Retro Video Game Collecting

Because every game is eventually retro.

Category Archives: "Wii U"

Wii-Vaporware: The Uncertain Future of Nintendo’s Motion Control Games

Posted on 28 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii, Wii U

Credit: Nintendo

 

It’s hard to imagine a world in which Super Mario Bros. was lost and forgotten a few years after its release.  Even if Nintendo had failed to re-release it in some form on nearly every subsequent platform it produced, there are still perfectly functional SMB cartridges and Nintendo Entertainment System consoles and NES clones to allow for continued enjoyment of this landmark game.  Plenty of PC emulators exist to offer this and other classic games in a dubiously-legal format.  We don’t have to worry about losing Super Mario Bros. forever.

 

Incredibly, we may face a situation in the not-too-distant future wherein the best-selling home console game of all time is essentially unplayable, remaining only in the memories of players and YouTube videos.

 

Wii Sports and hundreds of other motion-controlled games for Wii and Wii U have an uncertain future.  The NX, Nintendo’s replacement for the not-quite-good-enough Wii U, arrives next year.  At some point around that platform’s arrival, Nintendo will cease manufacture of Wii and Wii U consoles.  Unless the NX maintains full backwards compatibility with both of those systems and, crucially, the Wii Remote controllers, it will effectively trigger a time bomb that will effectively kill all Nintendo games that depend on motion controls.

 

This is purely speculative, but it is a point worth considering, as Justin Davis writes for IGN: what happens if these games are trapped forever on the Wii and Wii U?  Within 30 years, it’s likely most of the original Wii and Wii U consoles will have been junked, no longer functioning properly, or completely incompatible with whatever video display / TV format is in use by then.  Optical drives will almost certainly have been a relic for decades at that point.  Will there be enough demand in the retro / classic gaming hobby to maintain them?  And what of Wii remotes and sensor bars?  Will a manufacturer continue to make them available?

 

The pre-CD era of gaming is well suited for the retro collector, as the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles from Nintendo, SEGA, Atari, and others were solid-state.  They have no moving parts, aside from the odd power or eject buttons, and they are easily renovated or recreated.  Disc-based systems, on the other hand, are innately more complex.  So far, we haven’t seen a market for cloned PlayStation 1 or SEGA Saturn systems, though many of the original consoles remain in use.  More importantly, a significant number of games for those systems have been re-released over the years and can be easily emulated on modern platforms, with ordinary controllers.

 

Motion controls are a different beast, and thus the concern for the longevity of Wii and Wii U software.  As Davis notes, VR may hold the key to preserving the gems of those generations, assuming Nintendo has any interest.  But it’s still very early to worry about this problem; if nothing else, the history of gaming has shown us that eventually, technology provides a solution.

 

That being said, I plan to keep my Wii and Wii U consoles in pristine shape for many years to come.

 

 


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Zelda, E3, and Nintendo’s Last Stand

Posted on 3 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii U

Image of Link from The Legend of Zelda

Credit: Nintendo

 

This week, I was invited to join the awesome crew over at RadioFreeRadio for their live weekly pop culture show Popped!  We talked The Legend of Zelda, specifically its 30th anniversary and its frequently-delayed upcoming game, which Nintendo says will be the only playable title at its E3 area.

 

Enjoy the show, and be sure to check out RadioFreeRadio, available streaming live and free on the website or on their mobile app!

 

 

 

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Zelda Redux: The Reinvention of Link

Posted on 16 February, 2016  in Current-Gen Reviews, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color, GameCube, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Famicom, Wii, Wii U

Seeing Double: GameXplain compares the HD remake (left) and Wii original (right) of Twilight Princess. (Credit: GameXplain)

 

On November 23, 1998, what is commonly described as one of the greatest video games ever created was released to an eager North American audience.  The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time went on to sell more than 7 million copies worldwide, and continues to capture the imaginations of gamers to this day.

 

In its shadow, just over three weeks later, another revolutionary Legend of Zelda game made its debut, for a second time.  The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX was, of course, the definitive version of what had already become a classic Game Boy title, now available for the first time in color.

 

Link’s Awakening DX was also the very first true remake of a Zelda title, setting a trend that culminates in next month’s release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD.  Nintendo has issued more remakes in the Zelda series than any of its other acclaimed franchises — even Super Mario and Pokémon.  With Twilight Princess HD, Nintendo will have recreated, repackaged, and remastered every major home console title in the legendary series, save the newest original game, 2011’s Skyward Sword, and, curiously, the first two games originally released for Famicom and the NES.

