BeiN True to Yourself: How Nintendo Wins

I’ve been meaning to write an article like this for a while now, and with E3 having just happened, I think I can finally get started now.  As my past articles may give some ultra-subtle foreshadowing of, I am quite happy with how the Switch has been received so far.  After at least four years of almost unrelenting negativity towards Nintendo’s console division, someone finally flipped a switch and turned the light back on.  The Switch has recreated the phenomenon of the original Wii’s launch, an even more impressive feat considering it launched in March instead of November.  With Nintendo seeming to have finally fulfilled their longstanding goal of a launch year without droughts and an incredible E3 that featured a healthy mix of 2017, early 2018, and far away but ultra-exciting games, Switch’s future looks very bright.  So with Nintendo’s four most recent consoles alternating between explosive success and market failure (no, you having nostalgia for GameCube doesn’t mean it sold well, it was closer to Wii U in sales than it was to Nintendo 64, and that didn’t even win its generation), is there any way to make sense of this pattern?

Well, let’s look at the goal behind the four consoles in the most general terms.  The GameCube and Wii U had a focus on attaining something that Nintendo’s competition had in the previous generation that they lacked (disc based software and HD graphics, respectively) and bringing Nintendo back to getting the biggest third-party games and controlling the traditional gaming demographic again.  Both systems also suffered from something of an identity crisis, having drawbacks that stopped them from achieving true parity with their competitors (GCN’s smaller disc space and Wii U’s limited power compared to competing systems) and having stylistic features that conflicted with the goal of winning over the competitor’s fanbase (GameCube’s general “kiddy” image, Wii U’s tablet inspired controller).  After showing a lot of promise at launch, both systems quickly fell behind in market share and third-party support, becoming solid but niche systems you bought for Nintendo’s games.

 

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And look how well pandering to EA worked out.

 

Now let’s look at Wii and Switch.  They actually don’t seem to have fixed the problems I mentioned above, you could even argue they got worse.  Was Wii any less “kiddy” than GameCube?  Is Switch a powerhouse that obliterates or at least matches PlayStation 4 and would be giving PS5 a run for its money if the generations hadn’t gotten completely de-synced?  Did/will either one get all the AAA third party multi-plats that PlayStation/Xbox/PC share?  The answer to all those questions is no.  So why did things work out for these systems, but not their predecessors?

Because Nintendo didn’t half-try to be something they weren’t, they embraced what made them different and turned those weaknesses into strengths.  They flipped things around and succeeded at things their competitors weren’t even trying.  The Wii may have been at least as “kiddy” as GameCube, but it appealed to middle aged parents and senior citizens just as easily, it genuinely was for all ages.  The Switch may be only marginally more powerful than Wii U, but take it out of its dock and it’s a technological marvel as a portable system.  Nintendo solved their problems in ways that their competitors never would have attempted, and unlike trying to copy the other systems, this approach has been rewarded.

 

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Mocking its name just made it stronger.

 

Of course, that doesn’t mean GameCube and Wii U didn’t contribute anything to Nintendo’s future.  Remember GameCube’s bizarre controller layout and various gimmick controllers (bongos, the Game Boy Advance)?  I’m sure you remember Wii U’s attempt to get people excited to play games on the controller’s screen.  Neither of these features caught on, but Wii and Switch managed to evolve these ideas into a functional, wildly popular form.  The Wii had a new way of controlling games that got a huge amount of mainstream attention, and it being included with every system allowed it to thrive.  Wii U’s ability to stream games to its controller at a limited range turned into Switch being a true hybrid that allows you to take complete console games anywhere you want.  Instead of giving up on these ideas, Nintendo believed in them and turned them into something hugely successful.

 

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Its heart was in the right place, it just needed a few tweaks.

 

Now this section is a bit of a leftover from one of the earlier incarnations of this article, but since I’ve compared Wii and Switch so much, I think it’s worth addressing.  Some may ask if we really want Switch to turn into another Wii.  Was its success actually good for gamers?

Yes, it absolutely was!

