The Best Games You Haven’t Played Because They’re on the Wii

Posted: October 23, 2011 by ryanlecocq in Features

I’ll admit that I have been one of those hardcore gamers that knocks the Wii for being extremely light on any ‘real’ games.  I also stand by my assertions that Nintendo missed an opportunity to turn the initial excitement for the system into a solid 5 year plus console cycle.  That does not mean however that there are not great games on the Wii.  Most of them are first party Nintendo games that deliver the big N’s usual quality without really blowing our minds.  A few developers however, really delivered on the promise of ‘something new’ that Iwata-san made at the system’s announcement.  Most of these games fit into both the hardcore and cult categories, making them even more obscure on a console mostly owned by the extremely young and the extremely old.

So if you own a Wii and want to use it for something besides shedding a few pounds or keeping your screaming little apes quiet, read on.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

I see dead people.  -Sent from my iPhone

Shattered Memories is my second favorite Silent Hill game, only barely behind the first game of which it is a remake.  Much like Alice 2 and Deadly Premonition, Shattered Memories is a game that suffered greatly from the ignorance and single-mindedness of the gaming press.  Professional reviewers just could not get over this game’s lack of combat.

Personally, I think that the combat has always been out of place in the Silent Hill series.  Being able to defeat your enemies with a stick and a little patience completely deflates the terror they inspire.  Many also described the game’s chases as frustrating.  Considering that searching for your lost child while losing your mind would be frustrating on the greatest imaginable level, I don’t see how this is a fault.

What really drew me about the game was the excellent use of psychology and the amazing quality of the writing and dialogue.  In an industry that excels at being juvenile, Shattered Memories is the rare game that excels at being mature.  It’s also a game that gives you as much as you put into it.  The more time you take and the more you behave naturally, rather than in the arbitrary manner most games expect, the more your experience will suit you.

It’s also not often that I give high praise to a game’s ending.  Most games in this generation suffer from the same problem as this generation of TV shows (here’s looking at you Lost and Heroes), they were designed from the start without an ending in mind.  Shattered Memories is the opposite.  Everything in this game builds toward an ending that will change to suit the ending you want as a player.  Replaying the game differently will also change a large portion of the game and story, so lots of replay.

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon

It’s a cold and lonely night, when I hit the road for you.

This game on the other hand is more of a each to his own sort of thing.  Much like Venetica, if you cannot play a game with a few broken mechanics, no matter how brilliant it is, you will hate this game.  Many of the basic components of the game are extremely poorly implemented.  What redeems the game for the more open-minded is the terrific atmosphere and design of the world and characters.

The Japanese have an extremely social culture.  The concept of being alone has a much greater impact on the Japanese psyche than to we Americans with our ‘every man for himself’ mentality.  As a result, every once in a while a Japanese story will come along that truly communicates alone-ness in a way that is rare in Western fiction.  Fragile Dreams is one of these.  The story of Seto is a very quiet and subdued tale of searching for human contact.

Although most other aspects of the game under-deliver, this feeling is constant and refreshing in an industry where you generally want to get away from the NPCs.  Most of the people you will encounter in this game are ghosts or one completely psychotic merchant.  Now that the game is cheap to pick up used, I can much more readily recommend it for the unique experience.

Resident Evil: Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles

What’s wrong with these people!?  Oh wait, I’ve done this before.  Just shoot, trust me, they’re dead.

These two games sold decently, but there are still a lot of core RE fans who haven’t played them.  Truly a shame since the most hardcore fans will get the most out of them.  More than just a retread of the first several RE games, the Chronicles go back and add much needed depth to the early RE plots.  For example it makes more sense that Leon is obsessed with Ada when they actually share more than 5 words of conversation.  The games also cover a lot of backstory only referenced in the later games.  You get to see Leon and Krauser tear up South America and there’s definitely less “where’s Barry?” as the magnum packing red giant finally gets some screen time.

Sure, there’s also some of the usual Wii shooting game frustration.  During the hardest fights, the developers used the ol’ Wii shooter standard of ‘make your character shake their head like they’re having a siezure’ to arbitrarily make fights tougher.  Fortunately you won’t have to to solve puzzles or do waggle motions that make it hard to refocus the cursor like in Dead Space.

