So, for people like myself that can’t stop talking about old video games, toys, and movies, there’s one constant, unavoidable problem that I (and assume others) find myself running into:
Given enough time, everything is old.
The march of time and its resulting onslaught of entropy and decay means that every single thing you experience will one day be considered ‘retro’ until you no longer experience anything. I bring this up not to be morbid, merely to illustrate the existential dilemma anyone on the internet is inevitably going to face when trying to discuss old movies, retro video games, old bands, or anything. I primarily spend my time on this blog writing about things I liked as a child (NES games, Ghostbusters, Transformers) but the farther my life goes the more sobering truths I have to face about how everything I like will be old one day.
Such as this: the Nintendo Wii is going to be TEN YEARS OLD in November.
And you know what? I almost like it more now than I did then.
My bestest friend in the world, a gentleman known since the late 90s only as Mr. Fuzzums, set me up with a modded Wii for Festivus this year (no, I’m not being a contrarian asshole, we’ve been watching the Festivus episode of Seinfeld ever year right before Christmas for forever) – to be specific, my dad gave me the Wii (that’s a hell of a sentence), and the aforementioned Mr. Fuzzums modded it to play…backups of…fuck it, nobody cares: I HAVE A WII FULL OF EMULATORS AND PIRATED SOFTWARE.
And while the emulators are all well and good (well, at least after I got Gimmick! to work with the NES emulator, because I refuse to own a device I can’t play Gimmick! on) I really did find myself in love with the Wii’s actual library in ways that I never was before. Between trips to the local Family Video and the occasional browsing of ~warez~ sites, I kept discovering games I either meant to play, played in the day and totally loved, or would not have played one way or another had I not been able to…uh…make backups of them.
This is coming from a dude who owned a Wii day one, zero hour the day they launched. Having worked at the local EB Games for a year or so at the point the Wiis were available to pre-order, I can say with no degree of shame that the four or five systems we were going to get that day were all gleefully snatched up by the employees who did the right thing and actually used them instead of flipping them on eBay, like everyone who bought a PS3 the previous Friday did. (It was also the weekend Casino Royale hit theaters which made it a weirdly eventful weekend for me, as you can imagine.)
Fun fact: my first two Wii games were Red Steel and ExciteTrucks. To this day I have yet to play Twilight Princess and there’s nothing you can do to make me.
Even owning a Wii on launch day, however, I still found myself using it the least of the three consoles that generation. I owned it essentially just to play first-party Nintendo stuff and the occasional awesome exclusive like No More Heroes, and even then it tended to just collect dust until I sold it to buy a 3DS; a decision I don’t exactly regret but I am sad I had to get rid of my original launch-day Wii.
But hey, all that sadness is behind me and now I’ve got a brand-spankin’ new/old Wii to put through its paces. I’m not going to bore you all with individual thoughts on each game I’ve played (although one day you’re all going to be subject to several thousand words on No More Heroes), but kinda like my Sega CD writeup I figure I will subject you to a few thoughts I’ve had overall while going back through the library:
The Lineup Isn’t As Bad As You Remember: While this one affected me fairly personally, as I worked at that EB Games (later a GameStop) right up to a few months before the Wii U’s release, this is something nearly everyone who’s used a Wii has an opinion on.
You go ask anyone anywhere what they think of the Wii’s library of games, and the responses you get will be polite laughter at best. Despite all the fantastic exclusives, the Wii gained a reputation rather quickly for being a sad refuge of shovelware and ‘casual titles’ (not that I really use or respect that term, but you could argue the Wii is partially to blame for its proliferation), somewhere between Imagine: Party Babyz, an armada of Wii Sports clones, and mountains and mountains of shitty plastic instruments.
