Old-school gamers need to face facts about the Wii. Nintendo remains the progressive, forward-thinking force in video gaming that they’ve always been. The difference now is that “forward-thinking” requires embracing an entirely new animal: the casual gamer. Video gaming for the masses, as it were. The highlight releases for the Wii console in 2008 reflect this broader mindset, with revered classic licenses appearing alongside playful, danger-free distractions. While this no doubt comes as a disappointment to fans still waiting for 3D remakes of Kid Icarus and Gumshoe (yes, Gumshoe!), a wider public acceptance of gaming is a good thing for the industry and its most ardent (read: hardcore) supporters.
We’re not exactly going nuts over WiiWare’s initial releases (a Final Fantasy-themed kingdom-building sim?), but the potential inherent in the service is tough to overlook. Virtual Console is great but it’s pretty much restricted to retro gaming by design. WiiWare opens things up considerably, allowing devs to put their efforts into smaller new titles designed specifically for the Wii and its unique controls. As much as everyone loves VC we have to say… it’s about damn time, Nintendo.
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Okay, you got us. Ready at Dawn’s Okami is actually a port of the same-titled game developed by the now-defunct Clover Studios and released in late 2006 for the PlayStation 2. But even then, on the eve of the Wii’s release, we all knew where the game should have ended up. An action-adventure in the vein of 3D Zelda titles, players assume the role of Amaterasu, a divine wolf who possesses the Celestial Brush. Players can use the Brush to paint rudimentary shapes which subsequently affect the surrounding world in a variety of ways. All of this in addition to the game’s distinctive art design and an involving narrative leave us aching to get all e-morion-al with Clover’s fantastic swan song.
9. Wii Music
There’s actually less anticipation surrounding Wii Music than we would’ve guessed, but that’s probably because there’s so much still to be learned about it. Previously seen minigames – which involve playing drums and conducting an orchestra – suggest that Wii Music will offer a much-simplified approach to the rhythm game genre. With 40 playable instruments confirmed and support for up to four players, the game seems like it could be a reasonably diverting way to spend some time. The clincher is that famed Nintendo composer Koji Kondo is involved. If you don’t know who this creative force is, direct your attention to picks number one and two on UGO’s The Best Video Game Music of All Time feature.
8. Worms: A Space Oddity
Recent revelations that Team17’s cosmos-themed Worms: A Space Oddity will be lacking both online play and downloadable content knocks it down a few pegs on this list. But the game will still offer the same strategic gameplay that fans of the series have grown to love, along with updated visuals, some new weapons and reportedly experience-enhancing motion-based controls (which is too often a rarity). And even in the absence of online play gamers will still be able to compete for bragging rights thanks to A Space Oddity’s four-player local support.
7. Harvest Moon: Tree of Peace
Full disclosure time: we have absolutely no conception of why or how the Harvest Moon series, at base a social farming simulator, is so popular. But people go nuts over it and we would be remiss for not including it here. Tree of Peace looks to be more story-focused than its predecessor, with players working to revive the withered and dying titular tree. The game will feature motion-based controls for farming activities, allowing players to simulate the experience of doing real work. It sure isn’t for everybody, but fans will eat it up like the fruits of their virtual gardens.
6. Super Mario Stadium Baseball
It’s a truly amazing phenomenon. Add the Mario license to basically any sport you can think of for guaranteed sales. Super Mario Stadium Baseball is the Wii-exclusive follow-up to the GameCube’s Mario Superstar Baseball, released in 2005. We don’t know much of anything about this beyond the (probably incomplete) roster of characters revealed in various screenshots. Expect improvements to the game’s core Challenge mode and any number of new (and likely motion-based) minigames. Hopefully Nintendo’s “safety first” policy won’t eliminate the possibility of intuitive motion controls for throwing balls and swinging bats.
5. No More Heroes
Grasshopper Manufacture’s killer7 was an awesome game even if we are still trying to figure out exactly what the hell was going on in its narrative. No More Heroes will force us to put those thoughts aside as we are presented with a brand-new free-roaming world in which players must take down the ten top assassin’s with the game’s hero, Travis Touchdown. Of course, it would be a Suda 51 game without a strong dose of weird. Travis undertakes his bloody work after winning the “beam katana” in an Internet auction, officially joining the ranks of the world’s assassins in the number 11 spot. Expect things to grow increasingly wackier as the narrative reveals itself further. All while foes are decapitated or sliced in two with swipes of the Wii remote.
4. Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors
Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors may very well be one of the longest game titles we’ve encountered not bearing the words “official” or “movie.” Publisher Square Enix’s next Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is also confirmed for a Wii-exclusive release, but Dragon Quest Swords is guaranteed to arrive in North America in 2008 (the Japan release was in July 2007). The game is a significant departure from previous RPG-focused entries in the series, playing instead as an on-rails “shooter” which replaces guns with a sword and a shield. Perhaps not quite what Dragon Quest fans would hope for, but a release to look forward to regardless if the strong sales in Japan are any indication.
3. Wii Fit
Wii Fit is not a game but rather an exercise simulator which fools participants into actually exercising. It all revolves around the new Wii Balance Board, a packed-in peripheral which uses Science to measure a user’s weight and distribution thereof. From that, all manner of information is recorded and tracked as a variety of health-improving activities are performed, including Yoga poses, push-ups, Step aerobics and even hula hooping. It’s the next-best thing to performing these activities without a Wii Balance Board!
2. Mario Kart Wii
For many Nintendo fans, Mario Kart Wii (still a working title) is the most anticipated Wii release of the year. The previously announced inclusion of a packed-in Wii Wheel accessory causes concern that the game may require the use of motion-based controls, an approach which hasn’t work as well as it could in many of the Wii racing options available. But knowing Nintendo, they’ll QA the crap out of Mario Kart until it’s perfect. Or just allow gamers to use alternative control methods. Sadly, we know little about any changes or improvements to be expected in Mario Kart Wii other than the welcome inclusion on online play for up to 12 players. This news gives us high hopes that the end of the Suck is coming for Mario Kart’s ailing Battle Mode (it was a joke in Double Dash).
1. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
The number of improvements made to the Super Smash Bros. series for its inaugural Brawl edition on the Wii are too numerous to possibly list them all here. Chief among them are online play, user-created levels, a fully-featured side-scrolling single player game and the crush of new characters, including non-Nintendo favorites Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog. Constant updates from a normally cagey Nintendo on Brawl’s Smash Bros. DOJO website have only whipped the series’ sizable fanbase into an even greater frenzy. The game’s unending delays seem to be over for the moment, with a March 9 North American release (more than a month after the Japanese release) the latest announced date.