It’s time to get over the delusion that Wii was nothing but Nintendo lazily making mini-game compilations and third parties badly copying the aforementioned mini-game compilations.  Yes, the Wii ___ series and shovelware that all market leaders attract existed, but you could and can ignore them, and there is a diamond mine hidden under them.  Nintendo made some of their best games on the Wii, and I don’t just mean the Super Mario Galaxies and Xenoblade.  Punch-Out, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Wario Land Shake-It, Metroid Prime 3, Sin and Punishment 2, Pandora’s Tower, games you should give a genuine chance like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Zelda: Skyward Sword, Nintendo absolutely did not just focus on gimmicky mini-game compilations during the Wii’s lifespan.

But the lack of attention those games get is nothing compared to the third-party hidden gems on Wii.  Zack and Wiki, Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands, Muramasa, Madworld, No More Heroes 2, Dead Space Extraction, A Boy and His Blob, Rabbids Go Home, Sonic Colors, Epic Mickey, Lost in Shadow, Red Steel 2, Trauma Team, House of the Dead Overkill, Goldeneye 007, Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Boom Blox Bash Party, Rodea: The Sky Soldier, there are so many third party Wii games that may not have been super hyped AAA budget games but were the type of quality mid-ware that people thought died in the seventh generation.  Switch turning out like Wii would indeed be a good thing, and fortunately, there are already signs of its portable ability bringing back some of those mid-ware style games.

 

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Have you played this game? Do you know what it is? This is Trauma Team, just one of the many underappreciated Wii games.

 

So in conclusion, I think the moral here is pretty obvious.  Nintendo systems with one syllable names do better, end of story.  In seriousness, I think it’s safe to say that Nintendo does a lot better when they focus on their strengths instead of trying to attain the strengths of others.  Directly competing on their competitor’s turf doesn’t work, and with the console generations being out of sync between companies now it is barely measurable (I defy you to find a way to compare Switch and PS4’s success that doesn’t require waiting 5+ years to judge).  While it would be nice for Nintendo to achieve the third-party dominance they had with the NES and SNES, I don’t think it’s practical right now and both Nintendo and their fans will have a better time if they focus on what worked for Wii and Switch instead of trying to bring SNES back with one fell swoop.  Wait a second, if you pronounce them “Ness” and “Sness”, those systems are also one syllable… that IS the key!

10 More Games I Want Ported to PC

Hey, I said this was going to be a recurring series last time, didn’t I? If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you’ll know that I’ve been getting more and more into PC gaming in the last few years. One of the big reasons for that is the emphasis on backwards compatibility: even when the game’s original developers fail to deliver, it usually takes a resourceful fan a short amount of time to make it work again on newer systems. Consoles just don’t deliver on that as well as they did during the previous two generations. On the plus side, with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 running on PC architecture, PC ports could be beneficial to console gamers as well, allowing for easier and enhanced re-releases of these older games.

Before I recap the rules I established in the previous article, I’d like to give a shout-out to Deep Silver for taking down one of the games I had planned for a future list, before I even got the chance to set it up: Suda 51’s latest game Killer is Dead is coming to PCs this May. So I’ll have to replace that in a future list. Anyway, the rules are the same as they were in the last article: only one game per company per list; sticking mostly to third-party companies (with the exception of Microsoft, who is known to release games on PC as well), especially those that have released games on PC recently and games will specifically be taken from the seventh (Wii/360/PS3) and eighth (WiiU/XBO/PS4) generations, especially those that were on multiple consoles at the time of their release. Finally, games that are both from the same series that were released on the same platform CAN be packaged together. So, once again, let’s get on with the list.

