When the Nintendo Wii launched in 2006, it was clear from the very first moment that it was going to do things differently. Emphasizing motion-controls and a get-up and get-active style of play, the Wii was an instant hit with non-traditional gamers as well as core enthusiasts looking for something different. Sales of Wii hardware have been steadily through the roof, as it has reigned atop the worldwide home console hardware sales lists for much of its lifespan and is projected to be in short supply during the 2008 Christmas season, which would mark the third consecutive year of such high demand.
Yet, there is a void. As much fun as it is to pick up Madden 08, Wii Sports or Carnival Games and participate in the kind of active-play experience once limited to arcades, sometimes gamers just want to sink into a lounge chair, grab Wii classic controller and some snacks, and vegetate while defeating the evil empire or rescuing the princess old-school style. It’s only natural. Many of us grew up playing games this way, and as new and exciting as the Wii has been, sometimes you also want some of what we like to call the gaming equivalent of comfort food. Yet, this is not possible because the Wii classic controller is missing.
That, sadly, has been where the Wii has come up a little short. Too few games have offered the option to use the classic controller or the GameCube controller. Third-party offerings especially have come up short in this department. There are some which have gotten it right. Nintendo’s own Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl are three of the finest examples of this. Each of those titles offers the gamer the option to use Wii remote-based controls or traditional controls, and it is a feature that is most welcome. Likewise, Sega’s Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity and the MLB Power Pros games from 2K Sports offer such flexibility.
The developers of the aforementioned games have succeeded, but countless others have failed, getting caught up in the novelty of motion controls and neglecting to provide more control options to the user. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Sonic & The Secret Rings are two good games that definitely would have been improved had their creators given gamers such a choice. Lego Star Wars in particular is puzzling, because every other version of that game did utilize regular control pads, and one would think it wouldn’t have been too difficult to implement them in the Wii edition as well.
While non-motion controls would have been nice in those titles, as well as in movie-licensed fare such as Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda, they were at least playable without such a feature. Not every game was so lucky. The Wii version of Transformers: The Game was completely broken, thanks to the idiotic mapping of the camera to the motion sensor. Likewise, the version of TNA Wrestling for the Nintendo home console received far lower scores from most game reviewers, thanks primarily to a busted control scheme. Again, like Lego Star Wars, these two games were accompanied to market by PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, all of which obviously utilized the traditional control pad. There’s no good reason this feature shouldn’t have also been included in the Wii versions.
Nintendo wanted to try something new with their latest console, and in many ways it is admirable to see developers jumping on board with such enthusiasm. However, motion controls alone do not make a good game, and while certain titles take full advantage of this feature, others misuse it or tack on motion controls simply as a novelty. As exciting and enjoyable as it is to partake of new experiences on the Wii – casting spells as Harry Potter or slaying slimes in Dragon Quest Swords, for example – it is time for developers to realize that there are many traditional games that should have traditional controls, and even if they feel the need to experiment with motion controls, they should at least give the gamer who purchased their product the option to select how he or she wants to play.