2009: The Wii finally comes of age

houseofthedeadoverkill

This holiday season will see the Wii celebrate its second birthday. While Nintendo’s software for the console has been outstanding, the support from other developers has not been as forthcoming. But just like the DS, it looks like it will be the third year of the Wii’s life when it will really find its feet. The combination of improved software and peripherals means that Wii gamers have a lot to look forward to in the coming year.

Peripheral vision

Whether you believe that MotionPlus is an admission by Nintendo that the Wiimote is deeply flawed, or that it is the next logical step in Motion Control, it’s hard not to be excited. By using accelerometers exclusively, Nintendo has limited the Wii to tilt and gesture interfaces in most titles. 1:1 has only really been possible in games where motion is tightly controlled and straightforward – Tiger Woods ’09 being a prime example. Developers will be getting access to the device this month, so it’s likely we will begin to see games incorporate the technology shortly after Wii Sports Resort in the spring. Other than Resort and Red Steel 2, nothing has been confirmed to use MotionPlus as yet, so the potential of being able to directly wield a Lightsaber/Master Sword will have to be enough for now. What is certain though is that MotionPlus, in conjunction with the balance board and even Wii Speak, will be a giant leap forward in interface technology.

Japanese third-party support

While the second half of ’08 still looks short of true AAA titles, new games are being announced for a western ’09 release on a regular basis. Japanese developers in particular have jumped on the Wii bandwagon with some genuinely exciting titles like Rune Factory, Fatal Frame 4, Tenchu 4 and Arc Rise Fantasia. Encouragingly, the support is made up of traditional/hardcore titles. Namco-Bandai have also committed the next mothership installment of their Tales of series to the Wii rather than the HD consoles – the decision mirrors Capcom’s choice of the Wii for Monster Hunter 3. Sadly Square Enix’s support remains minimal, with Crystal Chronicles being as elusive as ever.

Western third-party support

The west also has some interesting games lined up for ’09, the obvious highlight being The Conduit. EA’s increased understanding of the platform was demonstrated with the all-round excellence of their All-play sports games this year. With the addition of MotionPlus, it’ll be interesting to see where the giant will take its most bankable properties. Ubisoft will also finally be delivering the second installment of Red Steel, which in addition to using MotionPlus, will have had enough time in development to be thoroughly polished. Overlord Dark Legend and House of the Dead: Overkill also deserve honorable mentions.

New wave

By far the most exciting development over the last few months is the rise in innovative and unique games being announced for the Wii. The vanguard of this movement is of course PlatinumGames’ MadWorld, but there are many others of note. Kizuna may end up being the Wii’s Shadow of Colossus, while Fragile and Deadly Creatures look superbly atmospheric. Spyborgs may have had a controversial debut, but newcomers Bionic Games’ talent should ensure the quality of the final game. Renegade Kid, who made a name for themselves on the DS, are also working on their first Wii game rumored to feature Count Dracula as the main character. Vanillawares’s Oboro Muramasa Youtouden also appears to be progressing well, and will be on display at this years TGS.

Nintendo

The first year and a half saw Nintendo churn out their most popular franchises quicker than any had imagined. The flip side of this is that the second half of ’08 will see very little from Nintendo that excites the traditional gamer. Despite this, there are a number of projects in the works to look forward to in ’09. Factor 5’s take on Kid Icarus will definitely push the graphics envelope, and Retro Studios will be sure to do the same with their as yet unrevealed title. Nintendo has confirmed the development of Pikmin and Zelda, and now Nintendo’s teams will also have the option of using any of the peripherals they have released for the system to enhance the experience. Will Pikmin 3 use Wii Speak for co-op play? MotionPlus seems like a no-brainer for the next Zelda. There are even reasons to be excited for Wii Sports Resort – being a sequel, the game will be pitched at gamers who have already played the original; ones who have graduated from non-gamer status. Miyamoto echoed this by stating he intended the jetski section to be comparable to the Wave Race series.

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