Darkstalkers Resurrection – Capcom (360/PS3)

Anyone who has known me for a good amount of time knows that I love me some Capcom fighting games. At the top of that list stands not Street Fighter, not the Vs. Series, but Darkstalkers, a cult classic fighter revolving around some of cinema’s classic monsters duking it out in a fight to the death. I love me some Darkstalkers and when the second and third games in the series (Night Warriors and Vampire Savior, respectively) recently got re-released on PSN and Xbox Live Arcade, I just had to jump on it. I got both releases of the game the first day they were available and I had a lot of fun with them. Unfortunately, the game sold poorly on these platforms. So why ask for a PC release? Well, while it is possible to emulate both games online with the same netcode Resurrection used, that’s not exactly legal. I’d jump at the chance to have a legal avenue to play some Darkstalkers on my PC. More importantly, PC gamers are clamoring for some legitimate fighting game releases, to the point where Arc System Works recently allowed other publishers re-release the mediocre PC ports of both Guilty Gear Isuka and the Blazblue: Calamity Trigger on Steam (which lacks netcode, due to GfWL shutting down and no one bothering to convert it to Steamworks) and people are just eating it up, in an effort to show ASW that yes, people want their games on PC. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 may be the number one Capcom fighting game people are demanding a PC port for, but I’m well aware that Capcom’s deals with Marvel has lapsed.

Blazblue Chronophantasma/Continuum Shift EX – Arc System Works (AC/PS3/Vita/360*)

Speaking of Blazblue, I definitely want the other games in the series to see releases on PC. I guess at this point, getting Continuum Shift EX is useless for the most part, since its sequel Chronophantasma is already out in Japan and is due out in North America later this month. Anyone who’s familiar with the series, however, knows that there’s more to Blazblue than just having the current version ready for tournaments. The series has an extensive story mode, and considering the fact that we’ve got the first game’s story mode, it seems like it would be good to have the complete story up to this point, so doing a two-pack (perhaps gut CSEX’s online component like CT’s if that would make a port more cost-effective) would be great, especially for PC-only gamers who really want to get into the series. Xrd is still probably my top priority for a PC port, just because it’s both newer and runs on Unreal Engine 3 (which was literally made for PCs). Still, I’d probably be happier if the other Blazblue games made it to PC instead, as Calamity Trigger was the first Arc fighter I honestly enjoyed: my poor luck with the Guilty Gear series is legendary. Just my opinion, though.

Splatterhouse – Namco Bandai (360/PS3)

I’ve never really been that big on the survival horror genre, but I do tend to love games that borrow thematic elements from horror movies. Each game in the original Splatterhouse trilogy was a side-scrolling beat-‘em-up where you take on the role of Rick, who dons the cursed Terror Mask to save his girlfriend from a mansion filled with Lovecraftian horrors. In 2010, Namco Bandai rebooted the classic series as an action hack-and-slash, and while it wasn’t critically-acclaimed by any means, I loved the game. The atmosphere, the gameplay and especially the voice acting: if you can’t appreciate Jim Cummings cursing out Josh Keaton, I pity you. The only real flaw that bothered me was the abysmal load times which a properly-optimized PC port could easily fix. As an added bonus, Splatterhouse 2010 actually contained ports of the original trilogy as well, so even long-time fans who hated the reimagining have some incentive to pick it up. Besides, Namco Bandai recently ported Enslaved to PC, so why not Splatterhouse?

NeoGeo Battle Coliseum – SNK Playmore (360)

Considering we’ve recently seen Metal Slug 3 released on Steam, it seems like SNK Playmore has jumped on the Steam hype train. Frankly, I’d like to see something a little more recent come out. NeoGeo Battle Coliseum was one of Playmore’s first fighting games after regaining the SNK license and it’s an awesome little game. A 2-on-2 tag-team fighter that uses characters from various SNK games: King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Last Blade, Garou: Mark of the Wolves, King of the Monsters and even Marco Rossi from Metal Slug. I’ve had a hankering for more classic SNK fighters and NGBC is not only one of my favorites, but an underrated gem. Considering it was re-released on XBLA, just port that version, throw in the improved netcode from King of Fighters XIII or MS3, and you’ve got a solid release on your hands.

Sega Model 2 Collection – Sega (360/PS3)

The worst part is, this shouldn’t even be on here. Many sources online claimed that Sega’s Model 2 Collection was coming to PCs back when it was initially announced. Unfortunately, that never came to be, which is a shame, because I really want to get my hands on Fighting Vipers, one of my favorite 3D fighters of all-time, and the enhanced port of Sonic the Fighters, which finally made long-time dummied-out character Honey the Cat fully playable for the first time in any legitimate release. Virtua Fighter 2 would always be welcome as well. To make matters even better, Sega could also pony up the two games that we never got in the North American or European console releases: the original Virtual-On and Virtua Striker. Granted, in that case, Virtual On would be a higher priority for me than even VF2, but let’s keep it simple: porting the 3 games that were released outside of Japan to PC would be fine.

