The Wii is on it's way out. Sure, with an install base of over 80 million, chances are that smaller developers will be making Wii games for a while, but when it comes to being Nintendo's primary home console, the little white demon's days are numbered.
Sadly, the console's last year in the marquee spotlight is looking pretty weak for exclusives and must-have titles. We've got Kirby Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Bit.Trip Complete, La-Mulana, and Rhythm Heaven to look forward to, and... that's pretty much it.
Nintendo of America could easily change that. There are over ten Wii games already released in other territories that could quickly fill out the console's final year before retirement, some of which fans are already begging for. Are all of these games are sure to make Nintendo buckets of money? No, but at this point, it's not just going to be about making money for Nintendo. With the Wii U, Nintendo has pledged to re-prioritize "hardcore" gamers, though with a name like the "Wii U", there is already reason for those gamers to doubt how serious Nintendo is about that pledge. By releasing these games prior to the Wii U's launch, Nintendo could get a head start on convincing "hardcore" gamers that they're serious about doing everything they can to include them. More importantly, these games look like a lot of fun. Releasing games that look like fun is a good thing, no?
Pikmin 2 + Chibi Robo New Play Control
Here are two games that that hardcore Nintendo fans love, but failed to gain much mainstream acceptance when they were first released on the Gamecube. Seeing as the translation has already been written for both of them, and Pikmin 2 New Play Control has already been released in Europe, the level of expense to bring these two games stateside is negligible, while the potential gain is bursting with flavor. Releasing these games is both a way to make sad Wii gamers feel better during this gaming drought, and a way to get people ready for Pikmin 3 while gauging interest in a new Chibi Robo game. they could be released as separate budget titles, or a double pack. Either way, Nintendo is sure to at least break even on these two, while working PR for the Pikmin and Chibi Robo (and Nintendo) brands in the process.
Best of fan DLC for Super Smash Bros. Brawl
With the 3DS eShop and its free apps, Nintendo is reportedly doing everything it can to grow their presence in the online space. So far, not so good. One way they could really blow some minds and defy expectations is to take some notes from Valve, one of the most successful online game developers in the world. When Valve released fan-created Team Fortress 2 content as an official product, it sent a message to their audience that there is no line between the people that create Valve games, and people that play Valve games. That's the kind of unity that Nintendo desperately needs to find with its consumers.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the most heavily modded game in the Wii's library, and also one of the most controversial amongst hardcore Nintendo fans. Releasing the best of Brawl fan-made content (particularly the still in production Project M) would give people a reason to care about Smash Bros. again, a reason to get their Wii's online, and reason to believe that Nintendo truly loves their fans.
Fatal Frame 4
The Wii has always had a fan base waiting for a good survival-horror game. Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition was one of the consoles first million sellers. Thing is, that audience never really got served. Sure, the Wii got some great horror based on-rails shooters, some budget produced horror titles, a non-violent Silent Hill, and a goofy, critically panned port of Dead Rising, but none of those games really gave survival horror fans what they wanted. What a lot of them wanted was Fatal Frame 4. In fact, they wanted it so badly that they translated the game themselves. I've played the game with the fan translation, and other than few niggling bugs (something fans are quick to forgive with games from Grasshopper Manufacture), I loved the game.
It may have been released in Japan back in 2009, but there is no reason that the game couldn't still make an impact on the Wii in 2011. Release it as a budget title, or pack it in with another unreleased Japanese horror game like Night of the Sacrifice, and you have yourself a deal that any horror-loving Wii owner would have a hard time passing up. Throw in the fact that the game has an unlockable Luigi's Mansion costume, and you have a game that is sure to grab the attention of Nintendo fans, and raise awareness of the upcoming Luigi's Mansion 2.
Now here is a real head-scratcher. Nintendo of America showed this game off years ago at E3. Nintendo of Europe has already announced that it's being brought to their territories. Fans have helped the game to reach #1 on Amazon's gaming charts. Yet, Nintendo of America is yet to say anything about the game coming here, other than release a canned customer service response saying "stay tuned for further announcements".
Now, I've played Xenoblade. It's good, but it's not that good. That said, the game definitely has an audience here, an audience that has been wanting the game since Nintendo showed it off at E3 all those years ago. It's just bad business to lead your fans into thinking you're going to give them the option to buy a game, then taking that option away without any valid explanation. That's especially true now that Operation Rainfall is making so much noise about the game. At this point, Nintendo has to release the game (preferably without the useless Chronicles surname) if they want their small but dedicated RPG-loving fans to have any faith in them. That goes double for...