It’s total BS this LoZ remake never left Japan. (Credit: VideoGameConsoleLibrary.com)

The original The Legend of Zelda did get a remake of sorts, but it was never released outside of Japan, and crucially it can no longer be played in any conventional or authorized manner.  In 1995, Nintendo and publishing partner St.GIGA created BS Zeruda no Densetsu, a downloadable game for the then-cutting-edge BS-X Satellaview, a Super Famicom peripheral that allowed players to download games via a satellite receiver.  Twenty-five years before digital-only titles would become an industry standard, Nintendo made this curious time-challenge version of the 1986 classic available only via download.

 

While BS Zelda survives in the ROM-swapping community thanks to the efforts of a few far-sighted Satellaview owners, Nintendo would wait another three years to issue its first “official” remake of a Zelda title, Link’s Awakening DX.  More than just a colorized version of its Game Boy source, LA-DX featured an entirely-new dungeon and what felt like a much more interesting world to explore thanks to its now-vibrant color palette.

 

From there, Nintendo recognized the long-term play value and resaleability offered by the deep, lavishly-produced Zelda games, and subsequently every “main” game has gotten the enhancement treatment.  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (which also saw a BS-X Satellaview broadcast in 1997) returned via Game Boy Advance in late 2002, nearly unchanged save a smaller screen resolution and with the welcome addition of Four Swords, which itself was remade in 2011 for the Nintendo DS in a 25th Anniversary Edition.  Ocarina of Time was remade not once but twice: first as a lightly-tweaked GameCube port, the Master Quest limited-edition bonus for The Wind Waker pre-orders; and then again for Nintendo 3DS as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, a more ambitious and visually-pleasing true remaster.  The Wind Waker HD debuted two years later as the first Zelda release for Wii U.  The Zelda remake renaissance continued in 2015, with the brilliant enhanced remaster The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D for Nintendo 3DS.  (Lest we forget, Majora’s Mask also saw a straight port on the GameCube in 2003’s Collector’s Edition disc.)

 

 

Twilight Princess was sort of remade right out the gate, if you consider its GameCube release to be the true original and the simultaneous Wii version to be an enhanced port, with 16:9 visuals and motion controls.  (Complicating matters further: the Wii version was published weeks before the GameCube release.)  And now what’s old is new again, as TP makes its HD return on March 4.

 

A Skyward Sword remake seems inevitable at this point, especially given the Wii release’s somewhat muddy visuals, divisive control scheme, and laborious “tutorial” in its opening hours.  If there’s one thing the numerous Zelda remakes have done well, it’s improve upon the originals and fix whatever flaws they had.  Wind Waker HD is the best example of this, with the much-improved sailing mechanics and abbreviated Triforce shard quest; likewise, Majora’s Mask 3D made many changes to address complaints gamers had about the Nintendo 64 original.  I remember that version as frustratingly difficult by Zelda standards, particularly its arcane save system.  I attempted a replay when it arrived on the Wii Virtual Console nine years later, and I gave up pretty quickly.  Majora’s Mask 3D rectified all of my complaints about the original, making it just a bit more accessible while greatly improving the graphics and speeding things up a touch.

 

Yes. Yes, you are. (Credit: Zeldapedia)

So it seems strange, then, that Nintendo never bothered to take another crack at Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, generally considered the worst title in the series.  Yes, Zelda II has its fans and defenders, but this is the game that even Shigeru Miyamoto hinted was likely his biggest regret.  Zelda II took some big risks and introduced interesting new mechanics and gameplay, but it is badly hindered by poor localization, severe difficulty, and critical situations (like finding Bagu’s house) that are nigh impossible without the help of a player’s guide or walkthrough.  As a nine-year-old, I spent hours of severe frustration trying to find Parapa Palace in the western area of the map, since an NPC had told me to “GO WEST” in search of it.  Parapa Palace is, of course, in the east.  But I do go on — if any Zelda game needs a remake for redemption, it’s the unloved second in the series.

 

And what of the first, original, 1986 Famicom Disk System release that gave the franchise its name and propelled Miyamoto-San even further into video game history?  As it is, the original is very good: a memorable soundtrack; crisp, clean, vintage 8-bit visuals; clever map design; challenging boss fights; and a great all-around experience.  Yes, it suffers a bit from the “I have no idea what to do next” that was MUCH worse in its sequel, but it was really revolutionary at the time and still holds up well.  A FAQ or walkthrough is essential for the first-time player even today, but I’m not certain adding modern visuals or even a Link Between Worlds sort of aesthetic would be an improvement.  If anything, I’m hopeful the upcoming Wii U title will be a sort of spiritual reboot, simply called The Legend of Zelda and serving as a total reinterpretation and fleshing-out of that classic’s sparse storyline.

 

Until then — and I’m not certain it will come out in 2016, or only on Wii U for that matter — I have high hopes for Twilight Princess HD.  The original is the only other “main” Zelda game besides Zelda II which I haven’t finished, owing to my dissatisfaction with the Wii control scheme (and just meaning to get back to it later, then never making time).  Nintendo has proven they can and do listen to fans and critics when it comes to remastering their most-beloved property not named Mario, and the long list of successful Zelda ports gives plenty of reason for optimism.