Vigilante 8 Arcade – Activision (360)

I’ve been a fan of car combat games ever since I played the original Twisted Metal at my aunt’s house when I was a kid. Unfortunately, Twisted Metal’s a Sony franchise, so asking for a PC port these days would be a fool’s errand. Besides, the latest game in the series (Twisted Metal for PS3) was apparently garbage. Fortunately, there’s one series in the genre I liked even more than TM and it’s ripe for the taking: Vigilante 8. Vigilante 8 Arcade was the third game in the series, released on the Xbox Live Arcade early in the 360’s life cycle, but it’s a pretty stellar semi-remake of the original game. Sure, it’s a little barebones and it’s an early title, but frankly, I’d love to see it get ported to PC at some point, even if just for the sake of preservation.

Red Dead Redemption – Rockstar (360/PS3)

This is a big one that people have been demanding for a long time, so I’m really just stating the obvious here. I’m one of the few gamers out there who actually remembers Red Dead Revolver, so I was ecstatic to hear it was getting a sequel on seventh-gen consoles. Unfortunately, they ditched PC for that release. Many other Rockstar games from that era got late PC ports: Grand Theft Auto IV, L.A. Noire and it’s been speculated that even GTAV is getting a PC port at some point. Unfortunately, I don’t really care much for GTA, I want RDR on my PC. Make it happen, Rockstar.

Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition – WayForward Interactive (Wii U)

I haven’t really made it a secret: I’m a really big fan of WayForward Interactive’s work. They’ve made some of the best licensed games in recent times and their original IPs are generally fantastic. Considering we’re already getting the second and upcoming fourth Shantae games on PC, it seems fair to branch out and ask for a different series. Mighty Switch Force! HD Edition is a perfect choice, as it’s already an upscaled version of the 3DS eShop hit. Since the Gamepad support in the game was minimal, it seems like porting this to the PC would be simple, if not for the fact that WayFoward has a hectic schedule as it is. Still, this is a wishlist and I want more WayForward games on PC.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Rebirth) – Vanillaware/Marvelous AQL (Wii/Vita)

Muramasa: The Demon Blade was probably one of my favorite games on the Wii, so I was happy to hear it was getting an expanded port. Then I found out that port was for the Vita. What a waste of resources. Marvelous AQL has some experience porting games to PC and they handled the North American release of Muramasa Rebirth. Maybe they could even upscale the graphics to at least 720p, so we’d finally be able to appreciate Vanillaware’s hand-drawn 2D artwork in its full splendor. Bundle it with the additional DLC content exclusive to the Vita version, and it would be perfect.

Shadow Complex – Microsoft Studios (360)

I love a good Metroid-like. Most people call them “Metroidvanias”. I used to be one of those people until a friend of mine told me it bugged him and why it bugged him: because while Castlevania games in that style may have borrowed from Super Metroid, the same could not be said for the Metroid series itself. Why have I gone off on this random tangent? Simply because the only thing I really know about this game is that it’s one of the best Metroid-style exploration platformers to have come out in a long time. That’s good enough for me.

And that’s another list done. So far, two of the games on any incarnation of the six lists I’ve planned already have PC ports confirmed. While Killer is Dead: Nightmare Edition isn’t due out until this May, Double Dragon Neon was released last month. Abstraction Games did an excellent job on that port, even quickly patching many minor glitches in the PC version. Hopefully, by the time my third list is ready, a third game’s PC port will have been announced. Sure, that’s just wishful thinking at this point, but here’s hoping.

