Nintendo Wii Micro-Reviews, Part One

The spectacular NHL Slapshot on Nintendo Wii

For the past several years, I have been collecting videogame for the Nintendo Wii. I’ve long been a fan of the console since its 2006 release, and despite its controversy among the hardcore videogame crowd, I embraced its innovative motion controls and focus on classic arcade play. Early this year, I finally replaced the broken disc drive on my console, allowing me to finally back in and catch up on old times.

Here are a collection of micro-reviews for Wii games in my library. Some of these I have played before, but most are new discoveries to me. Enjoy:

Zack & Wiki: Everybody has been praising Capcom’s action-puzzler as the best thing since sliced bread and one of Wii’s greatest hits. Everybody is right. Nothing else needs to be said. Get it if you don’t have it, play it, love it.

Monster 4X4 World Circuit: This 2006 Ubisoft launch title is one of my favorite surprises. You race a wide variety of monster trucks across small closed circuits while collecting power-ups and smash flaming oil cans into rival cars. Imagine RC Pro-Am on Sega Dreamcast and you’ve got the idea. I found the motion controls to be excellent, the course designs suitably varied and curvy, the ramps and stuns enjoyable. My only beef is that the game is very easy, but multiplayer seems to be the real attraction.

GT Pro Series: Another 2006 Ubisoft launch title, this time created by Japanese studio MTO, who also created the GT Advance series on Gameboy Advance. The cel-shaded graphics are clean and stylish and looks just like Sega Dreamcast. For me, that’s a great thing. The motion controls are also excellent, but there’s a slight learning curve. Gameplay is a fusion of arcade and sim, closest to Sega GT and Tokyo Extreme Racer. Once again, the computer cars are a cakewalk and the game is far too easy, but 4P mulitplayer delivers the goods. This game was savaged by reviewers who clearly had rocks in their heads.

Dirt 2: I only played a little with the Wiimote controls, which proved to be far too loose. The cars also handle like they weigh five pounds and are made out of helium, bouncing and floating and flipping around at the slightest touch. It’s annoying as hell. Classic Controller is a dramatic improvement, but you’re still dealing with the obnoxious physics. Graphics are detailed but the frame rate is all over the place.

Need For Speed Carbon: Vehicle steering sucks. I kept bouncing around like a pinball just like Dirt 2. Graphics are all dark with glossy lighting that was in vogue during the Gen 6/7 eras. Again, I need more time to play around, but I’m not a big fan of this series and this title probably played better on the other consoles.

NHL Slapshot: Fantastic fun, really does play like the classic Genesis NHL games with a touch of Nintendo 64 Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey. It’s all about liquid smooth controls, fast action, brutal violence and endless one-timer goals. The 3-on-3 pee wee and bantam youth leagues are worth the price of admission alone, and you can also play Canadian leagues as well as NHL. This feels like the second coming of the legendary NHL 94 on Sega Genesis and nothing more really needs to be said.

Da Blob: I loved this game since I bought it back in 2009. I still enjoy its freewheeling nature and originality that reminds me of Sega Dreamcast. There are also many things that frustrate the hell out of me, such as the wonky camera, the floaty jumps and sometimes just getting lost and not knowing where to go. It drives me angry but in that classic videogame sort of way. I’d definitely get the Switch release.

De Blob 2: A much more polished, refined and structured sequel, looks terrific, maps “jump” to the A button, which is a very welcome improvement, and offers many 2D platforming segments. The structure is a little more linear but at least you aren’t sent on a dozen fetch quests all at once. Saving still sucks and I can’t understand why Blue Tongue, the software developers, never figured that one out.

FIFA 11: It looks fine, in that Two-Gamecubes-Taped-Together sort of way. Controls are good if a bit sluggish, the computer players just run circles around me. I have no idea why your shots on goal can be powered up so they just fly into the stands. It’s FIFA in all its forced “simulation” banality, and makes me pine for Worldwide Soccer 97/98 on Sega Saturn instead.

PES 2013: This seems like a very solid soccer sim. Pity the controls feel more complicated than high school calculus. I might try again but I just came away deeply frustrated. I should probably try with the classic controller.

Madden NFL 2009 All-Play: Same as FIFA, my beefs are mostly with the franchise itself. It’s pretty good but the controls are a bit of a pain. Might get better with practice. But I’d rather play NFL 2K1/2K2 on Sega Dreamcast in a heartbeat. And so would you.

