Tag Archives: Wii

Top 100 Games – 99 – Wii Sports

11 Feb

Wii Sports
Year: 2006
Genre: Motion/Sports

It’s the game that launched a thousand remotes. Into televisions, windows and faces. Wii Sports was a primary reason for the early success of Nintendo’s risky venture. After the relative failure of the GameCube it took a revolutionary concept to bring Nintendo back to the top of the home console market. The Wii proved to be a huge hit, thanks in no small part to this humble collection of sports. It appealed not just to Nintendo fans and children, but to people who would never play a game otherwise. The simplicity of controlling games with motions rather than the complexity of a button-based control scheme was instrumental in bringing gaming to a new audience, but Wii Sports had more than that.

Bowling is the best sport on offer

The charm of the game is instantly noticeable, from the gentle music and jingles, to the use of mii avatars, cute representations of players (or anyone else for that matter) Coupled with a surprisingly good game, Wii Sports was a simple, accessible piece of entertainment. While the boxing falls a little flat, the other games are a joy. Baseball captures the essence of batting well, without the overcomplicated and dull rules. Golf is perfectly suited to the control system, although it would be vastly improved later by EA. Tennis is multiplayer heaven for family and friends, even non-gamers, and the bowling, simply sublime. By far the best sport on offer, bowling registers gentle wrist movements to measure force and spin and is far more intricate than the likes of tennis, which is little more than wrist-flicking. It’s easy to learn but genuinely difficult to master, and the fact that it’s still fun to play now, despite a slew of imitators just shows the brilliance of Wii Sports.

With Sony and Microsoft now jumping on the motion control bandwagon its clear Nintendo struck gold with the Wii. Without Wii Sports though, it may never have worked. The perfect showcase for the new controls, and one of the biggest innovations in gaming since 3D, it may have been bettered by Wii Sports Resort, but for what it achieved in putting gaming firmly on the mainstream map, Wii Sports deserves a spot on this list.

Then and Now – Golden Axe

24 Jan

Then:
Golden Axe was one of the true Mega Drive classics as far as my friends and I were concerned. We played this, along with Sonic 2 and Streets of Rage, constantly, arguing over who would play as the dwarf. I remember valiantly fighting my way through the forests and cliffsides, battling nightmarish monsters who were no match for my mighty axe. The fantasy world wasn’t a huge hook for me in most games, but in Golden Axe it filled me with awe and wonder thanks to the unique setting. The game just looked so different to usual side scrollers, which inevitably took place on the mean streets of generic cities. The graphics were great – large, detailed enemies took up plenty of on-screen space, and took a lot more punishment than the thugs Streets of Rage offered. The combat felt intense, and the characters had a weight to them that made them feel much more powerful than other game characters could. In essence, I was Conan the Barbarian, setting off on an epic adventure. Golden Axe was a treat for the imagination, bringing the settings of movies and books to life. It really felt like a world of its own, and that gave it a quality that drew me, and indeed countless others, in. This was a game that really stood out from the crowd. Plus I could ride a dragon and spit fire on enemies, how could it be bad?

Now:
I’m confused, I thought I was powerful, tall, strong, a mighty barbarian in an unjust world. But I’m a damn human-shaped tank. Golden Axe has aged poorly, it’s once gorgeous graphics now look dull and uninspiring. The fantasy world which fuelled my imagination was actually just my imagination. I know graphics have come a long, long way, but great art design is timeless. The art in Golden Axe is truly generic, full of fantasy clichés. The basic enemies repeat ad infinitum, with very occasional change. They come in different colours, and that’s about it. Of course, there are some other enemy types, but the amount of repetition is just ridiculous. The damage needed to knock each enemy down for good is also far too high. It’s not challenging either, just cheap, as you knock one enemy to his knees, attempt to finish him off, only to be blindsided by another generic mace-wielding grunt. I would have turned around, but doing so feels sluggish so it’s inevitably too late by the time I do. Getting to ride one of the beasts that pop up from time to time is far from fun either. I used to love getting on the turkey and wreaking havoc on enemies, but now when I manage to wrest one from the grasp of a buxom Amazonian, she, or another grunt, simply knocks me back off before I can get anywhere.

Maybe I’ve just lost my touch. It’s been a long time since I played Golden Axe for any extended period of time, but I can’t help feeling that I’ve killed a part of the child inside me. Going back to this game I expected to be as glowing as I was about Super Metroid, but I just can’t help hating it. Maybe I’m jaded. There was one level I loved more than any other way back when, it basically consisted of wooden platforms on the back of stone fish. I adored the concept, in fact I still do, but the execution is awful. Aside from the occasional fishy face at the bottom of the screen, it’s as generic as levels come. Brown on grey makes up the background, and the same boring enemies keep coming, and keep taking too long. Even the bosses from the first two levels are repeated, and this is level three. It just seems like laziness on the developer’s part, as does the length of time it takes to kill an enemy. I know I mentioned it already, but it really feels like they wanted to flesh out an incredibly short game by making it tedious.

I’m going to take a moment here and mention my most despised aspect of Golden Axe. The gameplay and graphics may disappoint, but the sound quite simply offends. From the hideous squeals when enemies die, to the pitiful sound as sword meets flesh, to the gentle thud of axe on skull. How this seemed like visceral, raw and brutal combat, even in 1990, bemuses me. The sound really detracts from the action, as the swing of a sword sounds robotic and digital. I can’t become immersed in a game when every time I do something, I’m reminded that I’m playing a game, not battling my way through a world of adventure. Nothing in Golden Axe draws me in, it’s just below par in every respect in comparison to similar titles. Streets of Rage has a superior, more intuitive combat system, Comix Zone boasts a wonderfully executed and gorgeous art design, and those are just two examples. I’m starting to wonder if Golden Axe gained popularity entirely because of its inclusion in the Mega Games compilation.

