Live Wii or Die Hardcore: Three’s Company, TooBy: Andrew Joy
In the first part of this feature, we confronted recent criticism that Nintendo is abandoning its core gamer demographic in favor of its new, expanded market (one made up of traditionally casual and non-gamers), and we think we did a decent job of disproving that nonsense. In just the second half of this year alone, Nintendo is providing a potential blockbuster title almost every month, with some of the most anticipated games for the system - like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl - finding their way to store shelves before the Holidays. However, we also realize that if Nintendo is truly going to succeed long-term this generation, they are going to need strong support from third-party publishers and developers as well, something they haven't exactly been known for in the past. Despite offering more power than the PlayStation 2 and more legacy than the original Xbox, if there was one thing that killed the GameCube, it was the lack of quality titles outside of Nintendo's own (well, that and a lack of online play). Heck, after a point, it didn't make financial success for even Nintendo to keep investing in the unquestionable flop, and many titles merely faded into oblivion (some finding a potential home on the Wii). But, with Wii, things are looking different...at least for now. For a console that is only coming up on its first full year in the market, support is strong all around, with several big name publishers assembling a lineup of dozens of titles for the system. Unfortunately, it is when you take a look at what these companies are actually offering that the floodgates of casual games is really opened, and a wave of why-would-I-ever-want-to-play-this washes over you. Yes, even more than Nintendo, the third-parties have realized at least the short term value of catering to this new market, and no one appears to be missing out on the opportunity.
Even though core gamers have been these companies’ bread and butter for so long, one would be hard-pressed to find more than a mere handful of companies that aren't trying to look more appealing to outside consumers. Many are creating new franchises (like Capcom's Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure), some are merely altering existing ones (like KOEI's Samurai Slash), and still others are doing a bit of both (like Electronic Arts' new IP Boogie and the changes coming to EA Sports titles). Of course, like Nintendo, that doesn't mean the core gamer has been completely abandoned, and third-party relief is on the way, too. In fact, it is on it's way in such a big way that we actually had a bit of an internal argument over which titles would actually make it onto this six game list (a number decided upon for a bit of symmetry after completing Part #1). That is not to say that we're blessed with such a burden of overabundance that we need not worry, because the future isn't all sunshine and daisies for the Nintendo Wii. If there was one problem we ran into time and time again, it was that a number of staple gaming franchises simply are not coming to the console (and I'll cite Resident Evil 5 and Call of Duty 4 as two big examples). Now, this is not necessarily because the third parties don't want it to, but because there is such a gap in sheer hardware power between Nintendo's and Microsoft and Sony's next-gen efforts. Don't get me wrong, I'm a strong believer in the technology behind the Wii and I am constantly amazed by what developers can do with it when they actually put forth an effort, but there comes a point where we have to accept its limitations. For me, that time has come. However, I am still very excited about the promise this system holds, thanks in part to some of these upcoming third-party titles for the core gamer:
While I don't want to slap a label on anyone, fighting games are one of the genres preferred by hardcore gamers - how else could you justify spending countless hours and quarters learning the advantages, disadvantages and special moves of every single character? Of course, the proliferation of home consoles today has made it much easier (not to mention cheaper) to participate than ever before. Among the games headed to the Wii, we chose Guilty Gear XX Accent Core since it is more original and recent than some of the other options out there. Another reason Accent Core won out over games like, say, The Art of Fighting Anthology, is the graphics; the Guilty Gear series is known for its highly detailed sprites, and they only get better with each new installment. The gameplay also gets enhanced from each new version to the next, and Accent Core should be more balanced than previous installments as it also introduces a move that allows players to parry their opponent's attack. It has also become easier to perform some of the specials, which are as beautiful as they are deadly. Much like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the game will also include support for not only the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, but also the Classic and GameCube controllers, making Guilty Gear XX Accent Core the perfect choice for gamers who like a little less Nintendo on their, um, Nintendo systems.
Release Date: Q3 2007
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock - Q3 2007 - After a fantastic start on the PlayStation 2, Guitar Hero branched out on to the Xbox 360 with its sequel and, when Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock hits later this year, it will further venture out on to the PS3 and Wii. It would be hard to explain the success that the series has enjoyed, as it is basically Dance Dance Revolution in your hands and not much like actually playing a real guitar (you know it to be true). We imagine it has something to do with the image: each game is packaged with a special controller modeled after a real guitar - a Gibson Les Paul in the case of the next generation versions - for a more on-stage and theatrical session. (As a side note, the cords have been cut, providing wireless play for the first time, and removable faceplates for customization.) The series has also come to be known for its fantastic music, and that won't stop with Legends of Rock, which features a soundtrack filled with artists like Heart, Tenacious D, Alice Cooper, Guns N' Roses and more. However, the game isn't just relying on the same old tricks this time around, as Guitar Hero III will introduce online play (and undoubtedly include ever more downloadable content), which has even been confirmed for the Nintendo Wii version.
