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Defending the Wii

With the Wii U now visible on the horizon, I can already feel the skepticism bubbling under the surface of the gaming public. There’s a lingering shadow of failure over the Wii. Somehow, despite being the best selling console of this generation, people seem to think of Nintendo’s little white machine as an abysmal failure that didn’t satisfy. Somehow, despite providing a long list of some of the best games this generation, gamers angrily accuse Nintendo of giving them nothing to play.

If you bought a Wii and didn’t have anything to play, it’s your own fault. You were clearly one of the brainwashed masses that got caught up in popular sentiment and failed to see the terrific experiences lying on shelves right under your nose. Why do you think third party support was lacking? Because you brushed aside the great games that were given to you and didn’t buy them so developers eventually gave up. Did the system fail to live up to its potential? Oh hell yeah. Did it lack third party support (whatever the reason)? Yup. Was its release schedule spotty enough to keep it from being someone’s primary gaming system? Yes, this too.

But considering its relatively meager cost and the fact that no one I know or have ever heard of actually tried to use it as their primary gaming system, I think Nintendo deserves a lot of credit for what they actually did do right.

No, I’m not even talking about ushering in the motion gaming revolution. I’ll be the first to admit that this particular innovation is one that I’m not sure has been entirely positive. Let’s just say it’s had its ups and downs and leave that discussion for another time.

I’m talking about damn good games here. The Wii was filled with interesting titles. Some were predictable, others experimental, but all were great fun. Nintendo also gets a lot of crap for reiterating franchises and producing a distinct lack of new software ideas to go along with their hardware innovation.

You know what? I’m not going to argue with you. Nintendo has a habit of sticking to what works, it’s true. What I am going to argue with is the prevailing sentiment that Nintendo is any worse about this than other publishers. They are taking much more heat for this issue than any other publisher I know, yet there are few big publishers these days who aren’t immensely careful with their release schedule.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the thirty gazillion shooters we have cluttering the shelves these days? Perhaps you’ve noticed this E3 has been filled with announcements of nothing but sequel after sequel? Perhaps you’ve noticed that Activision, the biggest publisher on Earth, is clinging to the Call of Duty franchise like a drowning man to a life preserver because it’s the only thing they can count on to sell reliably? 

Nintendo may play it too safe, but they are also better than any other developer at keeping their formulas interesting with every installment. We may have seen Zelda many times before, but the series still produces some of the best adventure games around. Not only that, but at least Nintendo’s lineup has some variety. Pretty much all of Sony and Microsoft’s first party games are shooters. Microsoft in particular has been subsisting on nothing but a rotating schedule of Gears of War and Halo for years now, to increasingly boring effect. Sony’s little better, trotting out Resistance, Killzone, and Uncharted, among others. Many or all of these games are good, but that’s not the point. Nintendo’s counter to this is a release schedule that has consisted of fighting games, platformers, racing games, sports titles, action games, RPGs, adventure games, and more. They haven’t clung to the industry groupthink that has somehow managed to make shooting things with guns feel stale through sheer repetition. 

Nintendo also deserve far more credit than they receive for trying new things. How many other big publishers do you know these days that would’ve taken a chance on a wildcard platformer made of yarn like Kirby’s Canvas Curse as a full retail release? 

So the next time you feel the need to bash Nintendo a bit because everyone else is doing it, take a step back and think about it for a second. They certainly had some problems this generation. Man, did they ever. I was among the masses yelling at them plenty of times over the years. I got fed up here and there. My Wii sees less use these days than even my abandoned PS3. 

But ever since waiting overnight in the cold to buy the thing on launch day, the Wii has delivered some of my favorite gaming memories this generation, without question. 

Twilight Princess is my favorite Zelda game of all time, not something I say lightly. The two Super Mario Galaxy games are perhaps the best 3D platformers ever made. New Super Mario Bros Wii is both one of the best 2D platformers ever made and an unbeatable multiplayer experience. Metroid Prime 3 is a stellar use of motion controls and provides an epic adventure that might just outdo the revolutionary original. No More Heroes, MadWorld, House of the Dead: Overkill, and others proved that third parties could deliver unique, memorable content on Nintendo’s system as well, despite reports to the contrary.

MadWorld and Kirby’s Epic Yarn provided some of the most memorable art styles I’ve encountered this generation. The Super Mario Galaxy titles proved Nintendo didn’t need HD graphics to deliver beautiful games. And Xbox Live be damned, my favorite multiplayer experiences this generation have been on Wii, whether experiencing the fun of motion control for the first time with friends and family in Wii Sports, beating up cute Nintendo characters in Smash Bros Brawl, or laughing our asses off as we bounced our way through platforming levels together in New Super Mario Bros Wii whilst throwing each other down pits just to get ahold of that freakishly-adorable-yet-utterly-useless penguin suit.

I could go on, but my point is not to make this a comprehensive list. My point is simply to get you thinking. I was once as down on Nintendo as most of the public currently still seems to be, but the more I considered it, the more I think I was being unfair. I was letting my disappointment at wasted potential wash away the memories of what Nintendo actually had managed to deliver, which was pretty darn good, even if they should have done better. 

If, looking back on it, you can honestly say to yourself you’re still disappointed in them, that’s fine. Clearly you have different tastes in gaming than I do, and we as gamers need to start realizing that people having different tastes is an acceptable phenomenon. What you shouldn’t do is jump on the hate bandwagon just because it’s easy or just because you’re a little frustrated. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. It was a depressing place to be that made me overlook some truly awesome times Nintendo’s little machine has given me. Maybe, just maybe, if you think a little harder you’ll remember some good times you overlooked just like I did.

And with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword still to come, among others, it’s not over yet.

Bring on the Wii U, Nintendo. I’m ready to see what you’ve got, even if your system does have a dumb name. I’ll forgive you.

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