Thursday, January 27, 2011

Golden eras of gaming: Wii Part II

While part one of our rundown of the Wii’s best games may have highlighted Nintendo’s habit of repackaging old content alongside newer goodies, the entries in part two just go to show why this isn’t a problem-old games can reach previously undreamt of heights on the Wii, whilst the best new titles are good enough not to be overshadowed.

5. Super Mario Galaxy
While its sequel may have added Yoshi-riding and some avant-garde level design to the mix, it’s here in Super Mario Galaxy that we first see the bulk of the features that make both games such deserving high-scorers. The differing gravity effects, clever power ups and the hub/galaxy/worlds structure all made their debut here, and as such, Super Mario Galaxy moved our expectations of both the Wii and the Mario series up a few notches. There aren’t many games that can change your perception of both software and hardware capabilities in one fell swoop, but this one managed it.

4. No More Heroes
Suda 51’s deft touch strikes so many perfect notes with No More Heroes. The cartoonish adventures of Travis Touchdown’s quest to lightsaber his way to the status of No:1 Assassin might have an underdeveloped open world structure, but in every other respect it walks a tightrope perfectly. It's a hardcore game that doesn’t resort to drenching the screen with buckets of gore, it musters a few touches of juvenile humour without actually becoming childish, it leavens its scatological moments with some higher satire and, amazingly, it actually makes use of the Wiimote in a way that feels natural and effective.

3. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I’ve complained in the past that Twilight Princess feels like a Legend of Zelda greatest hits compilation, a game that’s too busy pushing all the old buttons to find anything new to offer, and I stand by that assessment. Improved graphics aside, there’s nothing to experience here that you wouldn’t also find in Ocarina of Time. But before I damn too hard with this faint praise, lets just remember what an incredible game Ocarina of Time actually was. Simply being able to live up to it is an incredible triumph for Twilight Princess, so maybe we should give it extra kudos for matching its predecessor and being prettier to boot.

All those wonderful things you expect of a Zelda game are here: that wonderful childlike sense of anticipation as you explore new caves, forests and dungeons. The slow and painstaking untangling of plot points and puzzles that unfold over hours instead of minutes. The repeating learning curves of challenge, frustration and triumph, and the sweetly idyllic environment of Hyrule (admittedly looking a little beshadowed this time out) are all set out for your enjoyment. Plus, you get to play as wolf too, how cool is that? (Shut up Okami, I’m not placing you any higher.)

2. Metroid Prime Trilogy
As the first Metroid Prime game for the Wii I had intended to give this spot solely to Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, but the availability of the last-gen games ported to the Wii and bundled with MP3:C was too good a bargain to resist, even if it is enough combined gameplay to see you through till Summer.

The appeal of Metroid games is simple. You start out powerful and grow steadily more so as you try to unpick a convoluted space-opera plot by exploring and re-exploring numerous brightly coloured and cleverly designed worlds. There’s an enormous sense of satisfaction you get from returning to places you’d previously visited only to find that your new abilities will now help you enter areas that frustrated you the first time around, and the joy of progress is complemented by the exhilarating combat that results from the Prime series’ shift into first person shooting.

1. Resident Evil 4
As the game that started the shift away from survival horror and towards the action oriented meat-headedness of Resident Evil 5, there’s an urge to be a little dismissive of Resident Evil 4, but once you stop to give it some thought you’ll be swept away in how good it all is.

Hours and hours of gameplay unfold across rural backwoods, ancient castles and deserted laboratories, and are punctuated by numerous excellent set-pieces and boss battles. It’s actually impossible to pick a defining moment from the flood of excellence on offer. Your first hessian-headed chainsaw wielder? The chitinous headman in the burning barn? The knights in the darkened hallways? Those terrible, terrifying doughlike hosts? I could go on and on and on, the game boast so many high points.

Just being a great game isn’t enough to make it the number one Wii game, however. What really makes it stand out is the perfect implementation of the Wii’s motion controls combined with the inclusion of all the special extras and mini-games such as Mercenaries and the Seperate Ways storyline. More content and better controls than any other edition of the game makes Resident Evil 4 the ultimate rarity, a cross-platform game that is at its very best on the Wii.