Wii Shall Overcome

From the Core-gamer perspective the Wii has had a rough few years. The hype-train packed with sky high expectations started rolling as soon as Iwata presented the Wiimote at the Tokyo Game Show in September of 2005 and on release what we got ranged from the baby steps of Wii Sports to the miss steps of Red Steel.

Many developers and publishers remained sceptical leading up to it's launch, however when the system sold out i record time and remained hard to come by, there was a mad dash to get a piece of the action. This in conjunction with the PS2:s continued popularity lead to quick-n-dirty ports of games for said system to the Wii with poorly implemented control schemes (Tomb Raider Legends, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones).

Luckily the gaming community voted with their wallets, ignoring these ports Wii owners continued playing Wii Sports sending the big third-party publishers went back to the drawing board. Looking to this pack-in title's features for inspiration they didn't focus on the intuitive controls that where so well suited to the Wiimote and made Wii Sport so popular, no instead they seemed to interpret the games party/mini game aspect as the foremost reason for it's success resulting in a near endless wave of Carnival Games, Big Family Games, Ultimate Game Party, etc.

The Wii continued to sell phenomenally well and as is tradition Nintendo stepped up to teach everyone else how to make games for their system, albeit with fewer titles than usual. They showed that the most important thing when developing for the Wii is to have focus - don't throw in "waggle" if it doesn't improve the game, conversely don't be afraid to make a game with radically different controls from the norm. Lastly, if the game is best played with the Classic controller... use it! Products like Wii Fit, Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros Brawl paved the way and developers finally started to understand the Wii and what it's strengths are.

After three years of running on fumes it looks like the third parties are finally putting a full tank of gas in their Wii development machinery. So far this year we've gotten Deadly Creatures, MadWorld, Little King's Story, Overlord, Ghostbusters and Punch-Out and after this years E3 the future is looking brighter than it has in ages for Nintendo's core audience. Here's a selection of the upcoming Wii titles you should keep an eye on:

Wii Sports Resort

No one can deny the impact that Wii Sports has had on gaming, during the consoles first two years this title has done more to sell in the Wii-concept to the masses than any other game. It has been heralded as the most successful game ever and in Japan - where it was sold separately - it has remained on the top 20 sellers list almost consistently since launch.

This sequel introduces ten new sports plus improved versions of Golf and Bowling. All are played with the accompanying Wii Motion Plus dongle that enhances the Wiimote with more precise motion detection and will perhaps finally deliver the Wii experience we all imagined from the beginning.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

New Super Mario Bros on the DS is one of Nintendos' most successful games on that platform, with around 19 million copies sold it is surpassed only by Nintendogs and remains the first game many new DS owners buy. This fall Nintendo brings the concept to the Wii - with one important difference - this time around you'll be able to play with up to three friends at once, cooperatively or against each other.

The four players (Mario, Luigi and a yellow and a blue Toad) compete for power-ups and coins and points are compared in between levels. This is the way we wanted to play Super Mario Bros from the very beginning. Kicking it off in Mario Bros, both brothers where on screen at the same time, but with the Super follow up this feature was mysteriously missing and has been for most of the series, there was very little focus on the Bros and it was all about Mario. Finally, us Luigi fans can finally put that cocky Mario in his place.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Super Mario Galaxy is one of the highest rated games of all time, with no less than 97/100 on Metacritic, it did however not sell as well as expected. Irregardless Nintendo announced it's sequel at this years E3 press conference, that will bring all those ideas to fruition that Miyamoto didn't have time and room for in the original. The first game was extremely polished and SMG2 is apparently already close to being done, the dev team will however take an additional year to work on it so it's going to be interesting to see what they can accomplish with that extra time.

Metroid: Other M

When Retro Studios brought the third dimension to Metroid with the Prime series sceptics soon turned into drooling fan boys who bought a GameCube primarily for this game - I know I'm one of them. Though it was well received, when the sequel was released the concept already felt a bit tired and the successful transition to the Wii with an excellently realized control scheme did little to improve the waining sales of the third installment. With that Retro where done with the series and went on to other projects.

