Sometimes people email me and say nice things about my work. Unfortunately, the standard that I’ve come to accept though is usually more akin to misspelled criticism about some random thing like my inability to live up to their mad herding skills. One email I recently received was curious about what game I was most disappointed in this console cycle. I know there is still a year and a half left of this cycle, but it got me thinking a little about one constant disappointment over the past several years, Nintendo.
You have to keep in mind that for something to be a disappointment there has to be a certain amount of expectation. Duke Nukem Forever actually exceeded my expectations since the game was actually completed and shipped in a format that people could play. I had a small amount of disappointment in the first Assassin’s Creed since I was expecting something more like Assassin’s Creed 2, but I still love Assassin’s Creed despite its shortcomings and I feel that it was a wonderful first attempt for the series.
When the Nintendo Wii launched I was incredibly enthusiastic. The integration of motion controls gave me hope that I would be entering a new generation that could bring more than simply prettier graphics. It could bring me something creative and fun. I remember first playing Wii Sports and thinking about how Nintendo made a simplistic tennis game incredibly fun right out of the box. I had fanciful visions in my head of new places for this technology to go once other developers started unlocking its potential. I remember playing Wii Golf for hours with my friends and I immediately imagined a few installments using this same mechanic only doing some crazy mini-golf theme. Wii Sports was the beginning of something that only needed to be explored.
I’ve never actually owned a Wii though. I lived with people who owned them and I had free access to them. After I moved away I would borrow or rent one every now and then to play a few games and keep up with the system, but nothing actually compelled me to purchase one. I always assumed that after a few more games came out I could justify the purchase. It’s not that there were bad games on the Wii it’s just that there weren’t enough great or unique games and there was a noticeable lack of games living up to the expectations that I had envisioned when I first played Wii Sports.
A few months ago I seriously considered purchasing one, but then Nintendo did something that only cemented my original decision not to bring the system home. They started releasing all their Wiis without them being backwards compatible. It was a ridiculously stupid dick-move since it required taking features away from the console and actually shipping less capable consoles. This was a massive deal-breaker for me since one of the main reasons I was intending to purchase one was that I could play my favorite GameCube games like Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Kart Double Dash and spend some more time playing old Legend of Zelda games from my Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition. I’m a huge Zelda fan and the two Zelda games on the Wii are almost enough to make me invest in a Wii, but I’ve already played through Twilight Princess and spent a little time with Skyward Sword so what do I actually get?
The Wii versions of Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. were abysmal. Both of those series had always walked the line between skill, random overpowered abilities and luck. I expect a ridiculous amount of blind luck in a series like Mario Party, but in Smash Bros. and Mario Kart there needs to be a balance and the Wii installments were more about random blind luck. Mario Galaxy was fun, but not incredibly awesome and a week of playing it was enough for me. I’m sure there there are a few more games on the Wii that would be entertaining, but not enough for me to jump in.
Ultimately the lack of expanding upon the expectations I first saw with Wii Sports is the biggest disappointment. When Microsoft first saw the Wii they immediately went all-in on the potential of the device and built the Kinect. I own a Kinect and I enjoy playing games on it and using it to work out. I have some issues with it, but I feel like it’s moving in the direction of where Nintendo wanted to go when they first set out to build the Wii. The Wii has only barely advanced upon its motion controls and has become a magnet for party games and shovel-ware.
The Red Steel series is something that added onto the disappointment of the motion control concept. A first-person shooter built around motion controls that utilizes the Wiimote and Nunchuck for shooting and sword-fighting. I was able to overlook the terrible controls in the first installment with the expectations that the second would live up to its potential, but the second Red Steel was just as bad. I’ve yet to see another series that really tried incorporating the motion controls ambitiously into an action game like that. I’ve seen other action games that utilized the motion controls, but none with the potential of Red Steel.
Here at the end of the cycle I’m looking at so much missed opportunity with the Wii that’s it almost saddening. Does anybody remember this video with Johnny Chung Lee? Look at all the cool stuff he did with his Wii clear back in 2007! Do you know what Nintendo did with this? Nothing! Microsoft hired Lee to work on their Kinect where he became a major part of their development team. Last year he jumped ship to Google and the internet has been rampant with speculation as to what he’s doing for them. My favorite theory is that he’s working on the Google Goggles. Great job Nintendo. This guy is better at demonstrating the potential of your Wii then you. You let him go work for your biggest competitor to develop the thing that Microsoft specifically made to compete with you.
The Lee debacle is the icing on the cake. When I first saw that video it confirmed to me what I was expecting from the Wii. When Lee jumped ship to Microsoft to work on the Kinect and Nintendo kept turning out stupid party games. It greatly contributed to my decision to hold off on the Wii and save my money for the Kinect. In the end, the Wii had so much potential. There was so much I wanted to do with it and it only succeeded in half-hearted attempts to make me interested. Sure, in the past six years it’s managed to release a few more titles I would love to play, but comparing it to the mountain of games I don’t have time to play on my Xbox 360 and PC is ridiculous. What happened Nintendo? To make me this uninterested in your console is an epic failure that almost had to be intentional.
Dan Hoyt has been an avid gamer his entire life. When he’s not playing games, he’s working out by walking his dog, hiking and doing martial arts. He likes to try new kinds of alcohol and discuss politics. He’s a graduate of The University of Kansas and has spent years as a journalist.