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After being virtually omitted from this year’s showing at E3 and with a complete lack of software coming down the pipeline, it’s become apparent that the Wii is on its way out and the Wii U will soon take center stage. Because of that, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight many the successes that the Wii has achieved over the past five years.

Nintendo may have forgotten the Wii, but that doesn’t mean we have to.

For all intents and purposes the GameCube, as a piece of hardware, was indistinguishable from the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Despite a solid line of first party software, features such as the lack of DVD functionality, virtually non-existent online capabilities, lack of third party support, and Nintendo becoming increasingly out of touch with longtime fans caused an otherwise fantastic console to fail at market.

By the end of the last console generation Nintendo was forced to come to a realization. Through poor sales, it was forced to recognize that it could no longer continue to fight fire with fire. Nintendo needed to do something different if it was to have any hope of replicating the success it achieved in the 1980s and early 1990s. From that point of desperation and Nintendo’s constant mantra of “innovation” the Wii was born.

The Wii’s most obvious achievement comes from a technological standpoint — new input devices. The Wii Remote is the result of the combination of accelerometers and IR (infrared) detection. These devices, in addition to the LEDs contained within the console’s sensor bar, sense the position of an object within a three dimensional space.

The Wii Motion Plus, and subsequent Wii Remote Plus improved things considerably with the introduction of turning fork gyroscopes which not only allowed the sensor bar to detect motion better but directly reflected your movements on-screen. The Wii Balance Board introduced pressure sensors that allowed your feet and body to act as the controller. These devices allowed Nintendo to bring motion controlled gaming to the forefront of the gaming industry.

Games like The Conduit and Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition proved that motion controllers can provide a mouse-and-keyboard-like shooting experience on a console. Red Steel 2 and the upcoming release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword let you swing your Wii Remote and see your actions mimicked on screen as a sword in a 1:1 fashion. Countless independent titles on WiiWare like Lost Winds, Lit, the Bit.Trip series, And Yet it Moves, and Fluidity showcased new and unique experiences that only Nintendo’s new controller could offer. There are now entire genres of games that were previously almost nonexistent such as exercise and dance.

Nintendo changed the game considerably by turning the market’s focus from a graphical arms race into a contest where the competitors have to offer new, different methods of control. Motion control may have been laughed at and derided when it was first introduced — but one needn’t look much further for proof of motion control’s success than the number of Wii consoles sold over the last half decade or how Microsoft and Sony followed suit with the Kinect and PlayStation Move. New methods of control have opened new doors and new opportunities for gamers.

They’ve also revived old ones. Something I have particularly enjoyed about the Wii is the resurgence of the light gun game. The Wii Remote’s IR pointer allows console gamers to experience classic arcade gameplay in their homes. Highlights include Dead Space Extraction, House of the Dead 2, 3 and Overkill, the Resident Evil “Chronicles” titles, and Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. The arcades we grew up in may be disappearing at an alarming rate, but at least now we can get similar experiences in our living room.

Another genre fading into obscurity that received a resurgence on Nintendo’s little white box: 2D platformers. By the time the final days of the SNES rolled around sprites had become gorgeous works of art. Unfortunately, decades of pixel-art evolution were sidelined by polygons. While revolutionary at the time, the introduction of 3D polygonal visuals brought graphics back into an aesthetic dark age, one that we have only recently come out of with the advent of high-definition.

While the Wii lags behind its competition graphically, that hasn’t been the worst thing in the world. It’s allowed gamers to take a nostalgic trip back to more youthful days with 2D platformers. And what a revival it has been. Favourites include Donkey Kong Country Returns, New Super Mario Bros Wii, A Boy and His Blob, Lost in Shadow, Warioland Shake It, Megaman 9, Bit.Trip RUNNER, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn.

There are more reasons to celebrate the Wii’s standard-resolution visuals than just a retro revival.  While many celebrate Nintendo’s decision to join the HD revolution with the Wii U, smaller developers probably aren’t among them. Lower resolution graphics have led to lower development costs. Lower development costs mean that developers can produce niche games, and make a profit on sales figures that would make other developers working on games for the high-definition platforms weep.

Suda 51’s studio Grasshopper Manufacture released No More Heroes in 2007. If it were a PlayStation 3 title selling 500,000 copies would have been a failure. On the Wii half a million copies sold allowed Suda 51 to produce a sequel, and a damn good one at that. Titles like No More Heroes exist, in part, due to the lackluster visuals for which the console has received much derision and scorn. Little King’s Story, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Madworld, Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, Rune Factory Frontier, and many other cult hits were made possible by “bad graphics”. These are among my favourite titles of the generation and while I’m sure they would all look great in HD, I’m thankful they exist at all.

Finally, I would like to recognize the Wii for expanding the audience and redefining what it means to be a gamer. Five years ago videogames were perceived by the public at large as something for children and nerds. The Wii and the DS have made great strides toward breaking that stereotype.

It’s interesting to think that five years ago Nintendo’s back was against the wall. Their home console was in third place, despite being technically superior to its primary competitor. Nintendo’s strong franchises and long history with gamers wasn’t enough to ward off the incredibly successful PlayStation 2 and all of its mass market appeal.