Like in the above Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the Chronicles series actually goes half a step beyond “good graphics for a Wii game” into the category of a solid looking game that only lacks HD.  Completing this package is an overwhelming amount of collectibles and backstory files to keep any RE fan interested.

Arc Rise Fantasia

Wait… we’re destined to save the world?  That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, none of us can even vote or buy cigarettes.

The biggest problem with this game is that it’s not as good as Xenoblade Chronicles.  For U.S. consumers though, this is the best Wii RPG.  It’s a huge shame that the developers tried so hard to make a classic JRPG that some parts become insulting.  If you can make it past the unbelievably cliched opening and characters though, you will find a solid battle system and a lengthy game to hold your attention.

Arc Rise may be one of the last true turn-based JRPGs on home consoles.  Fortunately it harks back to games like Skies of Arcadia and Grandia 2, where turn-based is done so well you almost miss it.  Everything from timing attacks to synchronized buffs and debuffs makes a pristine appearance in Arc’s battle system.

The graphics are definitely in the higher range of “Wii good” and the soundtrack is composed by the mighty Yasunori Mitsuda.  That combined with the solid gameplay should make the underwhelming early plot worth getting through.  If you’ve been missing the JRPG and you aren’t willing to import Xenoblade Chronicles, this is your best bet.

Muramasa the Demon Blade

They taught me this at the princess academy bitches.

If Muramasa was as good as it’s predecessor Odin Sphere, it would have made the past cult game articles.  Being 80% as good as a masterpiece is still good though, especially on the masterpiece deficient Wii.  If you never played Odin Sphere, don’t worry, this game is not nearly as genre-defying as Fragile Dreams.  It’s basically Castlevania with a shiny coat of pastel paint.  You fight your enemies in a side-scrolling world inspired by Japanese mythology, while collecting new swords and learning new sword skills.  Bosses often take up more than the visible screen and require expert timing and strategy to defeat.

So basically it’s what a 2D reboot of Ninja Gaiden would be like, but with a more whimsical world.  You have the option of two characters: Generic ninja boy or skimpy kimono wearing princess.  Both characters have basically the same experience, with a few altered stages or bosses.

The biggest downside to Muramasa is the huge amount of backtracking you have to do.  Odin Sphere had very little of this, so it’s odd that the developers would move backwards on something that has drawn negative press in games for decades.  If you can live with a little repetition though, this is some of the fastest and prettiest side-scrolling around.

Sonic Colors

All Sonic, all the time, no swords or lycanthropy.

There is actually a good Sonic game.  When I heard this I couldn’t believe it at first.  Even stranger it’s not a reboot or a new development team.  It’s the same people responsible for Sonic the Werehog and all that other garbage, they just finally got it right by trial and error.  I’m pretty sure I could have told them the secret to Sonic’s success was speedy gameplay, bright colors and nothing else period, but good for them.

That’s Sonic Colors in a nutshell.  It’s fast and it’s colorful.  You switch between the 3D forward running stages and sidescrolling frequently, but the transition is smooth.  It’s really the closest any Sonic game on a 3D engine has come to the classic formula and I would even go so far as to call it an improvement.  When I first got Sonic 2, the first thing I said to my friends at school was “the colors…”  That impression holds true here as well as these are some of the most colorful and sharply designed levels in any platformer.  The graphics engine really amazes me and once again stretches my expectations for visuals and performance on the system.

I won’t lie to you, characters still talk in the game.  There are brief cutscenes.  They’re a big improvement on other sonic games and at several points are almost entertaining, but no explanation is really necessary.  It’s also fairly short, but any Sonic game is short if you only count the levels.  I’d gladly play a 6 hour game without Amy than a 10 hour game with every forest creature imaginable.

  1. mercadeo says:

    You control a wrongly-imprisoned (isn’t that always the case?) cyborg who, being pissed off, busts out of his prison and take revenge against those who put him in there. There are many levels that take place through four different environments that the player must either dodge or destroy enemies that come his way. This game is unique to the Vectrex in regards to the cyborg firing in three directions, facing bosses with several weapons, as well as giant spider droids and an enemy known as “Flying Filth” (?).

    • ryanlecocq says:

      The spam-filter flagged this message and I must admit it seems an odd one. Appears to be a description of a Vectrex game (Vectrex is an early 80s, pre-U.S. crash gaming console). Effing rad, whatever. I’m approving it.

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