EA challenge Nintendo’s software dominance

For far too long the only thing to look forward to on Nintendo’s home consoles has been Nintendo’s own software. 2009 could be the year that publishing giants Ubisoft, Sega and EA finally begin to wrestle away some of their dominance with a selection of titles that have been designed from the ground-up for the Wii. Here TVGB takes a look at the key titles in EA’s 2009 lineup for the Wii.

Boom Blox Bash Party

Boom Blox was one of the best Wii games released last year, yet despite selling well it didn’t quite reach the sales heights that a hyped game bearing Steven Spielberg’s name perhaps should have. The sequel has three things in particular that EA hope will make it more appealing to a wider audience. The first is a larger selection of multiplayer levels – great news as these were the most enjoyable in the original. The second is being able to download user created levels without the need for friend codes. The original’s level creator was intuitive but was hampered by the Friend Codes requirement. If the new version even begins to approach creativity offered by LittleBigPlanet, Bash Party may end up offering enormous longevity. The third is the word Party on the box art – cynical to be sure, but if it helps Boom Blox to achieve the sales it deserves then so be it.

Grand Slam Tennis

If EA really has been studying Nintendo’s software success with the Wii, then Grand Slam Tennis seems to be the culmination of their effort. The game’s art style is pitched perfectly between cartoonish and realistic which will allow the game to appeal to the entire Wii audience. The multiple control schemes have also been cannily conceived to cast the widest net possible. Non-gamers can jump right in with just Wii remote gestures, and traditional gamers can use Motion Plus and the nunchuk to control players with unprecedented realism. If EA can include an online mode that manages the same feat of satisfying all types of gamers, then they’ll not only have a monstrous seller on their hands, but maybe even a contender for game of the year. Success really does hinge upon the controls though, and with so many potential configurations, there is a concern that the various configurations may not end up getting the development time they need. EA will also have Sega’s Virtua Tennis 2009 to compete with, which is coming out earlier and is also supporting Motion Plus.

Tiger Woods 10

Of all the licensed sports games that EA put out on a yearly basis, their most important by far this year on the Wii is Tiger Woods 10. Other than tennis, there is no other sport that lends itself to 1:1 accuracy quite as golf does. Past updates have done their best to overcome the Wii remote’s deficiencies but solutions for things like putting and fading have remained frustratingly imprecise. 2009 will be the first year EA will be able to achieve the level of club control they’ve been striving for with Motion Plus. Coupled with the Balance Board, and the developers will have so much swing data to work with that title could become a genuine benefit to real-life golfers.

The updates to Madden and FIFA will also be interesting to watch this year. Worrying rumors suggest that Madden has undergone a face-lift and is no longer attempting realistic visuals – a move that could easily backfire among its traditional fans. FIFA on the other hand will be looking to build on last year’s excellent update which managed to copy Pro Evolution Soccer’s groundbreaking new control scheme, and even improved on it.

Dead Space Extraction

There have been concerns over Extraction’s switch to on-rails gameplay, but since the game was first announced EA has done its utmost to allay gamer’s concerns. In fact almost all of the points bought up by TVGB in an earlier article have been addressed by the developer. Despite being on-rails, the game features branching paths, puzzles and varied shooting mechanics to add sophistication to a genre that can otherwise become overly simplistic and repetitive. The game also manages to trump The House of the Dead: Overkill by dynamically changing the difficulty of the levels based on whether they are being tackled in single-player or in co-op mode. Previews also suggest that Extraction is also one the prettiest games yet seen on the Wii. Though the concern remains that no matter how EA word it, a “guided first-person experience” is still an on-rails shooter at heart.

Spore Hero

With Will Wright leaving EA, this title is obviously being developed without his input. Despite this, what little is known about the title sounds promising – the game will focus on the Creature Creator aspect of the original and feature action oriented gameplay designed around the Wii remote and potentially Motion Plus. If EA can incorporate the advances in online functionality it is making with Boom Blox 2, then Spore Hero could turn into a key holiday title for the giant.