Tag Archives: Wii

Super Mario Galaxy Turns 10!

Super Mario Galaxy was released on the Nintendo Wii on November 12, 2007, meaning that today is the tenth anniversary of its (western) release. Wow… I feel old.

Anyway, the ten-year milestone is always a big one, but I feel this is an exceptional cause for celebration in the video game world for a couple of reasons.

The first such reason is that Super Mario Galaxy can be seen as a resurgence of the Super Mario series, which is still going strong these ten years later. Sure, the Mario series never got into any real slump (he’s not Sonic, after all), but aside from the two Paper Mario titles on the N64 and GameCube, it felt like the series had been missing that little something extra after Super Mario 64. But then Galaxy came along and brought the series back to its strongest. Here was a game that could ranked alongside any of Nintendo’s best. And because of it, we later got the holy-crap-it’s-somehow-even-better Super Mario Galaxy 2 a few years later. Sure, Super Mario 3D Land was a bit of a regression, but Super Mario 3D World, while no Galaxy, delivered another Mario great shortly thereafter, largely because of the impact Galaxy made to the series, and its influence on Nintendo’s designers.

“Super Mario Galaxy also introduced us to best girl, Rosalina.”

This influence stretched past Nintendo’s doors, however, as many other developers sang the praises of Super Mario Galaxy. It also seemed to shift the industry as a whole in a more positive direction. After the early 2000s seemed to transform gaming into “edgelord” mode, where everything was dark and gritty, and vengeance seemed to be the go-to motive for the armies of “anti-heroes” of the time; Super Mario Galaxy’s high praise and strong sales seemed to lighten things up a bit, and reminded people that a colorful, cheerful game doesn’t equate to a bad one. Thankfully, we see a much wider variety of tones and styles in games today then we did in the 2000s, and although that’s not all on Galaxy’s shoulders, it probably is the centerpiece of this shift thanks to its acclaim and influence.

“Galaxy reintroduced Mario World’s constant sense of invention to the series. There was never a dull moment in Galaxy.”

Now perhaps this is just me talking, but I feel like Super Mario Galaxy revived the “perfect 10” in video games. That’s entirely subjective, of course, but I think if you look at most publications’ records of perfect scores, they seemed to pick up in numbers with the release of Super Mario Galaxy. I don’t think critics are any easier in giving perfect scores, I just think games have gotten better, and are at a height they haven’t been in since the 16-bit days. Again, it’s not that Galaxy magically made perfect 10s possible, but it can be seen as the beginning of this high level of quality.

Even on a more personal level, there were plenty of games I enjoyed greatly during the early 2000s, but at the same time, there aren’t a whole lot I’m quick to point out as some of the best games I’ve ever played if asked today. That’s certainly not a knock on those games (again, many of them were great), but as stated, I think Galaxy resurrected that timeless quality in games that hadn’t been seen since the Super Nintendo era.

I mean, when the worst thing I can say about Galaxy is that Galaxy 2 and Super Mario Odyssey are even better, that kind of speaks volumes about it.

Happy tenth anniversary Super Mario Galaxy! An all-time classic, without question.

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Nintendo Wii Turns 10!

Wii

Time to feel old, everyone! The original Nintendo Wii was released in North America ten years ago today. Yep, it was November 19th 2006 that the gaming landscape was changed forever, as Satoru Iwata’s home console brainchild was released, and changed perceptions of what it means to be a gamer.

The Wii opened the door for audiences who previously seemed as far removed from gaming stereotypes as possible. No longer were video games just a “geek” pastime, but a hobby for just about everyone, from small children to grandparents and everything in between. It not only changed the direction of Nintendo, but even Sony and Microsoft took note, and if the popularity of mobile games is any indication, the Wii’s impact is still being felt.

Sure, the console had more than its share of shovelware (but then again, so did the PS2, not that anyone seems to bring that up). And the Wii has long-since received flak from undeservedly self-important nerds who deride the console and its motion controls for not pandering to them. But the Wii was a genuine game-changer, and had its fair share of classics (many of which, I would argue, hold up a lot better than the beloved Nintendo 64).

