The Wii news and rumour bandwagon has been running full steam of late.
Mystery titles being announced by Nintendo and Capcom, previously forgotten games like Super Paper Mario given a new burst of information, the virtual console service getting higher in profile each week, and other nuggets are making their best efforts to keep interest and excitement in Wii high. For all intents and purposes, Nintendo's machine should have a great first full year.
But there's still many question marks lingering. No doubt some of you who are fans of certain Nintendo franchises are wondering where exactly the update to their favourite series is. What chances there are of high profile games from other formats making it across. What's around the corner that's yet to be announced?
It's impossible to answer all of these questions – not without breaking into the secret files of Nintendo's HQ and subsequently having men in black come around and break my machines and fingers (in that order if I'm lucky). But it doesn’t take risky industrial espionage to work some things out. Just a healthy imagination, some industry savvy and the logical ability to piece together facts already out there.
So let's take a look at a small slice of Wii's possible gaming future. Take in mind much of this is firmly within the realm of speculation, educated guesswork and the blindingly obvious, so be aware of just how much stock I've put in the likelihood factor I've placed at the bottom of each example.
The Castlevania series – Konami
A popular series that's seen a troublesome translation since videogames entered the third dimension. While Konami is clearly getting better at giving the whip wielding action adventure franchise a crack outside of its 2D roots, there's yet to be 3D version that's matched the delights of Symphony of the Night. Part of the problem is gameplay purity. Castlevania works exceptionally well in 2D as it uses mechanics not often used on that plane, while in 3D the competition is much stiffer and we're far less forgiving for the design flaws its seemed to have picked up along the way. But still. It's Castlevania.
How would it work?
A Wii Castlevania would have to overcome the 2D/3D conundrum first. Would a lavish 2D game be as accepted on a main 'next gen' console as a reworked 3D one? Probably not, I'm sad to say. There's just too much resistance on a publishing and marketing level. So it's likely to be a 3D adventure, in a Legend of Zelda vein. With that in mind, the obvious way to go would be using the nunchuck to move and focus a camera, with the Wii remote for attacks.
There's an obvious desire to make the remote operate a direct attack or to hook on to platforms, where you flick your wrist to crack the whip, but how about adding gameplay functions where you can capture enemies with the weapon and then fling them in the direction aimed by the remote? Or using gesture commands with the controller to form magic spells, as Konami did with its DS iteration? There's a lot that can be done. And if Konami is feeling particularly brave, it could go the 2.5D route, a la Viewtiful Joe.
Likelihood of seeing it on Wii: 7/10
Konami representatives initially went on record saying it was unlikely, with producer Koji Igarashi even stating in Nintendo Power: "For me, the Nintendo Wii controller doesn't yet connect with the core gameplay of Castlevania. I definitely don't want to make a game with gimmicky controls where you swing the controller like a whip..." Ouch. Since then he's changed his tune a little, saying he has some ideas for Castlevania Wii, but the team wants to concentrate on getting the DS version, Portrait of Ruin, out. Well, it's out, so I imagine attentions have turned to seeing what they can get from a Wii version – especially now the machine is selling so well in its opening stages. Better than average chances, then.
Football Manager – Sports Interactive/Sega
The long running football/soccer management franchise has gone through some changes over the past decade but despite switching publishers from Eidos to Sega (and so switching names from Championship Manager to Football Manager in a legal agreement), the quality has remained the same. The deepest and most involving management title around, this PC and Xbox/360 game has been a success across Europe and deservedly so. A Wii conversion would certainly give Nintendo owners access to a genre not really explored since the Super Nintendo days (yes, the SNES had a decent football management game, believe it or not).
How would it work?
Given the game is mostly mouse driven, the Wii remote would be perfect for the interface, being faster and more reliable than a typical joypad and context sensitive buttons as seen on the Xbox 360 version. Even the usually painful lack of keyboard for data input would be improved with the remote, if not a true substitute. The only true issue is storage, as FM is hugely reliant on large RAM and hard drive data management. While storage wouldn’t be too much of a problem via external SD card memory, Wii's RAM is possibly a weak point for such a game. So I would imagine Wii FM would be more like a cross between the PSP and Xbox versions rather than the more upscale Xbox 360 iteration (so unfortunately no 2D match engine, to cut down on processing burdens)… but all the same a slightly cut FM is still worth playing.
