Top 10 new Wii games to play before E3

Infendo

e3logo.jpgBefore a single Wii had been sold, gamers already knew what they had to look forward to. Even months prior to their first enthusiastic Wii remote waggle, in fact, people were drooling over games like Wii Sports, Red Steel and Twilight Princess.

Essentially, that feeling of assured anticipation has remained since. Facing the unknown is something Wii enthusiasts have yet to experience, really; major Wii games have come and gone, but there have always been confirmed new ones to look forward to.

Until now, that is. Sure, there have been some exciting rumors that refuse to go away, as well as a few minor game announcements. But for the most part, Nintendo’s plans for the industry’s blockbuster-filled autumn and winter months are a complete mystery.

It would be foolish to think Nintendo does not have some major announcements in store, and with E3 only two months away, it won’t be long before Nintendo fans have more premier titles to look forward to. Fortunately for Wii owners, the eight weeks leading to E3 should be quick and painless; 2008 has already been kind, and there are several awesome new Wii titles already sitting on store shelves.

So do yourself a favor; before E3 and the insanity that will ensue, give some of these great Wii games a shot before you start getting hyped for new ones like Kid Icarus Wii and forget about them.

10. Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection
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Price: $29.99 retail
Reviews: 81 Metacritic average

Blake pimped this game last month on Infendo for a reason.

Sure, the game initially appears to be a run-of-the-mill budget title, has a shockingly awful video introduction, utilizes few of the Wii’s unique hardware features and can be found at some retailers for $14.99 or less. Then consider that developer FarSight Studios’ last Pinball Hall of Fame project, the GameCube’s Gottleib Collection, was as enjoyable as getting a quarter stuck in a real pinball machine, and it seems obvious that by all accounts, this game should suck.

Only it doesn’t. The Williams Collection offers ten faithfully recreated versions of legendary pinball tables, including Pinbot and Whirlwind, with a surprisingly slick presentation, all running at a smooth 60 frames per second. Add the enjoyable multiplayer modes, motion-controlled table bumping and realistic pinball physics, and The Williams Collection is one of the better pinball games ever made.

09. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King
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Price: $15.00 WiiWare
Reviews: 83 on 1up.com

My Life as a King, one of WiiWare’s premier launch titles, would have perhaps been better served if its title were shortened as such. The fact that the Final Fantasy moniker is so deceptively attached to it has resulted in some unfair assessments of the core game itself. No, this is not your typically epic, story-driven Final Fantasy RPG offering; in fact, My Life as a King has more in common with The Sims franchise than it does with the legendary hallmark it bears.

That being said, My Life as a King definitely rewards those able to look past their own presuppositions of what the game should be and focus on what it is: an engaging management game shining with the polish and detail gamers have come to expect from Square Enix.

Fans of MySims and Animal Crossing will love building their own vast kingdom and commanding their subjects in My Life as a King. Diehard fans of Final Fantasy, on the other hand, may not.

08. Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
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Price: $39.99 retail
Reviews: 83 Metacritic average

Several developers have tried to include motion controls into their established sports franchises. The results have ranged from fun-but-flawed (Madden) to downright messy (NBA Live), but one thing is certain; no sports game has been made better because of the Wii.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 has changed that. The sleeper-hit Elebits was impressive early proof that Konami understood Wii better than most, and with this soccer masterpiece, Konami has reestablished itself as one of the premier third-party developers on Wii.

Instead of forcing waggle in the name of “innovation,” Konami conceived one of the best Wii remote controls schemes to date. Allowing players complete IR control of the on-pitch action, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 allows an unprecedented level of control for a console soccer game; players simply point-and-click to direct their players and make elaborate defensive adjustments on the move. It is remarkably smooth and intuitive, far surpassing any of its cross-console brethren. As if the controls weren’t dreamy enough, Konami added clever Mii support and complete online functionality.

07. No More Heroes
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Price: $29.99 retail
Reviews: 83 Metacritic average

Yes, I am aware No More Heroes was released in January, making it old news in gaming circles. But I still added it to this list of “new” Wii games to check out; it has been one of the best games to hit the system this year, and when people start buying it, I’ll stop listing it.

The brainchild of controversial game developer Goichi Suda, No More Heroes puts players in the blood-soaked shoes of Travis Touchdown, a talented young assassin with aspirations to be the world’s top-ranked killer. Armed with a wicked faux-lightsaber, Travis is tasked with murdering the ten killers ranked above him to reach his goal. Players simply tap the A button to strike enemies until they are weakened and then finish them off by following on-screen swing prompts, resulting in some extremely satisfying motion controls.

No More Heroes not only has a great premise and slick cel-shaded visual style, but it is really a passionate love letter to video games as a medium. The controls are clever and well-implemented, the characters are memorable and the assassination missions provide some of the most fun and ruthlessly intense gaming on Wii.

06. Lost Winds
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Price: $10.00 WiiWare
Reviews: 82 on IGN.com

Lost Winds has only been out for a few days, but it has already cultivated an enormous and passionate following online. People just can’t seem to stop praising Frontier Developments’ WiiWare launch title, unequivocally the best of the first downloadable batch.

