Realizing that they cannot rely on going toe to toe with Microsoft and Sony in the graphical arms race, Nintendo tried to side step the competition with their release of the Wii. In what their late president, Mr. Satoru Iwata, referred to as the “Blue Ocean” strategy, the Wii was conceived to appeal to all sections of society.
With not one quite expecting it, the Wii exploded in popularity, eventually becoming Nintendo’s most successful home console. With any of Nintendo’s own games selling in the millions, it looked great for Nintendo.
It also looked great as a console
However, if you were a Wii fan in that time, you will remember how for most of its life, the Wii was hounded for “having no games”, “being full with shovelware”, “having weaker graphics”, and the Wii as a dust collection console trope just continued becoming stronger.
As someone from the middle east, where Nintendo consoles rarely get the full library released, I only played a few Wii games, most of them first-party titles. Hence, I decided to research the rest of the library and check the validity of all the complaints against the Wii, so I started my Wii reviews series in which I played and reviewed over 20 games. Based on my reviews and the games I already played, I also wrote about what I think are the top 10 games on the system.
With all of that information, I think this is the time to sit down and review the console itself and see just how it stacks up. Enjoy
A console’s core strengths are defined by what makes it unique against other consoles, in technical strength, unique design, specific gameplay genres, or other intangibles. In the case of the Wii, it was the weakest in its generation, refusing to chase the new HD technology. In place, it opted for a unique motion control scheme that videogames have been eying since the days of the first Atari console. In short, the Wii has the following strengths:
Unique Control Scheme:
Without a doubt, the Wii’s biggest selling point, perfectly accentuated by its console pack-in game, Wii Sports, was its unique motion controls enabled controller. While it has been done before, never has motion control been the focus of a console, and never was it as readily available as with the Wii. Suddenly, the intangible actions on-screen of throwing a baseball or a bowling ball became tangible through actual similar physical movement.
That unique aspect to the console promised so much. Swordplay in games such as Red Steel 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword reminded many of their long-held wishes of wielding actual swords in the game world.
Other than the motion controls were the IR sensor, which made Rail Shooters come back to life. Simply put, if you are within the proper distance, then IR aiming was more accurate and faster than analog controls, which worked well for games like Metroid Prime and Dead Space: Extraction.
Doubtless, the unique nature of motion controls was only fun when it worked well, and that wasn’t always a given. A double-edged sword in itself, the unique control scheme was the console’s biggest strength, but as we will discuss later, it may have been also its biggest weakness.
Directly due to its unique and tangible control scheme, the Wii became a blast to have in the living room when friends and family are visiting. Simply put, my parents were never able to play videogames before or since the Wii. Only when gameplay involved motions that made sense to them instead of the multitude of needed button presses were they able to enjoy gaming as I did.
This was extended to other non-gamers around, as the control scheme really simplified a lot of games. Best showcased by the popularity of Wii Sports even in nursing homes, the tangibility of the Wii’s control scheme attracted many non-gamers.
Allowing even elderly people to enjoy games
As a result, the Wii was easily the king of living-room multiplayer games in its time. Picking up from Nintendo’s past at focusing on couch multiplayer, the Wii was best enjoyed with a large group where you can act silly waving a piece of plastic around. Many very good games were developed to that effect, which contributed to a lot of good times.
Even though it had its solo content, the Wii was the best console to have when simply inviting non-gaming people to the house. Hell, even with gamers, it had the best array of technical party and fighting games around.
New Home for Mid-Tier Games:
One unintended consequence of the race to HD graphics was an exponential increase to development budgets. This has led to many developers, especially in Japan, unable to work. Publishers became risk-averse, and the wonderful mid-level franchises of the PS1 and PS2 eras simply ceased to exist. Legendary publishers such as Capcom and Konami both suffered greatly during the PS360 era, with only one of them currently clawing their way back to their previous form.
In that time period, the Wii’s reduced graphical capacity meant it was the new home for mid-level games. We saw many titles released on the Wii that would never have been conceived on the PS360, such as Capcom’s Zack and Wiki.
Also the famous cult-classic, No More Heroes
While that was the case in theory, as can be seen by many great mid-tier titles such as Little King’s Story and No More Heroes, we cannot say the console ever managed to get the same quality or quantity of mid-tier games that it should have. In fact, while these mid-tier games are some of the best parts of the Wii’s library, they may have been failed by some of the idiosyncrasies of the console that we will discuss now as its….
