WiiWare debuts to muted response, slow servers in Japan

Wii Ware Japan Launch

WiiWare launched today in Japan along with a handful of games and the reactions have been — if we’re going to reduce each to a word or phrase — muted, surprising and  “frackin’ expensive!”

The first, muted, applies to the fact that these games apparently lack substance. Three of the four games previewed over at Game|life today are pretty vapid, with the Lonpos puzzle title going the extra mile by being both that and ugly to boot. Star Soldier R, a shooter that had me envisioning the glorious rebirth of Life Force and Super R-Type, lacks longevity but looks and sounds gorgeous. It’s more about high scores and leaderboards than a proper shoot ’em up experience, which means my 2000 Wii Points saved over from Xmas are still going to be searching for a home come May.

The second word, surprising, is best applied to the fact that Pay and Play finally reared its ugly head as a WiiWare warning message. Even for previously unannounced Pay and Play titles. Like Square’s inaugural WiiWare offering. That’s right, when you download the Final Fantasy title from WiiWare, you will be warned that additional content, like clothes and weapons perhaps, will cost a rumored 100-300 Wii Points each. Horse armor, like herpes, is apparently with us forever, content to appear every 10 months or so to ruin our day. At least they made the Pay and Play message bright red to adequately serve as a warning to us all.

Expensive rounds out this trifecta of woe because initial impressions reveal that these titles are priced way to high for what they offer. At least the marked up Virtual console games have nostalgia in there to somewhat justify the wallet drain they incur month over month! The aforementioned Lonpos is a 4:3 480i 1000 Wii point title and looks like garbage. Star Soldier R looks and plays incredible but the price, at 800, might be a little too steep for non Shmup fans. Angel’s Solitaire is an obvious play to the lower tier, but why pay for what Microsoft has gifted PC buyers with since the dawn of Windows?

The saving grace may very well be a game that many might write off early on due to its cutesy title. Saku Saku Animal Panic works because it has nice artwork, a simple play mechanic, and is priced right. It looks like round one in Japan goes to this title with Star Soldier coming in a distant second (or first for diehard shooter fans).

What was that Nintendo was saying about WiiWare not having schlock like Xbox Live Arcade? Here’s hoping it’s just Wired’s Chris Kohler that’s having a bad day with WiiWare.