Generation Wii-visited Part 4: World of Adventure
PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were absolutely wonderful platforms. They were the birthplace of some of the best games ever made, and they helped usher in the new HD era, making standard definition CRT televisions a thing of the past. However, some would argue that Microsoft and Sony jumped the gun on the change to high definition. That the industry wasn’t ready for the expense that came along with developing games in HD, Regardless of how you feel about their timing and the end result, there’s no denying that the cost of game production did, in fact, skyrocket as creating games in HD became the norm.
No longer could companies get away with muddy textures and graphical shortcuts. Suddenly every game’s every blemish was on display for all the world to see, and as a result the scope of many projects had to be reigned in. The PlayStation 2 was a haven for JRPGs. An endless cavalcade of games in that genre filled the platform’s library from day one. But making games of that size and scope on this new high definition hardware was a whole new ballgame. This didn’t just refer to JRPGs either.
Creating new ideas had become more of a risk than it ever had before. Now, if your game wasn’t a massive success, it could cost your company millions. EA’s Mirror’s Edge was awesome, but while it's numbers would have made it a killer success on the original Xbox, it failed to earn enough on the HD platforms to justify its existence, and this promising new franchise was put on ice. Capcom’s Dark Void, Double Fine’s Brutal Legend, Square-Enix’s Kane & Lynch, and many more painted a grim picture for developers who wanted to try something new: It’s rarely worth the risk.
But then you had the Wii. With its far less expensive SD limitations, creating big, colorful worlds was still in reach. Trying out weird concepts outside of Xbox Live Arcade was still an option. They still had to deal with the Wii’s motion controls and less than motivated install base, but the potential was there. The Wii wasn’t devoid of all success stories, and if they could manage to break through, considerable success potentially awaited.
So the adventures eventually came. The weird stuff found a home. Old projects got a new chance to reach an audience. And most of them, well, they failed.
But the good news is, the framework is there. The games were made, and all they need is a little more love and a new audience awaits. And in the case of a few of these games, a new chance at a second success. Let’s go on an adventure!
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
With a name like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, is it really any wonder this game flopped? I honestly don’t think I know anybody who’s actually played the thing, myself included. My excuse was that I just didn’t have the time, but I did try the beginning of the game at my GameStop when it came out and I was pretty impressed! In the first 15 minutes you go through a freefall shooting segment, crash land an airship, face off against a dimension hopping armored ninja thing, and more. This game has spectacle to spare.
It’s also pure Final Fantasy, at least in spirit. This game doesn’t feature any of the franchise’s classic turn based combat, but you could argue the new Final Fantasy games don’t really either, so honestly this game’s gameplay would be even less of a stretch for modern gamers.
It’s also chock full of Square-Enix levels of polish. This is a really good-looking Wii game, with some excellent character design and art direction on display. Considering what Square was able to do with Final Fantasy VIII, I imagine this game would fare incredibly well were it given a second chance at retail.
It would need a new name though. This game’s title makes Bravely Default sound good.
Klonoa is one of those games that I know I should have played, but I just haven’t. I must not be alone because no matter how many times Namco tries to give this game a fair shake, it doesn’t pan out. The original game was released on PlayStation and garnered a cult following and some pretty decent reviews. Klonoa 2 landed on PlayStation 2 and managed to pull a similar trick. Pretty solid reviews and a very happy, albeit small, fanbase, and not a whole lot in terms of sales. The franchise hit Game Boy Advance, the Wonder Swan, but it never managed to find its footing.
Then the Wii happened, and as we soon learned, it was a fantastic place for character platformers. Unfortunately for Namco, Klonoa beat the big guns to the punch, and nobody noticed it. New Super Mario Bros. Wii released in late 2009 and sold a bajillion copies. Donkey Kong Country Returns followed in 2010 as another massive success story. Klonoa released on Wii in late 2008, and I can’t help but think that if it had come out a year later when folks were just finishing up New Super Mario Bros. Wii but hadn’t quite made it to Donkey Kong Country yet, Klonoa could have been huge.
Klonoa for Wii is a full on remake of the original Klonoa on PlayStation, complete with updated graphics, new voice acting, and a bunch of other stuff too. It’s beautiful, and it would easily upres to HD in style.
Like I said, I haven’t played it in any of its iterations, but people whose opinions I respect really like this game, and I have no doubt that given the time I would too. This one screams Switch to me too. Mascot platformers seem to do pretty well on the platform, and even when they don’t, they do well enough to justify their existence. The time is right. Give Klonoa one more chance.
