Every (other) Tuesday, Mike Sylvester brings you REVOLUTIONARY, a look at the wide world of Wii possibilities.
The holidays are a time of giving and love, and it's high time we give the Wii a little bit of tough love. I've thrown criticisms at the console and the big N more than a couple of times, and so far, it looks like most of my gripes are being addressed. This time I'm picking nits for the most stubborn issues many of us are hoping to see rectified, but seem to be on the bottom of the power players' to-do lists.
With games up to the quality standard of Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3, and Resident Evil 4, it's easy to forget there's anything wrong with the Wii. But I'm taking some time off from the nearly perfect games to scrutinize and deliver up a list of complaints. Of course, I'm only doing this because we love the Wii so much and want to see the most made of its enormous potential.
10. The waiting game
Some things never change. Nintendo is well known for family friendliness, extremely polished games, and designing hardware that prints money, but they're also known for delays. Chances are, if you own something made by Nintendo, you didn't get it on the date it was first scheduled to be on the store shelves. In most cases, it's worth the wait for Nintendo to put on the extra coat of perfect, but even knowing that doesn't make the wait any easier. Smash Bros., I'm talkin' to you!
9. Franchises MIA
Nintendo has been accused time and again of "putting on a red light" for some of their popular characters and franchises. Even this generation, they've squeezed Mario into a red dress a few times, while it has left us puzzled to find that other IPs have seemed to put away their makeup. </Roxanne> We're not sure why there hasn't been any word of a new Pilot Wings, Wave Race, Pikmin, Punch-Out, or Star Fox when those gametypes are so ideally suited for a retrofit to the Wii's unique controls.
There's also a lot of portable franchises that are ripe for a crossover. We know that the DS stylus and Wii pointer are fairly similar analogs of each other, since this has been proven by Brain Age, Trauma Center, and Wario Ware, but where's the Nintendogs, Elite Beat Agents, and Nintendogs? You can keep your fingers crossed for a chance to paint on Kirby's cursed canvas with your Wiimote, but don't hold your breath.
Super Mario Galaxy, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Zack & Wiki, and No More Heroes sport graphics and gameplay styles that make it easy to forget how unevenly matched the specs of the Wii are against other now-gen consoles. But those games are merely exceptions to the rule. The majority of Wii games have graphics that make the PS2's first generation stuff look prettier than the prom queen by comparison. Bad graphics don't necessarily ruin a game, because we're still loving Guitar Hero III -- despite the fact that it's an obvious port of the PS2's assets (which don't even look good by that platform's standards). Which brings me to my next point ...
To think, we used to believe it would be a good thing for Wii development to be so cheap and easy that just about anyone could make games for it. Then along came Ninjabread Man to show us why not everyone should be allowed the privilege. Yet, as Guitar Hero III shows, it's not just the small developers who are trying to make a fast buck with the least amount of effort. Evidently, they sent the QC team home early on that one.
I don't need them, so I should be able to ignore them, right? No. I'm constantly getting asked by friends and associates if they'd need to get the racket/bat/club attachments to play Wii Sports. The sad part is that there are plenty of people out there that don't have a Wii fanboy to steer them clear of those worthless purchases, and their folly feeds the beast. Wouldn't you rather see games or useful peripherals filling that shelf space?
It didn't take long for the Wii's internal 512MB of flash memory to fill up. Starting out, it seemed like a bottomless well with the lightweight offerings of the early NES, SNES, Genesis, and TG-16 lineup, but how things have changed. With games that originally appeared on CDs now beaming through the air into your Virtual Console, it's become apparent that we need more storage.
Nintendo's stance on this is that we can always delete and re-download games, but that's hardly an elegant solution. At times, even small games can take ages to download from the Wii Shop, and if your console is away from an internet connection, you won't be downloading anything. The simplest thing would be letting us back up our downloaded games onto SD cards and swap them back to internal memory when it's time to play. At least that would make the iPod
excuse analogy easier to swallow.
4. VC minus
Wouldn't you love to race a friend in Mario Kart 64 from across the country? Or shoot that annoying mutt in Duck Hunt with the Wii Zapper? How about playing Punch-Out with motion controls, a la Wii Sports Boxing? Well, forget it. All those features would require significant modification to the code of the original game, and Nintendo has stated unequivocally that it will not make any such changes to the Virtual Console's offerings.
Well, we can deal with that. After all, we're in it to experience these games like we did back in their day. But I distinctly remember my controller rumbling when I played Star Fox 64 on the Fun Machine. In fact, the box the game came in was oversized to accommodate the (then) new Rumble Pak controller attachment. Rumble was so integral to my memories of the game, it just didn't feel the same when I played it on the Virtual Console. And I'm sure many of you are wishing you could save Ghost data on your Mario Kart 64 time trials, but being that it used a controller add-on as well, you're out of luck.
3. The Classic Controller
"1995 called, it wants its controller design back," is a flame I usually reserve for Playstation forums. It's too bad Nintendo decided to take a step backward in controller ergonomics and mold it into a peripheral that feels too cheap to be a 1st party product. Were it not for the GlovePIE scriptability, I would not own a Classic Controller, electing instead to use my good old Wavebird, or this for playing Virtual Console wares.
2. Online multiplayer
I know this is Nintendo's first online-centered console, but for its functionality to be as limited as the Dreamcast's is simply inexcusable in this day and age. We hated Friend Codes on the DS and waited in dread to find out if they'd be reused on the Wii. While it's a little better than that (you can get away with just having one Friend Code for the console instead of per game), it's still eons behind the competition. It'll take a few more Heroes to make us overlook the shortcomings here.
The thing I hate most about the Wii is that none of my friends have one. Well, that's partially true. I have a lot of gaming enthusiast friends from various internet communities that followed routine and pre-ordered the console before launch. But the scarcity of product has made it impossible for any of my less-dedicated, offline friends and family members to be able to get one. When even Nintendo executives are claiming that their families can't get one, it kind of puts the Wii in a legendary category with Sasquatch and underpants gnomes.
If I would have guessed a year ago what would be my main peeve with the Wii come December 2007, it would have probably been the name. But I've since come to accept it and embrace what it embodies, although some aspects haven't fully been realized. Wii is about bringing many people together to play, but the online infrastructure makes it impossible to add new friends you've met through a game, and your casual gaming friends probably don't yet have a Wii of their own to share a friend code with you.
It is more difficult than you might imagine to come up with a 10 item list of gripes against the Wii. The A+ titles out are of such a high caliber, it's hard to get into a glass-half-empty train of thought. But it's not all lollipops and gumdrops, and the Wii has a lot of room for improvement. At only one year old, there's time enough to make a few adjustments and ride on cruise control down the road to excellence. How many grievances can you air against the Wii? If you are perfectly pleased with every aspect of it, we want to hear about it anyway, so drop a comment.