Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Wii's year two report card

While the first year is an important twelve months for any console, the second year can still break the momentum even if it was previously doing well. Did the Wii manage to keep things going strong over the last year, or was its stellar performance in 2007 all for naught? Following the same formula I used last year, here's the Wii's report card for its second year on the market.

The Software

This time last year, we had so many of the Wii's key franchises in our hands already. Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid were all there, firmly establishing the Wii as a worthwhile console. Has the flow of games kept up over the Wii's second year?

When it comes to Nintendo's big franchises, they sure delivered. Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Animal Crossing: City Folk are now in millions of Wii consoles all over the world, bringing three more beloved Nintendo franchises to the current generation. Nintendo also introduced two more entries in the "Wii" series of games with the release of Wii Fit and Wii Music, and even published Endless Ocean by Arika, the diving game that challenged the definition of what a game had to be. Nintendo certainly did their part over these last twelve months.

The third parties also did their job for the most part, hitting us with amazing titles like de Blob, Guitar Hero: World Tour, No More Heroes, Okami and Boom Blox. Many of these developers greatly outdid themselves here, all the while helping to ensure that the Wii continue to be great.

Nintendo also added a new way for us to purchase games with the introduction of WiiWare. Since the introduction of this new service in May we've seen many great games come down the digital pipeline, including Dr. Mario Online Rx, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, LostWinds, Mega Man 9 and Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. Nintendo is working well with third parties to make sure that WiiWare is as great as it can possibly be, and their effort certainly isn't going unnoticed.

However, not all is sunshine and lollipops in the world of Wii software. The frequency of shovelware has increased to the point of being sickening, with even some of the most well-known and respected developers resorting to cheap cash-ins when it comes to Wii development. Coupled with the fact that most third parties still can't grasp the abilities of the Wii remote, the software only earns a...


Online Gaming

Last year the online gaming section of the report card only earned a measly C- due to lazy third parties, laggy play, and a worrying suggestion that we only play with people on the same continent. Have things improved, or gotten worse?

When it comes to Nintendo providing more games to play online, they've certainly stepped things up. Endless Ocean, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii, Dr. Mario Online Rx and Animal Crossing: City Folk are all online-enabled and published by Nintendo, showing that the Big N is finally starting to take online play seriously. For some reason, though, Nintendo didn't think Mario Super Sluggers was right for online play, but that's just one game out of many.

The third parties aren't doing any better than they were last year, though. Doing a quick mental scan of all major games released this past year, the only two I can think of that had online play are Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2. Although these games did handle online very well, it doesn't make up for the fact that many third party games that should have had online didn't.

Of the games that are online, most of them are fairly quick to connect and boast relatively lag-free play. However, not all is good in the land of the Nintendo WiFi Connection, as Super Smash Bros. Brawl suffered from incredible amounts of lag and made players wait large amounts of time for two minute battles.

In the end, while Nintendo has been supporting online play a lot more than last year, third parties are still dropping the ball big-time. The online gaming scene is doing slightly better than last year, earning a respectable...


Wii Channels

In the Wii's first year, we got the News, Forecast, Internet, Check Mii Out and Everybody Votes Channels, as well as the Metroid Prime 3: Corruption preview channel. The first year was impressive, but how about the second?

When the Wii was first released, rumours ran rampant of some sort of "DS Demo Channel", some sort of mystical piece of software that acted like the DS Download Stations from malls and GameStops all over North America. The rumours finally came true in the form of the Nintendo Channel, providing DS demos and informative videos detailing many upcoming and already-released Wii and DS titles. Finally, we have a Download Station at our fingertips!

Over the last year, Japan has also seen two channels released that no other region has received. First of all is the "Television Friend Channel", which is basically a TV guide built into the Wii. Since most cable and satellite providers around here have upcoming programs listed as a basic feature, I somehow doubt we'll ever get (Or need) this one. Still, it's sure to be great for those in Japan who apparently don't enjoy such features.

Another channel so far exclusive to Japan is the "Digicam Print Channel", allowing users to take SD card images from their camera and make photo books and business cards, which will be printed and delivered for a small fee. This channel is currently scheduled to launch in all other regions at an unknown time in the future. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind a few Mii business cards to keep in my wallet!

Two more channels also hit the Wii this past year, but they weren't distributed through the Shop Channel. Instead, they were pre-loaded onto Mario Kart Wii and Wii Fit game discs, from which they can be installed onto the Wii Menu. These channels tracked user performance and could be accessed even when the corresponding disc isn't in the Wii. Both channels (To my knowledge) are accessible directly on the game disc without installation, so while they're kind of neat to have, it's not exactly worth taking up the precious little memory the Wii has.

Overall, Nintendo kept the flow of channels going quite steady these past twelve months, and for that I award them a...


Keeping Promises

In the Wii's first year Nintendo dealt a painful one-two punch of unfulfilled promises, with the delay of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and the not-so-automatic downloading of new Wii firmware via WiiConnect24. Did Nintendo manage to keep their word better this time around?

Not if you consider the fact that, despite constant reassuring, Nintendo has still failed to announce any sort of adequate solution to the Wii storage issue. Their revelation of a supposed solution a little while back is most likely a way of avoiding the real problem, as it only allows us to download WiiWare and Virtual Console games straight to the SD card, but still requires them to be in the Wii's internal memory to be played. Come on, Nintendo. Stop dicking around already and give us a real solution.

One other minor promise they broke was the one month delay of Super Smash Bros. Brawl earlier in the year. Just as we thought they'd laid the final delay on us, they jump out and say that it'll be out in March, not February. Sure, this isn't huge, but it's still a promise broken.

Otherwise, though, Nintendo really didn't make any other promises, and with a lack of promises, what's there to break? That being said, in the category of keeping promises, the verdict is...



The Wii has had somewhat of an average second year. Nothing spectacularly awesome happened, but neither did anything catastrophically bad. In the end, I suppose the last year deserves a...


...and the future?
There's a good amount of promising software on the way for the Wii, with a new Punch-Out!, an Endless Ocean sequel, Wii Sports: Resort, and even a new Sin & Punishment on the way. It's not all about sequels, though, as SEGA is hitting us with two brand new games, MadWorld and The Conduit. It's hard to say anything about the future, especially when the time frame is an entire year, but I feel that the Wii will have a respectable showing over the next twelve months.

Now then, Nintendo, about that storage solution...

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