About a month ago I stole the kids Wii. A couple Wii games had flown by my radar and I wanted to give them a try and give the Xbox a break.
To start with, I will say in the beginning I liked the Wii and was completely taken with its motion controls. Mrs. Smirk had went and bought one the first Christmas they came out. This was during the initial Wii shortage and none of the stores were taking reservations. Instead, lines were forming outside of Gamestops and Best Buys at 4am in the morning when rumors began circulating that a delivery was due in. Usually the delivery was something like 6 Wii’s, not nearly enough to satisfy the small crowds and most everyone went home disappointed and empty-handed. (We never actually participated in these camp outs, but Mrs. Smirk would sometimes see the hopeful people sitting in their lawn chairs outside of the Gamestop on her way to work those chilly November mornings.) No doubt most of those Wii’s were probably on ebay within a few hours at a starting bid of $600. Mrs. Smirk finally called Gamestop on a whim one morning just before it opened and they had just gotten in a surprise shipment that very hour and although they couldn’t hold it for her, if she beat her ass to the store she might be able to get one since nobody else knew yet that they had them. Mrs. Smirk cruised down I-77 at nearly 100 mph for this little machine – and that is the story of how we had a Wii the first Christmas it was available. Disclosure: Just so that there is no confusion, Mrs. Smirk went through all of this for the kids, NOT for me.
Wii Sports was a fun game to play for everyone and in the first year I experimented with quite a few of the Wii titles available such as “Elebits” and and the Zelda game, but the only two games that I finished were Resident Evil 4 and Super Mario Galaxy, both of which I highly recommend.
Those were both played nearly 2 years ago. After finishing them I gravitated back to the Xbox 360 for most of my gaming. Not only are the Xbox’s graphical capabilities still able blow my puny mind at times depending on the game, but the overall quality of the games is higher. (There is a the term “shovelware” coined for the sheer amount of crap games out there that Nintendo allows 3rd party developers to release on its system as a way to make a quick buck. Read more about that here.) This is a really disappointing development, not just for the Wii, but for gaming in general as adults who have never really gamed and want to try it, more than likely are buying a Wii because of its lower price-point and because they’ve heard so much about it. After a month of initial play, they’ll probably find they never touch it again and decided based on their mediocre Wii experience that gaming is not their thing, having never experienced say the true seduction of GTA IV or even the Xbox 360 version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. And really, how is someone who’s not familiar with gaming supposed to know that there are actually major differences in these systems?
Of course, as a kids console for the under-15 crowd, there can be a lot of fun to be had with the Wii – and definitely some of the games offer way more multi-player, ‘party’ fun than the Xbox and PS3 put together. I think that’s where the Wii’s value really kicks in.
All of that being said, over the last year a couple of Wii titles had caught my eye so over the last month I put aside the Xbox to give these Wii games a try.
The first game was “Okami” which is actually a game that initially appeared on the Playstation 2 console to great reviews.
The concept of Okami is that you are playing a Japanese watercolor painting. Not only are you playing the painting, but you can actually stop the action and paint – as in say, paint a bridge to get across that river. Cool right? Right! No really, it is a beautiful game, and if they make a part 2, particularly for the Xbox 360, I will definitely give it a try.
The lush, gorgeous visuals – the way it does at times look like a watercolor come to life, is perfect. The problem? It truly is a kid’s game, but the even bigger problem is that even kids are going to get bored out of their minds with it. The plot contains a lot – and I mean a LOT – of dialogue. This dialogue isn’t of the cut-scene variety where at least you’re watching a little cinematic, a miniature movie, to keep you interested. Basically, the characters stop and talk. A lot. (Did I say that already?) This isn’t the kind of talking that you can at least step out of the room and make a sandwich for – no, basically a character spurts out a line, and then you have to press the “A” button, and then the next character spurts out a line, press “A”, and so on and so on, sometimes for as long as 5 minutes straight. So thick is the plot of this game that you end up not caring about it at all, you just end up pressing A repeatedly to get through it all. To get back to painting and running through your painting. Needless to say, I gave up. I may yet pick it up again on a rainy day because there is so much good going on with it, but as far as devoting myself to it as I try to do with most of the games I play – it has broken my cardinal rule for gaming. It managed to bore me.
