Generation Wii-visited Part 5: Wii-rd and Wonderful
Buttons and analog sticks became the standard in video games for a reason. It’s the most intuitive way to play. Nintendo, however, loves to shake things up. They’ve always been pioneers in the industry, and with the Nintendo DS they struck gold. Adding a touch screen to their portable system was a stroke of genius, and it lead to one of their most successful product lines ever. When it came time to try and replicate that success in the home console market, touch screens weren’t really a viable option. Instead, Nintendo gave us motion controls.
Obviously it caught on big time with Wii Sports. It was a genuine phenomenon. But traditional games struggled. While the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 saw unparalleled levels of successful software sales, Wii’s biggest hits came in the form of stuff like Wii Fit and Carnival Games. Sure, money was being made, but it wasn’t exactly the most healthy ecosystem the industry had ever seen.
The problem was that the Wii was weird. Why swing your arm when you can press a button? Because it’s fun, that’s why! Or, at least it’s supposed to be, but few developers actually managed to succeed on that point. Nintendo did a pretty decent job of demonstrating the advantages of motion controls, but it wasn’t enough to convince the gaming community at large, especially when it came to the traditional games folks were looking for. The Wii was weird, and traditional games suffered for it. Non-traditional games though? That’s a different story.
Companies took some chances on the Wii, and they came up with some great stuff as a result. Be it games with motion controls, or traditional games with bizarre settings that utilized the platform’s Classic controller, some of the strangest titles in the generation landed on Nintendo’s little white rectangle, and almost all of them would benefit from a trip to modern consoles.
Motion controls on this scale are mostly a thing of the past, and developers have found ways to take these kind of of concepts and make them work just fine with more traditional controllers. So with modern consoles in mind, let’s take a look at ten of the Wii’s most wonderfully weird games, and why they should get the HD treatment.
Elebits was one of those early Wii games I feel like a lot of people slept on. Not just because the early days of the Wii were filled with folks only interested in Zelda or Wii Sports, but because this was an incredibly weird concept to begin with.
It’s been a number of years since I’ve actually spent any time with this game, but from what I remember, you play as a kid with something called a capture gun. There are these little creatures called Elebits all over the place that are more or less responsible for the electricity going out. Your job is to use your capture gun, which also sort of doubles as a gravity gun, to move/throw around everything in the game’s environments to scare out the Elebits, and then zap them with your gun to collect them. The more Elebits you get, the more powerful your gun gets. The more powerful your gun gets, the bigger the things you can throw around. You start picking up light stuff like plates and forks, you end up throwing beds and bookcases with ease. It’s very Katamari-like in that regard.
I never did get around to finishing this game, but I think I came close. It’s an incredibly clever and fun little experience. The only real issue with bringing it into the modern era is just how much it relied on the Wii Remote. Elebits stands as one of the best games that really revolved around motion controls, and it’s really unfortunate that it’s more or less stuck where it is. There’s some cool art direction in the game too, and it would benefit greatly from an HD upgrade. If they can figure it out, Konami could do well in giving this game another shot. Of course, it is Konami, so that’ll probably never happen.
I never did get around to playing Fragile Dreams, but I always wanted to. I couldn’t tell you what this game actually plays like, but I can tell you that it looks fascinating. It’s ridiculously anime, and from what I’ve come to understand the story is the kind of complete nonsense that would make Hideo Kojima blush, but there’s something incredibly alluring about this game’s art direction.
It’s got a fanbase, too. Not a huge one, and certainly not enough to ever garner any sort of followup, but the folks who did spend time with this game seem to have really clicked with it. But honestly, this game’s visuals are what make it such a prime candidate for an HD treatment. It takes place in a strikingly beautiful post apocalyptic Tokyo, with lots of moonlight and deep blues all around. It’s really quite striking, and given a shot on something other than Wii, I think it could find an audience.
The Trauma Center games seemed to live a pretty good life. The first one got a bunch of attention on the DS for being this completely bananas surgery simulator, and the franchise built from there. It all seemed to lead to the wonderfully bizarre and tragically overlooked Trauma Team.
Instead of just being a game about surgeons, Trauma Team puts you in the role of six different doctor-type people, taking care of patients in their own way. Of course, this being a Trauma Center game, the story is ultimately pretty nuts, and has about as much to do with real life healthcare as Phoenix Wright has to do with being a real lawyer, but it’s FUN.
