Before our current generation of consoles, I was a proud owner of a Nintendo GameCube. In school, I was ridiculed by casual students for playing titles such as Tales of Symphonia, Windwaker and Beyond Good & Evil. Nintendo was deemed as too ‘kiddy’, aimed at a demographic of less than ten years old. Gamers all knew otherwise, but that was the perception my peers used to have. I had great faith when the Wii was in development, (codenamed Revolution) but imagined it as an even more underground, critically respected platform. I was sceptical that they could claim the family audience with this machine, but if anyone had the creativity to pull it off; it was Nintendo.
With Twilight Princess in the works as a launch title, the Nintendo game plan seemed obvious; claim the traditional, ‘hardcore’ gamers as the majority of consumers, whilst tempting the families with a bundled version of Wii Play. As we all know, the casual gamer market has exploded since then, turning Nintendo’s fortunes around into the biggest console war U- turn I can remember. The Wii is in more homes now than I dare to count. Everyone seems to be playing Mario & Sonic at the Olympics, with the word “kiddy” being lost to the wind. If anything though, in my opinion Nintendo has capitalised too much on this new consumer, so that traditional games are few and far between.
Enter a new game called Fragile: Sayonara Tsuki no Haiyko, released at the end of January. Developed by Namco and the team behind Baten Kaitos, the game puts you in a post apocalyptic world not too similar to Fallout 3 or I Am Legend. You take on the role of Seto, a fairly standard JRPG lead who is searching for any survivors. Rather than latching on the motion controls as a cheap gimmick, the Wii remote is used as a flash light, allowing you to search the wreckages for vital clues. It may not sound very revolutionary on paper, but in a survival horror game atmosphere is everything. Incorporating something as crucial as a torch is highly engaging and draws the player into the drama. Seto is just a young boy, piecing together stories so that players can discover how this disaster came about.
Whether it will ever hit western shores is anyone’s guess. Yet it’s these kinds of games that show that new innovation is still possible for the Nintendo Wii. I beieve even families will eventually tire of the same mini-game/party titles that are constantly rehashed for another cheap profit. The ‘big N’ has released most of its first party franchises, leaving 2009 looking stagnant on the release list. That needn’t be the case. Famitsu magazine gave Fragile 31 out of 40, a positive score for a critical publication. Surprisingly, Sega has announced Mad World a game that also seems to be pushing the boundaries. The stark visuals are in black and white, leaving only the blood in colour for a Sin City style gore fest. I just hope that these titles can be noticed and find a well deserved place on Wii owner’s shelves.
I’ve held off buying a Nintendo Wii, waiting for a substantial amount of games to be released that I would like to own. At the moment I’m usually renting Wii titles and playing them on my friend’s consoles. 2009 will be a make or break year in my eyes that will show that either the Wii has more fight in it, or is simply content to bathe in record breaking profit. Innovation, don’t let me down.