Wii Retrospective: All About the Games

As Wii’s life draws to a full close, there is a lot to say about the system.  While you could fill several articles talking about the disbelief when it was revealed, unorthodox system design, massive mainstream success, and bitter hatred from several sectors of the gaming community, that’s not what is really going to matter when we look back on the system in the future.  The only thing that is going to matter from this point on is the game library, and that is what I am going to be looking back on.  While I could wait for the Nintendo cycle to make the entire world love Wii once Wii U’s successor is released, I’m just not that patient.  Wii’s lineup has been severely under appreciated, and I’m going to overview several categories to show just how much there is to the system if you look.  Instead of going genre by genre, I’m going to try something a little different and divide games by first and third party, with three sub-categories for each.  Let’s dive in to the best Wii has to offer.

First Party:

Nintendo Staples:

These are the franchises you expect on every Nintendo system (and God help them if they miss even one) by default.  Two of the big ones, Zelda and Metroid, both had a pair of Wii releases.  I don’t care enough about Metroid: Other M to defend it very much (although the fact that I view it as forgettable instead of an abomination probably counts at this point), but the other three entries in those series all deserve much more love than they’re given.  Zelda: Twilight Princess is what it promised to be, a direct follow-up to Ocarina of Time.  Yes, it’s pretty easy in combat, but everything else is done pretty much perfectly.  Shooting with the IR pointer feels great, screw Wii Sports, that was what impressed me at launch.  Skyward Sword, on the other hand, changed the formula quite a bit more.  While I wish aiming was done with the IR pointer, the sword combat worked perfectly.  One thing it annoys me that no one acknowledges is that SS fixed the combat difficulty problems and is one of the hardest Zeldas in that area, even without the unlockable hard mode.  Both games have incredible level design, focusing on intricate dungeons and dungeon like fields instead of wandering around.  As for Metroid, Metroid Prime 3 is another game that greatly benefits from the Wii controller.  The emphasis on aiming and shooting means that the IR pointer adds a huge amount to the series, and there were some very appreciated changes (FINALLY there are teleport points).  If you can overlook the fact that it doesn’t copy the Super Metroid formula as exactly as the original Metroid Prime did, I think you’ll see just how good MP3 is.

As for other Nintendo staples, one of Wii’s biggest strengths was its platformers.  Wario Land Shake-It, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland are all great entries in their series and a major part of what made Wii so great for those who missed the console 2D platformer.  Smash Bros. reached a new level of hype with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, although the most vicious fighting involving it is probably from fan wars between it and Melee.  There were also entries in Fire Emblem, Nintendo Wars, Pokemon spin-offs, and Warioware for your Nintendo staples.  I know, I know, there wasn’t any Starfox, Pikmin or F-Zero and that’s the worst atrocity in human history, but as we’ll see in the next section there were things to make up for those.  I’m also aware that I skipped over one really, really obvious series, but again, just keep reading.

New and Revived IPs:

Not every Nintendo IP gets to show up on every system, and Wii had its share of revivals.  The Excite series kept its tradition of skipping every other Nintendo console, but Wii somehow managed to get an astounding three games in it, with Excite Truck, Excite Bots, and Excite Bike World Rally for Wiiware.  Punch-Out came back after a very long absence with a fantastic update.  After the original Sin and Punishment finally got a worldwide release on the Wii’s Virtual Console, it got an even better sequel that will easily fill the gap Starfox left in you.  Rhythm Tengoku got its first console release in Rhythm Heaven Fever.

But of course, everyone wants to know about the new IPs (until Nintendo skips over a major franchise in favor of one, at which point public opinion will immediately reverse).  The most prolific one, obviously, was the Wii (Insert word) series.  Wii Sports was the system seller for the mainstream, while Wii Play, Wii Fit, and Wii Sports Resort all sold very well along with their respective pack-in peripherals.  Wii Music did not have one and was a relative failure (and really hated by the gaming community).  Coincidence?  Probably.  Near the end of the system’s lifespan Nintendo brought in some new IPs in more traditional genres.  The rain fell and the world got to play Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower, all of which filled a much needed genre gap for Wii.