Luckily Nintendo wasn't done with Metroid and in what might prove to be a genial move they have enrolled the talents of Tecmo's Team Ninja - the developers of the Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden series. Of what we've seen so far, the team have taken Metroid in a new direction with more focus on third-person action in a 2.5D perspective with some first-person sequences.

That Nintendo is approaching Metroid from a new direction and with the help of an external team is refreshing and promising even if it could just as well go horribly wrong (anyone remember Star Fox: Assault?). I remain hopeful though and with Itagaki out of the picture perhaps Samus can remain a strong female character without being over sexualized.

Sin & Punishment 2

The first Sin & Punishment was released in Japan in 2000 on the N64 but never saw a release in western territories. The game became very popular though and many imported it, however since relatively few copies where released it became hard to come by and went on to become one of the most highly anticipated releases on Wii's Virtual Console where it sold well enough for us to soon get this sequel.

Just like the original, this game is an on-rails shooter which makes it perfectly suited for the Wii. We're promised high speedy action and plenty of power ups.

The Conduit

The first indication that things were looking up for the Wii came when High Voltage Software showed The Conduit for the first time - stating that they where tired of seeing nothing but simple party games and bad ports of PS2 games on the system and wanted to show what the Wii is capable of by making a game that they themselves wanted to play. The Conduit is a hardcore first-person shooter that looks to be a good looking game that finally brings the promise of an FPS that utilizes the Wiimote with the pixel-perfect accuracy that was hinted at with Metroid Prime 3 and that we've been waiting for ever since.

The Grinder

Before they'd even released The Conduit, High Voltage Software showed their next FPS for Wii. Using a later version of the engine they'd developed for The Conduit, they're now able to push the Wii hardware even further.

Continuing the retro trend of 70's horror with games like House of the Dead and the Grind house movies, The Grinder uses filters to give the game the feel of a grainy old movie with flicker, a yellow-brownish color pallet and dark blurry corners of the screen. The game also uses classic horror monsters, so far we've seen Vampires and an axe murderer á la Jason from Friday the 13:th that - if you loose sight of him - will appear right next to you. It's looking promising and different and if they manage to put together an engaging story they might just have a hit on their hands. Their's also an ambitious multi player mode planned with split-screen coop as well as online coop Left4Dead-style which definitely makes this one to keep an eye on!

Gladiator AD

High Voltage Software aren't content with just two titles heading to the Wii, besides their FPS:s they also recently revealed a third game. Gladiator AD is a strategic fighting game in which you take the role of one of nine (more will be unlockable) gladiators in the Roman Empire. The game has some RPG-light features allowing you to level-up your character's skills and buy new armor and weapons for him or her. It's beautiful and bloody with many graphical effects like equipment taking visible damage over time. It's early days yet - after Namco's and Konami's flawed Soul Calibur Legends and Castlevania Judgement - let's hope that this is the game to finally show that Smash Bros Brawl is not the only good fighting game possible on the Wii.

A Boy and His Blob

Not exactly a sequel to the NES original, but not a complete remake either - A Boy and His Blob revisits several environments and retains the basic story (help your blob save his world from an evil emperor) but this game - by the developers of Contra 4, Wayforward Technologies - is still considered a new adventure. The game is a side-scrolling platformer where you control the boy and by tossing jelly beans to his blob it is transformed into a range (16) of different objects such as a latter, an anvil, a parachute or trampoline to help you solve puzzles and traverse the levels. The graphics are of a European animated style that more closely resembles Braid or Professor Layton than Mario.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Speaking of remakes that aren't really remakes - todays trend, so called "reimaginings" - Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is the classic seen from a new perspective. Just like in the new Star Trek movie there they have worked in an explanation to why the story is different this time around. Shattered Memories is played out as flashbacks that you (as Harry Mason) retell at a psychiatrist after your visit to Silent Hill. So the game is his memories (shattered or otherwise) of what happened and not necessarily what actually took place.

