It's time for a caveat-laden confession. Around the office I'm known (unfairly) as a Nintendo fanboy. I got my Wii around 10 months ago, and to date I'm still satisfied with my purchase. That said, for the last two months, the Wii has lied fallow while my Xbox 360 got the bulk of my attention. Nintendo's little white box indeed collected a thin layer of dust while I played Bioshock, Oblivion, and Portal.
The Wii has been going through a pretty stiff dry spell. Besides occasional hits like Metroid Prime 3 and Super Paper Mario, Wii owners have had to subside on their old games and Virtual Console downloads. For the short term at least, I believe that drought is coming to an end. My Wii is back in action, and I've been giving it a pretty good workout lately.
Honestly, the Virtual Console was the first step in getting out of my Wii funk. When I put together my list of the Top 10 Virtual Console titles, I thought to myself, "Y'know, I should really play Paper Mario again." For an N64 title, the graphics hold up surprisingly well, and it's still a darn fun game. Better yet, Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the best games in the series, hit the VC just this Monday. Still, old games do not a healthy console make, and it's really the new and upcoming titles that have me excited about grabbing my Wiimote.
Since it's still a week or two until the big names start to come out, let's look at the one new title that'll probably give you a ton of fun on the Wii. Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure might look like a sickeningly cute kiddie title manly gamers should avoid at all costs, but underneath the saccharine exterior is a well-crafted and clever adventure game in the vein of old Sierra and LucasArts titles. If you ever enjoyed games like Monkey Island, Zack and Wiki will probably satisfy you. It's a Wii sleeper hit that old-school adventure fans should definitely give a try.
Battalion Wars II and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn should also satisfy Wii gamers, especially the ones who love strategy games. Neither game is really an AAA-title like Mario or Zelda, but they offer great experiences for fans off the genres. Fire Emblem specifically should appeal to turn-based-strategy gamers with its fiendishly unforgiving-yet-rewarding learning curve.
Of course, Super Mario Galaxy is the biggest Wii title coming out soon. Mario's latest outing ships on the 12th, but GameStop stores have already begun loading their demo kiosks with the game if you want an early taste. Yesterday I met with Nintendo and got some hands-on time with SMG. The last conventional 3D Mario game, Super Mario Sunshine, disappointed a lot of gamers. It was by no means a bad game, but it simply lacked the shine of Mario 64. From what little I saw of Super Mario Galaxy, I think the shine might be back (ironically, Super Mario Sunshine focuses on collecting "shines" and Super Mario Galaxy has you once again collecting stars, but that's completely not what I'm talking about). The graphics are some of the best the Wii has seen, the gameplay is typical Mario-tight, and the level designs are varied, clever, and at times utterly insane. I'm looking forward to this one.
The Nintendo Zapper comes out a week after SMG hits. As a stand-alone plastic shell, the Zapper's gotten mixed reactions from gamers. I wasn't quite sure if this white Wiimote holder was really worth the $20 price tag, even with the pack-in game Link's Crossbow Training. Then I tried Link's Crossbow Training. It's not the deepest game, but this Zelda-themed shooting gallery game more than justifies the Jackson you'll drop to play it. For an extremely simple pack-in shooter, it sports a surprisingly varied number of levels, targets, and game styles. Sure, there are the usual stationary and rail shooter levels with brightly colored targets, but there are also sections where you must spin around and fight back charging hordes of skeletons, or pick flying skulls out of the sky a la skeet shooting in the original Duck Hunt. There are even free-moving areas where you make Link run around with the analog stick while you hunt down goblin bandits. That you can use the Zapper with upcoming Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Ghost Squad, and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles is just gravy.
I really don't know if the Wii will settle back into a dry spell as we pass the holiday season and inch toward the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. In the short term, though, Wii gamers have a lot to look forward to. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to fight the Begnion Army, watch a countless number of game-over screens, and scream at my television.
Some people can't wait to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest phones. You're not one of those people. Find out how to make your current phone feel new again while keeping that money in your pocket.
by Chris Parker
Microsoft refreshes Surface Pro, launches subscription gaming service
In this week's wrap-up, Microsoft introduces a thinner, lighter Surface Pro. Meanwhile, the Xbox gets a new Netflix-style game service called Xbox Game Pass.