As a 30 year old gamer that grew up in the Nintendo generation, they’ve always held a special place in my 8-bit heart. I’ll admit that I started to doubt the big N during both the N64 and Gamecube eras, with a majority of the great games being first party and releasing way too few and far between.
Outside of the usual Mario Party, Mario this and Mario that, the N64 had their fair share of great wrestling games (WCW/NWO Revenge is still my personal favorite) and two of the best FPS games of all time (Goldeneye 007 & Perfect Dark). Being an RPG fan, I was a bit disappointed in the N64 since their only traditional offerings were another Harvest Moon game, Paper Mario & a port of Ogre Battle which has never been my favorite series. I always had Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask to fall back on, but I still wanted my turn-based RPG fix at the time.
The Gamecube received the first Final Fantasy console release on a Nintendo system since Final Fantasy III for the SNES, although it was poorly executed and wasn’t anything to write home about. Who in the hell happened to have four friends with a GBA and a Gamecube link cable? Never once did I get to play Crystal Chronicles with more than just myself. The Gamecube offered the usual Mario and Zelda give-ins that we were used to by now, but Metroid made its triumphant return with Metroid Prime & Metroid Prime 2: Echoes – both were amazing games, by the way – and let’s not forget the first console release for the Fire Emblem series. But again, outside of the first party titles, there were only a few other games worth mentioning.
The Gamecube definitely got the best release of Metal Gear Solid in Twin Snakes, as well as an amazing re-make of the original Resident Evil and one of the best games of all time, Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil Zero wasn’t the next great entry we were all hoping for, but it was still worth playing through at least once. And finally, the amazing RPG Tales of Symphonia.
By this time in my gaming tenure, I became aware of a certain pattern when it came down to owning a NIntendo system at this day in age. You do not purchase a Nintendo console to play third party releases.. you buy it to play the first party titles that will never really disappoint. If you’re not interested in playing another Mario release, the next great Zelda title and pray to the deity of your choice for another Metroid release, you were much better off saving your money and buying another system.
So this brings me to Nintendo’s Wii console. I went in to the Wii already a skeptic because I didn’t want to buy in to the gimmick of motion controls, a skepticism I still have to this day. Outside of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I have yet to play a single Wii title that I honestly didn’t feel would be just as good (if not better) using a traditional controller, but it’s something I learned to deal with. Thankfully a decent amount of games are compatible with the Classic Controller, but that is neither here nor there.
I guess the question I’m trying to ask myself is “am I disappointed with the Wii?”. I thought back to how I felt at the end of the N64 era, not completely disappointed but I definitely couldn’t have happily gone through that time with just an N64. I also thought about how excited I was for the Gamecube but ended up with enough good games to count on both hands, and Super Mario Sunshine wasn’t one of them.
I can honestly say that the Wii has had the best first party releases of any Nintendo console once I take away the nostalgia bias of the NES. With games like Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, Mario Galaxy 1 & 2, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Nintendo had a steady flow of first party titles releasing once or two per year. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, there were some worthy additions from third party developers as well. You had your roguelike RPGs in Shiren the Wanderer & Baroque (which I understand you have to be in to those sort of games), traditional RPGs with Tales of Symphonia 2, Xenoblade Chronicles and the recently released The Last Story, and a few other odds and ends with Rayman Origins, the Resident Evil on-rails shooters Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles, Dead Space Extraction, House of the Dead Overkill and various Harvest Moon and Rune Factory games. I know I’m forgetting to mention a few others, but off the top of my head these were the games I was satisfied with.
In the end, I’m still not sold on motion controls being the wave of the future and I feel the same way about the touch-screen features on the Wii-U. But when all is said and done and another gaming era comes to an end, I can actually look back at the Wii and be completely satisfied. Sure, Nintendo spoonfed children terrible release after terrible release. Just look at the Wii section at your local game store. You probably haven’t heard of 40% of what’s on the wall and most likely have that same “why in the hell did they release this crap?” look I have when I peruse it. But underneath all of the steaming turds are polished gems waiting to be played. Nintendo might have dropped the ball completely by failing to attempt (and I mean really attempt) online gaming, not including any sort of secondary functionality like a DVD drive or Bluray player and for some unknown reason not embracing technology with HD capabilities, but they still managed to deliver in the same department they do generation after generation. This time, though, they finally had a little help from the third party and it seems this tradition is going to continue with the Wii-U.