Mario:

Yes, Mario gets his own section.  Mario’s presence on Wii was one of the biggest for any Nintendo system, and that presence was well earned.  The first Mario game on Wii was actually Super Paper Mario, an RPG-platformer hybrid that suffered from an identity crisis but had some very creative ideas and great writing.  Mario Kart Wii is not one of the best games in the series for level design, but had probably the best implemented online play of any first party game on the system.  After a disliked Mario Party 8, Nintendo toned the series down quite a bit and released the much better received Mario Party 9 five years later.  Although it taught me I simply can’t get into a soccer game no matter who stars in it, Mario Striker’s Charged was a good effort from Next Level on their rise to prominence with Nintendo franchises.

Mario’s Wii games may not sound all that great so far, but that’s because I’m saving the best and most obvious ones for last.  After the traumatic Mario platformer drought on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, which only got one Mario platformer each, Wii had three Mario platformers on it, and all were absolute masterpieces.  New Super Mario Bros. Wii may have an army of internet posters who hate it because it has repeated world themes and a cappella, but if you give the game a chance you’ll find a platforming classic up there with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World.  It also heralded the revival of the home console 2D platformer.  As for the Super Mario Galaxy games, do I need to say anything?  Even people who hate Wii acknowledge them as classics, they will be remembered as some of the best games of all time.

Well, that’s the first party section of Wii, but that’s all the system had to offer, right?  Considering I already said there would be a third party section, you can probably guess that’s wrong.  Let’s look at what third parties had to offer on Wii.

Third Party:

Prominent Exclusives:

This section covers third party games for Wii that had at least some sort of hype around them.  I am including timed exclusives as long as they were not announced for other platforms until the Wii version had already been released.  There were actually more games in this category than many people would expect.  Red Steel was the most hyped third party launch game, and while it didn’t turn out well it did manage to get a much better (and different in every way) sequel.  No More Heroes 1 and 2, Goldeneye 007, and Madworld were some other games that went against the tone often associated with Wii.  Wii also gave the rail shooter genre new life with House of the Dead Overkill, Dead Space Extraction, and the Resident Evil Chronicles games.

Not every prominent Wii third party game was about shooting or slashing.  The brilliant puzzle game Boom Blox, paint based platformer de Blob, and platformer/Katamari hybrid Rabbids Go Home were all unique games that the whole family could play.  Epic Mickey was somewhere in the middle, a dark but not violent take on Mickey Mouse with a surprisingly strong Nintendo 64 feel to the gameplay.  While somewhat stretching the definition of prominent, Muramasa was at least taken notice of in gaming communities and provided a great 2D combat engine to go with its beautiful painted world, while Capcom’s Zack and Wiki got attention for its great use of the Wii controller.  Speaking of Capcom, who can forget the anger caused by Monster Hunter Tri and Tatsunoko vs Capcom were announced as Wii exclusives?  But my favorite moment in this category was when, after a couple of mediocre storybook games, Sonic made his long, LONG overdue comeback in the Wii exclusive Sonic Colors.

There are also some Wiiware exclusives that deserve mention.  World of Goo is a brilliant physics based puzzle game that got a surprising amount of recognition.  Konami’s Rebirth series brought back Contra, Gradius, and classic style Castlevania.  Final Fantasy IV: The After Years may actually be the best received direct sequel to a Final Fantasy game.

Multi-platform Games:

Definitely not Wii’s strong point, and probably where much of the hatred of the system comes from.  Yes, Wii missed out on a huge amount of games that were released on both PS3 and 360, and apparently a system having its own library is a bad thing now.  Despite this, Wii had some multi-plats worth mentioning.  The Wii version of Rayman Raving Rabbids actually completely overshadowed the other versions, being one of the early showcases for the system’s controller.  Rayman didn’t forget this, and Wii got the incredible Rayman Origins at the same time and with the same content as the other systems.  De Blob 2 went multi-platform, but the Wii version didn’t miss out on anything from the others.  Despite being widely considered a disappointment, the Wii version of Epic Mickey 2 is actually the best one with the original developer and best control scheme.  The Call of Duty games didn’t have everything on Wii they did on other systems, but almost all of them did in fact make it to Wii, and Wii’s IR pointer controls could quite possibly make up for the shortcomings.  While sharing games with PS2 or PSP felt demeaning, there were some solid games where the Wii version was the definitive one thanks to the controls, such as Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Silent Hill Shattered Memories, and Ghostbusters (which was a completely different game than the PS360 version).  Wiiware had a better shot at sharing games with other platforms than retail releases, and Wii had some good games in that area like Mega Man 9 and 10, the Bit.Trip series, Cave Story, and Retro City Rampage.  Not a great lineup of multi-platform games, but it’s something.