The Wii became a massive success for Nintendo, and even featured some of the most acclaimed games in history (notably the Mario Galaxy titles). Sadly, it’s successor, the Wii U -despite featuring a number of brilliant games – could not replicate the Wii’s success, and is Nintendo’s least-selling home console to date, as well as being unfairly berated on the internet (once again, it’s probably a better console than the N64, or even the GameCube, but I guess it doesn’t have blinding nostalgia on its side).

Perhaps because of the Wii U’s less-than-stellar sales, Nintendo is now dropping the Wii name from its next console, the Nintendo Switch (am I the only one who sees the missed opportunity for it to be named “SWiitch?”). But no doubt the Wii brand left a huge impact on not only Nintendo, but the world of gaming as a whole.

Here’s to the original Wii, and the brand it created. Happy ten years, you wonderful, ivory box you!

Castlevania Judgement Review

Castlevania Judgement

Castlevania is one of the most storied franchises in gaming. It began with many memorable sidescrollers on the NES and SNES, before adopting a more explorative, Metroid-inspired style with the masterful Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Of course, being the big franchise that it is, it was inevitable that Castlevania would also dabble in different genres, though its experimentation with other formulas hasn’t worked nearly as well as other franchises, with a good example of this being Castlevania Judgement, the first fighting game in the Castlevania series, released on the Nintendo Wii in 2009.

The first thing to note about Castlevania Judgement is that it’s a 3D fighter, and history hasn’t been too kind to Castlevania’s 3D entries, especially when compared to just how beloved the 2D iterations are. Sadly, Castlevania Judgement was no exception, due primarily to poor controls, camerawork, and mechanics.

The idea of a Castlevania fighter is actually an enticing one, and at first the game looks to have a lot of promise, with graphics that were quite good for the Wii, there’s a nice (if not limited) selection of characters, and an awesome soundtrack that recreates many iconic tunes from the series’ history. But it won’t be long into your first couple of matches that you begin to notice the game’s flaws.

For starters, the game’s primary control scheme involves the Wii Remote and nunchuck, which is no problem on its own, but quickly becomes one with how the game utilizes them, and how it never meshes with the nature of the game itself.

Players move their character using the joystick on the nunchuck attachment, while the buttons on the back are used to block. Meanwhile, the majority of the characters’ moves are performed with motion controls by swinging the Wii remote. The motion controls simply aren’t well implemented, and often times trying to perform a combo only ends up with you swinging the controller around like a madman, with varying results.

Perhaps the motion controls would work better, if your character were automatically focused on your opponent, and if they weren’t coupled with a poor camera system. Unlike a 3D fighter like Soul Calibur, where the characters are always focused on one another, the fighters here move around so freely that oftentimes, when trying to perform a combo, the first move will hit your opponent and then your character will just keep going past them attacking the air, with the camera trying desperately to keep up with your character.

Castlevania JudgementThe combination of poorly-implemented controls and camerawork are what ruin the core gameplay. Though players also have the option of using Wii Classic Controllers and GameCube controllers (which are most assuredly better options), they don’t fix the camera and character issues.

With all this said, there are some small, nice touches to the game. At the start of versus matches, for example, players can select a secondary weapon to use in battle, with said weapons also being obtainable within the battlefield, and include the usual secondary items from the series like holy water, crusifixes and throwing knives. It’s a simple but welcome way to pay homage to the series traditions, as is the ability to pick up hearts to build up your power meter within matches.

Sadly, Castlevania Judgement’s respect for its heritage, along with the aforementioned visuals and music (which are, again, quite good), are about as far as the compliments can go. Along with the faults in the core gameplay, there are other aspects of the game that are just disappointing.

"Oh my..."

“Oh my…”

Castlevania Judgement has a host of modes in store, but they are nothing out of the ordinary for a fighting game. What’s a bit more peculiar is that the game’s story mode only allows you to play as Simon Belmont or Alucard from the start, with the other twelve characters (including those that are available from the start in other modes) needing to be unlocked.  And once you unlock them, you may even regret what their stories have to offer (Maria’s story – the most infamous of the lot – revolves around her insecurity of the other Castlevania girls having larger bosoms than herself, which feels ridiculously far removed from the nature of Castlevania).

Worse still, the AI in the game is wildly inconsistent in difficulty. I managed to defeat the first opponent in Alucard’s story mode with no problem (at least, no problem outside of the ones innately found in the gameplay). But the second opponent began repeatedly spamming the same combos over than over, with very little breathing room for me to block or fight back.