While the Wii managed to outsell the rest of the consoles of its generations, it did not garner some negative reputation from gamers out of thin air. While claims of a game draught or lack of quality games was a huge exaggeration, there were some factors that lead to the Wii’s biggest weaknesses and most obvious shortcomings.
Tacked- On Motion Controls:
Let us start by noting the differences in opinion about what exactly constitutes “Tacked-On” motion controls. For example, I have repeatedly read people say that the motion controls in Donkey Kong Country Returns were tacked-on and detracted from the experience. However, after getting used to them (didn’t take much time or practice), I found that a quick wrist flick, which is physically faster than any button press can be, simply made speed running through the game easier than other platformers such as the game’s own sequel.
That disparity in opinion was not created in a vacuum though. The notion is correct because many games developed for the Wii felt that they needed to include motion controls because the console was simply capable of doing that.
Sometimes, the motion controls simply couldn't do what was asked of them
This meant that developers spent precious time and money to include features that didn’t necessarily make sense for a game or make it better. Even Nintendo was guilty of this, as Twilight Princess did not really need waggle combat and was not built from the ground up for motion like Skyward Sword was.
Other companies felt that they needed to include motion controls in games for the system, which lead to both wasted efforts and perhaps lost ideas.
The Deluge of Shovelware:
As the most successful console of its generation, the Wii suffered from the significant number of Shovelware titles just as the PS2 and PS1 did. While this in itself shouldn’t affect a gamer’s enjoyment f a console (no one force you to play Twilight: Scene It!), it does have some serious knock-out effects.
Similar to what happened to great games released on the PS2’s end-of-life cycle (Okami being a financial failure), Shovelware can be blamed for pushing mid-tier games out of the public eye and reducing trust from players in general.
In any videogame retail storefront, games by major publishers and major franchises will be shown front and center. The rest of the console’s library get to fight for shelve space with the multitude of Shovelware titles that got released to take advantage of the Wii’s craze.
It is this, in my opinion, and the issue with developers feeling they “need” to include motion controls that reduced the support of mid-tier games late in the Wii’s life cycle.
Did you Scee It?
Limited Core 3rd Party Support:
Continuing a trend that was only partly alleviated on the Game Cube, 3rd party publishers rarely brought their A-game to the Wii. That’s not to say that 3rd parties did not support the console, because they empathetically did. Publishers like Ubisoft thrived on the Wii, and other like Capcom and EA supported it decently.
However, in an issue both related to the Wii central gimmick as well as it weaker power, the console didn’t get much core support outside of Ubisoft, whose game did not exactly light the sales charts on fire.
Proof that being first in the console race did not mean anything when it comes to core 3rd party support, the Wii’s failure in that regard points to a wider failure of Nintendo in engaging with the 3rd parties in the first place. While that wasn’t a huge issue on the Wii, as both Nintendo and mid-tier titles both ensured a varied and thriving library, the issue came back and bit them in the ass on the Wii U.
Top Three Genres:
Looking back at the games I played on the Wii, they spanned a multitude of genres. From great Action-Adventure titles like the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword to meaty JRPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles. However, not all genres had the same representation, either in quantity or quality.
The top three genres in the console give a good idea about the make-up of the library, but note that it not a full qualifier of its library.
It’s natural that one of the console strongest genres is one that takes advantage of one of its greatest strengths. With its focus on couch-multiplayer, the Wii had some of the best party games of the generation. Not only with Nintendo own library of excellent games, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl and rage-inducing Mario Party series.
And the less frusterating Wii Party games
Even Ubisoft had huge success in that front with the Rabbids games and the Just Dance series that is being released on the Wii till this day.
Yet, all of those games pale in comparison to the cataclysmic effect of the Wii Sports series which, for a while at least, changed the dynamics of many living rooms around the world, and still does in nursing homes today.
As is the case with almost any Nintendo console, Platformers are usually a big deal. In this case, both 2D and 3D platformers are big, even if only Nintendo really bothers with 3D platformers anymore. Games like Donkey Kong Country Returns and the Kirby games run the entire spectrum of 2D Platformers while the Super Mario Galaxy games are critically acclaimed 3D Platforming classics.
