which I would think can at least partially carry over were it to be ported to Switch.
To be fair, a brand new entry in this series would be just as welcome, if not moreso, but no matter how it gets there, Mario Strikers needs to find its way onto HD consoles. This would be as good an idea as any.
Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat because from what I can tell the game sold pretty darn well. Not Mario Kart Wii well, but well enough to have been re-released as a Nintendo Select. And with good reason, it’s one of the best games on Wii. It’s also possibly the game that would benefit the most from being upgraded to HD. Why? Because it's absolutely gorgeous.
Punch-Out!! Has always been known for featuring big, bold sprites. From Bear Hugger’s blue overalls in the arcade, to King Hippo dropping his pants on NES, to Dragon Chan jumping around the ring on SNES, Punch-Out!! games always look top of their class good. Punch-Out!! for Wii was no exception. Seeing the entire cast from the NES game reimagined with modern designs is amazing, and while it only featured one new boxer in the form of Disco Kid, there was enough new life breathed into the rest of the cast they may as well have been new anyway. Seeing a new Punch-Out!! game animate and move around this way was a dream come true. What’s better though, was that it managed to play as good as it looked. Punch Out!! for Wii walked the walk. It was a tough as nails game that paid homage to its roots and added plenty of fantastic new features to the mix. ITtbrought back Title Defense from the original arcade releases, but this time it added the wrinkle of having to fight boxers who learned from their mistakes. Glass Joe protects his head with a helmet. King Hippo covers his weak spot with a manhole cover. And Title Defense Mr. Sandman is almost as tough as Tyson was back on the NES.
The biggest problem with playing this game today on modern TVs is input lag. This game was designed to be played on a CRT. Plugging your Wii into an HDTV brings along with it some pretty washed out and fuzzy graphics, but a small yet noticeable amount of input lag. The game just wasn’t optimized for use on an HDTV. But an HD port sure as heck would be, and we know Next Level Games knows how to make a good-looking Switch game. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a thing of beauty. And hey, these guys did Mario Strikers, too.
This and the arcade Super Punch-Out!! are the only two games in the franchise not represented on the Switch (unless you count the Game & Watch game, which is only technically a Punch-Out!! game anyway) and while I imagine the folks at HAMSTER will drop Super Punch-Out!! on us inevitably, this Wii masterpiece is stuck where it is. You can download it on the Wii U, but that only plays it in Wii mode, which is effectively the same as just playing it on Wii. This game deserves a true remaster, and I’m hoping like heck that we get it.
This game is like a more involved Mario Monopoly that’s also stuffed with Dragon Quest characters. This game’s lack of success isn’t much of a surprise. If it managed to release way earlier in the Wii’s life it probably would have been able to sway some folks to its cause, but releasing a relatively technical board game that wasn’t Mario Party on Wii this late in the game was never going to work. I applaud them for localizing it because the friends I know who have it still bust it out at parties, but Fortune Street is a super weird concept, and not the easiest thing to wrap your head around.
Not only that, but it’s a game with a giant Mario on the cover that doesn't feature the word Mario in the title. That might work for Smash Bros., but this game needed a little more than that to catch on. What it needed was as demo, which is something they could absolutely do on Switch. With the recent success of Dragon Quest XI S and the Mario brand’s evergreen popularity coupled with the inherent success of the Switch as a place where people buy almost anything, Fortune Street on Switch would absolutely find an audience. Add online play, online tournaments, and you have yourself a darn-near guaranteed hit that wouldn’t need to be developed from the ground up.
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
Sin & Punishment for Nintendo 64 was never released in the US. It finally made its way over with the Wii Virtual Console, but that cartridge was so sorely lacking here in the States that Nintendo 64 fans were going out of their minds. Why Nintendo wouldn’t release it in America when the console was positively starved for awesome content is beyond me, but Nintendo wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice with the game's sequel. The bad news was that while Nintendo of America fully backed the game with a decent ad campaign, it was never going to catch on the way the first one could have. For starters, it was a sequel to a game nobody had even heard of. It also had the unfortunate problem of being ugly.
It’s not traditionally ugly, it’s actually all about the game’s character designs. Saki from the original Sin & Punishment is a great looking character. These kids in the sequel look boring and generic, even flying around with jetpacks blowing up monsters, which should be physically impossible. I don't know if there’s a way to make these kids look cool, but I’m sure an HD coat of paint wouldn’t hurt, especially since everything else in the game is nuts. This is Treasure doing what Treasure does best. It’s fast paced, flashy, and incredibly fun to play. It would probably lose something with the lack of pointer controls, but the original game played just fine without them, so I’m sure a traditional dual analog setup would work just fine.
Rhythm Heaven Fever
And here we have what may actually be my favorite Wii game. Rhythm Heaven Fever is absolutely going to be in my conversation for Game of the Decade. It probably isn’t going to win, but it's going to be a part of the conversation because it’s so incredibly good. You know when you play a game and you can just feel the love of its creators in every screen? That’s Rhythm Heaven Fever from start to finish. I loved the DS original (Well, the original here in the US. It started on GBA in Japan) but while that game relied on some weird touch screen controls, Rhythm Heaven Fever was all about precise button presses.
While all the gameplay and general wonderful weirdness is this game’s biggest draw, what makes me particularly wish for an HD release is the fact that this is probably the best-looking game on the platform. The whole thing features some of the cleanest looking imagery the Wii has ever produced, and it all looks and animates without flaw. It’s a masterpiece of fun, weirdness, and imagination. One minute you’re a luchador being interviewed about a match, the next you’re a dog playing badminton in a tiny plane. You never know where Rhythm Heaven Fever is going to take you, but it’s almost always somewhere fantastic. (Except the “into you” car level. That one sucks).
There was a Rhythm Heaven game released on the 3DS that’s basically like a Rhythm Heaven greatest hits album, and if I’m being completely honest that’s the one I’d like to see ported to Switch most of all, but barring Rhythm Heaven Megamix’s unlikely rerelease, I’ll stick with my equally unlikely hope for Rhythm Heaven Fever to find its way to a whole new audience.
That’s going to do it for Nintendo, but the story of the Wii’s library of lost games has only just begun. Come back next week when we’ll take a dive into the strangest of Wii breeds: games intended for adults! A number of these gems have already found their way onto HD consoles, but there’s still a lot left to be discovered.
So have I missed anything so far? Are there any mature Wii games you’d like to see remastered? Let me know!