The idea of a Castlevania fighting game is not one that should have ended up this flawed. It’s easy to see where the potential was in Castlevania: Judgement, but in execution, it stumbles in just about everything but aesthetics and in fan service for the series. Perhaps a better idea for a Castlevania fighter would simply be to make it 2D and to utilize the same kind of fluid controls found in Symphony of the Night. Symphony already utilized moves that were performed like the combos in a fighter, if you put those same controls into the field of a fighting game, and you would have an absolutely incredible fighter.

Instead, Castlevania’s debut in the fighting genre is remembered mainly for its awkward controls and poorly-implemented mechanics. But hey, at least the music’s good.

 

3.5

Metroid: Other M Review

Metroid: Other M

When Metroid: Other M was released on the Nintendo Wii in 2010, it looked to bring a greater emphasis to storytelling and character development to the Metroid series. Up to that point, every Metroid release was a quality title to one degree or another (the original Metroid may have aged poorly, but there’s no denying the influence of many of its ideas). So a story-focused Metroid title seemed like a promising concept. Unfortunately, Other M proved that anything is possible by delivering the first bad game in the Metroid series. It’s such a misstep that Nintendo has seemed at a loss as to how to salvage the series almost six years later.

Chronologically, Other M takes place after the beloved Nintendo classic, Super Metroid. After having defeated Mother Brain with the help of the last Metroid, which sacrificed itself to save Samus in that game’s finale. The effect of the baby Metroid’s sacrifice seems to have had a deep impact on Samus, as she seems to regularly reflect on the incident with one needless, exposition-laden monologue after another.

Samus receives a distress signal coming from a space station called the “Bottle Ship,” and investigates. There she encounters many of her old allies from the Galactic Federation military, from her days before bounty hunting. She becomes embroiled in the Galactic Federation’s mission to investigate the Bottle Ship, as the facility is suspected of conducting illegal bioweapon experiments.

The meeting between Samus and her old military buddies is used as a means to give us insight into Samus’ past, but all it ends up doing is contribute to Other M’s devolving of Samus’ character.

The Samus of Other M all but destroys the intrigue of the character. Long-considered to be one of the strongest heroines in gaming, Other M reduces Samus into a whiny, insecure crybaby who lacks any independence.

You can sum up this evisceration of character by the way Samus gains additional weapons and abilities. In most Metroid games, Samus finds upgrades to her armor and weapons throughout the game world. Here, Samus still supposedly has all of the abilities she gained in Super Metroid, but she denies herself access to them until her former commanding officer gives her the okay to do so. Samus even endures health-depleting heat in lava-filled craters for a good while before she is given permission to activate the heat-resistant capabilities of her suit. Why Samus lacks the independence to activate such abilities on her own in order to save her life in a hostile environment destroys both her character and logic.

It also doesn’t help that Samus speaks in the most lethargic, monotonous, and poorly-acted voice imaginable. She also seems to constantly be talking about how she’s feeling about every situation as it happens, because who needs subtlety?

It’s some of the worst character building in video game history, made all the worse by the fact that it diminishes an iconic video game character so greatly.

I seem to be rambling on about the story and character development (rather, the lack thereof), but how does Metroid: Other M hold up as a game? Well the good news is it’s better than the narrative aspects. The bad news is that’s only because of how abysmal said narrative is.

Metroid: Other MThe gameplay works as a third-person action game, with Samus being controlled by holding the Wii remote sideways. Samus’ standard actions include jumping, shooting, and turning into her morph ball form to plant bombs and squeeze into small spaces.

Additionally, players can go into first-person mode by pointing the Wii remote forward. When in first-person mode, Samus can look around to investigate, lock on to enemies, and shoot missiles. But she can’t move in first-person view.

This makes the gameplay feel slow, clunky, and segmented. You’ll frequently be fighting waves of enemies (with many of them taking far too long to kill), where you’ll be charging your laser repeatedly, then switching to first-person view to fire a missile. It not only works awkwardly, but one of the seemingly countless enemies can easily hit you when in first-person. The combat segments are just overlong and riddled in poor mechanics.

