Surviving the Wii game drought

N64 and WiiThose familiar with Nintendo are also familiar with the double-edged sword of the Nintendo Seal of Approval. Sure, Nintendo’s first-party publications are usually incredible in quality, but that quality comes at a price: time. Nintendo’s big games are usually spaced incredibly far apart with little to keep us occupied in the interim. I know I’ve personally been dealing with Nintendo withdrawal lately, so I’ve decided to help ease those of you in the same situation by invoking the ghosts of gaming past and putting our misery in perspective.The worse dearth of Nintendo games I can remember was on the N64. Issues of timing began with the system itself, which suffered from repeated delays. When it was finally released, it came with untold expectations, but only featured one major title for a period of about three months, when Mario Kart 64 came out and had to tide us over for about six months until Star Fox 64. Does this ring any bells for you Wii owners? This time around we were given a Zelda entry, and then about four months later we got Paper Mario, which as been followed by a huge dearth of quality releases. History appears to be repeating itself, and we’re again sitting around with an innovative piece of hardware and hardly any games that take advantage of it.

The Wii, fortunately, has quite a few more minor titles than the N64 did. I’ve owned Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wario Ware, Super Monkey Ball, Elebits, Excite Truck, Sonic and Mario Party 8, and most of them have been quite entertaining. The problem is, none of them have had that “essential gaming experience” feel to them. The problem with most of the games that have come out are the same as those few initial N64 supplemental titles: they’re not deep enough to offer a robust gaming expereince. The simplicity of Wii Sports and Wii Play means their replay value suffers. Wario Ware, for all its mini games, is ridiculously short and gets old almost as fast. Games like Elebits and Excite Truck were surprisingly great, but also got old quickly. Mario Party 8 isn’t very much fun unless you have a full garrison of players, and even then it’s nothing revolutionary. I’d rather not drum up any bad memories by laboring over why Monkey Ball and Sonic were disappointing.

Fortunately for the Wii, it’s release library is bolstered with nostalgia. The virtual console is a great idea, and I’m thoroughly glad I now own a legal copy of Actraiser. The main problem with the virtual console is that Nintendo fans most likely haven’t stopped playing these games since they’ve been released. I wouldn’t consider myself a Nintendo fanboy specifically, but I still keep a working SNES by my television with a bundle of choice games. Even if you get a chance to snag a title you don’t own or haven’t played to death, chances are it’ll be a minor diversion at best.

Therefore, despite numerous distractions, we Nintendo veterans feel just like we did with our N64s: bored and impatient. Most people who own a Wii have been done with Zelda for quite some time now, and there hasn’t been much to keep us occupied. I know I’ve been visiting the Smash Bros. Brawl page every day, hoping the December 3rd release date will have magically changed. Sadly, it hasn’t yet.

Looking back on the N64 experience with a Wii perspective, we had a lot more quality games available now than we did then. When Mario 64 got old, all we had was Mario Kart to keep our N64 experience going for the ungodly 6-month period before Star Fox 64 saved us. Star Fox, in turn, didn’t even need to hold our attention for two months before GoldenEye bought Nintendo all the time they needed to get their game-making machine up and running. Of course there were other games along the way, but these were the major ones, and they strung us along one game at a time.

Again, this is remarkably similar to the Wii. As previously mentioned, we have Twilight Princess and Paper Mario as solid games, the Wii version of Mario 64 and Mario Kart. We know Smash Bros. is coming out in December, which will most likely buy the Wii enough time to get rolling, just as GoldenEye did for the N64.

What Wii users need is a Star Fox. Star Fox 64 came out about nine months after the N64’s release, and we’re pushing nine at the moment. As timing would have it, we’re also pushing towards the release of Metroid Prime 3. It’s coming out a bit sooner than Star Fox did, but it will have some help bridging the GoldenEye gap from the Tombraider remake and Mario Galaxy.

If the N64 was any indication, the worst is over as far as Nintendo’s release doldrums are concerned; Metroid Prime 3 represents gamers getting over the hump. From here, every Wii user should be able to look forward to a fairly consistent gaming experience into the foreseeable future. All we have to do is just make it until next Monday, and the temporal curse that is the Nintendo Seal of Approval will be broken ”“ if only for the time-being.