 


 

AT A GLANCE

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

PLATFORM: Wii U

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

DEVELOPER: Nintendo

RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2016

ESRB RATING: T

FRANCHISE: The Legend of Zelda

DESCRIPTION: High-definition remake of the 2006 GameCube and Wii title, a linear action-adventure with an emphasis on sword combat, puzzle-solving, side quests, and boss fights in a high fantasy setting.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS: Fans of the Legend of Zelda series

WHO WON’T LIKE THIS: Players who absolutely hated the original Twilight Princess and refuse to give it another shot

SIMILAR TITLES: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; Darksiders II; Okami; Beyond Good & Evil HD

 

 

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The Xbox One Price Cut: What Does it Mean For Wii U?

Posted on 27 October, 2014  in PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox One

Left: an Xbox One with Kinect and controller; right: a Wii U and GamePad

Credit: Microsoft / Nintendo

 

This week, Microsoft announced a holiday season discount on Xbox One, slashing the price of no-Kinect console bundles to $350. It’s a very good deal, and a shot across Sony’s bow heading in to the crucial Christmas sales season.

 

You’ll do doubt recall Nintendo threw a little pre-holiday Hail Mary of its own last year at about this time, knocking $50 off the price of admission for its slow-selling hardware, and even throwing in a free game or two. But even the price cut and the debut of the acclaimed Super Mario 3D World didn’t do nearly as much to increase the Wii U user base as hoped.

 

So what, if anything, does this have to do with Wii U? Microsoft has been working all year to please gamers who have been on the fence about which new-gen console to purchase, dropping mandatory Kinect and achieving price parity with the best-selling PlayStation 4. This latest move puts a bit more pressure on Nintendo to improve its own value proposition, but perhaps not all that much.

A quick survey of top retailers (Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart and Target) shows a number of new Wii U bundles at around $300 each — several with at least two games included. The system already has a decent-sized library after two years on the market, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is just weeks away. It’s a good time to buy.

 

But Xbox One has an insurmountable edge over Wii U when it comes to most gamers, and that’s blockbuster third-party titles. Pretty much everything multiplatform title that’s being released for PlayStation 4 is coming to Xbox one, so the price cut brings Xbox One into favorable territory for gamers who aren’t particular to one brand or the other, or who don’t anticipate any must-have exclusives on either system. (Though Sunset Overdrive sure looks like a blast, doesn’t it?)

 

Inexplicably, Nintendo’s biggest carrot for these core gamers — Super Smash Bros. — is not presently being offered in any sort of official retail bundle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Walmart or Best Buy cook up their own BOGO-type deal to move Wii U hardware, but it seems if Nintendo was planning a price cut or SSB console bundle, they would have had to announce it by now.

 

I’m a Wii U day-one owner and I’ve been particularly critical of how Nintendo has managed the platform for the last two years. Unless Nintendo answers Microsoft’s smart move and makes the Wii U a too-good-to-pass-up $250 price point right away, I think it will be Kyoto’s way of saying “Meh”. That is, they are resigned to the Wii U being a niche console for the most dedicated of Nintendo fans, a secondary console for well-heeled core gamers, and as profitable as can be with low sales volume and a small install base.

 

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WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN

Posted on 9 August, 2014  in Nintendo, Random, Sony, Wii U

 

What might happen if we got a Super Smash Bros.-style Mario Kart mash-up? And if PlayStation characters started showing up, too?

 
YouTube animator Flashgitz takes a totally NSFW stab at it in this cartoon, but since it’s the weekend you probably don’t have to worry about it. Unless you’re at work on the weekend, which I totally get.

 

Anyway, you have been warned. Contains naughty language and partial Peach / Daisy nudity. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

 

 

 

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Buy Mario Kart 8, Get a Wii Wheel Free

Posted on 30 May, 2014  in Wii U

Photo of a Wii U wheel accessory for the Wii Remote and an unopened copy of Mario Kart 8.

 

The best Mario Kart 8 pre-order bonus doesn’t even require a pre-order. Many Target stores are offering a free, official MK8 Wii Wheel with purchase. I got mine as soon as my nearby store opened this morning. It has Mario on it and everything! (No Mercedes logo, though.)

 
Supplies may be limited, as the Target I shop at had only three Wii Wheels available for the promotion. Naturally, they had just six copies of the game. Go figure.

 

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No MLB2K? No Problem. (Sort of)

Posted on 23 April, 2014  in Android, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox One

Cover image for R.B.I. Baseball '14, featuring Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles

Credit: Major League Baseball Advanced Media

 

I love arcade-style baseball. Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is one of my all-time favorite Super NES games.  I probably played a dozen complete seasons before the battery died.