To pour more salt on the gameplay wound, players recharge Samus’ missiles by pointing the Wii remote upward and holding the A button. This same action can be used to heal some of Samus’ health when she’s in critical condition. There are so many instances where you’ll be trying to charge your missiles, refill health, or go into first-person view only to do one of the undesired actions that it becomes exhausting.

Other M also feels incredibly straightforward when compared to the Metroid titles that preceded it. There’s a bit of backtracking to be done, but for the most part you’ll just feel like you’re constantly pushing forward, with the exploration aspects the series is famous for being nowhere to be found.

Perhaps the worst part of the gameplay are moments that force (yes, force) players into first-person view so they can search an area for a clue of where to go next. Not only can the player not progress until they find the item in question, but said items are largely left unexplained to the player, and the objects you’re usually looking for tend to be the size of a single pixel, making it easy to get stuck in these moments for up to ten minutes at a time!

While the storytelling is atrocious and the gameplay is frustrating, Other M can at the very least boast about its production values. The game was one of the better looking Wii titles, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the cinematics came from a PS3 or Xbox 360 title. Though it’s hard to care too much about how fancy the cinematics look when the story they’re telling is such a stinker (not to mention they’re unskippable).

Metroid: Other MIt’s a great irony that Samus has never looked more beautiful than she does in Other M, considering this game is the one blemish on Metroid’s record. Some of Nintendo’s critics say the Big N no longer cares about the series, but I think they simply want Other M to become a distant enough memory so the series can pick itself up.

You could find worse games than Metroid: Other M. But you’d be hard pressed to find another game that bares the name of one of Nintendo’s most revered franchises that fails so devastatingly.

 

3.0

WarioWare: Smooth Moves Review

WarioWare Smooth Moves

The Wii was pretty much a perfect console for Nintendo’s WarioWare series. The original WarioWare on GameBoy Advance essentially broke video games down to their bare minimum, and turned them into a series of five second punchlines. From there, the series took the concept to new heights by messing with Nintendo’s hardware itself.

WarioWare Twisted (more than likely the high point of the series) had players turning their GBAs upside down and rotating the handheld in order to complete its micro-games with motion sensing. WarioWare: Touched similarly took advantage of the Nintendo DS’ touch controls and dual screens. So when Nintendo’s Wii console was promised to focus on motion controls, and serve as a popular platform for party games, WarioWare was more than an inevitability.

It should be said then that WarioWare: Smooth Moves, though not the most inventive entry in the series, is an appropriately fun party game, and even provides a good time simply by watching others play.

As you might expect, Smooth Moves continues the WarioWare tradition of throwing successions of five second-long micro-games at players, which each game providing a simple word or title to give players an idea of what simple action is required to succeed to the next micro-game.

The hook here is the Wii remote. WarioWare: Smooth Moves took full advantage of the Wii’s innovative controller for both fun and laughs.

WarioWare Smooth MovesThere are different “genres” of micro-games here, each of which asks the players to hold the Wii remote in different ways. Some games simply have players pointing the Wii remote forward, others might have them holding it sideways like a traditional controller. Then there are those that are purposefully annoying, like setting the Wii remote still on a flat surface, only to pick it back up a second later, or ones that insist you point the Wii remote forward while tilting it sideways with your thumb and forefinger. Others still simply want to make players look like idiots, like holding the Wii remote in front of your nose like an elephant’s trunk (obviously, you don’t have to hold the remote in such ways, but it defeats the purpose otherwise).

Simply put, it’s hard not to have a smile beaming across your face while playing WarioWare: Smooth Moves. This is especially true when playing with friends with local multiplayer, and seeing how quickly everyone can react to the jokes on-screen, and how willing they are to embarrass themselves at the game’s beck and call.

Playing single player may not be quite as satisfying on the long term, however. WarioWare is simply a series that was tailor made for handhelds, at least where single player is concerned. It’s definitely a fun time, but when bringing WarioWare to home consoles, it seems like the party atmosphere brings out the fullest in the game. The quick-fix nature of the series seems best in the short bursts of a handheld play session, or as a way to entertain a group of friends. Playing WarioWare by one’s self on a home console can only hold your interest for so long.

Smooth Move retains the series’ usual aesthetics, which means it’s aesthetically unusual. Purposefully cheap animations accompany the cinematics, while the micro-games can range from crude to fancy to literal replications of Nintendo games from the NES era to the GameCube.

