Gaming is a bit like religion: You have to take a lot of things on faith. Even if the shelves are stocked with row after row of blockbuster titles, buying a console is in investment in the future. At some point, you are bound to want new games, so eventually you'll see an upcoming title or two that piques your interest. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that they will be any good or, even worse, that they will even come out at all (True Fantasy Live Online, Frame City Killers and Project H.A.M.M.E.R. are proof enough of that). Despite that we still take that plunge, all the while hoping that things will turn out for the better, but there comes a point when those last flickering embers can’t help but be extinguished. Take the Nintendo Wii for example.
With an ever-growing list of quality titles hitting the system, things are hardly as bad as they once were, but there is no doubt that the Nintendo Wii’s library was once in trouble. Between poorly implemented multiplatform titles and sloppy last-gen ports, there was a stormy sea of quick cash-ins that gamers had to navigate. Those were dark times, but despite looking like it was about to become GameCube 2.0, the system enjoyed (and, in fact, still enjoys) phenomenal sales. While we won’t discount the Wii Sports factor, there is no doubt that a lot of that is owed to the Nintendo faithful. They were lured back by the promise of things to come – those latest iterations of stalwart franchises – but, while they waited, they could always relive the past thanks to the Virtual Console.
Offering two decades’ worth of classic titles – not only from Nintendo's own Legacy Systems (NES, SNES and N64), but also the TurboGrafx-16, NEO GEO and SEGA Genesis and Master System – the VC has allowed longtime gamers to let the nostalgia wash over them like a wave, newer ones to experience our pastime’s great heritage for the first time, and Nintendo to turn all of those fond memories into cold, hard cash. However, for as successful as the VC has been, it is still only half of the digital distribution equation. In order to fully compete with Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade and Sony’s PlayStation Network, Nintendo also needs to offer original content...and that’s where WiiWare comes in.
Though technically already available (and offering new Wii applications from the Internet Channel to the Everybody Votes Channel), WiiWare is about to expand in a big way on May 12th, offering new, downloadable games for the Nintendo Wii. As much as it looks to benefit gamers, WiiWare is also giving developers a chance to get their products to the mainstream without the hassle of finding a major publisher. Unfortunately, just because a creative outlet is out there, that doesn’t mean that’s what people are going to use it for, and there are bound to be plenty of titles that will hardly be worth the time it takes to download them, let alone the Wii Points. And that’s where we come in, pointing you in the direction of the games that are right for you with a feature we call Wii WareAbouts.
Today we take a look at four of the service’s most intriguing titles, with more to come in future editions:
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King - As part of the massive Final Fantasy franchise and a WiiWare launch title in Japan, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King may be WiiWare’s premier title and is probably the safest bet of any to make the North American May 12th launch. FFCC: MLaaK takes the franchise to the realm of city-building, in which the player creates his or her kingdom from the ground up using the power of the city’s magical crystal. Obtaining the spirit power found in smaller crystals from nearby dungeons and caves is essential to powering the growing city, but the player won’t collect these directly. Instead, the player recruits soldiers to do the dirty work, which are paid from the taxes the player collects from the town’s residents and quest loot. Simply growing the city isn’t the player’s only objective however, as the residents must also have their needs met with service buildings including bakeries, weapon shops, and more.
While FFCC: MLaaK seems more like a full retail game than anything else in the WiiWare’s launch lineup, it’s price structure may be its ultimate downfall. In addition to the initial 1500 Wii Point purchase price, Square plans to release a variety of downloadable content running anywhere between 100 and 800 Wii Points each. For example, although the game includes four playable races, only one is available at the outset. To get the other three races, the player must purchase them separately for 300 Wii Points each, or together in a slightly-discounted pack. Other additions are also planned (and already out in Japan), including dungeon packs, a shrine, new outfits, and more. While Final Fantasy fans are as devout as any franchise’s followings, if it doesn’t tread carefully with its planned micro-transactions Square Enix could have a debacle of Horse Armor-ish proportions on its hands.
Major League Eating: The Game – Much like WiiWare itself is full of somewhat bite-sized games, Major League Eating is a sport in only the loosest of ways. Sure, the competition can be fierce (and stomach-churning) at times, but it’s not likely that EA is going to be fighting for the exclusive video game rights to MLE anytime soon. Still, Mastiff has a chance to make an impression at the WiiWare launch with Major League Eating: The Game.
MLE: The Game will be a somewhat loose interpretation of the sport, featuring 10 of the league’s athletes feasting on 12 different eating contest favorites, including hot dogs, pizza, shrimp, watermelon, and more. Not true to life are the fighting-game like moves, which let players burp, belch, and unleash mustard gas to stymie their opponents’ gorging. MLE: The Game will also support online play for 1-2 players via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, as well as online leaderboards. Yummy!
Toki Tori – A remake of the original Game Boy Color game released way back in 2001, Toki Tori could be the sleeper hit of the WiiWare launch lineup. While the original won critical praise for its 60+ levels of clever puzzle action (in which players started each level with certain items they must use to make it through), it was relatively overlooked due to its release at the end of the GBC’s lifespan. We don’t expect that to happen again with Two Tribes’ remake headed for WiiWare, which the developer promises “improves the original on every front.”
These improvements include of course a nice graphical overhaul, with vibrant 3D graphics complimenting the game’s 2D gameplay, which should be the same clever gameplay as before with Wii Remote specific controls. Each level will again sport obstacles the player must overcome, using items such as the Telewarp, Freeze-o-Matic, and InstantRock amongst others. Tori Toki will also support the Wii Message Board, although we don’t yet know exactly how it will.
World of Goo – World of Goo made a huge (squishy) splash recently as the winner of both Design Innovation and Technical Excellence at this year’s Independent Games Festival, with its Tim Burton-esque art and fast-paced physics-based gameplay. Basically, players join together many balls of goo to form goo towers, which allows them to clear obstacles and guide other balls of goo safely to the end of each level in Lemmings–like fashion. The game is especially impressive because it appears to be mostly the work of just two men at developer 2D Boy. While we doubt it’ll make the WiiWare launch, its five chapters each containing several levels promise plenty of gooey fun when it finally does arrive.