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Generation Wii-visited Part 3: All Grown Up

Generation Wii-visited Part 3: All Grown Up

Posted by Kris Randazzo on Jan 2nd 2020

Nintendo has had a “grown up” problem for decades. It wasn’t much of an issue when the NES was king, and the Super NES may have faltered around Mortal Kombat, but they got back on board the blood train with a spectacular port of Mortal Kombat II. Once the Nintendo 64 came to town though, Nintendo was generally known as a platform for kids. Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie lead the charge of brightly colored characters being equated with Nintendo’s brand, and no amount of hits like GoldenEye 007 or Killer Instinct Gold would shake that image. If you wanted games for grown ups, you had to have a PlayStation.

Nintendo never stopped dabbling in that pool though, publishing killer games like Metroid Prime, Eternal Darkness, and Bayonetta 2, but no matter how good they turned out, Nintendo’s image problem remained. Nintendo platforms are for kids.

Even more so than Nintendo themselves, 3rd party publishers have a history of trying to tap into the adult Nintendo market, and nowhere in Nintendo’s history has there been a more sad string of failures than on the Wii. With a name like Wii it isn’t hard to imagine why people looking for the latest violent thriller wouldn’t turn to that platform for their fix, but it turns out the system was remarkably well suited for those kinds of experiences.

Motion controls for 1st person shooters were among the earliest benefits touted when the system debuted. Unfortunately they were tied to Red Steel, a game that sold phenomenally well based on the presumption that it was a showcase for that the Wii’s motion controls were truly capable of. Unfortunately it just wasn’t a very good game and it was all downhill from there. Players didn’t bite going forward, and the Wii’s more adult-oriented fare languished on store shelves until the system’s demise.

There were a few games that made it out unscathed. The No More Heroes franchise managed to perform solidly enough to get itself a string of sequels and ports on HD consoles. Rail shooters like the Resident Evil Chronicles games, Dead Space: Extraction, and House of the Dead: Overkill all found new homes and audiences on PlayStation 3 thanks to the Move accessory. But the well of other games of their ilk that didn’t catch on runs deep.

Today we’re going to look at ten of the most interesting 3rd party adult-oriented Wii games that haven’t been ported to HD yet. These aren’t all forgotten masterpieces, and they aren’t all rated M either. But they're all games that would benefit from landing on a platform other than the Wii. Let’s get started.

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MadWorld

This game is a freaking tragedy. No, it isn’t a masterpiece. It isn’t going to change anyone’s life and it was never going to win any Game of the Year awards. But it was an absolute blast to play. MadWorld embraced the Wii’s limitations by playing with color to make it visually stunning. Sort of like how the Sin City movie painted on a black and white canvas with occasional splashes of color, MadWorld is equally black & white, and the only splashes of color were red from all the buckets of blood you spilled.

Part Smash TV, part Final Fight, MadWorld puts you in control of a man put in a brutal murderous game show. You have to kill everyone around you to win, and the violence is hilariously over the top. I was personally a big fan of playing Man Darts, a game where you hit someone hard enough to send their lifeless corpse flying toward a giant dart board for points.

The game’s simplified visual style made it look pretty good on Wii, but in HD, this thing could REALLY shine. This game is from Platinum Games, by the way. So if you’re a fan of games like Bayonetta or Nier: Automata, they share more than a little DNA with this one.

Of course its biggest flaw was that like many Wii games, it was very heavily motion controlled. It was waggle controls though, meaning that they were simple gestures replacing button presses. Porting this game to HD consoles, especially the more violence-friendly PlayStation and Xbox audiences, would be a wonderful change to get more people to experience the wonder that is this game’s world and hilarious running commentary (and killer hip hop soundtrack).

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Pandora’s Tower

There was a time toward the end of the Wii’s life where a trio of games sat unlocalized much to the chagrin of American audiences. A movement started called Project Rainfall to get these games translated and released over here for us all to enjoy. The Wii was still selling well, but games of this style has not fared well in the past. The process of localizing RPGs wasn’t something to scoff at, and even with their relatively modest budgets thanks to them not being designed in HD, putting in that work was still a pretty big ask.

