Posts Tagged ‘lite’

Happy Fifth Birthday Wii U- Oh, OK Then

Wow, what a nifty device!

Ranking my favourite games on a Nintendo console right around some major multiple-of-five anniversary has been one of the most consistent things I’ve been able to do on this blog, not to mention one of my favourite kinds of post to write. But never before have I been able to so comprehensively make one such list on the first possible milestone. The Wii U is well and truly done and has been for months, but here we are on its five-year anniversary of release in Australia on November 30th, 2012, and I’m already able to count down my ten favourite games on the thing.

I believe it is Animal Crossing: New Leaf that features a reference within Nintendo’s own studio system to the Wii U’s failure. If you obtain a Wii U console in-game and approach it while it’s on display, you get the pithy message “Great artists aren’t always appreciated in their own time.” It’s a chuckle-worthy bit of self-deprecating humour, but it does contain a grain of truth. Due to its terrible opening 18 months, where a combination of hubris, awful all-around marketing and general industry panic resulted in a more-or-less sealed fate, the Wii U’s “time” was short and unimpressive to the masses. Luckily for the few people who did own one, however, not only did the Wii U boast the widest range of first party Virtual Console titles in the retro gaming service’s history and a pretty wonderful social media environment in the form of Miiverse, but when Nintendo’s back was to the wall, the company sure produced some amazing games. These are my absolute favourites.

Just a quick warning: I cheat on this list. Three times. Without regrets. It’s technically a top 13…

.

10. NES Remix (1&2)

Right off the bat we start with two games in one entry, but here’s a sobering thought: NES Remix is the only Wii U-exclusive game to see a sequel on the same console. That’s not why they share a position on this list though – That’d be because they are essentially two halves of one package that come with a combined price tag a fraction of what a full retail release costs. The NES Remix twins represent some of the most fun you can have with a group of friends on the Wii U – and without a strict player number cap to boot. Despite an ostensibly single-player presentation, you can lose lives so quickly in these games that they almost beg to be played in a pass-the-controller group setup. That’s almost exclusively how I played it, at least. Chopping up absolute classics with nonetheless dated mechanics and throwing them into a blender with other, perhaps less stellar 1980s games is a surprisingly effective recipe for uproarious chaos, and I really hope we haven’t seen the end of this mini-franchise.
.

9. Nintendo Land / Game & Wario

At first glance, this is a devious rule break, but there’s method to the madness. For as long as these two games have been out in the marketplace (so most of the Wii U’s lifespan), I have maintained that if you splice half of Nintendo Land and half of Game & Wario together to make one five-player party game, you get one of the very best and most unique experiences on the Wii U. Though Nintendo Land gets no shortage of hate for its poorly-received launch game status – and Game & Wario tends to get forgotten entirely – there are some genuine gems to be found across these two wacky titles. The Luigi’s Mansion-inspired ghost game in Nintendo Land was played more times in my house than most other entire games, such is its unironically ingenius 4-vs-1 multiplayer slant, and you can say something similar about Game & Wario‘s Fruit – which pits a room of watchful bystanders against one nervous player trying to blend in amongst a screen full of AI characters. Taking into account the Mario and Animal Crossing themed attractions from the former game and the Pictionary-lite mode / insane ring-toss variation from the latter, it really baffles me why Nintendo never officially paired the two collections in some capacity. No first-party release after these two showcased the one-of-a-kind potential that the Wii U’s control setup could offer.  
.

8. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Persona. It’s a word that will make almost any JPRG fan sit up and take notice, and it absolutely should have been found somewhere in the rather confusing title of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Despite a premature announcement trailer that hyped up a bona fide Fire Emblem crossover with Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series, the gameplay loop and visual style of this buried gem has much more in common with the storied SMT sub-series Persona, which has only recently broken into the wider gaming consciousness this year. Though it was spoken of within gaming circles as the game to play if you just couldn’t wait for Persona 5 on the PS4, it turns out that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is no mere entree, and despite sharing much of the same structural Persona DNA it has plenty of worthwhile appeal all its own. In fact it is just as effective when played after Persona 5 is over, because its manically optimistic energy seems like the perfect antidote to the melancholy that the 100-hour PS4 epic can exhibit at times. Though Tokyo Mirage Sessions leans into its J-pop industry aesthetic so emphatically that it is bound to put some people off, it has plenty of critical things to say and just as importantly, the battle system, upgrade paths and character arcs are extremely satisfying. And the in-game menus are laced with neon lime green, which is a hearty bonus.