Release Date: Q3 2007
If any game is being made for the core gamer, it is without a doubt SEGA's NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams. Ever since the Saturn’s NiGHTS into Dreams, fans have been clamoring for a sequel, and that din grew to a deafening level when Nintendo revealed its new console. Amidst longstanding rumors, earlier this year SEGA confirmed that they are indeed working on a Wii version of NiGHTS, and it isn’t just some slapdash port either. In order to navigate the Journey of Dreams' seven worlds, players must use a series of masks (like a dragon and a dolphin) that seem less like power-ups and more like a homage to other classic SEGA games (such as Panzer Dragoon and Ecco). But, beyond that, it is also said to make use of the Wii Remote's unique features, offering some sort of two-player gameplay, utilizing the system's online capabilities and even incorporating real world weather based on the Forecast Channel, making NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams seem by far one of the more ambitious projects on the Nintendo Wii, even if it isn't one of the prettiest yet.
Release Date: Q4 2007
When people think of simulations, chances are either the EA mega-franchise or some sort of empire-building game comes to mind. However, thanks to systems like the Nintendo DS and Wii, more...unusual games are more reasonable than ever before. Atlus' Trauma Center series, a surgical sim and notoriously difficult series, is a prime example of this. In the first game, you used your stylus to cut, excise, sterilize, stitch and more as you fought a mysterious disease ravaging the public. On the Nintendo Wii, you used your Wii Remote and Nunchuk in much the same fashion; unfortunately, when the game first came to that system, all we received was a port with a little bit of extra content thrown in. Trauma Center: New Blood looks to make up for that. When the game comes out sometime early next year, it will include an all-new story and all new characters, fully voiced dialogue, support for both 480p and 16x9 Widescreen, and two player, co-op surgeries and online leaderboards for the single player game. Trauma Center: Second Opinion may have been the franchise's first shot at Nintendo's new system, but New Blood seems to be the second chance the it really needs to succeed on the Wii.
Release Date: Q1 2008
Thanks to being such a well-rounded experience - one which offers impressive stories, graphics and gameplay - Square Enix's Final Fantasy series often ends up the crowning jewel in any gamer's library, no matter the system. Though we've unfortunately only seen glimpses of it, the upcoming Wii title Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers doesn't seem to be the exception. Technically part of the Crystal Chronicles saga that began on GameCube (and will continue on the Nintendo DS as well), Crystal Bearers is a strong departure from the original. For one thing, the emphasis is more on the single player campaign this time around, and instead of having to level-up your characters, you'll start out the game as a sort of superhero, already possessing great powers, making the game more story-driven than before. On the other hand, many other Final Fantasy elements will still be in place, from the spiky-haired youths to the massive airships drifting through the sky, all realized in incredible detail by the Wii's as-of-yet-untapped power. While the release date is still uncertain right now, we expect to see Square Enix's Final Fantasy series make its debut on Wii sometime in 2008, but at the very least we hope to learn even more tantalizing details about this closely guarded installment in the meantime.
Release Date: TBA
Unfortunately for us, games like Manhunt 2 seem to represent what most of the world thinks about gamers...namely morbidly violent ticking time bombs training on our murder simulators. Be that as it may, if the game ever comes out - it recently ran into a snag as you probably know, effectively getting banned in the U.S. when it received an AO rating from the ESRB - it does represent a Nintendo Wii title that could appeal to the core gamer. Designed for the older gamers among us (in case that wasn't evident by the rating), the game does indeed seem very violent, perhaps too violent for most people to pick up. But for those who do, the game includes a number of elements that have made so many other games popular throughout the years. Though the first game featured a Running Man-style game show, Manhunt 2 places you in the shoes of a different protagonist; two, in fact, as they try to escape from a mental hospitable and its demented employees. Even though the focus is on action, with players using a series of violent weapons and environmental kills, stealth also plays a big part, as you must divide and conquer your enemies lest you be conquered yourself. And, with controls that ask players to physically pantomime their actions, the Wii version should be even more visceral than its PS2 and PSP counterparts...again, assuming any of them ever get released.
Release Date: TBA
If there's one thing to be said for the core gamer, it is that they aren't a group to be easily pigeonholed. Oh, sure, you have some people that pride themselves on playing only the hardest of the hardcore games, but for the most part, we enjoy a wide variety of titles. The point of this article isn't to point out the only games we will play, but rather to point out games that we also want to be able to play, and between Nintendo and third-party companies, I think we are covered. However, a man can't live on bread alone, as the (clichéd) saying goes, which is why now is a better time than ever to be a gamer. In addition to these core games we've mentioned the past few days, there are plenty more casual titles on the way, and the great thing about them is that they can just as easily appeal to us as they can a non-gamer. So later in the week, in the third and final part of Live Wii or Die Hardcore, we'll take a look at what we like to call "fringe" titles, and see what games might just as easily make it on your shelf as they could your parents'.