The second game that caught my attention that I tried was Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles.
Having recently finished the superb Resident Evil 5 on the Xbox 360, I had Resident Evil on the brain. Disregarding the movies, Resident Evil may well be the most interesting video game series ever made, with several games that do their best to interlock with one another plot-wise, and a slowly built and defined back-story that has developed over the years in such a way that its own trivia game could probably be made out of it. Sorta like the “Friends” of the survival horror genre.
There is a lot to love about Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. Its basically an “on-the-rails” replay of the many moments out of the entire series. (On-the-rails means that you don’t actually walk or do anything, the game does all your moving for you. All you do is point and shoot at the stuff getting in the way.) Although I haven’t even come close to playing all of the Resident Evil games, I did play part one on the Gamecube which takes place mainly in a spooky mansion, and the same mansion makes an appearance in the Umbrella Chronicles. It was like going back to visit an old familiar friend. Although not nearly the graphical equivalent of RE5, it is after all on the Wii, the graphics are adequate.
The other intriguing thing about The Umbrella Chronicles that needs to be noted is that it was made especially for the Wii and is only available on the Wii. Meaning mainly that Capcom designed this game specifically with the Wii’s strengths as well as its weaknesses in mind.
The “story” in Umbrella, as I said, basically is a replay of moments throughout the entire RE series. It is plotted in a very neat ‘tree-like’ fashion where you play as one character who will, at some point, run into another character, and you then have the choice to play that characters story arc/adventure. Just like the entire series, all of the various character stories interweave with each other, so at various points in the game you have often three or four different levels to choose from to play. So if you get stuck on one, you can just play another.
Sounds great, right!? It is! Except that each level has a “boss” and these bosses can sometimes take up to 10 minutes to kill. AND, there really is no skill required to kill them, just pointing your wii-mote and pulling the trigger over, and over, and over again for 10 minutes and hope you don’t get carpal tunnel. And then, as you get midway through the game, the bosses get harder which simply means that sometimes you will pull your trigger for 8 minutes straight and then the boss will rise up and stomp you, and since it is an “on the rails” game you can’t really dodge or anything, you just stand there and get stomped and die. And then begin again for another 8 minutes of finger-cramp inducing trigger-pulling only to get stomped again. So, after trying more than an hour of this with a single boss I stopped playing. bad, Bad, BAD game designers! There was a good post here about “boss fights” and a resultant discussion in the comments section that might be worth your time if boss fights have ever pissed you off.
The Wii is now back with the kids and I have no urge to play it except perhaps in a party-type atmosphere where the point isn’t to game, but to spend fun time with the people we’re with. I haven’t completely written the Wii off as Super Mario Galaxy 2 is on its way, but for the most part I have no interest. Its off my radar. Even the kids, for the most part, rarely turn it on anymore, the recently-turned 16 year old (Happy Birthday, Dudette!) much preferring Rock Band on the Xbox360 due to its immense amount of downloadable content and superior graphic presentation, and the recently turned 13 year old (Happy Birthday Dude!) preferring the Xbox360’s superior offerings whether that be Lego games or Call of Duty games without the pain-in-ass that can sometimes accompany the motion-controls. Funny thing, the one game he’s been replaying on the Wii this past week has been the Wii Paper Mario game which for the most part doesn’t even use the motion controls. Instead you turn the Wii-mote sideways and use it as a traditional controller. Imagine that.
Below is a game play video of Okami just because it is worth a look since nothing has been done quite like this before or since. I would recommend to give it a try as long as you are prepared for a ridiculous amount of dialogue. The rest of the game was a sheer pleasure to play.