Tatsunoko Vs Capcom: Fantastic 2D fighter from Capcom and Eighting, the child of Toaplan that gave us Battle Garegga and Soukyugurentai. The glossy cel-shaded polygon look is glorious, the Tatsunoko players are superb (we’ll never see their likes again), gameplay is fantastic. The simplified Wiimote controls are a godsend for those of us who don’t have joysticks and can’t pull off endless joystick combos.

NHL 2K10: For some reason, 2K hockey just never found its groove like NFL and NBA. It’s tolerable but less polished, fluid and responsive than NHL Slapshot. Again, things may improve with practice, but this is the same debate we were having during the Genesis days. If I already have NHLPA 93 & NHL 94, why should I care about ESPN or Brett Hull 95?

Shaun White Snowboarding: World Stage: Very polished and very different sequel from Road Trip, going from a Tony Hawk collect-a-thon to a professional circuit setting. The 60 fps visuals are sure nice, controls are still easy. I don’t think anybody knows this videogame exists. Whatever. Their loss. Go to the retro game store and pick this up for three bucks.

Furu Furu Park: Taito minigame collection based on their classic arcade catalog. It has a polished Dreamcast style and it’s fun to play around with a little. Not sure if the replay value holds, but these party games only work in certain settings (translation: drunk). It’s not terrible but feels like a cruel tease to show me glimpses of all these classic Taito arcade hits I’d rather be playing.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The longer I play, the more I’m reminded of all the little frustrations that irritate me about Aonuma Zelda: the linear structure, the obsession with puzzles over adventure, the endless fetch quests, the annoying characters, the need to tell insipid “stories” or recreate tired movie cliches. Money is useless because there’s nothing to buy. The weapons have all been seen before. On the bright side, the wolf is pretty fun and I enjoy the twilight segments. I’m only 1/4 through so take with a grain of salt, but I’m already feeling bored and listless. Playing this game feels like homework.

The Munchables: Pac-Man meets Katamari Damacy. It’s terrific fun, looks wonderful with bright, vibrant colors that just pop, paired with cartoon sound effects ripped straight out of the Hanna-Barbara vaults. Cute and quirky and just original enough to stay in your head for days.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End:¬†Sharp graphics, detailed texture work, 60 fps action. I’m really digging this one. You can see a clear difference in Wii games when software studio actually bothered to put in the effort, and it’s clear that Disney was one of Wii’s strongest publishers.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: One of a hundred overhead 3D beat-em-ups on the system, this game looks extremely sloppy with simple, washed-out textures that looked second-rate on Playstation 2. Action becomes intense yet the motions are choppy and motion controls are needlessly tacked on.

Go Vacation: Namco brought this gem to the Switch, where I hope it became a hit. It’s a terrific minigame collection with an enormous hub world, tons of collectables, secrets, surprises. Definitely a genre highlight. Be warned that it takes up an enormous amount of save data, which might require you to move your digital Wii games to an SD card.

Scooby Doo: First Frights: This charming hit plays out just like the classic Scooby cartoons, complete with corny dialog, silly mystery plots and canned laughter in the soundtrack. It’s a beat-em-up with some platforming elements, which seems a bit odd at first, but since everything is so nicely polished you are quickly won over.

Geometry Wars Galaxies: Fantastic retro-styled arcade game in the Robotron mold that serves psychedelic wire-frame graphics, endless waves of enemy spaceships to destroy and enormous explosions that fill the screen. Gameplay reveals considerable depths in strategy and the variety of control options is very welcome. Jeff Minter should sue for royalties.

Brave: Based on the Pixar movie, this fantasy adventure looks like a 3D platformer but is actually an intense arcade shooter. Imagine Robotron or Smash TV but set at the Renaissance Fair and you’ll have a good idea what to expect. Visuals are detailed but a touch fuzzier than I would like, but the controls are solid and action is suitably fast.

Major Minor’s Majestic March: This highly unique children’s game by the creators of Parappa the Rapper puts you in the role of marching band leader. You wave the Wii Remote in time to keep your bandmates in tune, adding new members and collecting treats along the way. Savaged by most reviewers, but they simply never bothered to learn the proper controls (swing your arm at the elbow, up-down).

Leave a Reply