Or, at least I’m told it’s fun. I’m one of the many unfortunate people who passed on this gem back in the day, and I’ve never gone back to give it a fair shake. New platforms would be a great opportunity to do so, especially the Switch with its optional touch screen in handheld mode.
It does leverage the Wii’s motion controls pretty heavily, but that’s not an insurmountable problem on Switch, so I’ll just be over here crossing my fingers in hopes that Atlus dusts this series off and gives new players a chance to experience it.
Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thorton are in this game. Seriously. And they aren’t even the main characters. Weird, right?
Deadly Creatures is such a cool concept, and I really can’t believe it didn’t find more of an audience. Not a lot more, mind you, just a bit more. Deadly Creatures is a 3rd person action game where you play as either a scorpion or a tarantula. Not stylized or cartoony, and not given dialogue or anything like that. Realistic versions, facing off realistic versions of other bugs, snakes, rats, etc. It’s a wildly original concept, especially its take on storytelling.
There’s an overarching plot that's taking place in the background the whole time you’re playing as these little critters. That’s where Billy Bob Thorton and Dennis Hopper come in. It’s nuts. They’re playing these full sized human characters in the background of you being a scorpion killing rats and it’s surreal and amazing.
And it was a freaking Wii game. Pretty this one up and put it on modern consoles please. People will definitely take notice, especially to hear a Dennis Hopper performance they’ve never heard before. I’m pretty sure Nordic Games has the rights to this one in a cabinet somewhere.
Kororinpa: Marble Mania & Marble Saga: Kororinpa
Monkey Ball is neat, but I’ve always been more of a Marble Madness kind of guy, and Kororinpa: Marble Mania and its sequel Marble Saga: Kororinpa are absolutely wonderful takes on that formula.
It’s a marble rolling game, where the Wii remote’s relative axis determines where the stage is in 360 degrees. Turn the Wii remote upside down, the stage is upside down. Tilt it a little to the left, the stage tilts a little to the left. It’s completely intuitive, and ridiculously fun. Gyro tech has definitely improved since the Wii days too, so pretty much any controller with Gyro could handle this game with ease.
And with the exception of Monkey Ball, there really isn’t anything else quite like Kororinpa (that I’m aware of). It’s a super simple concept that was perfectly suited for the Wii. My only guess as to why this game didn’t do much outside of Japan is the name. What’s a Kororinpa, and why does this game look so dumb? If you've played it, you know how much fun it is. If you haven’t, well, be prepared for some ugly visuals because this game (the first one, at least) was very much designed exclusively with old school CRTs in mind. If you tell your Wii or Wii U to play it in widescreen it just hideously stretches the image instead of actually presenting in widescreen. It’s gross.
These games are a ball to play (pun very much intended). They would make an excellent fit for the Switch, but honestly they would be great on every platform. We have the technology, so let’s let people roll some marbles! And give these games a new name while we’re at it.
Hey, look! It’s Prope and Yuji Naka again! Remember the tragedy of Rodea: The Sky Soldier? Yup, those guys. This one’s way more interesting though. Not from a historical perspective, but from a pure gameplay perspective. Let’s Tap is a game that involves using the Wii remote in a very unconventional manner. It came with its own peripheral in Japan, which was an empty cardboard box. Allow me to explain.
The way the game controls is, you put your Wii remote on a cardboard box and tap said box to play the games. It’s a minigame collection with stylized stick figures and a kicking soundtrack that’s just wonderfully absurd. If I had to venture a guess, the reason it didn’t fare too well in the US was because it didn’t come with the box, and supplying your own cardboard box isn’t nearly as eye-catching on retail shelves. The ridiculousness of selling a game that requires an empty box to play was half the draw!
This game is super fun. I’ve only played a little of it myself, but the little I played was a blast. Obviously this would only really work on the Switch today because of its control scheme, but the joycon are perfectly suited to this brand of insanity, especially in the wake of Nintendo LABO. I would love to see this gem make a comeback.
Boom Blox & Boom Blox: Bash Party
Boom Blox was Angry Birds before Angry Birds. Unfortunately it lacked a couple of important factors that made Angry Birds the success it was. First, Boom Blox has some really cruddy art direction. This game is not attractive, and none of its weird blocky animal creatures are in any way visually appealing. Boom Blox was also in 3D, where Angry Birds was a cute little 2D game with a personality.