Other studios may not have as big of an impact in this field but still managed to put quite an effort. From Puzzle Platformers like A Boy and His Blob to indie Action Platformers like Cave Story, there was usually no shortage in that front for the average Wii gamer.
While it may never have been a huge financial or even critical hit on the console, this is the first time that Rail Shooters even come close to their arcade relevance but inside the living room. Simply put, the IR sensor on the Wiimote made Rail Shooters a huge thing again.
It simply made a lot of sense.
You really didn't need the Zapper accessory though
Rail Shooters, by design, are meant to be interactive experiences where your only input is to point and shoot at the TV screen. Without the tangibility that comes with pointing the Wiimote, the gameplay loses a lot of the appeal.
The resurgence of the genre on the Wii led to some great games such as Dead Space Extraction and Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, among many other less impressive titles. Fans of the genre, few as they are, rejoiced.
Top Three Publishers:
In a way that is even more important than the console’s top genres, the top publishers give you a very good idea about the type of top games on the system. On the Wii, a lot of very good games are spread between many publishers. For example, obscure games published by Xseed Games. Marvelous Entertainment, or Atlus.
As I mentioned above, the major 3rd party publishers did not bring their core game to the console, even if some managed to support the console with unique and engaging content, such as the engaging content published by these companies:
Naturally, Nintendo will always be the top publisher in its own consoles. There is actually a good argument that they would be the top publisher on any console, with a huge variety of excellent top-quality games.
Still, the level of dominance of Nintendo on the top tier of games on its system can betray the fact of other publishers complacency.
In the Wii’s case, having 6 of its top 10 games (As chosen by myself) published by Nintendo may seem like other companies are not pulling their weight, but compare that to the top 10 SNES games which can easily have five Nintendo game on the list (my list for example).
However, it is not only with the top 10 games, but rather any top 50 list of the Wii may have more than 50% of the game published by Nintendo, with no other publisher even making a dent on the list with the exception of the next two:
In that entire generation, Capcom were a shadow of their former glory. While they can comfortably be counted as one of the world’s best publishers since the 8bit days, their WiiPS360 era was their most forgettable.
Still, they were one of the best publishers on the Wii despite having few killer titles.
With Resident Evil, they made a very excellent port of the RE4 and two pretty god Rail Shooter titles. In the fighting genre, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is an underrated gem. They also had a unique game released like Zack & Wiki (whose financial failure may have scared Capcom from trying more).
Maybe the most surprising release from Capcom was the retro-inspired new Mega Man 9 & 10 games, which are great games on the Wii Ware library.
Even though Ubisoft is disliked by Nintendo fans for their role in betraying the Wii U’s initial years, their dedication to the Wii cannot be ignored, even though they rarely brought their A-Game to the console. In fact, the Wii’s last published game, the newest Just Dance title, is published by Ubisoft.
Other than such Party Games, Ubisoft actually developed and published and interesting array of adult games like Red Steel (1&2) and No More Heroes (1&2). Hell, they even published a very poorly received Far Cry game.
The last official Wii release
It is obvious that the Wii is a console worth owning. It’s top 10 list of games in itself have many must-play titles, and as per my own argument that a console really only needs just 10 games to justify a purchase, it passes with flying colors.
Other than its top 10 games, it also has many other titles, and I estimate that any given gamer can come-up with at least 20 games that they will significantly enjoy, by themselves or others.
See this collection
However, does the console ever justify its central gimmick; motion controls?
The answer to that is an emphatic yes. With motion controls, it allowed for many unique experiences that cannot be replicated anywhere else. People like my parents getting involved in video games, even if for the duration of that fad, brought smiles to my face. In college, while researching some medical devices to be used with elderly patients, I was surprised that nursing homes sill had Wiis with many elder patients playing with them. Even outside of the super-casual audience, the motion controls allowed for fun party games with some of my most hardcore gaming buddies.
Generally, it wasn’t the core games that justified the motion controls, but the fringe party games.
One thing that I believe was a missed opportunity is that Nintendo should have also introduced a traditional controller and tried to make the Wii home for both types of games. With that, maybe the Wii’s potential as the new hub for mid-tier quality games would have been fully realized.