The Last Story
It’s not Final Fantasy, it’s The Last Story! Cheeky title aside, this was one of the legendary Project Rainfall games. It was also pretty well loved by most of the people who played it. It didn’t review through the roof or anything, but this was a brand new JRPG from Mistwalker, directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and composed by Nobuo Uematsu. JRPG pedigrees don’t come much better than that.
The problem with this release was its timing all around. By the time Xseed published the game outside of Japan (where it was published by Nintendo) so much of the Wii’s audience had jumped ship there was pretty much no chance this game was going to be as big a success as it could have been.
Games like this weren’t common in this era. Final Fantasy XIII took ages to finally come out, and Microsoft dumped a ton of money into projects like Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and Eternal Sonata with little to nothing to show for it. Making these kinds of games on the scale they used to be on PS2 was such an expensive prospect, companies really shied away from even trying. But on Wii, Mistwalker didn’t have to worry about making their game in HD, so away they went.
This game’s visuals would benefit so much from an HD makeover. The art direction is the kind of thing that the Wii just wasn’t that well suited for, but bump this up to current gen standards and you’ve got yourself a real winner. I’m still shocked Nintendo hasn’t bankrolled this game’s remake on Switch yet.
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams
This game is not as good as the original NiGHTS: Into Dreams for Sega Saturn, but it isn’t without its charm, and it’s positively begging to be remade.
NiGHTS is the very definition of a cult classic. It released as some sort of savior for Sega’s fledgling console, but failed to catch on with mainstream audiences because it’s a pretty weird concept. You’re basically just flying through hoops as this floating jester character, but there’s something there that’s hard to put your finger on. The game's just plain fun to play, and its imaginative dream worlds captured the hearts of the right kind of players.
It was also from Sonic Team, and it’s what we got instead of a proper 3D Sonic on Saturn. These factors together made NiGHTS fans constantly clamor for Sega to return to the property. They included it in various Sonic titles and pinball games, but a proper NiGHTS sequel never materialized, until the Wii.
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams is gorgeous, for the most part. When it sticks to the formula that made NiGHTS on Saturn a classic, it truly shines. Unfortunately it’s also stuffed with some brutally mediocre 3D platforming segments and some nasty visual design choices.
NiGHTS’s rival Reala was given thick black lips, rendering the character unsettlingly grotesque and decidedly not cool-looking. There was this silly old Owl character floating around narrating everything in the dullest manner imaginable, and the kids themselves just felt off. Granted, Claris and Elliot weren’t exactly the pinnacle of character design, but you could get away with a lot more on the Saturn.
Problems aside, with a fresh coat of paint and a couple of tweaks, NiGHTS could fly again on modern consoles.
Lost in Shadow
New games from Hudson Soft don't come around as often as they should, and Wii’s Lost in Shadow is a perfect example why. Lost in Shadow wasn’t the best platformer I’ve ever played, but the time I spent with it was pretty fun. It’s a game about a shadow. As in, the camera scrolls through a level and you play as something or someone’s shadow in the background. It’s a really cool concept that I’ve always wanted to spend some more time with.
The game’s got a really great atmosphere, and it’s a concept that feels very “indie game” if you know what I mean. A simple HD port on modern digital shops would be a great fit for this gem.
Arc Rise Fantasia
When the world was starving for JRPGs, Arc Rise Fantasia from Marvelous Entertainment was there. I never played it myself (because there was no way I would have had time for a JRPG when this game out) but everyone I know who did said this game was decidedly okay.
So why bother giving it the HD treatment? Well, why not? Not every game needs to be a 10 out of 10, and while we aren’t exactly starving for this kind of content anymore, there’s still room for something like this today. There’s something about the game’s presentation that just looks good, and I think would really benefit from the HD treatment. I also feel like it would be a great fit for Xbox. I honestly don’t know what makes me say that, but something about this game just says “Xbox One” to me.
Zack & Wiki
I love it when Capcom tries something new. They struck gold with the Phoenix Wright series, and they should have done the same here. Unfortunately, the world just wasn't interested in this cute little pirate and his flying monkey friend.
Zack & Wiki is basically a point and click adventure where you use the Wii remote to solve a bunch of environmental puzzles. It’s probably a little too cute for its own good, but honestly, it’s a real joy to play. And speaking of joy, this game seems custom made for the Switch’s Joycons.
A lot of Zack & Wiki involved the IR pointer, but Mario Maker 2 proved moving a pointer around with an analog stick is fine if the underlying game is good enough. But the game’s puzzles had a tendency to involve a lot of clever motion controls to solve, which would work really well with a Joycon.
Zack & Wiki managed to get iself a cult following, but aside from landing on the Wii U Virtual console, the game and its limitless potential has remained dormant since its original release. Capcom loves making things into franchises. Spyborgs may be a lost cause, but there’s life in Zack & Wiki.