Likelihood of seeing it on Wii: 4/10
Now this is an interesting one. I've personally heard that several members of Sports Interactive like Wii and have expressed an interest in making games for it (which would naturally include Football Manager in some form), but have yet to received development kits or much in the way of reciprocation from Nintendo. The Big N is notoriously fussy when it comes to providing dev kits to third parties and while it's been hoped the company has become more giving to its software partners it seems there's been little change in some areas. Should things improve, relationships strengthen and the memory issues be satisfied, we may well see a version of Football Manager on a Nintendo format yet. Of course, another big factor is audience. Sports Interactive has to know Wii's userbase will be interested in a game like FM; while such a thing is given on Xbox 360, it's less of a certainty on Wii. Given the broad mixture of hardcore and mainstream users on the format, it's a bit too early to make any certainties. Fingers crossed that things come together…
Pro Evolution Soccer - Konami
Another glorious football title with ample pedigree, Pro Evo has become something of a format journeyman, no longer remaining loyal to Sony formats and now readily available on Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS. Slick gameplay, great presentation and lots of depth would bring a smile to any football loving Wii owner's face. Although it's previously been noted that sister franchise, International Superstar Soccer, often ends up on Nintendo's home formats instead of PES, this has changed over the years with the latter emerging on GameCube (in Japan as par of the Wining Eleven series).
How would it work?
A common question asked by anyone who now realises Electronic Arts is bringing FIFA to Wii. Obviously strapping the Wii remote to your foot is a path to madness. What's more likely is that the remote would be used for tricks and ball control, offering slicker and more responsive ways of making players react. For example, how about flicking the remote back to do backheel, and up to flick the ball upwards? Do that while running and you can potentially perform a Pele style overhead trick. In fact, why not map certain ball movement to the remote, allowing the force of the shot to be represented by how quickly and sharply you move the controller? Better yet, holding down A would allow you to switch between passing and shooting, so spraying passive balls instead of aggressive ones could be done. It may make things more challenging as you learn just how much force is required (a power gauge may be needed for accuracy's sake), but it would also make 'special moves' more fun and accessible. One to think about.
Likelihood of seeing it on Wii: 10/10
It's pretty much been confirmed as producer Shingo Takatsuka has already publicly stated to CVG, and the game has appeared on Konami's schedule, albeit under the typically generic codename guise of 'Soccer/Football'. Should be interesting to see what pops up.
LucasArts style adventure/point-click games (Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Sam and Max)
Gamers have been crying out for point-click style adventure games on Wii since it was revealed the remote would act as a pointer, hopefully revitalising a genre which has not seen much play in many years. Sam and Max has thankfully found itself reborn on PC (despite a rather muted reception), but others in the genre are without separate owners to their intellectual property rights and as such remain in LucasArts vaults, unlikely to see the light of day at the moment, even with them also making an ideal fit on Nintendo DS.
How would it work?
Easy – you probably know this dance already. In the case of old school point-clicks, the remote would act as a cursor with any of the facia buttons performing actions. With the newer ones, the analogue stick would be used for movement while the remote controls the pointer when the character sees something of interest. Extra gameplay moves or Super Monkey Ball/WarioWare style mini-games would be more than viable to keep things fresh.
Likelihood of seeing it on Wii: 5/10
A mixed batch of news, this. LucasArts has, for reasons unknown, tried to distance itself from its classic adventures, not even attempting to put them on DS which would be a smart move. A Monkey Island compilation would slot nicely on to a Wii disc and work a treat, but it appears the company either doesn’t want to know or is taking a long time to express interest. However, Sam and Max publisher, Telltale Games, has expressed a strong willingness to make its franchise Wii bound. Whether it would be episodic like the current batch of sequels doing the rounds on PC or just a new game is unclear, as is if Nintendo actually wants the series. Sigh. So while negotiations may be taking place, it could be a while yet before we see anything on the shelves.
