Is it really approaching half a year since Wii first exploded into the videogaming world? How time flies when you're having fun indeed.
But as we steadily drift into the midsection of first generation titles, we're witnessing a rather lethargic settling process. We may well be a few months in since launch, but the titles we're seeing are very much those that were planned for 'launch window', and as such are not likely to take full advantage of the gameplay and hardware possibilities of Wii. This is nothing new for any games machine, although there are far greater trials involved when a fresh control method is introduced to the medium, especially one as radical as Wii's motion sensing remote. Complaints that we're not seeing the true breadth of what's on offer are far too early and somewhat misguided, given we're nowhere near the second generation of games yet, but it's fair to say a certain level of expectation has been established.
Current Wii titles are a mix of quality and promise, but as developers start to get to grips with the diminutive console, we can anticipate a level playing field of functions that few -first or third- parties should be omitting without very good reason. So here are five things we should almost expect every Wii title to possess come its second generation.
1. Suitable Visuals
Notice how I didn’t say 'good visuals' instead. This sort of thing can be subjective to a degree, so it wouldn’t be fair to say all Wii games should have 'great' graphics. Suitability is far more important and a stylised or unorthodox visual punch can be just as effective as brazen polygonal pushing power. Super Paper Mario, for example, isn't stretching Wii's hardware, but manages to look incredible while doing something totally different with the way the platform style genre is presented. It's an appearance that's likely to remain fresh throughout, much in the way The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker does now five years since its release.
It's clear that some Wii games have been rushed out either to make launch or to capitalise on what has largely been an unexpected success, and through that one of the first things to suffer has been graphics; because frankly, if you're seen the less powerful GameCube produce Resident Evil 4, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader and other visually excellent titles then Wii should be trumping them already. And with the beautiful Super Mario Galaxy and refreshingly different looking No More Heroes already leading the way, there should be no excuse for half-hearted graphics from devs come the end of the year. By then there should be plenty more time, finance and inclination to perform above the mixed efforts we've seen so far. And maybe, just maybe, Nintendo will follow through its promise made at the Games Developers Conference and increase its development tools and software library support for its partners.
2. Online Hooks
Nintendo's persistence in refusing to be cowed by the pressures of an online presence is admirable in some ways, but downright baffling in others. While I love the lack of online functionality has forced some companies into making sure we get the most from the split-screen experience, the lack of effort in other areas has left us with a relative absence of options compared to other machines of this generation. The transfer of Miis, the use of the Virtual Console and other features are great, but when it comes to the actual games library on sale many third parties have been left floundering without the ability to actually do anything at all online.
Again, this is partly due to having to get everything ready in time for launch, but in nine months vast improvements should be made to make sure we've at least got a little bit more to play with. I'm not saying every title should have online multiplayer options or such, just the ability to do SOMETHING with them, even if it's just online leaderboards or better yet, updates. The latter is invaluable to increasing longevity and publishers would benefit just as much as the user.
3. Adjustable Remote Sensitivity/Customisation
This is something that would add a lot of definition to Wii titles, especially for genres that require extreme precision. The Wii menu itself allows for control customisation to a degree, but only with small variations that can sometimes be at odds with the game you're playing. The ability to make slightly more minute adjustments to the sensitivity would be a great benefit to some games already on the market, but if made standard it would remove some of the nagging issues and doubts regarding control nuances. Obviously certain games will have different requirements, but a Marvel Ultimate Alliance or Red Steel style calibration would be viable to reduce the all too often used excuse of "it's the remote, not me". Tsk.
4. On-Screen Tutorials
It's hard to imagine a game without a tutorial option these days (which is weird for me coming from an age where reading instruction manuals was essential), but they sneak by every once and a while. In general, reading tends to be a chore for most in the 21st century and so the lavishly created game manuals can only really do so much… and even then they tend to omit certain details, as was the case with Wii Sports. Surprises and new moves are wonderful, but for the basics and slightly more advance skills, the Wii remote can sometimes require a learning curve despite its tactile ease. Not to say they should be just slapped in; the inclusion of a good tutorial is an art and if it's too heavy handed it can just come off as condescending, obtrusive or heavy handed. But at the same time we can't assume all these new gamers will instantly realise their movements translate directly onscreen, even when the adverts and everything else is telling them so.
5. A Big Ol' Sign Saying: 'Keep an open mind'
A slightly facetious, yet curious point, this one. When any new control method is introduced to the masses, there's a long period of adjustment until we get to the point where we wonder how we ever did without it. D-pads, analogue sticks, now motion control are the most prominent and obvious examples. It's only habit that we try to transfer our skills from one to the next, only to fail and get frustrated. I remember people trying to play Mario Kart 64 by 'tapping' the analogue stick like a D-pad rather than smoothly easing it like a joystick, leading to some moaning that "it's a crap control method." Wii's remote levels the playing field, forcing veteran gamers to change the way they play and to an extent, making them learn like a new gamer has to. So it's easy to declare a game 'broken' just because you couldn’t get into the swing of the controls as quick as you'd like.
Some reviews have shown a lack of patience when it comes to this sort of thing, and while opinion can vary on the game's quality itself, the clear variation in ratings regarding the subject of control displays a clear difference between people's tolerance. I've seen one reviewer declare a certain game's controls unwieldy and irritating, while another said they were superbly implemented. Same when Wii Sports first came out and there were complains that Wii Golf was "unplayable", which is now a grumble that's mostly faded away (no matter how much trouble you may still have with putting). The main difference in these examples? Time and expectation. Both things that should be essential when taking Wii games into hand. Perhaps a little reminder would keep all our minds suitably open and make the experience a whole lot more enjoyable, regardless of whether you've been playing games for 20 years or merely 20 minutes.
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