Wii controls: the successes and failures

When the Wii remote and Nunchuck were first revealed, they held the potential to revolutionize both casual and hardcore control schemes alike. Since launch, the potential for simplified controls has largely been fulfilled, with Wii Sports setting the tone early on. The hardcore path has been a lot more rocky however, but the situation does seem to be slowly improving.

Red-herring

The FPS was one of he first genres seen as being ripe for re-invention, but the much hyped Red Steel was not the title gamers had been expecting. In fact, Red Steel‘s sluggish nature did enormous damage to the idea that the Wii was capable of producing FPS controls that could surpass dual-analogue, let alone mouse and keyboard. The arrival of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was never going to prove conclusive as the series had long ago been classified as a first-person-adventure. It was EA that finally fulfilled the potential with Medal of Honor Heroes 2, whose controls were unarguably excellent. It was just a shame that the game itself shared assets with the PSP version and was rather generic. Until a truly excellent FPS game arrives with controls comparable to Medal of Honor Heroes 2, the matter will remain unsettled.

Failure to Launch

Nintendo have traditionally launched their consoles with games that showcase their new controllers in their best light. Super Mario 64 made thorough use of the N64’s analogue stick, and Luigi’s Mansion did the same with the GameCube’s dual analogue stick/shoulder button layout. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was an excellent game, but was not an entirely convincing argument for Wii controls in traditional Nintendo franchises, mainly due to its obvious GameCube roots. Super Mario Galaxy‘s seamless integration of motion/tilt/pointer functionality was a huge success by comparison, and Mario Kart Wii’s tilt based steering also looks like being a successful update of the series. When Nintendo finally follows through on their promise of new IPs (that are free of gamer expectation and baggage), they will really feel free to create radically new control schemes.

Pro Revolution Soccer

EA’s ’07 Madden and Tiger Woods titles were promising efforts, but were subsequently let down by their ’08 updates that did little to expand on what came earlier. FIFA similarly disappointed with a dumbed-down control scheme and family mode. The arrival of Pro Evolution Soccer on the Wii really has shown up EA’s efforts for what they were: uninspired. Konami’s newly developed controls for Pro Evo are nothing short of astonishing; the new precision and fluidity the pointer provides means that soccer as a team sport has finally arrived on home consoles. Anyone who’s dribbled their way down the wing while simultaneously repositioning their players to receive the ball in the box will know what I’m talking about.

Saber-lite

There is no shortage of 3rd person action games on the Wii; the stand-outs being Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition and No More Heroes. Handily, both these games succeed in different areas, and with different aspects of the Wii remote. Resident Evil’s increased accuracy through the pointer allowed gamers to target their zombie pursuers with horrifying accuracy, so much so that head shots and limb targeting became integral to the experience. No More Heroes on the other hand made great use of the Wii remote’s tilt detection to determine whether to deliver high or low slashes with the Beam Katana. If there is one genre that the Wii has consistently shown itself capable of advancing, it’s 3rd person action/adventure.

The Future

While WiiWare is yet to arrive, there are strong indications the platform is set to become a bastion of innovation when it comes to Wii controls. A prime example of this is LostWinds from UK developer Frontier. The title’s heavy use of the pointer to manipulate airflow and its hero looks set to take the traditional platformer where even Mario Galaxy didn’t dare.

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