WarioWare: Smooth Moves may not reach the creative heights of Twisted, but it remains a truly great party game nine years on, and it’s easily the best home console entry in the series. Playing it alone may give you small bursts of fun, but if you have a party of friends over to play Smooth Moves, then it will be a party indeed.

 

7.5

Elebits Review

Elebits

Nintendo’s Wii console was one of the biggest success stories in gaming history, largely due to its implementation of motion controls. Because of the console’s unique shift in gameplay, the system’s early years saw a number of games display a great sense of newness. One of these games, Elebits, may have its share of limitations, but in terms of gameplay it was a bright sign of things to come, and even some potential that was missed.

Elebits is a game in which its titular creatures are the source for humanity’s electrical power. These Elebits – creatures not entirely dissimilar to Nintendo’s own Pikmin – are tiny and come in a variety of different shapes and colors.

Players take control of a boy named Kai, who is played from a first-person perspective. Kai resents the Elebits, as his parents are researchers of the creatures and, according to Kai, they spend more of their time studying the Elebits than they do with him.

One day, a thunderstorm causes a blackout across the city, and scatters Elebits everywhere. Kai’s parents leave the boy home alone (some grade A parenting right there), and he can’t even watch his favorite TV program because of the blackout. So he decides to use his dad’s “Capture Gun” to capture the Elebits and restore power in the city.

One could say that Elebits works like an extended Wii demonstration of Half-Life 2’s Gravity Gun, as players use the Capture Gun to manipulate objects, open doors, and search for Elebits to zap. Players move Kai around with the nunchuck attachment, while they look around with the Wii remote’s motion controls and hold onto objects and zap Elebits with a Ghostbusters-like stream of energy with a push of the A button.

It’s a very simple and fun control setup, and it leaves one wondering why more developers didn’t try to build on such mechanics during the Wii’s lifetime.

Levels are completed when a certain number of Elebits (measured in watts) are captured, usually within a set time limit (though if you capture enough Elebits early, you have the option to let the clock continue so you can go for a higher score). As you capture more Elebits, you can activate various electrical objects, which unleash special Elebits that give more power to the Capture Gun, allowing you to carry heavier objects.

ElebitsCompleting levels unlocks new objectives, and if you accomplish certain requirements, you can unlock stages in additional modes. Multiplayer allows up to four people to race to catch the most Elebits, while Endless Mode has players tackling the stages without a time limit. Perhaps the game’s most notable feature was its Edit Mode, which allowed players to edit any of the game’s stages by placing objects and Elebits as they saw fit. For a time, players could even use online connectivity to share their created levels with others (keep in mind this was in 2006, before player created games were the big hit they are today). Unfortunately, the cancellation of WiiConnect24 means that the online sharing is now inaccessible, which might greatly dampen the game’s appeal.

The core gameplay remains mostly fun, however, due to the implementation of motion controls. Though some of the game’s physics can get frustrating at times, as opened doors and drawers often seem to close on their own as you’re trying to search them for Elebits, and it’s often hard to grab or activate the object you want as the cursor bounces from item to item in cluttered areas. And many of the game’s levels are so compact they may feel claustrophobic.

Elebits can also be somewhat of a mixed bag in terms of aesthetics. Though the game is adorable to look at, many of the sound effects become repetitious incredibly fast, and the voice acting is pretty bad.

Still, for being one of the earlier releases on the Wii, Elebits was a great showcase of how unique the system was, and much of the promise developers missed out on. The near-decade since its release has revealed some limitations, and arguably the game’s best feature is no longer functional, but Elebits remains a charming title whose concepts should be resurrected in some form or another.

 

6.5

Top 5 Donkey Kong Country Animal Buddies

Donkey Kong Country 2 turns twenty years old this month (the original DKC has its twenty-first anniversary as well). As part of my celebration of all things DKC to commemorate this milestone year for the series, here is a top five list of the best “Animal Buddies” who have appeared in the series!

The Animal Buddies, as any DKC fan knows, are the ridable (and sometimes unridable) animals that aid DK, Diddy, and their simian friends on their adventures by providing their own sets of abilities into the mix. Think Yoshi, but with Donkey Kong instead.

The following top five are ranked from least to greatest based on their presence in the series, their general usefulness, what they bring to the gameplay, and simply how awesome they are. Continue reading