 

I have a couple releases of the MLB2K series for Wii and DS, and they are terrible. I really want a great MLB sim (the last one I played at any length was All-Star Baseball ’99) or arcade-type game. Today, as a non-PlayStation owner, my options for a true MLB sim are nonexistent, and Take-Two has dropped its MLB2K series, so it’s Sony or nothing for fans.

 

Then along comes Major League Baseball, becoming the first North American professional sports league to publish its own video game. I would be eager to try R.B.I. Baseball ’14, but I don’t own a PlayStation or an Xbox… or an iPhone / iPad. Strike three!

 

An Android release is forthcoming, so I may check it out then, but a Wii U or 3DS version would be nice. (Not happening.) But I wonder: should pro sports leagues be in the business of publishing their own titles? Would NFL sims be better if the league decided to hire its own dev team and leave EA out in the cold? The NFL already has to approve everything that goes into Madden, so it’s not like we’d suddenly see a bunch of great features removed… or would we? Would an NFL-produced game have no injuries or concussions? Would the league exaggerate the abilities of certain marketable stars at the expense of lesser-known players and teams?

 

Would an NBA-created game cover player jerseys with advertisements (or, will they require future NBA2K installments to do so, once real jerseys start bearing ads in 2015)?

 

Would a FIFA-built game include options for accepting bribes, match-fixing and a “flop” button?

 

It’s very disappointing to me that there are so few options for an MLB-licensed game now.  Baseball feels like it lends itself very well to video games and can be easily picked up by even those without any prior knowledge of the sport, if an “easy mode” is provided.  I suppose this is just the latest symptom of an ongoing decline in the sports genre, brought about in no small part by what amount to $60 annual installments that sometimes amount to little more than roster updates.

 

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Dreamcast Outsells Wii U, By at Least One Metric

Posted on 20 April, 2014  in Dreamcast, Saturn, Wii, Wii U

A Wii U GamePad with a SEGA Dreamcast logo in its display

 

Here’s a thought that should have set stomachs turning at NCL in Kyoto: the Wii U is now at the same point in its lifespan (in North America, at least) as the SEGA Dreamcast was when official support ended… and over that time period, Dreamcast outsold Wii U by nearly two-to-one.

As gaming writer Patrick O’Rourke reports for Canada.com, there are some pretty major differences between the SEGA of 2001 and Nintendo of today, particularly financial. Nintendo didn’t have a string of failed or below-expectations consoles and add-ons leading up to Wii U; and the Wii was a blockbuster compared to the middling Saturn.

 

But even for a Wii U owner and supporter like me, this is a bit troubling. In about 18 months, Nintendo has only sold two-thirds as many units as it planned to sell in the console’s entire second year. If Dreamcast was no longer viable with about 10 million consoles sold in that time span, how much longer can Nintendo afford to market a system that’s sold barely 6 million worldwide?

 

More concerning is that once again, Nintendo has seemingly forgotten games are required to sell consoles. After Reggie Fils-Aime promised us in several interviews last year that there wouldn’t be another Wii U games drought… we’re in another Wii U games drought. Here are your platform-exclusive (literally, all games that are not LEGO, movie tie-ins or Cabella’s hunting games) retail title offerings so far in 2014:

 

And here are all announced 2014 release dates to come for retail Wii U releases, again excluding the interminable LEGO series and multi-platform movie tie-ins:

 

That’s it. Two new Wii U-only retail listings in five months, both sequels.

 

Now, granted there are quite a few download-only titles coming to the eShop, mostly indie games and a few bigger games like NES Remix 2. But most are not exclusives, and none are what I would call system-sellers.

Reggie was either misinformed or being disingenuous when he said there’d be no drought in 2014.

 

Ah! But there are some big releases to come, right? Bayonetta 2, X, Hyrule Warriors, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and of course some unannounced Zelda and Mario titles we may or may not learn about at E3.

 

Anticipation doesn’t sell consoles a year-and-a-half out of release. Gamers are notoriously demanding and impatient. Nintendo hasn’t convinced very many to adopt by now, and I suspect they may not do much better than double total lifetime sales by the end of this year.

 

Failing that, this could be the final E3 for the Wii U before Nintendo pulls the plug.

 

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Wii U Marketing Done Right

Posted on 12 December, 2013  in Nintendo 3DS, Wii U

A Nintendo kiosk at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

 

Seen this morning at the Atlanta airport. Captive audience and free entertainment! Though, to my dismay, I didn’t get a 3DS StreetPass hit here…

 

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All Things Considered, Indie Games Are a Breath of Fresh Air

Posted on 19 November, 2013  in Nintendo 3DS, PC, Wii U

NPR has a story on its website about independent video game developers. Aside from the fact it feels like it could have been written two years ago, it’s pretty much what you’d expect.

 

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