That was five years ago. Now, my mom owns a Wii. Somehow Nintendo is getting games into the hands of people that you never would have expected and they’re responding. Nintendo’s Wii series alone has shifted more than 150 million units. While hardcore gamers may resent the casual crowd, the fact is that their enjoyment of the medium only really only benefits us all in the long run as gaming gains more mainstream acceptance.

These are but a few reasons why the Nintendo Wii has been a success. However, from a personal standpoint, the most important thing the Wii has achieved exists in the social sphere. People were once ashamed of playing videogames. While that social stigma still exists, day by day it is being washed away as more people consider themselves gamers. Being able to sit down with family members who previously thought gaming was a juvenile waste of time and share a common pastime is an amazing experience.

  1. I could talk about the Wii for days, but I’ll keep it short.

    My experience and love for the Wii has fluctuated more than any console. I remember playing it on launch, and powering through Twilight Princess in 4 days – straight – completing every side quest, and the extra dungeon. I loved the game itself, but I hated the waggle controls – I ended up liking it more on Gamecube.

    Then, there was a drought. Like…a year or two long drought. The Wii was basically a joke in my dorm, and the only thing I remember playing on it was WarioWare.

    After a while, it started to get a TON of good games. No More Heroes – Zack and Wiki – Rune Factory – Mario Galaxy – you name it. After a long hiatus, I bought like 15 Wii games in the course of a few months, and played “catch up”. During that time, the Wii was amazing. Of course, that amazement was fleeting.

    After Galaxy 2, I only really had Epic Yarn and DKC to look forward to, which only took around 5-6 hours to beat, each. Now, I haven’t touched my Wii in months, and I’m silently waiting for Skyward Sword. For the five years of the Wii’s lifecycle, I’ve only truly gotten around 4-5 months of enjoyment out of it.

    I STILL contend that the DS and 3DS are superior experiences to the Wii (I’ve already had more fun with my 3DS than I ever did with the Wii!). I think next generation, I’ll stick to my 3DS, and still be extremely weary of the Wii-U. Nintendo really dropped the bomb with the Wii, in many respects.

  2. My experience with the Wii pretty much matches Chris’. I got one at launch and played all the launch games. Then it kind of sat around except for the odd session of Wii bowling with my dad or grandparents.

    I actually played Twilight Princess on the Gamecube exclusively because (I think) it came out before my family actually had their Wii.

    I love the Virtual Console stuff, but considering that I still own my N64 and SNES, it’s not an uber-amazing service in my mind.

    I feel like a lot of W’ii games have too much forced waggle–including DKCR which I haven’t beaten because of the awful controls. I don’t play a lot of handheld games, but I think developers for the DS on a whole were able to better utilized that system’s unique features more than Wii developers were able to harness the power of the waggle for great justice.

  3. I think the biggest contribution the Wii gave us was interface-based thinking. The nunchuk controller is so powerful, it made Microsoft and Sony turn 180 degrees to offer Kinect and Move. Other than that, I agree with @Chris that on a software front. There just isn’t much quality in Nintendo’s library — and that’s from a gameplay perspective rather than a graphical one.

    Full disclosure, I own all consoles. I will probably pick up the Wii U because it promises better games. Graphics, to me, is on the bottom of the must have list. Hell, I’d give 10/10 to a text based game if the UI, story and gameplay were top notch. Alas, the Wii isn’t known for this in my eyes.

    They did get people thinking about the controller more, however. New ways to play the game. That’s what made it a success. That’s what makes the iOS a success. That’s what’s going to make the Wii U a success, if it can get the pricing right. $600?!

    BTW, speaking of iOS, my game of 2011 is currently Sword and Sworcery. Just saying.

  4. avatar Jay

    I have over 50 games plus VC downloads for my Wii and play it once a week at least. There are so many amazing games out there for it you may need to check some reviews, hunt the bargain bins and open your eyes a little! The Wii Zapper was a good device, which like the article states enables arcade style gaming once again and anyone who dares call the Wii a kiddie console…go play HotD Overkill and then come back! I bought that 90% Official Nintendo Magazine rated game for £8 brand new! The gems are there guys just need to open your eyes a little!

    • If you have 50+ games and maybe play it once a week, that’s not good. Now, normally I wouldn’t say that, because not all of us have time for games, and you by no means have to be “hardcore”. But considering you spend at least $1000 on Wii games (50 games at $20 a pop minimum, plus a “ton” of VC games), I assume you’re not “casual” ;D

      I play my 360 and PS3 daily.

    • avatar FNAG

      Learn to read! He said “AT LEAST” once a week, not “only”.

      And he never said he bought every game brand new at full retail pop! He JUST said he got HotD: Overkill new for a FRACTION of brand-new MSRP.

  5. avatar Bolo

    @Jay give some more examples please. I’m on the hunt now because let’s face it prices are low as you described. Anything with super gameplay and story in, say, action/adventure or RPG? Right now, I’m with the majority and believe quality Wii games are few and far between. Probably because of the oversaturation of gimmicky, family/party games.

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