Half-Life series– Valve/Vivendi
One of the biggest and most prominent first-person shooters going, Half-Life has enjoyed critical and commercial success all over, remaining a prime example of how to do the genre justice while innovating it in various ways. PC owners have enjoyed its excellence for years now, with episodic sequels expanding the universe on semi-regular occasions, lessening the wait between titles. Cynical in the sense it means we won't see Half-Life 3 any time soon, but more spread out titles among the franchise is not a bad thing. Xbox 360 will see a version sometime this year.
How would it work?
Teething problems aside, Wii has already proved itself a great format for first-person shooters, allowing for a greater leeway of control that takes a short while to truly get used to but still more accurate than the usual controller option as deemed standard for the genre on consoles. With Half-Life 2, its gravity gun weapon would be in fine hands via the Wii remote, as already seen in Elebits/Eledees. The grav gun was a brilliant addition to the game, so Valve would no doubt have fun implementing it on Wii.
Likelihood of seeing it on Wii: 2/10 (for Half-Life) 4/10 (for a Valve FPS)
Hmm. Interesting mods aside it seems fairly unlikely at the moment. Valve President and Co-founder Gabe Newell has found time to praise Wii as a format, but in terms of development plans that means very little. Half-Life 2 was visually a struggle for Xbox to manage, so similar problems would be evident on Wii, sadly. Not to say Valve won't ever create games for the format (we may see something eventually), but there's a huge gap between being a fan of a Nintendo machine and going through the numerous hoops and trials in making games for one.
Pilotwings - Nintendo
The flight simulator that continues to fly out of reach for fans, Pilotwings has remained a legendary Nintendo game across two formats; Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. Both titles were acclaimed and remain relatively fresh as a genre on consoles, allowing you to control a variety of flying machines and taking part in a number of tasks, such as skydiving through rings, hang gliding through thermals and destroying ground based artillery via an attack helicopter.
How would it work?
Another no-brainer here. Tilting the remote on its side could be used for some configurations while keeping it upright and guiding it like a paper plane is another option, depending on which vehicle you're flying. Then either way you could drift the remote to represent the action on screen, using any buttons for rarely needed actions. The remote's speaker would allow for some alarming verbal messages warning you of dangerous altitudes or incoming fire. It would be a dream, even if I do say so myself.
Likelihood of seeing it on Wii: 8/10
Makes far too much sense (which is enough reason why it may not happen, given Nintendo's occasionally erratic nature). Pilotwings is such a snug fit on Wii that everyone erroneously thought they saw it in the tech demo unveiled with the console last year. There's been an unsurprising hush over the subject since, as I'm beginning to suspect a decision is being made over whether to make it a separate game or make it part of the forthcoming Wii Motor Sports compilation. But either way I'm confident Pilotwings of some sort will return within to our screens the next 16 months in one form or another, and better than ever.
The main thing that perhaps holds true of all these games is that there's no guarantee they won't appear simply because of they've never appeared on a Nintendo format before (obviously not the case with Pilotwings). There's a first time for everything, which is why I've included some of the more unlikely examples as to give you an idea of just how viable they may be against the odds. Ultimately, publishers and developers are a business and will often only do something if it makes… well, cents, so to speak.
As proved with the DS's rather amazing scoop of Square Enix's Dragon Quest series and a host of Final Fantasy/Mana spin offs, a company will create games for whatever format it deems will allow the greatest reward in terms of financial returns, irregardless of prior status. Every company has favourites and preferences, but there are some things that can't be ignored, such as a massive userbase. Creativity does have a hand in that decision, but ultimately a game's creation is down to audience. The bigger it is, the greater the chance. Format limitations can only temporarily stymie that desire, as development time and costs these days are so expensive that many teams can't afford to pass up the chance of easy money - although some would certainly fool you into thinking otherwise, such has been their strange ignorance of making easy conversions of tried and tested franchises… are you listening, Sega?
For the above and many other titles on our wish lists, we can only wait and hope the chips fall on our pile. It's more than possible many of these games have already passed the lips of many a Nintendo employee. We can only cross out fingers and hope. Needless to say, there's a lot going on behind the scenes that will make it a very interesting year for Wii owners…
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