Monday, June 22, 2009

June 23: The Wii Grows Up

Ah, the Nintendo Wii. It changed the gaming industry forever by bringing motion controllers to the masses, and changed it again with the Wii Balance Board. It said No to large hard drives and high definition video, and yet has so throughly dominated current generation console sales many don't even include it in the discussion. It is just taken for granted that Sony and Microsoft are fighting it out for second place.

Despite that, the Wii has been scorned by many gamers. The graphics aren't good enough, they say. Or maybe they claim its only good for kiddy games. Or they say they motion control schemes are dopey (unless its Microsoft's Natal I suppose). For all its critical acclaim and market success, the Wii is too often looked down on as a second class console that is only good for non-gamers, grandmothers, and children too young to appreciate 'real' gaming.

Enjoy that mindset. Tomorrow, it becomes extinct.

On June 23, The Conduit will be released. While it is hard to say how good a game will be until it has been played a few times, this title looks impressive. It is a sci-fi shooter that features massive conspiracies, blown up national landmarks, and the likely end of the world. It also happens to be a Wii exclusive.

Granted, the graphics are nothing compared to what the PS3 can churn out, but they are good enough. It seems someone else has learned the lesson Blizzard's 11 million subscriber juggernaut tried to teach the industry: you don't need bleeding edge graphics if you will just use an art style designed with your graphic in mind. A game needs to look good. It does not need to look like Planet Earth. Photorealism is not the goal of all gaming. Great gameplay is. If the artwork is done in a consistent style and the graphics show that artwork off, then you're in good shape.

And The Conduit is in good shape. Sure, we could dismiss this as simply another sci-fi shooter that wouldn't draw any coverage if it were coming out on a 'real' console. But looking at the trailers and the press coverage, I think someone would have to be nuts to write it off that casually. The Conduit looks good.

And yet, The Conduit itself isn't even the biggest story. It is simply the harbinger of a trend. Beginning with that release tomorrow, there is a decent line up of definitely non-kiddy titles on the way. Two horror titles in particular are looking pretty good. Dead Space Extraction goes were many games would fear to go... on rails. If this one turns out as good as it is anticipated to be, we may well see more rail games in the future. Cursed Mountain looks to be more a conventional horror title, but if the game is a good as the website, this one is a can't miss.

Will either of these games be as big as Silent Hill? Doubtful. Similarly, I doubt The Conduit will make anyone forget about Half Life anytime soon. That isn't the point. These titles would look at home the shelf of even the most hard-core gamer, and they are being built for the Wii. They are not ports. This is not a case of dumbing down an established franchise for an inferior system. These are Wii titles that no gamer, even the graphics snobs, should ignore.

Take time today to enjoy the mythology of the Wii not being a system for 'real' gamers. Enjoy the idea that it is a kiddy-game only console with nothing but bad graphics and a gimmick of a controller. After tomorrow, that line of thinking becomes obsolete. The Wii is growing up.

No comments: