Any fan of the Wii has probably heard the recycled rant against Nintendo. It goes something along the lines of “only Nintendo makes good games for their systems, they need better third-party support.” Well, with the massive success of Nintendo’s latest hardware offering, the Nintendo Wii, the mantra has changed a bit. Now the gaming public has been hit with numerous executives and developers claiming that, to quote Goichi Suda, creator of Wii’s recently released No More Heroes, “only Nintendo titles are doing well.” Unfortunately one can’t fight the sales figures, and Wii third-party titles are not selling as well as Nintendo’s — but generally they ARE just worse games.
One aspect that can be addressed by third-parties is coverage. Nintendo tends to spend a pretty penny on advertising for their main franchises – they make sure everyone knows when these games are about to come out.
I know, it’s a ridiculously original strategy.
For numerous reasons third-party companies don’t bother doing this, opting instead to spend their money elsewhere,usually on promoting other “more hardcore” titles generally produced for other platforms. Today,however, we will do their job for them, and highlight two-hands worth of upcoming Wii titles that are interesting for one reason or another, in order of expected release.
House of the Dead 2 and 3 Returns
$29.99, available 3/11/08
First up is yet another compilation/port from the older generation of consoles, Dreamcast old. Although the Wii crowd has certainly seen its fair share of ports, and will continue to do so for the near future, this is the first for the House of the Dead series, and the second in the light gun genre behind Capcom’s earlier released Umbrella Chronicles. The title will fully support the Wii Zapper, as if we would expect anything less, and Sega has announced that the gameplay has been re-tooled a little bit as well.
The House of the Dead 3 side of the coin will feature a new addition, dubbed “Extreme Mode,” that will infest the title with more difficult enemies and a narrower blast radius for the powerful shotgun. Other than that the games are reported to have been left untouched, leaving co-op and their branching story lines intact. If only we knew who’s blood this is!
Why it is interesting: Although it is a rehash of arcade titles from 1998 and 2002, they were light-gun titles that few people got to complete in the arcade, or bothered purchasing for their home due to the extra costs associated with buying light guns.
And…who doesn’t love Zombies.
Worms: A Space Oddity
$49.99, available 3/17/08
The newest entry into the long-running Worms franchise will be tackling the final frontier as its battlefield. In the new title, which by the way is a Wii exclusive, the annelid armies will have to battle it out in various space settings with space-themed weaponry to boot.
THQ and franchise creator Team17 have stated that the game has been built from the ground up around Wii’s waggle controls, explaining that A Space Oddity will allow players to “launch attacks with a variety of force-sensitive gestures using the Wii controller.” Worms: A Space Oddity has re-designed the classic Worms gameplay to be more casual friendly with Team17 going so far as to create a new, easily accessible, help system for the game.
Why it is interesting: It’s Worms with a fleshed out single-player experience, numerous multiplayer modes, customizable annelids, a horde of party games…and to top it off they are IN SPAAAAAACE!
Sega Superstars Tennis
$49.99, available 3/18/08
When this was first announced I was filled with glee, and not because it is another Mario Insert Sports Title Here clone with the Sega crew injected. No, no. The reason this game is interesting is because it will hopefully placate those hardcore gamers and tennis fans who have wanted a more fleshed out tennis experience than what is currently available through Wii Sports.
You see our beef is that the Wii has this motion control ability which is perfectly suited for something like tennis, and yet Sega passed up on porting Virtua Tennis 3 to the Wii (they most likely joined Wii development late into the game’s creation). Well now they have returned to the Wii with a tennis game featuring the likes of Sonic, Tails, Alex Kidd, Gilius Thunderhead, Gum, Amigo, NiGHTS and many more. In true mascot-meets-sports game fashion Sumo Digital has packed the title with plenty of mini games, similar to those in Virtua Tennis, along with Exhibition and Tournament modes.
Why it is interesting: Sega mascots from fifteen franchises battling it out in the most fleshed out tennis game to arrive on the Wii to date.
Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars
$TBA, available Q3 2008
Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars was one of the original titles announced by Gamecock Media Group back when the publisher announced themselves to the world in February 2007. The 3D platformer, in conjunction with its DS brethren Mushroom Men, will be the first from Red Fly Studio when it’s released sometime in the second quarter, and will feature three-inch tall Mushroom Men cast in a human world. There’s also dynamic weapon ‘creation,’ as shown by a club wielding fungi (actually a random corncob found along the stage).
Why it is interesting: The first title from Red Fly Studio, the company also in charge of the upcoming Ghostbusters video games. It’s also easy to draw comparisons between this and Nintendo’s own Pikmin, and having small beings placed in a human world is an almost guaranteed recipe for entertaining gameplay — and it contains the most unique art style seen in some time.
$39.99, available 4/8/08
Baroque is an odd beast — not just in its gameplay but also in the path its taken to finally arrive the Wii. The title was originally developed for the ill-fated Sega Saturn back in 1998 and then ported to the more successful PlayStation the following year. But, like many Japanese RPGs, the game never made it overseas.
Well thanks to Atlus, Sting’s unique JRPG will be coming our way in early April complete with 16:9 widescreen and progressive scan support. Atlus USA obviously believes that despite the Wii possessing a largely casual install base, the hardcore section will be foaming at the mouth to get their hands on this complex and challenging experience.
Why it is interesting: The title has been re-designed to support Wii’s motion controls, something that the world outside of Japan has yet to see in a Japanese-style RPG. Baroque was also one of Sega Saturn’s best examples of the genre with a complex story that forced the player to interpret much of the meaning behind what was going on. It is a thinking man’s (or women’s) game, if you will.