The Last Story
Final Fantasy is one of the most beloved series in gaming history. The creator of Final Fantasy recently made a game called The Last Story. He said that he may retire if the game isn't well received. Luckily for him (and for us), the game is better than just about every other game on this list, not to mention just about every Final Fantasy game released in the past ten years. Nintendo holds the publishing rights to The Last Story, and they may not release it in America, potentially depriving American Wii owners of one of the consoles best games, not to mention putting the career of one of Japan's most legendary developers in peril. In terms of catering to the "hardcore" gamer, it doesn't get much worse than that.
It would be one thing if the game was "just too expensive to translate", but according to some sources, The Last Story is coming to Europe, just like Xenoblade. If Nintendo doesn't bring the game to the United States, despite the fact that it's already translated into English, well, they might as well put out billboards with Reggie Fils Aime wearing a devil costume, saying "We hate RPGs, and the people that play them", complete with maniacal laughter.
Pandora's Tower + Dynamic Zan/Zangeki no Reginleiv double pack
Speaking of action RPGs, here are a pair of budget titles that aren't likely to become huge hits, but are both extremely marketable to a certain brand of gamer. Pandora's Tower is basically a cross between Bionic Commando and Castlevania, but with a beautiful female heroine who needs to eat monster flesh in order to keep from becoming a monster herself, and a creepy old demon thing with a giant skeleton on it's back that cackles a lot. Dynamic Zan is the first game that Nintendo has published to receive the equivalent of an M rating in Japan, and it plays like Earth Defense Force, but instead of teaming up with friends via online co-op to save the Earth and kill giant bugs, you're taking out giant ogres and mythological beasts with swords and magic. Both of these games have the appeal of a weird, action anime from the 90's, and I'm sure they could find their audience in the U.S. Bundle those two games together, or release them separately as budget titles, and Wii owning action game fans won't be able to resist.
Seriously, Nintendo only has one major action/fantasy game coming out this year- Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Compare that to the PS3 and 360's line up for the year, and it's just disgusting. Even if they bring The Last Story here, that's still just two games. That's not OK, Nintendo. Give us a 3rd and 4th game, preferably in the two-for-one deal format, and we'll almost forgive you.
Disaster: Day of Crisis + President Cat double pack
Wii owners have a long history of showing that they know how to embrace ridiculousness and mini-game collections, and Disaster: Day of Crisis is one of the most ridiculous mini-game collections I've ever played. The game stars a sexy man with tribal tattoos who must cope with every type of disaster ever conceived, ranging from volcanoes and terrorist attacks to earthquakes and wild bears. One second you'll be doing CPR on a dying man, the next you'll be driving a car through falling buildings, and the next you'll be blasting bear cubs with a shotgun. The game wasn't meant to be funny, but from my time with the game's European release, I can confidently state that it's one of my favorite comedy games of this generation. It's also a lot of fun, as long as you approach it with the right attitude. It's not quite the Wii's equivalent to Deadly Premonition, but it's damn close.
Then on the other side of the coin, we have President Cat, a mini-game collection about a cat who wears giant cat ears and runs her own publishing company (called CatQueen Inc, of course). She has to climb a rope, vacuume up mystical energy from the trunk of a convertible, play piano, and C'MON PEOPLE THE GAME IS CALLED PRESIDENT CAT! Do you really need for me to explain how insane it is?
Packaging this game with Disaster: Day of Crisis would be the perfect way to tell fans "hey, we both know that these games are not triple A, but they're both surreal and hilarious in their own ways, so why don't you just relax and enjoy them?" It certainly worked for WarioWare:Smooth Moves, and it could also work for Disaster: Day of Crisis/President Cat.
Trace Memory 2
Trace Memory is one of those games that has a small but highly dedicated cult following in the United States. The game's sequel (entitled Another Code R in Europe) maintains the series mysterious, atmosphere-focused adventure/puzzle formula, but transforms series protagonist Ashley Robbins from a ambitious but restrained little girl to an formidable 16 year old lady. She's one of my favorite characters of this generation of gaming.