Disney Epic Mickey
Oh, this game. This beautiful mess of a game. When Epic Mickey was announced, everyone took note. The concept art was absolutely stunning, and the general idea behind it was beyond enticing. This was Disney allowing someone to really play with Mickey as a character, going all the way back to his roots. So far back, in fact, that they called on the little known Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to flesh things out.
As the story goes, Walt Disney used to draw Oswald for another animation company, but eventually went his own way with his own company and created Mickey as a sort of replacement. Oswald was quickly forgotten as Mickey became a breakout star, and then Disney became the giant mega-corporation it is today. What Epic Mickey did was make it so Oswald never actually went away. He was languishing in Mickey Mouse jealousy for decades. His creator had abandoned him in favor of his new creation, and that essentially made him a fascinating antagonist.
The game featured worlds upon worlds of distorted and decayed Disney imagery. There’s even a stage where you walk over a landfill full of old Mickey video games like Mickey Mania and Mickey Mouscepade. The premise was genius, and with Warren Spector behind the wheel, the Wii was poised to have a bonafide hit on its hands.
But the game wound up being just kind of okay. The controls weren’t great, and the camera was kind of a hassle. For all its splendor, a handful of technical issues really bogged it down. The good news is, these would probably be pretty easy to tweak for a new release.
With a little effort, Epic Mickey could live up to its potential. I don’t know how feasible it would be with Disney seemingly having lost all interest in the project, and Junction Point Studios having been dissolved, but if it did manage to find its way back, I’d be all for it.
Sonic games haven’t been good for a very long time, according to common knowledge. Except that isn’t exactly true. The big budget Sonic games like Sonic 2006, Sonic Heroes, or Sonic Unleashed are broken finnickey messes, but there’s a whole other sect of Sonic games that has been pretty darn good, 2D games.
The three Sonic Advance games for Game Boy Advance are great. Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure on Nintendo DS are spectacular. Sonic Colors for Wii was an attempt to bring the successful modern 2D Sonic to the big screen, and it was pretty darn successful.
Sonic Colors introduced the Wisps, little alien creatures who give Sonic temporary power ups. These great little gimmicks coupled with some killer level design and clever tricks made Sonic Colors an absolute blast to play, especially compared to the other Sonic games that had been on consoles up to this point. It isn’t perfect, but it’s darn good.
This game did really well on Wii, but it could have done so much more if the Sonic landscape hadn’t been so muddy. The Sonic Storybook Series didn’t exactly do the brand any favors, with Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic and the Black Knight not turning out as good as fans had hoped, and with other Sonic 3D games on other platforms stinking to high heavens. Every time a Sonic game was released, fans would get their hopes up for Sega to finally get it right, and for the most part they did with Colors, but a lot of damage had already been done.
In a Post-Sonic Mania world though, Sonic Colors being remastered in HD would probably sell like hotcakes. It's still fun to play today, and it’s not exactly an ugly game to begin with. A fresh coat of paint, and Sega would have itself a real hit on its hands.
Rodea: The Sky Soldier
While on the subject of Sonic, let’s finish off today with the tragedy of Rodea: The Sky Soldier. Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic and NiGHTS, had an idea for "a very original action game based in the sky." For fans of Naka’s work, this game was something to follow. It was being developed for the Wii, and it looked like it was going to be pretty cool.
But things with the game’s publisher weren't so great. It sat delayed until the Wii version would have been all but pointless to release. Another version of the game was ported to 3DS, which then changed over to Wii U, but the resulting game was pretty different from what people had been expecting form the finished Wii game. In 2015, Rodea: The Sky Soldier was finally released on Wii U with almost no fanfare, and even less in the area of sales. However, it was a pretty fascinating release because while the Wii U version of the game was pretty universally panned, the game also shipped with Naka’s original Wii version, and that was actually pretty good.
Rodea was a passion project from a pretty important figure in gaming history. The game really deserved better, especially the finished Wii version, and now’s the time to make it happen. I’ve spent a couple of minutes with it and I have to say it’s pretty neat. The Wii U version isn’t terrible, but it’s pretty unremarkable. The Wii version though is way more colorfgul, and has the spirit of greatness. I would love to see Naka take another swing at making this game in HD for modern consoles. Like NiGHTS, there's a lot of potential here for a new classic, and the actually good version of the game was only available as a bonus disc in the first run of Rodea’s Wii U release, which wasn’t exactly widespread to begin with.
But that’s going to be all for adventure today. There’s still one stop left on this Wii train though, and that’s the 3rd party weirdness. When you have a console like the Wii, you’re bound to wind up with some unique games, and I’ve got a list of ten titles that deserve a chance to weird it up in glorious HD. See you then.