Fans of Nintendo’s GameCube masterpiece the Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker will find themselves at home with the premise of Lost Winds. An innocent villager must save his peaceful island from the evil Balasar by using and manipulating the wind. Players progress through gorgeous platforming levels by aiming at the screen and directing the island’s breezes to move, similar to the touch-platformer gameplay mechanic in the hit DS game Kirby: Canvas Curse.

Frontier Developments deserves serious credit. With Lost Winds, it has created a title that does more on Wii with 43 MB than most games do with an entire disc. Beautiful visuals and compelling gameplay for a mere $10.00? WiiWare has arrived with a bang.

05. Wii Fit
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Price: $89.99 retail
Reviews: 80 Metacritic average

The so-called “hardcore gamer” can scoff at Wii Fit as much as s/he wants; Nintendo is trying some really cool things with this game, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not at least check it out.

For the slight chance that some may not know about this sure multi-million-selling blockbuster, Wii Fit is an exercise and fitness game developed and published by Nintendo. The game comes packaged with the Wii Balance Board, a scale-like peripheral upon which players stand and perform activities ranging from yoga to dancing to skiing minigames. But the meat of Wii Fit involves exercise and strength training; marketed as a personal exercise trainer, the game tracks your weight and daily fitness progress ala Brain Age and Wii Sports.

In addition to the exercise and yoga, Wii Fit offers a robust selection of entertaining minigames that make full use of the Balance Board. The game is set to take North America by storm next week.

04. Boom Blox
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Price: $49.99 retail
Reviews: 85 Metacritic average

There was a lot of skepticism when Steven Spielberg announced he would be working on an exclusive Wii game in conjunction with Electronic Arts. Personally, I thought it was an absolute joke.

But I, and the ever-pessimistic skeptics like me, could not possibly have been more wrong. Spielberg claimed he wanted to make a game he could enjoy with his children; those kids must have good taste, because what he envisioned has become one of the best third-party Wii titles yet. The objective of Boom Blox is to simply destroy towers of Jenga-like block structures by any means necessary. Usually, this involves throwing objects at them with the Wii remote. Then, as the title suggests, things explode and blocks come crashing down. Though strategy often comes into play, the harder you throw, the more damage you’ll likely do. Keep those wrist straps fastened.

Boom Blox is almost impossible to put down when played with friends. The concept couldn’t possibly be any simpler, but as is the case with any great video game, it is an absolute joy in practice.

03. Mario Kart Wii
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Price: $49.99 retail
Reviews: 82 Metacritic average

As I wrote two weeks ago in my review, Mario Kart Wii can at times be unnecessarily frustrating and heinously unfair. Yet despite its flaws, it is still one of the most enjoyable experiences on Wii.

Nintendo played it safe with Mario Kart Wii, opting to polish and improve the established instead of making any dramatic changes to the already successful formula. For that, you’ll hear no complaints from me. Nintendo has added more characters, motorcycles, a trick system and, of course, the Wii Wheel for steering control. Though the GameCube controller provides more precise control for players focused on trimming their lap times, I cannot deny the sheer fun factor of playing with the Wii Wheel. It is also surprisingly accurate and, unlike the Wii Zapper, is definitely a worthwhile peripheral.

Though the game is hindered by extreme rubberbanding at higher speeds, Mario Kart Wii is often vibrantly colorful and it introduces some of the most inventive tracks in the series’ storied history, not to mention smooth and elaborate online modes unrivaled on Wii.

02. Okami
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Price: $39.99 retail
Reviews: 89 Metacritic average

Originally developed by the now-defunct Clover Studios, Okami was one of the most critically acclaimed games of 2006. Unfortunately, it was a commercial flop for publisher Capcom. But Okami was a major gaming accomplishment, and thankfully for Wii owners, it has been reborn on a system far better suited for such a unique title.

Okami is an epic action-adventure title largely inspired by Nintendo’s own Legend of Zelda series. Players take the role of Amaterasu, a wolf-goddess charged with saving her land from a great and powerful darkness. Back to the Zelda template, Okami plays similarly to the Wolf Link sections of Twilight Princess save for the addition of the celestial brush, which is used via Wii’s IR to interact with the game’s massive environments, perform special attacks and more.

Visually, Okami is an artistic achievement for gaming; with a dramatic graphical style that makes the game seem like a watercolor painting in motion, Capcom’s masterpiece is a visual treat. A game this good demands an audience; let’s hope Okami finds it on Wii.

01. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
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Price: $49.99 retail
Reviews: 94 Metacritic average

The above image perhaps describes Super Smash Bros. Brawl better than any writer could; players choose a famous Nintendo icon and proceed to beat the snot out of their legendary peers.

As is the case with Mario Kart Wii, Nintendo has not changed the Smash Bros. formula other than to perfect it. Perhaps Nintendo inadvertently doomed the popular fighting series; after all, where could it possibly go from here? Brawl is perhaps the “biggest” Nintendo game ever made, boasting a massive list of unlockables, characters, stages, items, options and modes that literally never seems to end. Most players will still be collecting new stickers and trophies in the midst of heated mascot battles years from now.

Above all else, Brawl is a passionate history lesson of all things Nintendo and a valentine from the company to its faithful. It boasts meticulous detail and razor-sharp gameplay, and for all that and more, it will likely top another Infendo top ten list this December.

Agree? Disagree? Share your own list in the comments.