The games were Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower. Xenoblade Chronicles went on to not only sell pretty well on Wii, but it was ported to 3DS, got itself 2 decently successful sequels, and has a proper HD remaster on its way next year. The Last Story we will definitely be touching on, but not until next week. Then there's Pandora’s Tower.

Pandora’s Tower wasn’t actually rated M, but it’s pretty gruesome nonetheless. The game plays like a sort of action RPG, with more of an emphasis on action. It sort of reminds me of the PS2 3D Castlevania games. Your girlfriend (or something, I don’t remember the exact relationship) has been cursed, and the only way to stave off the curse is to force feed her the flesh of your enemies. So you go around killing demons and ripping their flesh out so you can carry it back to your cursed ladyfriend and buy her more time so you can lift the curse once and for all. It’s pretty disturbing, but it’s all in service of a pretty cool action game.

I can’t say I’ve spent a ton of time with this one, but I enjoyed it when I played it. It was available as a download on Wii U, but again, that’s only in Wii mode, so no HD there. This is just the kind of thing that would go over pretty well on a modern console. PS4, Xbox One, or Switch would make excellent homes for it, and I’d love to see it given a second chance to shine.

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Red Steel 2

If this was the game that launched alongside the Wii, it may have lead a very different life. Sadly, the Wii Motion Plus wasn’t a thing at launch, and the original Red Steel’s bottomless mediocrity was what we got, basically ensuring that any sequel would have a seriously uphill battle.

Naming this game Red Steel 2 was as big a mistake as naming the Wii’s successor Wii U. Red Steel 2 has, to my eyes, absolutely nothing to do with Red Steel with the exception of it being a first person shooter that involves using a sword and a gun. That was the concept that sold folks on the original, but it didn’t really work because you had no control over when you’d use the sword and when you’d use the gun. This game let you switch weapons freely, and the new Motion Plus accessory gave players remarkable control over their actions in the game.

Speaking of the game, it’s really freaking fun. They went with this sort of stylized animated look this time around, which the Wii was very well suited for, especially compared to its ability to render realistic graphics. The main character looked like a cool sci-fi cowboy, and the world was very dessert-looking. It was a great concept that looked cool, played cool, and showed off Nintendo’s latest motion control tech in a remarkable way. But the deck was stacked against it.

First, the name. Red Steel was a pretty reviled game. Almost everyone who bought it traded it in at some point because it just wasn’t very good. Second, the inherent nature of the Wii console’s image made selling an action game decidedly not for kids a relatively risky venture, and one that hadn’t paid off for UbiSoft a couple of times already. Third, Red Steel 2 required the Wii Motion Plus accessory to play, which wasn’t an accessory every Wii owner had. This muddied the waters and sent this poor game to die.

Not only would Red Steel 2 look amazing on new hardware, but I can’t help but feel it would be a great fit for PSVR. I’d be happy to see it just out and about with no motion controls at all, mind you, but the whole point was being able to control your character’s actions 1 to 1. VR would be a great way to finally see this game’s full potential.

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Dragon Blade

Dragon Blade is no masterpiece. It’s probably a lot more mediocre than I remember if I’m being honest with myself. But I always thought there was something cool there worth playing. Hack and Slash games can be a good time, after all.

I’ve never actually played this one before, but I really wanted to. It’s about swords and dragons. I love swords and dragons! It’s also such an unknown quantity that it could basically be sold as a brand new game and most people would be none the wiser. And who doesn’t want to run around beating stuff up with a flaming sword?

I’ve seen footage of this one running in the Dolphin emulator, and a basic upres clearly wouldn’t be enough. The game needs some fairly thorough work to get it up to snuff, but I think there’s the core of a pretty fun game there. It’s not great, but it could be, and in my opinion, it deserves better than being an obscure Wii bargain bin game.

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Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a revelation. UbiSoft quickly followed it up with a pair of sequels that did well, but failed to recapture the magic of the original. Then they rebooted the whole thing on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with a more colorful, animated approach. It performed okay, but it once again failed to light the world on fire the way Sands of Time did. So in a relatively unprecedented move, UbiSoft resurrected the previous continuity and gave the Prince one more shot. Well, technically three more shots.