$39.99, available 4/15/08
Oh Clover Studio, how I wept when you were officially shuttered by Capcom. Clover’s contributions were many, not the least of which was Okami, the tale of a white wolf — actually the Shinto sun goddess, Amaterasu — on a quest to save the lands from darkness.
Originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2006, the game was hailed by players and critics alike, yet despite being lifted up as one of the year’s top releases, the game never managed to garner mass market appeal. Much of this was likely due to the game’s story, which is steeped in Japanese myth, legends and folklore, something that doesn’t often find a foothold outside of Japan. However, now, thanks to the Wii’s overwhelming success, Capcom and developer Ready at Dawn are giving Clover’s highly stylized action adventure game another chance at finding an audience, and we couldn’t be happier.
Why it is interesting: Okami was ahead of its time, and feels as if it was designed for the Wii before it was even a reality. Much of this feeling comes from the game’s unique emphasis on drawing gestures, dubbed Celestial Brushstrokes, on the screen to do battle, help the planet or even repair bridges. Oh and did I mention that Okami’s overall feel is very close in style to Nintendo’s own The Legend of Zelda franchise? No? Well it is. For those who love unique art styles, Japanese culture and missed the original release, this should be considered a must have.
$39.99, available 5/1/08
The best way to describe this new title from Backbone Entertainment would be “Pokemon: Halloween Edition.” In Monster Lab players will step into the lab coat of a budding mad scientist tasked with creating the ultimate monster. At their disposal will be a large range of arms, legs, torsos and heads to swap between until the perfect combination is reached.
The key to Monster Lab is in how these new appendages are added. Backbone has developed an interesting twist to the flood of mini-game compilations that have hit the Wii since its release, with these diversions playing a central role in determining the quality of parts added to player’s ghoulish creations. For instance, if you prefer a monster with brains over brawn then you’ll have to toss some grey matter into its skull in one mini-game: the more added, the more intelligent it becomes.
Once your personal Frankenstein is created it can venture into the world to defeat other monsters, complete various quests, collect materials for new monster parts or embark on defeating the evil Baron Mharti.
Why it is interesting: Over 150 monster parts and 300 items allow for a ridiculous amount of monster customization and to boot there are around 20 mini-games. Mini-games with a purpose that is!
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King
$15 (1500 Wii Points), 5/12/08
The original Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles on Nintendo’s GameCube was enjoyable — but it was no smash hit. The title was complex, as most Final Fantasy games are, but to truly enjoy it you had to have four friends, four friends with GBAs and an insatiable interest to play. The main aspect that drew me to the original title is what draws me to My Life as a King, a multiplayer Final Fantasy experience.
Multiplayer RPGs are a rare breed, but whenever one emerges they are generally proven to be solid efforts, such as Tales of Symphonia and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. That said, Square Enix is takinga different approach with My Life as a King, designing the game as a city building and simulation title with RPG aspects. The game will be a marquee title for Nintendo’s WiiWare download service launch in Japan this month, and will carry a similar role when the service debuts in North America on May 12.
Why it is interesting: For many, it’s enough that this is a Final Fantasy title. Add to this the game’s multiplayer focus, and the fact that it’s being built from the ground up to take advantage of the Wii, and My Life as a King quickly becomes one to watch.
Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility (working title)
$49.99, available 5/15/08
The latest in the Harvest Moon franchise will most likely garner a solid following from Wii’s large casual fan base, marrying waggle with the series’ saccharin sweet take on farm life.
Longtime fans of Harvest Moon will find exactly what they’ve come to expect from the series, including the ability to lace up in the dirt-covered boots of either a boy or girl as they raise the typical Harvest Moon livestock such as cows, sheep, goats, chickens, a dog, and even a white cat. Tree of Tranquility will also include other ‘exotic’ animals, such as ostriches, goats ,and silkworms and even a range of “wild beasts,” from monkeys to penguins.
Why it is interesting: Gesture-based gameplay looks to make Harvest Moon’s farming tasks more intrinsic — although why you have to hit A instead of pulling back on the controller while fishing boggles my mind. Tree of Tranquility (also known as Tree of Peace) will also let you carry on your family names through children, and in an unusual twist, you can even re-marry your spouse (who is actually your parent). Creepy!
Alone in the Dark
$49.99, available 6/3/08
Alone in the Dark is the fifth installment in the nearly two decade-old survival horror franchise, and one upon which troubled publisher Atari has pinned much of its financial viability. This latest take on the series is developed around an unique episodic format, with its story broken up into multiple sections, much like chapters, and each chapter will conclude with a cliffhanger teaser, hopefully feeding that desire we all have to play just a little longer.
Interestingly, as this method of story telling could cause players to forget what they were up to from session to session, developer Hydravision (who are handling the Wii and PS2 versions) has put in place video summaries that will play whenever a save file is loaded.
Why is it interesting: Alone in the Dark sounds like it will be the first game in the series to radically differ from its predecessors and is one of a few mature games coming to the Wii. Those facts alone make the title tempting to look at, but its interesting chapter implementation and use of (the soon to be cliche) mini-games inside a triple AAA title (BioShock, Mass Effect) add to the game’s luster.
Some of you may have noticed that these games, with the exception of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, all come out before the end of June. The reason is simple, most publishers only see six months in advance and since we wanted to cover games which are expected in 2008, we went with what we know. The natural extension of this insight should show that the back half of the year should have a slue of interesting games as well.
There you have it folks, 10 games to keep your eye on for 2008, none of which are from Nintendo. Will all of these games be smash hits? Not likely. Will all of them be good? Possibly. It’s true that the Wii will likely continue to be home to enough mini-game collections to blot out the sun, but as we’ve shown here, each of the game’s highlighted here bring something different to the table — from mature survival horror to gesture-based farming. 2008 will be an important year for the Wii, and like you, we’ll be watching the horizon to see what the rest of the year brings.