Wii Hate Baby Games
Maddening NFL 11
I was in my favorite gaming retailer the other day, merrily perusing the seemingly endless racks of videogame stuff, when I happened upon a most distressing discovery: 80% of Wii games suck. I had gone to this "Evil Empire" of retail in search of something fun. The videogame aisle used to be just the place to find some of that, but not on this day.
Mind you, I hadn’t bought a new Wii game for a few months, so it was high time to get something fresh for my most current game system. I’m not even close to being a “hardcore” gamer anymore, playing only a few times a month, and most of that is on my somehow-it-still-works NES. My Wii, sadly, is covered in more dust than Lindsay Lohan's personal breathalyzer.
Regardless, there’s still a collector and a kid in me that loves wasting time on electronic, motion-controlled fantasies. I looked up and down the aisles and found maybe 10 games on either side that looked worth my time. I considered finally getting The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but my frugality prevented the purchase. I refuse to pay $50 for a game that’s almost four years old, no matter how good it allegedly is. Finally, after deciding there was nothing for me in the entire section on this visit, I stumbled upon the endcap for Madden NFL 11.
I first picked up a copy of the game for Xbox 360. I no longer have my 360 (God rest it‘s RROD soul), but I still like to check out what’s new for the system. I looked at the back of the box and was astounded at the graphic quality. If you squint, it’s hard to tell the difference between one of the screenshots and a real-life CBS broadcast. Impressed, I put it down and grabbed the Wii version, well aware the graphics wouldn’t even be close, but if I can flip the Wii Remote at my TV and run around my bedroom a little bit, the massive trade-off in aesthetics would be worth it. And that’s when the horror struck.
Drew Brees, stud quarterback for the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, adorns the cover of every version. But on the Wii box, "Breesy's" a freaking cartoon! I looked at the back of the keepcase and the terror continued. All linemen are huge and burly and all wide receivers are lithe and skinny. Quarterbacks are somewhere in the middle but still suitably exaggerated. I thought this was supposed to be a simulation, not the second (maybe third?) coming of NFL Blitz.
I put the game down and left the section entirely, resigning myself to the possibility of purchasing Metroid: Other M when it’s released soon. Even that wouldn’t completely sake my thirst for a new game, however, as when the gridiron gang starts play again in a few short days, all of my videogames not associated with the pigskin will start collecting dust. In short, it’s video football or bust, at least for the next couple months.
Madden isn’t the first Wii sports game to nauseate this gaming nerd. Last Spring, I searched high and low for a good baseball game and came up empty. The Major League Baseball 2K series is utter poo and it’s the only simulation of the National Pastime available on Nintendo consoles. Playstation 3 owners were treated to the incredible MLB 10: The Show, which makes the Wii version of MLB 2K10 look downright prehistoric in comparison. I can live without amazing graphics, but when you can’t pitch, hit, steal bases, run, or do anything even remotely close to what happens in real baseball, what’s the point in playing? The controls are God-awful, mostly because developers prefer to shoehorn in motion controls, whether the game really needs them or not.
The NHL and NBA offerings on Wii are just as pathetic, looking barely better than the Dreamcast sports games I loved in college, while playing much, much worse. The only bright spot on the Wii sports gaming landscape is the upcoming NBA Jam, a lovingly retro-styled game of b-ball that I’m definitely picking up. Nostalgic enthusiasm aside, NBA Jam is still not a simulation. At this point, my only hope of finding a worthy silicon version of my favorite athletes playing children’s games for millions of dollars is to get one of the HD systems. And that’s neither economical nor prudent at this juncture.
The Short End of the Stick
Sports simulations aren’t the only games on Wii that frustrate me to no end, not by a long-shot. Last year, Ghostbusters: The Videogame was released on all major gaming systems. I had waited quite awhile for this one. Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favorite flicks, and the only good game based on the franchise released prior to this one was on the Sega Genesis. In gaming terms, that was eons ago. I read and watched reviews for the version released on 360 and PS3 and was blown away. The game had the real voices of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson! Each ghostbuster was meticulously rendered and looked about as close to the real actors (circa 1984) as possible. I was stoked and dead-set on picking this up on day one.
But wouldn’t you know it, I headed to Walmart on release day to look for the game and found it contained the same cartoony crap as this year’s Madden offering. But only on the Wii and Playstation 2 versions. “Bustin’” was supposed to make me feel good. This made me want to cross the streams, or at least cross the street without looking. Into heavy traffic.
Last Fall saw the release of the amazing Batman: Arkham Asylum for the HD systems. Was there a scaled-down Wii version in the offering? Nope. But we have Lego Batman: The Videogame to try to stave off the envy. I don’t know about you guys, but for me, Legos lost their luster sometime around 1986. I would love to see awesome videogame versions of the movie and comic book properties I grew up with, but those are few and far between.
When they do come along, they’re typically only released on the “big boy” systems, leaving Wii owners longing. It may not be fair, but the major reason for this is that third party companies have had a great deal of trouble finding games that actually sell to the massive Wii audience. It’s simple sales and demographics figures that are keeping so many good games away from the Nintendo crowd, and though it may not seem all that just, money, more than anything else, talks in the business of videogames.
And there’s a ton of money to be made on the Wii system these days. Having sold more than 30 million consoles in the U.S. alone, the Wii is a bonafide sales phenomenon. It appeals to men, women and children of all ages. The motion controls are the biggest selling point, as getting people to get up and gesticulate is a lot easier than asking them to learn all the buttons in your typical first-person shooter.
Games had become too complicated for the average Joe or Jane. Nintendo saw this and came out with something that would catch the fancy of the masses. In doing so, they opened up the floodgates of licensed garbage that the less-discerning audience who bought the Wii eats up. I’m all for fitness games and educational software. Those things have their place, but when you have to wade through endless amounts of this shovelware to find something truly fun, you’ve got a problem. And it’s a big one.
Great “mature” stuff on the Wii doesn’t sell either. Madworld, The House of the Dead: Overkill and the No More Heroes series all turned out to be outstanding Wii games…that no one bought. When sales figures came in, the disappointment was so severe that it’s doubtful we’ll see follow-ups to any of them anytime soon.
But don’t worry, we’ll get a sequel to Just Dance before too long, as well as more Cooking Mama’s than anyone should have to endure. There’s even a Michael Jackson game in the works (for all systems actually), as some opportunistic company has decided to trot out the corpse of the King of Pop just to make a couple holiday bucks. The industry has gone to a place I never thought it should or could, and I often wonder if there’s really a reason for me to hold onto my Wii system anymore. Is it maturity? Nah, just a little disillusionment. I hope.
I don’t want to grow up. I’ve played and loved videogames for more than two thirds of my life. I bought all three of the new Super Mario games released on Wii so far and was positively blown away each time. They invoke the spirit of those crusty old Mario game tapes we had to blow into each time we wanted to play on our old Nintendo systems back in the day. There’s a new Zelda game coming sometime next year that looks to take adventure games and motion control to a level not-yet-seen. Even Kirby, the indiscernible pink creature with an eating disorder, returns this fall in a game that looks to hearken back to the old days. You know, when games were actually fun.
I suppose I’ll hold onto my Wii and keep holding out for some more “grown up” stuff to appear down the road. At their heart, videogames are for kids of all ages, even those old farts who first played games on the Atari 2600. Maybe these are just the grumpy rumblings of a gaming geezer whose pastime has passed him by. Maybe, instead of waiting for games to “grow up,” I’m the one who needs to finally saunter my way into adulthood, leaving this "kid stuff" far behind.
Or maybe I just need to break the bank and go get another Xbox 360.
Posted August 27, 2010