Overlooked Gems:

Back in the height of the “Wii has hundreds of crappy games, the system therefore sucks!” days, I said that in the future they wouldn’t matter at all, and we’d only remember the gems in that gigantic pile of unnoticed third party games.  That time has come, let’s start with the cream of the crop.

Did you know Boom Blox had a sequel?  Boom Blox Bash Party may sound like a spin-off, but it’s actually a direct sequel that is even better than the first game.  Put assumptions aside, this series is not a party game or a simple arcade puzzler.  Boom Blox Bash Party had hundreds of brilliant and just inherently fun physics based puzzles, and is a must for every Wii U owner.  A Boy and his Blob is a fantastic sequel to the NES game that feels like a puzzle platformer merged with Zelda.  Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is actually a completely different game on Wii and uses the IR pointer for the best gameplay in any of the Sands games.  Lost in Shadow is another puzzle platformer, a deceptively huge game that doesn’t let the puzzle aspect completely overshadow the platforming.  Trauma Team combines Trauma Center gameplay and a few Phoenix Wright style play modes for a gigantic game that everyone should look into whether they’ve played the previous Trauma Centers or not.

While I don’t recommend them quite as strongly, there are some more obscure games worth checking out if their description catches your attention.  Blastworks is a shmup with a Little Big Planet style level editor.  Deadly Creatures is an aesthetically realistic platformer where you play as a spider and scorpion.  Elebits suffers from some early “is this a good way to use the controller?” issues, but is a creative and fun game almost impossible to describe.  The RPG Opoona, aerial combat game Sky Crawlers, and extreme sports game SSX Blur are some games I haven’t personally played, but their reputation suggests they deserve a mention.

As I hope you can see, Wii actually has a much greater quantity and variety of good games than its reputation would lead you to believe.  As I said, I have complete confidence that people will acknowledge this in time since it will at some point be a Nintendo system benefiting from the nostalgia filter, but you don’t have to wait.  With Wii games still easy to find and cheap, now is the perfect time to dig into the system’s under appreciated library.  Like every system, games will be Wii’s true legacy, and they leave a much better one than many people give them credit for.

Don’t Resuscitate, Reincarnate!

Some of the best video games of all-time have been sequels. It’s generally accepted that sequels are expected to be superior to their predecessors, due to the inherent interactivity of the medium, which allows for more improvements to be made with each new iteration. In fact, we’re generally disappointed when this turns out not to be the case. However, this runs counter to the majority of more story-focused forms of media, like literature, film and television. Outside of gaming, sequels are considered inferior to the originals as a rule, usually due to a ham-fisted attempt at shoehorning in an extension to a story that’s already met a satisfying conclusion. As time marches on, video games become more and more story oriented, which means that soon video game sequels will fall victim to the same exact issues sequels in other media suffer from. At the same time, the idea that each new installment will improve upon the original will likely always be relevant with regards to video games. So how can developers compromise between these two conflicting viewpoints?

As I said before, video game sequels, in general, improve upon the predecessors: refining existing mechanics and adding entirely new ones to create an improved experience. Despite the fact that many gamers bemoan the lack of original IPs, sales figures imply that sequels are much more popular. This is especially important for publishers, where even a single flop could spell disaster for all but the largest companies. The video game industry just isn’t as conducive to new intellectual properties as it once was… back when there weren’t any existing franchises.