Disney thought making a movie out of Sands of Time was a good idea. They weren’t wrong, but their execution left more than a little to be desired. To tie in with this release though, UbiSoft made a brand new Prince of Persia game following up 2005’s The Two Thrones. The Xbox 360 and PS3 game received pretty decent reviews, but most people agreed that it was still missing that special something that the original had, and it didn’t warrant un-rebooting the franchise. However, something completely different was happening on the Wii.

While the game featured the same name as its big brothers, The Forgotten Sands on Wii was actually a completely different game. The folks who played it seemed to like a lot about this one far more than the other versions. The problem? It was on the Wii.

The game’s visuals weren’t bad, but SD graphics were especially dated by the time this one released. The Wii audience wasn’t exactly buying games anymore either. But more than anything, it utilized the Wii’s motion controls for its action, continuing the trend of alienating gamers who simply didn’t want to wave their hands around.

I’m of the mind that all four of the Prince of Persia games need to be remastered and put out on modern consoles, but this one in particular should be regarded as the real 4th installment. Pretty it up, fix the silly motion controls, and it’s possible the work that went into this version would finally get noticed by the gaming public at large. I know I’d be happy to give it a shot.

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The Conduit & The Conduit 2

What started as a very impressive tech demo finished off as an excellent counterpoint to people who said first person shooters wouldn’t work on Wii. No, The Conduit didn’t look as good as the latest Call of Duty on Xbox 360, but it wasn’t as far off as people expected the Wii to be capable of.

The Conduit told a story of weird sci-fi political mumbo jumbo. It was completely bananas, but in a good kind of way. There were portals everywhere, super cool weapons and doodads, and the game was genuinely fun to play. It sold pretty well, too. The game’s creators set out to prove that there was an audience for this kind of game on Wii, and that players were just waiting for something worthy of their time to purchase. They were at least partially right, as the game did well enough to warrant a sequel.

But by the time the sequel made it to stores, the Wii’s audience had long since abandoned it. Sales were poor, and High Voltage Software, the game’s developer, took a pretty big hit. (I’m still waiting on The Grinder). The real shame of it is, Conduit 2 was setting itself up as the best kind of insane sci-fi out there. The ending involved a futuristic Abe Lincoln coming through a conduit to kick some ass, and I would have been all in on that kind of crazy. It seemed like the developers were genuinely having fun making these games, and I would have kept buying them if they kept making them.

There’s no shortage of first person shooters these days, but this is a franchise that still had some life left in it that was unfortunately stifled by the platform it was released for. Remastering these two games in HD would be great, and giving the games the option for more traditional control scheme would make them way more accessible than ever.

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Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

I’ll admit that I don’t know a ton about the Silent Hill franchise. I also could have sworn that this game was ported to the HD systems at one point or another, but the only things I’m seeing now are a PSP and PS2 version. Weird.

What I do know is that the Silent Hill franchise has had a rocky past. People loved the original PSX game. People loved the PS2 sequel even more. Then things started going sideways. From what I gathered the series never really landed itself in “bad” territory, but it had lost touch with most of what people loved about it.

Then in late 2009, Konami dropped Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on the Switch. As you may have noticed by this point, some companies liked to use the Wii as a testing ground for some of their riskier projects. Developing games in SD was considerably less expensive than HD, so the risk was far lower. With the Wii’s insane install base, there was always a chance their game would catch on, regardless of the fact that by and large gamers had long since abandoned the idea of playing traditional games on the thing.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories decided to take some risks with the Silent Hill formula and try to make the act of playing the game more terrifying than ever by removing the player’s ability to defend themselves. This was a true survival horror game, and the reaction was mixed.

Still, there’s no denying the boldness of this game, and it absolutely has its fans. With the gaming public genuinely starving for new Silent Hill content, remastering this game and plopping it on current gen platforms would be a great way to appease fans. It would give players a chance to play an interesting game they probably skipped (because who was really playing Wii and PS2 games back then?) and give the PS4 and Xbox One another cool release to tide folks over while they wait for the next generation to start.