There is one aspect of Golden Axe that still holds some appeal. 2-player co-op. The same enemies which frustrate now fall faster and there are no back-attacks with a friend keeping you safe. Most of the cheapness is negated. The fact that each boss has a twin is no longer a source of incredible irritation, but a necessity. Fighting over who rides the dragon is still as bitter as ever, and rows will still break out when you’re unceremoniously booted from its saddle by player 2. The camp enemies and ridiculous female characters soon become a source of amusement, as the game takes on that novelty appeal that bad action movies have. In fact, Golden Axe has aged like the movie that so obviously inspired it, Conan: The Barbarian. It seemed great in its time, but now it’s fairly awful – yet with a few friends can become a huge amount of fun. If only to laugh at.

Super Mario All Stars 25th Anniversary Edition Impressions

20 Jan

Nintendo are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their most famous character in style, with a special edition of both the Wii and DS already on store shelves, and now ‘Super Mario All Stars: 25th Anniversary Edition’ available. Being a sucker for all things Nintendo, I picked up a copy, to go with my 25th anniversary Wii. How could I go wrong, it’s four of my (and everyone’s) favourite games, in a collector’s edition box with a CD and a book. Sounds like a really nice package.
To be blunt, it’s a tremendous disappointment. I knew it probably would be by the time I ordered it, but went ahead anyway, as I’m sure a huge amount of Nintendo fans will. It is a very pretty box, vaguely reminiscent of an NES box, which is a nice touch, and it’ll look good on a shelf, but chances are it’s going to remain there, gathering dust. The problem is that the contents are negligible, there’s nothing to get excited about, even for the hardcore collector. It’s hard to justify paying the €30 price tag for something so lacklustre, and it’s disappointing to see Nintendo miss an opportunity to really offer something special to the fans who’ve followed them over the years.

The biggest issue is the dearth of new content, there is absolutely nothing new about the game. When this was originally announced I was expecting the NES games re-released with the graphics of New Super Mario Bros. What this is though, is the SNES edition of All Stars on a disc. That’s it. It’s not even the version that includes Super Mario World. Without a graphical update, and with games that can be bought for less on Nintendo’s similarly disenchanting Virtual Console, why bother to repackage them at all? The target market for this, I can only assume, is older fans of Nintendo, the younger audience have Galaxy and New Super Mario to keep them amused, but the older players who might want this probably have a copy of All Stars on the SNES already, or the NES cartridges. It would have been so easy to make the package something really great, one disc could easily hold Super Mario World and Mario 64 as well as the NES games, maybe even Sunshine too, which would have made for a more complete Mario collection. Even if Donkey Kong had been thrown in that would have been something to be happy about.

The booklet chronicles, very briefly, the history of Super Mario, and is actually quite nice, but severely lacking in content. It’s basically the size of a game manual, and fits in a game case the same way. It only serves to perplex that the Mario timeline is covered completely, yet only four games made the package. I can obviously see why the Wii Mario games aren’t there, but at least the games up to Mario 64 should be. There is some interesting artwork, and contributions from Shigeru Miyamoto, Koji Kondo and Takashi Tezuka, but they only have a sentence per game, and it would have been great to read more of their thoughts on the development of each title. A DVD featuring them and some additional discussion, or even a short documentary would have been even better. The book is nice enough, I suppose, and seeing pictures of level design blueprints and some watercolour versions of concept art is interesting, but it could have been so much more.

The last part of the package is a 20 track soundtrack CD, and this is where it gets really poor for me. There has been so much great music over the years in the Mario games, so many recognisable themes, but only 10 make it to the CD. That’s one from each game in the Mario canon, other than 2, if you’re counting. That really is a miserable effort on Nintendo’s part, especially with how easy it would have been to add a few more tracks. There isn’t even some profit to be made off what’s left out, as there would be with the games. Instead of more music there are 10 additional tracks of Mario sounds, including such classics as the coin sound, 1-up sound and Game Over music. Order now and we’ll throw in a free hotplate. Please allow… Sorry, lost track of things for a second, that’s how amazed I am by the absolutely bizarre soundtrack. I’ll give it some credit, the music is memorable, and it’s fun to put it on shuffle and hear songs punctuated by the sounds of the classic games, but that’s not really the point here.

In sum, it’s a fairly poor effort by Nintendo to commemorate the anniversary of one of popular cultures most enduring icons, amounting to little more than a shameless cash-in. Nintendo’s marketing department really do know the appeal of the plumber in red and blue, and this is pure profit for them. I’m not going to let it dispel the magic of Mario of course, once the game itself goes on all is forgiven, very little tops the NES Mario games, but I would be loathe to recommend this to anyone, no matter how big a Nintendo fan they may be. If it had been packed in with the red anniversary Wii then it would have been a great extra, but the two never should have been sold separately, there’s far too little here to justify the price, and long-time Nintendo fans deserve a lot better than this.

As an aside, there is one part of the package I adored, the photo on the cover of the soundtrack case (see below). It’s just an NES, with a copy of Super Mario Bros. running on screen in the background, out of focus, but its stark simplicity is a wonderful reminder of an era of simple, elegant and innocent games, far from the realistic depictions of violence and war we see today. It encapsulates everything great about classic games like Mario, and is by some distance the best thing about Mario All Stars 25th Anniversary Edition.

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