Continue reading

A Decade of Dual Screen Splendour

Turns out I couldn’t do my normal Oscars thing this year because of work commitments, which saddens me. Nevertheless, as pathetic as it might sound, I’ve been waiting for this very day for years now, just so I could put this article up.

The original model – A thing of stunning beauty that made you want to throw up a little with just one look.

It is truly astonishing that a decade has already passed since the release of the Nintendo DS in Australia. On this very day in 2005, almost three months after its American release, the Big N bestowed a truly ugly yet quietly revolutionary portable gaming device on the PAL region for the first time, with a European release to follow a few weeks later. This hefty silver beast came packing not one but two screens, one of them touch-enabled, along with an unassuming microphone for voice input, more buttons than Nintendo had ever put on a handheld before, a built-in instant messenger app and full backwards combatibility with Game Boy Advance games. It was a thoroughly weird hunk of plastic and metal (this was still years before the iPhone, after all) that initially appealed to little more than Nintendo’s faithful.

I was one of said faithful, and my sister and I were there on launch day to pick up our first run versions of the DS, complete with that bundled-in demo cartridge of Metroid Prime: Hunters tantalisingly known as “First Hunt”. Between such a tasty graphical showcase and the joy of Super Mario 64 DS, Nintendo’s fresh console represented a huge step forward in graphical muscle over the GBA, and my teenage eyes lit up at the prospect of what experiences could possibly be on the way for the bizarre clamshell. Many of my friends were bewildered at the very sight of the monstrosity and my attempts to explain its appeal initially sucked, but I didn’t particularly mind if the system wasn’t popular, visually pleasing or particularly comfortable to play for long stretches – I knew it would bring great games to the table.

Well, I was right about that last part at least.

After all, just shy of 18 months later the DS Lite was released. Bringing with it brighter screens, a much smaller form factor, swathes of games with a wider range of appeal than ever before and some deviously clever marketing, the infinitely better version of the DS grew steadily in popularity until it exploded into the mainstream alongside the Wii in the latter half of the decade. The rest is history – the DS became Nintendo’s highest selling console of all time and the success of simple touch screen games paved the way for a smartphone gaming revolution. And unlike with the Wii, the release of so-called “casual” games on the DS did not affect the ongoing creativity and quality of meatier games on the system. All throughout the console’s life cycle, from the original model to the Lite to the camera-enabled DSi to the supersized DSi XL, great games just kept coming out. Some of my favourite videogames ever made their home on the DS, and so without any further rambling, here are my personal favourites. No less than 20 of them, in fact.

.

20. Trauma Center: Under the Knife

I’m going to start with the entry on this list that I’ve most recently discovered. As good an argument as any for the extraordinary staying power of the DS’ unique library, I started playing this gem only a few months ago after picking it up for dirt cheap on a whim. And it’s awesome. Though typically weird for an Atlus game and just as typically difficult, the first in what is apparently a series of Trauma Center games is engaging and rewarding in a way I’ve not seen in any other videogame. The relatively unique stress of performing surgical tasks while your patient’s vital signs rapidly tick away, all against the backdrop of an insane science fiction story, feels fresh even in today’s wonderful climate of creative indie experiences.
.

19. Metroid Prime Hunters

Though I have much stronger nostalgic feelings for the aforementioned demo of the game, the full version of Metroid Prime: Hunters was certainly nothing to sneeze at. Arriving over a year after said demo, Hunters built on the experimental foundations of the Gamecube’s Metroid Prime 2: Echoes to deliver a gorgeous competitive multiplayer-centric title where the campaign was just the thing you played when you had no buddies around. With a diverse selection of alien bounty hunters from which to choose, each packing a different transformation for mobility and stealth, Metroid Prime Hunters was crammed with ideas way ahead of its time, and honestly represented a concept too ambitious for the limits of the DS hardware. I’d really like to see a sequel on a console with more than one directional input. People who claim the controls of the 3DS’ Kid Icarus Uprising stopped them from playing probably never owned Hunters.
.

18. WarioWare Touched!

A quirky launch title for the DS, WarioWare Touched! was my entry point into a Nintendo franchise I now regard as one of my top five of all time. I was positively floored by how much fun could be garnered from a stack of basic-looking microgames lasting mere seconds with only the vaguest of instructions to point the player in the right direction. Touched! was one of the absolute best indications early in the DS’ life of the insane potential of touch screen gaming (it even did Fruit Ninja before Fruit Ninja) and its incredibly bizarre personality shone through every manic twist and turn. There are better WarioWare games out there, but this one is really special to me.

Continue reading