With price and date out of the way, only one very big issue remains: games. A launch lineup can make a console into an overnight sensation (Halo, anyone?) or kill it for all intents and purposes before its first year on the market is over (Jaguar). Nintendo doesn’t have a very good track record with launch titles, at least for the past two generations. N64 debuted with only two games—Super Mario 64 and Wave Race 64. Mario 64 was the only reason the N64 lived past its troubled birth. It was such a mind-blowing revolution of a game that most of us didn’t care about the software shortage.
GameCube did not have the luxury of an industry paradigm shift for a launch title. Everything about the launch felt rushed; GameCube was last to market by a couple weeks, and while its starting library was of modest size, most of the games were bare-minimum deals that only showed the basic abilities of the console. There was another Wave Race to keep up traditions, but Mario was nowhere to be seen. Instead we got the rather cruel behavioral experiment that was Luigi’s Mansion—it was neither a true platformer nor a very good game. I can imagine the incredulous laughter at Nintendo HQ after November 2001: “Ha! Look, they actually bought a 50 dollar tech demo!”
The only game I was really excited about was Rogue Leader, and that’s because I’m a diehard Star Wars nut. What followed November 18th, 2001 was a long drought until we got Smash Bros. Melee.
I’m relieved to report that Nintendo isn’t making the same mistake with Wii. The launch list isn’t sparkling with immaculate killer-apps that will change gaming forever, but I never expected that anyway. What really matters is Zelda. Honestly, if not for Zelda, the Wii launch might not be such a huge deal. But with Zeldaas a launch title, November 19th can’t go badly. It’s the biggest thing Miyamoto’s been working on for at least the past three years. That game alone makes the Wii worth buying.
…And then, we have the rest, which actually doesn’t look too shabby. Red Steel, Excite Truck, Rayman, Madden 07, Elebits, Marvel Alliance, Metal Slug, they all look very good for launch titles. They aren’t designed to turn the industry on its ear just yet, but to prove that the Wii hardware isn’t a gimmick. There are an admittedly large number of licensed kiddie games out for a quick buck, but the number of quality ideas makes up for it. Where else could you get Trauma Center: Second Opinion? (The DS version is very addictive, by the way).
Compared to the shaky identity crisis that was the DS launch, Wii is doing fine when it comes to games. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for the really good stuff—Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3 and of course, Smash Bros. Brawl. In any case, we have the Virtual Console to keep us busy. Oh, and ZELDA.
So, there you have it. All things considered, the Wii is worth at least 250 out of your next paycheck. Is it in impulse buy territory? No, unfortunately not; Nintendo knows how to make as much as possible for their product. But it’s cheap enough to be tempting, especially when you have to auction off red cells to afford that PS3. At a month out, complaining about the release date isn’t really worth it anymore, and the near-guarantee of hardware and software at launch makes waiting a little easier. And for once, we have some really good games to look forward to. Nintendo has learned from its mistakes, and the rest of us finally get to benefit from that
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