But under the surface uglyness, less than great title, and dumb box art, Boom Blox is a really fun game. You use the Wii remote to throw stuff at structures to knock them down. Easy to play, difficult to master. It’s everything casual puzzler should be.
Making a new Boom Blox seems incredibly unlikely since Steven Spielberg was attached to the concept from day 1, and it’s an EA game, which means since it didn’t make them a billion dollars we’ll likely never see it again, but I’m not really rooting for a straight port job here. I just want to see someone revisit the concept on new consoles. This was a well made game, and it did well enough to get a follow up. Ditch the stuff that was holding it back and try again, EA. You can do it!
This game might be too cutesy for its own good, but it’s also weird enough to be worth revisiting. Like Elebits, this is another Konami game that would require actual work to be viable on modern consoles, so it’s probably never going to happen, but we’re not here for plausibility, we’re here for fun!
And fun is something this game flirts with an awful lot. You play as this dew drop named Dewy, and you move the Wii remote around to shift the landscape to effectively roll around. Again, sort of like Monkey Ball, but unlike Monkey Ball, this is more of an adventure game/platformer type thing. It’s got tons of cool water-based puzzle mechanics involving liquid, gas, and solid forms of water. It’s got an absurd amount of unnecessary lore behind its story, but ignoring that is pretty easy. There’s potential here, and I’d love to see more.
Tatsunoko vs Capcom
Of all the things in the world for Capcom to go against in a fighting game, Japanese animation company Tatsunoko isn’t one I had ever considered. Probably because I’m not Japanese. Regardless, it happened, and was released here in the US. And it’s great! Like, REALLY great. Like, way better than the last two Marvel vs. Capcom games (in my opinion). But it’s a Wii exclusive hard core fighting game, so naturally nobody played it.
Well, that’s not entirely fair. There’s actually still a community around paying this game. Thanks to the wonders of the Dolphin emulator, you can actually see what this game would look like in HD, and it’s glorious. But if you, like most people, haven't actually seen this game before, it’s honestly everything that Marvel vs. Capcom should be today, except with a really bonkers roster. Seriously, not only does this game play like a dream, but the art direction is beyond top notch, which is something we saw a lot of on the Wii. Developers didn’t have the raw power of the competing platforms to work with, so they had to come up with ways to make their games look good, and great art was almost always the answer.
This one was always going to be an uphill battle in the US because nobody here knows what Tatsunoko is. Regardless, if this were to show up on PS4 or Xbox One now, or even on Switch honestly thanks to the Smash tournament community, it would fare way better than it did on Wii.
Geometry Wars: Galaxies
Geometry Wars is still one of the most fun modern arcade style games I’ve ever played. I can boot up my Xbox 360, load up Retro Evolved, and have a freaking ball.
I have to admit that I don't know how much of the content in Galaxies was incorporated in the newer Geometry Wars titles, but I’m going on the assumption that they were their own things, like Galaxies was its own thing, and that this game’s content is still largely exclusive to Galaxies!
They took the basic premise of the brilliant wonder Geometry Wars, added a currency system that you can spend on helper drones, new enemy types/shapes, and a bunch of differently shaped stages which really changes things up, which resulted in this little masterpiece here. It’s also gorgeous, and we know this because other HD Geometry Wars games exist, and with this arguably being one of the best flavors of the game out there, it really sucks that it’s only available on Wii and DS. This game would make a killing on the Switch.
And that's going to be a wrap on this Wii tour. As is always the case when doing lists that highlight a platform’s library, there’s bound to be stuff I missed. These are the games that stick out to me as being the most deserving of HD remasters, and how crazy is it that I was able to come up with 50 games that are languishing on the Wii? They aren’t trapped in licensing hell, or based on TV shows and movies, they’re all video game IPs that have never officially been made in high definition, and I’m sure there’s plenty more.
What scares me though is that unlike the NES, Genesis, and other platforms of that era, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of real Wii nostalgia, especially relating to the deeper corners of its library. The chances of someone reviving these old games to me seems remarkably low, and that’s a real bummer.
But on the positive side of things, as of right now most of this stuff is pretty cheap and easy to track down, so who knows what the future holds? What about you? What Wii games do you want to see brought into the modern age?