A lot of that is because her animations and mannerisms of are so surprisingly detailed, and undeniably charming, without reliance on photo-realism. Through her words and behaviors, we learn that Ashley is strong willed, determined, but very human, and highly self analytical person. I believe that if given a chance, she would elicit both empathy and admiration from the American Wii audience, regardless of their gender. Playing the game makes you feel like you're hanging out with Ashley Robbins, but it also makes you feel like you are Ashley Robbins. Despite the game's occasional wonky puzzle, you'll want to play through it from beginning to end, because being (and being with) Ashley makes it worth it.
As for Earth Seeker, I haven't played it yet, so I can't speak to its merits. I can say that, from what I've seen, the game has all the makings of a fantastic exploration focused RPG. More so, whenever someone brings up all the games that Nintendo of America hasn't localized yet, someone in the comments always says "What about Earth Seeker?", so I know the interest is there. The game is about a woman teaming up with a bunch of cute little alien-looking things, exploring a post apocalyptic earth and fighting giant robots with laser swords. That's not such a tough sell, is it?
The game also has a cool tie in with a DSiWare game, which would again encourage Nintendo owners to get their damn consoles online. Earth Seeker may not be able to stand on it's own. It may need to be a budget release, or come packaged with another game (the exploration based Trace Memory 2 might be a good choice), but either way, the game definitely deserves a chance here in the US.
Captain Rainbow + Mother 3 + Earthbound triple pack budget release
Out of all the games on this list, this is the one I'm the most sure will never happen (even more so than the Brawl DLC, which is saying a lot). It's also the one that I'm most sure would sell at retail. There are millions of new Nintendo fans who want to play Earthbound and Mother 3, just to see for themselves who Ness and Lucas from Super Smash Bros. Brawl are. As for Captain Rainbow, it's a game where you finally determine what Birdo's gender is. There are millions of adults who grew up with Super Mario Bros. 2 who have been dying for an answer to that question for most of their lives. I'm sure that $30 would be a small price to pay to have that question answered.
One may argue that charging retail price from a SNES game, a GBA game, and a super-weird Wii game may not be a good business practice. Yet, Nintendo sold Super Mario All-Stars, an un-enhanced SNES game, on a Wii disc last year for $30, and people ate it up. Earthbound fans would do the same for Earthbound and Mother 3, while those who have never played the series before couldn't deny the value of getting three full length games for the price of one.
The issue with these games, and Nintendo's reluctance to publish them, isn't with value. The issue here is with Nintendo's image. Is the company willing to release these titles and risk "looking weird" in front of the mainstream American market that it's worked so hard to impress? I can't believe we're even asking that question. The answer is so obvious.
From a hardware perspective, "looking weird" has saved Nintendo from certain doom. It's the one thing that kept them alive. With the DS and the Wii, Nintendo didn't try to "look normal". They didn't try to follow trends in the Western market, or any trends for that matter. Instead, they chose to try to lead the market, with a portable handheld with two screens, and a modified Gamecube with a bizarre motion-based controller. If they hadn't taken those risks, if they hadn't been willing to "look weird", they'd have been stuck with the Gamecube and the Gameboy Micro, which could have led to the death of the company.
With this list, I'm merely suggesting that Nintendo try to take some similar risks with their software. Well, that's not exactly fair. Nintendo is taking risks with their software, but only in Japan. It's Nintendo of America that seems so acutely risk averse.
On the eve of the release of the Wii U, Nintendo of America needs to prove to the "core" Wii gamer (who already feels deprived of 3rd party support that the PS3 and the 360 get), that they will do everything they can to give them games that they may want to play. They need to show that they aren't the same predictable, "casual" focused company that their detractors claim that they are. They need to make the gaming world feel that we don't know exactly what to expect from them, that the Nintendo of the Wii era is evolving, and that the "Wii U" might be more than just the "Wii 2". Releasing the games above would help to start that, and in the process, Nintendo would be giving desperate Wii owners something to play other than Kirby, Skyward Sword, and Rhythm Heaven this year.
There is nothing more valuable to a successful game developer than maintaining the loyalty of your fans and building credibility and desirability amongst your non-fans . If Nintendo wants to stay on top, they'd do well to go after those two goals, by whatever means (and Earthbound games) necessary.
What's Up? Our panel at PAX Prime 2014, Far Cry 4, Destiny Beta, Vietnam & a ferret
8:00 PM on 07.25.2014