Ironically, the games of old were always more suitable for sequels from a story perspective in the first place. Most games from the 8-bit, 16-bit and even many from the 32-bit eras of gaming had fairly simple storylines, akin to those of Saturday morning cartoons. I mean, just how many times did we rescue Princess Toadstool from Bowser or stop Dr. Wily’s plots for world domination? But as with so many other aspects of gaming, most modern games’ stories are much more complex, akin to more refined forms of media, specifically movies. Self-contained adventures with a concrete beginning, middle and end. For example, before a sequel was taken into consideration, the original Portal had a very decisive ending, where Chell (the main protagonist) simply escaped at the end. This was later modified with an additional scene via a patch just before the sequel had been announced. Less lucky in this regard was the original Bioshock, which had two fairly decisive endings, neither leaving much room for Bioshock 2, which itself had to play around with the first game’s canon by adding entirely new characters to the existing setting of Rapture. This attempt at retconing was met with much less enthusiasm compared to that of Portal 2.

Of course, other games tend to leave their endings open-ended. Sometimes, it’s because the creator wants to make an entire series as opposed to a single game. Other times, it’s just because the publisher wants to leave the option for a sequel open if the game ends up doing well. Unfortunately, when plans change or games bomb in terms of sales, the main victims are fans of these games. After all, MegaMan Volnutt is still rotting on the moon and loads of people are still waiting for the third installments of both Shenmue and Half-Life, even though most of us have given up hope. Reboots don’t generally fare much better, take a look at how well recieved DmC and Bomberman: Act Zero were.

So how do you reconcile the unique advantage that video games have always had with regards to sequels with the increasing disadvantages a greater emphasis on storylines modern games suffer from? Why, by making spiritual sequels of course! Spiritual sequels, while commonly associated with creators who have lost the rights to their IPs, could very easily allow for iterative sequels of old, without the worries of retcons and unresolved cliffhangers. As an added bonus, now all those whiners can get brand new shiny IPs with the added benefit of using a tried and true formula, allowing for a safer sell on the part of publishers and their investors, compared to an entirely original IP.

I can even think of a few good examples of some existing spiritual sequels that did fairly well. There’s the aforementioned Bioshock, which was actually a spiritual sequel to the System Shock games. The original Paper Mario was originally intended to be a direct sequel to Squaresoft’s Super Mario RPG. Same goes for both Vanillaware’s Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade, respectively codenamed Princess Crown 2 and 3 while in development. Compare Platinum Games’ MadWorld to Clover Studio’s God Hand or hell, Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. Blazblue and Guilty Gear. Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. The point is, it’s been done and in many cases, it’s worked out quite well. There’s your proof of concept.

Of course, in many of these cases, the original games in question haven’t been all that popular to begin with. I mean, Princess Crown never even made it outside of Japan in the first place and God Hand was a colossal bomb in terms of sales. What if you tried a spiritual successor with something like Call of Duty, Madden or Grand Theft Auto? A lot of what makes megaton hits like those three sell as well as they do is brand-name recognition. As depressing as this may sound, there is an enormous customer base that only buys games in specific series (CoD and Madden being the most popular) and nothing else. While most gamers are aware that series like this are exceptionally rare, publishers and especially investors are not. And in these rare cases, spiritual sequels would be incredibly detrimental to the future of any devteams working on said games. Unfortunately, in these conservative times, many publishers hold that intellectual properties are much more important than refined gameplay and given the realities of the marketplace, they’re not exactly wrong.

Maybe there’s a possiblity for a compromise. You could do something along the lines of a spinoff or even a sequel in name only, sort of like what they did with Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight (which was referred to simply as “2010” in Japan and had nothing to do with either Street Fighter or Final Fight) or Red Steel 2, which had nothing to do with the original. You could also make distinct references to the previous game through advertising. And of course, in cases where the game’s canon has come to a decisive end, nothing’s stopping you from doing a prequel elsewhere in the universe: Bioshock Infinite comes to mind almost instantly.

Regardless of what happens, this problem needs to be solved if the industry is going to “grow up” like so many producers are trying to do with the medium. Personally, I don’t believe that dropping one of the key strengths video games have over most other forms of media is a good way to evolve. At the same time, perhaps gaming should strive to deliver on more experiences than just fun, like some creators want the format to do. Regardless of what direction gaming takes in the future, it is important to discover a compromise between the advantages of improvement of game engines via iterative development and the potential for self-contained narratives in video games.