There's another twist as well, the game adjusts to how you play. According to developers Climax everything you do in the game is registered (for instance if you choose to enter the Ladies' or Gentlemen's restroom first when exploring) as well as the psychiatrist's more or less personal questions. This data is then used to determine how the game is presented to you through what enemies and NPC:s look like and how they act as well as when and where they show up. It's easy to imagine more than a few of the employees at Climax smacking their heads when Nintendo unveiled the Wii Vitality Sensor at E3, perhaps we'll see Shattered Memories 2 as the game the accessory is bundled with.

This time around Otherworld is presented as a version of Silent Hill covered in a thick layer of ice and snow (falling snowflakes distorting the light of your wiimote-controlled flashlight in a realistically). Gone are firearms and melee weapons - this time it's flight rather than fight and to your aid is a radio (heared through the Wiimote speaker) that you use to listen for static to determine which way not to go.

Red Steel 2

With the first Red Steel Ubisoft had high ambitions, however neither time nor technology allowed them to realize the experience that the early trailers hinted at and the game became one of the biggest disappointments ever for those that bought it at launch. Both the sword dueling and gun combat where severely lacking and many gave up on their dreams of Wii delivering great experiences in these two areas.

Ubisoft did not give up however and with the aid of Wii Motion Plus, Red Steel 2 is looking to finally be the game that the original couldn't be. Leaving the Yakuza setting for something completely different, just like it game-play-wise mixes Japanese swordplay with the US:s firearms-fetishism, so does this sequel mix the aesthetics of feudal Japan with the wild west in a quasi-futuristic desert environment. Graphically rendered in a graphic-novel-style that is well suited to the platform, the look feels both clean and fresh but also somewhat familiar. This could well be one of this years best games on the platform.

Dead Space Extraction

It was clear from the beginning that EA had big plans for Dead Space. Besides last years critically acclaimed game (read my review here) they released both a comic and an animated feature film. The Dead Space universe was clearly bigger than what can fit in just one game and in the upcoming prequel Extraction, we follow the events leading up to the situation that Issac Clarke and his companions find themselves in as they arrive on the Ishimura.

Extraction is a rail-shooter but it offers more depth and choice than is usually associated with the genre. Similar to Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles you will from time to time be presented with an option as to which path to take and in some scenes you will be able to control the camera with the analog-stick on the nunchuck. All weapons from Dead Space as well as three new ones are available as well as the stasis tool and all weapons have alt-fire enabled by tilting the wiimote 90 degrees. Did I mention that it looks friggin' gorgeous?!

Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter

Drawn to Life for the DS was a side-scrolling platformer with a unique concept - you drew your own main character, weapons, equipment and many items in the environment. It was a fun idea and you never tired of seeing your own creations animated in the game world. The drawback was the low resolution of the DS screens which resulted in your creations not always being rendered well. As the series makes it's way to the Wii this should be less of an issue. With the increased resolution, characters and the world look a lot better and creativity can run wild. The only worry is how well suited the wiimote's shaky pointer is to drawing as compared to the DS stylus.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade

Vanillaware - the developers of PS2 cult-classic Odin Sphere - are back with a game with the same stunning visual style. Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a 2D action game with gorgeous graphics in a wonderful hand-drawn style just like it's predecessor, this time around though there is a greater emphasis on action and less focus on RPG elements. The game has screen-filling bosses and intense sword fighting and this is a game that doesn't try to force in waggle-controls where they don't belong and instead supports use of Classic or GameCube controllers.

Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles

Despite many RE-fans' disappointment that we got an on-rails shooter instead of a "real" Resident Evil, Capcom has had great commercial success with Umbrella Chronicles which now means that a second Chronicles game - Darkside - is on it's way. This time the events of RE2 and Code:Veronica are covered. The team says they are focused on retaining the horror aspect of the original and are working hard on the atmosphere and graphics. The graphical improvements are apparent through effects like water droplets on the camera, realistic fire, the use of physics system Havok, HDR lighting, shaders and filters that are used to great effect. What little control you had over the camera in the first game is now completely removed with Capcom now retaining all control over what you see and when for what they say is a more immersive (and here's another catch frase dé jour) "guided experience" that is intensified even more by simulating a shaky handicam, your partner is now visible on screen as well.

Cursed Mountain

One of the best looking Wii games, at first glance you'd be excused for thinking that this is a 360/PS3 game. Cursed Mountain takes place in the Himalayas some time during the 80's, as Eric Simmons you are looking for your brother, who disappeared when attempting to climb the (fictional) mountain Chomolonzo without first performing the required ritual.

Cursed Mountain is a third-person adventure that takes inspiration from Buddhism and Tibetan folklore. Instead of traditional weapons, you're armed with prayers that you use to release spirits trapped in Bardo, the Tibetan equivalent of Limbo, releasing them will progress you in the story.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

After completely tanking in Japan few where expecting No More Heroes to even be released in Europe, however it was and went on to sell really well. So well in fact that a sequel was soon announced. The game again revolves around Travis Touchdown who, after being away for three years from Santa Destroy discovers that things have changed and he has been demoted from first-place ranked assassin all the way down to 51 and the game starts as he is out for personal revenge.

Travis has a new fighting style that is more dynamic and flowing, however enemy AI has also been improved with range enemies trying to shoot Travis so that goons can bum-rush him while he's off guard. Another change is that this time there will be more than one playable character, both Shinobu and Henry will be playable with their own game play styles.

Legendary producer Suda51 who made No More Heroes is doing this one as well and promises more wrestling moves this time around and that the rather empty and boring city from the first game will be allot more interesting and satisfying. Oh, and Travis wields dual beam-katanas which feels like a completely obvious addition as soon as you hear it.

Ju-On: The Grudge

That this game is based on the movies The Grudge and Ju-On is maybe not that difficult to figure out. It's on-rails.... but no, this one isn't a shooter. Instead using the wiimote you guide your flashlight around to explore a dark and spooky mansion. It is said to do a pretty good job of scaring you with sound effects and it's Killer7-like control scheme - using B to move forward, down on the D-pad to back up and A for context-sensitive interaction with the environment. At checkpoints the game tries to gauge how scared you are by how much your flashlight hand is shaking... another candidate for the Vitality Sensor?

Tales of Monkey Island

When Lucas Arts released The Secret of Monkey Island in 1990 they revolutionized the adventure game genre with a healthy dose of humor and by completely removing the need to punish gamers with the game over screens we'd gotten so accustomed to seeing in primarily Sierra's Quest games.

After the series reached it's high-point with the sequel LeChuck's Revenge, creators Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman later left Lucas Arts. A third installment wasn't released until 1997 and despite the loss of the series creators and a new art-direction it was well received. Things then went sour, both for the series as well as the genre. 3D was all the rage and like with other point-and-click adventure series Monkey Island died after a less than stellar attempt to bring in the third dimension. As time went on 2D once again became excepted in games and with Wii and DS now strong platforms the PC is no longer the only suitable home for the genres revival.

Tales is the fifth installment in the Monkey Island series and is developed by Telltale Games which is made up of a large group of ex-LucasArts employees - many of which worked on the earlier Monkey Island games. The Tales team is lead by Dave Grossman and Ron Gilbert has been involved in brainstorming for the game but has no active involvement. Telltale have proven themselves capable of making adventure games with the Sam & Max, Strongbad and Wallace & Gromit series, so things are looking promising, the only question is whether they can possibly live up to the fans expectations.

So there you have it, a whole bunch of promising games for the core gamer on their way to Wii. Besides these there are of course multi-platform titles such as the rhythm action games like The Beatles Rockband, Guitar Hero 5 and DJ Hero. So dust off your Wii and dig out your old Wavebird, I know I will!

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