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Monday, June 27, 2011


Okay, Nintendo, let's talk about your new console.

Let's go back to when the Wii first came out. Everyone was so happy about the motion controls. People were voting it as their favorite generation's console, over the XBox 360 and PS3. The games were fun, short, colorful. You marketed to casual gamers, and made that known. Developers were excited to see what they could do with the new motion controls, and we consumers all waited with them.

Now watch the screen as I fast-forward.

Look, there. See what happened? The same damn thing you always do -- your grasp exceeds your reach. Like always, you've got no third party support. The third parties you did have churned out crap mini-games like M&M's Kart Racing, Hell's Kitchen, and Hannah Montana's Sing-Off. When you've got a game like "We Dare" on your console and no others (even if it's not getting a U.S. release) something's wrong. It's the same thing that happened to Atari with those adult games like Custer's Revenge.

The controls worked great... for your games. But for everyone else, the controls were either tacked-on or not even there. The controls are so imprecise that the only way to do anything is to *waggle-waggle-waggle*. Even now you've stopped making simulations like baseball, and ended up making that *waggle-waggle-waggle* just another move (like New Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Galaxy).

And now we stop, here. Five years later.

Every console has its problems. Every system has advantages and disadvantages. XBox 360 is strong in online support, but bad hardware. PS3 has a nice game base, but is expensive. But my beef is that Nintendo never really got it right from the start.

The American gamer (meaning me) does not want to jump around and stand up to play games. He wants to sit and be lazy and relax. The American gamer doesn't play video games to lose weight. The American gamer likes taking advantage of HD visuals. The American gamer wants to play something that doesn't always feature Mario, Kirby, King Hippo, or some other cutesy character. Sometimes, they want to bash some brains all over the screen. I have to get my adult fix of games on my PC (Bioshock, Left 4 Dead, Portal 2).

And the worst part is that no Wii game ever took true advantage of the motion controls. When I saw the Wii, the first thing I thought was "sword-fighting game". You'd think that'd be the first thing they produce. It's Japan, for crying out loud! Shogun! Ninjas! Giant fighting saiyan robots with power swords! Something! I don't care what you do, just make it so I can fling my wiimote like a samurai warrior.


But what did we get? Baseball. Hang-gliders. Cooking. Simple mini-games instead of full simulations. Now it's at the point where the motion controls are simply another button (like Super Mario Bros. Wii where you shake it to pick something up). And you know why? Because the motion controls, the thing the Wii was going to be famous for, just don't work.

Okami was a game that should have started on the Wii. And then it was ported. Horribly. The drawing mechanic was awful. I had to stop playing it, because it was too frustrating to draw a perfect circle over and over in the heat of battle. Mario Kart including a steering wheel with its game, implying simulated driving. But it didn't work. It was too imprecise, and prevented competition. It's a lot faster to push a button to do a wheelie than to lift your controller up and down (several times to get it to work).

Christ, even the cover art was ported badly.
Zack and Wiki, probably the game to take the most advantage of motion controls, even grated on me. For one thing, it's a point-and-click puzzle game, so it uses crazy moon logic. Plus it's obnoxious having to turn the wiimote around in your hands all the time, and then shove forward constantly. It's like trying to get a key into a lock that will only fit a certain way.

And now you've got the Wii U. I'll admit, I was delighted when I saw it. It looked like they were pulling things back for the American gamer. HD support, a traditional controller, and a new touchpad interface a la the iPad. It is what I wish the Wii was.

But the games they're announcing with it seem so pedantic and uninteresting. Another Paper Mario. Another Luigi's Mansion. Another Pikmin. Another New Super Mario Bros. Another Mario Party. Come on. I'm sick of this kiddy shit.  And now you say the Wii U won't use multiple controllers?  99% of the time I'm playing the Wii, I'm playing with my wife. But the only game I've found that we both have fun playing is Super Smash Brothers, because it has a handicap and a nice come-back-after-you-die function.  The learning curve with her is so steep that any other experience too frustrating for either one or both of us.

I'm a little surprised that Nintendo's stock went down after the annoucement, but there's a certain logic to it. Some people say stockholders were confused about its presentation, but I thought it was pretty clear. Nintendo's always trying hard to be innovative, but these days, it seems like its right hand doesn't know what the left is doing. It makes a console to compete with Sony and Microsoft, but doesn't even make it HD. It's big seller is motion controllers, but they can't be used because they're imprecise. They release a 3-D handheld game system that you have to hold in a certain spot to see, then add jiggle controls so you have to move the thing around.

So tl;dr: Nintendo, I love you. But you're going to have to knock it out of the park with this Wii U if you're going to win me back.
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