And yet now that I’m some 5-10 years removed from the heyday of all that shit (and not having to look at it for a living anymore), I’m finding it much easier to sift through the crap and find some Wii games I can actually fucking enjoy. Even discounting the big obvious first-party Nintendo successes, the Wii plays host to a shit ton of decent-to-awesome games, many of which I was totally oblivious to the first time. There’s the aforementioned No More Heroes titles, a pair of hilarious and unique action games starring the most pathetic otaku dork around (whom you are asked to revile instead of sympathize with). There’s batshit insane first-person-shooter The Conduit 2, a game where Abe Lincoln gives you a robot suit and asks you to save democracy from ancient aliens. There’s Sonic Colors, the first tolerable Sonic game in a long long time at that point, even despite being the one taking place in an alien amusement park. There’s the two Resident Evil lightgun games as well as the Wii-controller versions of Resident Evil 4 and the GameCube remake of Resident Evil. Shit, there’s a whole litany of arcade lightgun game ports just because the Wii Remote was the closest thing to a lightgun anyone had at the time. If you give yourself enough time and distance, and look past the mountain of Game Party and Guitar Hero tragedies, even the mediocre-at-worst licensed stuff like Transformers: The Movie or The Simpsons Game doesn’t look so bad.
The Motion Control Isn’t As Bad As You Remember, Either: One of my favorite game-journalism cliches I saw indulged in back in these days (and one I’m sure I’d have been guilty of too) was the use of the word ‘waggle’ or ‘motion controls’, often preceded by the phrase ‘tacked-on’.
There’s some truth to this; a lot of Wii games (particularly ones that had versions released on other consoles) had really half-hearted motion controls added in (remote shaking, nunchuk…shaking, etc) that would, at best, prove a minor annoyance and would at worst actually hamper gameplay and make some moves or actions impossible to perform.
While I do have some pretty bitter memories of this being the case, I have to say that it isn’t nearly as bad or pervasive as you might remember, at least in the stuff I’ve played. Sure, things like Sonic Colors might occasionally ask you to shake your remote (HEH) to perform stunts, and No More Heroes (there it is again!) has you do minor motion controls to perform finishing moves, but unless you’re playing a game like Goldeneye or Resident Evil 4 that requires you to use the remote full-time for aiming, you’re really not going to find it that intrusive. Of course, this begs the question why so many developers felt obligated to use it at all if their game was just going to be better off without it, but that’s an entire post for another day.
Nintendo Was Absolutely Killing It: You guys know me; despite my avowed preference for Sega back in The Day, I am a rabid unstoppable Nintendo fanboy and nothing will ever change that, so maybe this next part of my story will be a little biased.
But fuck it. Nintendo had a pretty hard time adapting to CD systems and 3D games and changing technology (one of the many excuses they gave for the Wii being so comparatively underpowered), and I’d say that the Wii was possibly their best first-party library since MAYBE the SNES, or at the very least the N64.
Everything Nintendo produced for the Wii was awesome, creative, and showed off the strengths of the hardware in a way basically nobody else’s games could (and isn’t that always the case?). Super Mario Galaxy might secretly be the best 3D Mario title. Super Paper Mario was an insane and creative spin on what was to that point a series of decent-ish RPGs that both used the Wii Remote in amazing ways and really played with the idea of what being a 2D game means. Punch-Out!!! was more addictive and entertaining than it had any right to be, despite the…occasional racism. The Wii got TWO Kirby games, both of which were fantastic, inventive, and fucking adorable. Shit, even the tossed-off early stuff like Wii Sports and ExciteTruck managed to provide more than just a few moments’ worth of entertainment, as opposed to so many other companies’ launch titles.
Speaking as a staunch defender of the WiiU, the distinction is striking. Nintendo knew the Wii might have been their last chance, so they threw everything they had at the games they were making, whereas most WiiU games, while totally fun, can be described as “a game you already like, plus tablet”.
Look, I’ve wasted enough of your time. All I’m saying is now that we don’t live in a world with Calvin Tucker’s Redneck Jamboree anymore, and it was never really the Wii’s fault that we did. If you have a Wii, maybe pop it out of storage and say hi to it. Maybe you’ll even finish that Skyward Sword save file you never finished. Lord knows I won’t, but…you’re not me, and today is a new day.