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Tenchu: Shadow Assassins

Here’s another franchise I know very little about aside from the fact that people loved it on PlayStation and then it kind of died off after that. The only Tenchu games after the original two I remember hearing any good things about were the DS one for being kind of clever, and the Wii game for being an M rated game on Wii.

But that’s really the extent of it. As for the game itself, it looks like it reviewed decently, and it also came out on PSP so a non-motion control scheme already exists.

Tenchu as a brand isn’t dead, or at least it doesn’t have to be. Putting some polish on this oldie and letting it loose before the next big consoles hit certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

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Project Zero 2

Remember Fatal Frame? There certainly are folks out there who do, and they’ve unfortunately missed a bunch of good entries, or at least so I’m told.

Fatal Frame is a horror franchise about cameras or something. They’ve been relatively popular in Japan where they’re known as Project Zero, and have inexplicably been coming almost exclusively to Nintendo platforms. There was one on 3DS, one on Wii U, and this one here on the Wii, which was a remake of Fatal Frame 2 on PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

It’s no mystery as to why the last few games in the series haven’t exactly sold like gangbusters. People never really typically bought horror games in droves on Wii, Wii U, and 3DS. If this game were to show up on PS4 or Xbox One, or heck, even Switch, I suspect it would spark a little more interest in the franchise. They even included Fatal Frame elements in the latest Smash Bros. There’s potential there.

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Rygar

Okay, technically what I want ported is the PlayStation 2 game Rygar: The Legendary Adventure, but since Rygar: The Battle of Argus is effectively just a really weird port of that game, it fits. But make no mistake, if Rygar is ever going to go anywhere in the realm of HD gaming, Tecmo needs to jettison their abysmal “updated” character design from the Wii game.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Rygar was a reboot/update of one of Tecmo’s classic IPs. What started as an arcade game and became an all-time classic NES game, Rygar always had a ton of potential because of the protagonist’s primary weapon, the diskarmor. This was basically a pointy shield yoyo, and it’s exactly as awesome as it sounds. It didn’t hurt that Rygar took place in a bizarre and fantastic world full of crazy enemies, floating castles, and weird old giant guys sitting on top of pillars.

When Rygar was reimagined for PS2, it was God of War before God of War happened. Rygar was released in 2002, and God of War didn’t hit until 2005. Of course God of War was a much better game, but that’s not to take away from what Rygar accomplished in its day. There’s no shame in not being as good as God of War. That's one of the best games ever made.

So Rygar is a cool 3rd person action game where you swing around your diskarmor and kill monsters and stuff. It’s been a VERY long time since I’ve played it, and I seem to remember the story being kind of bonkers and incredibly poorly acted, but I also remember thinking the game was really fun.

The Wii version apparently fixed some of the PS2 game’s rough edges, but it also replaced the classic protagonist’s design with this completely absurd… I don’t even know what to call it. But it completely clashes with the rest of the game’s world, and all sense of good taste. It also got crammed with lame motion controls. So yeah, the Wii version of Rygar was a flop, big surprise.

But now, God of War has evolved, and this kind of 3rd person action extravaganza doesn’t come around all that often anymore. Rygar could very well become one of Tecmo’s biggest brands again, and I think a nice polish of this game is the ticket.

The Wii is a strange point in video game history. Not a bad one, but a strange one, especially for Nintendo fans who happened to like games aimed at a more mature audience. Speaking as one myself, I can say that we weren’t exactly starving for good ideas, but the execution left a lot on the table. This is where quality HD ports come in. These games have a lot to offer, and it’s a real shame they haven’t been given a proper chance to shine.

Come back here in one week for a dose of adventure. The PS3/360 generation wasn’t a powerhouse when it came to sprawling adventures, but the Wii did its part to pull some of the weight with a handful of killer SD adventures for those brave enough to still want to play in lower resolutions. We’ve got another ten titles all picked out and ready to go. See you then!