I really enjoy writing posts like this. Too often we get consumed with our desire for the next big thing that we forget how lucky we are for what we already have. Thus, let’s take a look back at Nintendo’s little endeavor from 2006 that exploded into the most commercially successful console this generation (on a somewhat relavent side note, I recently played Ico for the first time. It’s awfully good! I’m surprised people so easily forget about it and its wonderful soundtrack) But yeah, back to the Wii. My own experience with the white box was inconsistent at times but I can safely look back and say that the time I did spend with it was warm and friendly. Nintendo may not have captured every game enthusiast’s heart this generation, but here’s a few reasons why perhaps overlooking the console entirely was a gross error.
Talk of consoles is always a fool’s errand without mentioning games. For many, this specifically was the greatest deterrent in buying or playing the Wii. Its third party flexibility couldn’t match that of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Few games on the two were also on the third, and if they were they were degraded ports with incomparable graphics and motion gimmicks. And yet, I’m going to sit here today and tell you that the Wii’s library is, looking back, fairly strong. Not for the same reasons as the PS3 and Xbox, naturally, but strong nonetheless.
If there’s one thing that Nintendo does exceptionally well is comprehend, and develop for, their own hardware. They know exactly what their games need to express excellent use of whatever unique feature they obsess over creating. Thus, games like Super Mario Galaxy and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword operate wonderfully under the system’s restraints. There are few ways these games would truly be improved by being in HD and with standard controllers.
And yet, not all the console’s strength was segregated to first party offerings, despite popular belief. Muramasa: The Demon Blade, my personal favorite game of 2009 and one of the Wii’s best was a simple but extremely beautiful and addicting 2D action game. Other strong third party games range from the atmospheric Deadly Creatures to the quirky and enjoyable MySims. The Wii had its third party games, they were just admittedly buried under an ocean of mediocracy.
Ultimately though, there were two great strengths that the Wii proudly maintained. For one, it was a console still dedicated to local multiplayer. Today console interconnectivity has made this largely a thing of the past, partly because a majority of console owners keep their systems hooked up online and also because publishers have long since figured that profits are higher when four friends are playing their own sixty dollar copies of a game instead of all huddled around one. It’s too bad, as some of my favorite video game memories this generation come from four-man tests of mental stamina in New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. And who could forget that Super Smash Bros. Brawl was what kept the Wii alive for many, as its frantic additions to the classic Smash Bros formula benefited (in this writer’s humble opinion) the quality of group competitive play. But it’s hardly surprising. The Wii was, after all, practically built to be that kind of system. It was meant to be shared and experienced as a group. It’s kind of funny that New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the 10th best selling game of all time, considering the fears of many current publishers that local multiplayer hurts sale totals.
But I will always hold that the Wii was great for one thing alone: the Virtual Console. Never has any device been a bigger marketplace of incredibly vast amounts of retro games. I considered it very rewarding to build a library of games I missed simply for being born too soon ago. And not only Nintendo diehards benefited from the VC. Sega games hold a large presence as well on the console. So many that it strikes thoughts of how absurd the very idea would sound to anyone twenty years ago.
And thus, I can claim with every fiber in my being that I’m satisfied with the Wii. Sure, I would never have recommended owning it exclusively, as you would have missed out on some fantastic experiences impossible to convey with its limited graphical scope. I would even have trouble defending the Wii as the best of the three. But when the Wii got it right, it really got it right. And in the time left I have with mine before I graduate it from my shelf for something a little shinier from big N, I’m going to be remembering the good times.