And so the sales numbers are in, and we’re not the only ones to have eulogised over the thinking behind Nintendo’s sparkling Wii console. By taking a lateral approach to its machine and pricing it sensibly, Nintendo has been rewarded with sales of over three million worldwide within a month of the Wii launching. Quite a comeback for a firm that was supposedly considering exiting the console market after the performance of the Game Cube.
But what of the games? Glad you asked, because we’ve gathered together some of the Wii’s maiden titles and have been throwing controllers through television screens ever since.
We start, inevitably, with Wii Sports, not because anyone is likely to buy it but because it’s a surprisingly complete and enjoyable package for a bundled game. The five events contained within it all work well, and while they may be accused of getting a little repetitive after some heavy gaming, you’d be hard-pushed to find a finer multiplayer experience released in all of last year. Ten pin bowling, for instance, is a terrific example of the sheer pick-up-and-play nature of an increasing amount of Wii software.
Ironically, Wii Sports eclipsed the separately-sold Wii Play, which again is a series of small games to be enjoyed with the Wii’s innovative control system. These don’t gel quite as well, with, for instance, the air hockey being quite fiddly. But we enjoyed the horse racing and given the fact that for around £30 this also comes bundled with an extra controller, it’s hard to be too churlish.
The King Kong of the early Wii software library, though, is Zelda. It’s fair to say that this latest in the franchise is a storming, cast-iron triumph, and the finest Zelda game since Ocarina Of Time back in the N64 days.
It’s not just because the game is so big and because there’s so much to do. It’s also staggeringly engrossing, innovative, always interesting and some of the best money you can spend on a game, ever. Whether time holds it in as high esteem as the aforementioned Ocarina Of Time remains to be seen, but the chances are high that it will.
Call Of Duty 3, meanwhile, is an interesting one. We’ve played the Xbox 360 version and found it relied very heavily on its cinematics for its impact, with the gameplay never quite matching that of the terrific Call Of Duty 2 either. But the Wii version has a slightly different control method which can’t paper over the cracks in the game (nor the fact that it doesn’t look as good on the Nintendo machine), but does make it slightly more intriguing. Hardly essential, though.
But the new Wario game, Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, is an absolute delight, capturing the madness of the previous games in the series and properly using the potential of the Wii’s control system. If you’ve never played a Wario Ware game before, these consist of a series of very quick, unexplained mini-games, where you have to figure out what to do and do it before the short amount of time at your disposal runs out. Fun in single player, utterly irresistible with friends, it’s a terrific piece of gaming entertainment.
Finally – for this round up, at least – there’s Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz. Monkey Ball games in the past has been defined by two factors. One, there’s a monkey in a ball, and in the main game you control the platforms the ball rolls on, with the idea being to get the right level of tilt to roll the ball where you need it. Later levels of said Monkey Ball games have been known to induce anger fits of unseen proportions, and this one’s no different. But it’s for the right reasons, if that makes sense.
Factor two is the inclusion of some terrific little party games, and they’re included here too. Surprisingly, though, the one area that blights the game slightly is the controls, which should work better with the tilt-sensitive Wiimote. For us, while Banana Blitz is a fun little game, the new control system has managed to make an already tricky game even more difficult!
Still, there’s a lot of early promise from the Wii’s software catalogue to date, although once the novelty of the control system has gone, we’ll be interested to see how developers go about trying to keep us all interested. For now, our recommendation is simply to immerse yourself in the most interesting, innovative games console in recent memory. Long may it prosper on the evidence so far.