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Wii would ike - A better Interface

I am not the biggest of console gamers. I've owned a total of four consoles since 1985 - an NES, an Xbox, an Xbox 360 and now a Wii. You will note a rather long gap between the first and second console in that list. The NES was a household system. The NES is long gone - misplaced ages ago after the latch that held down it's cartridge tray down failed. (Not that that had stopped us from using it.) This Isn't about anything on the Xboxes. This is about the Wii.

Now I only own two games for the Wii and as such my review will be based upon my experiences playing these. While you might say that this is unfair to the console, I would like to point out that the games in question are among the most highly praised on the system - Super Smash Brothers: Brawl and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I think reviewing a console based upon its star players is actually being lenient and stacking the deck in favor of the console. It doesn't help that I can't find much in the way of titles I want to buy.

First off, the Wiimote. I hate the Wiimote. It's a tiny little sliver of plastic with even smaller buttons. I am not a small guy, nothing about me is small, and my hands are no exception. My thumb covers the entire directional pad, and whenever I try to press one particular arrow on it, I also end up pressing the A button. It doesn't help that it's awkward to reach for most of the buttons whem holding the Wiimote like a remote, five on them sit under the heel of my palm and are well out of reach of my thumb. I have to use my left hand to operate them, taking it off of its own controller - the nunchuk. The nunchuk is even smaller than the Wiimote but its buttons are positioned so that I can easily reach all of them.

I like the fact that I don't have to hold the halves of the controller near each other to play, but their small size and tiny, closely spaced buttons make them painful to use. I don't mean metaphorically, I mean this controller causes carpal tunnel pain. And that's without flailing around like a spastic child being swarmed by bees.

Let there be Brawl

The shortest explaination of this is that Brawl is a fighting game. Like most games of this genre, it has a gimick to make it stand out. In the case of the Smash Brothers franchise, it's the fact that the characters involved come from every franchise Nintendo can get their hands on the licences for. The upside for Nintendo is that all of the character design has already been done, as with the thematic elements for the levels. All that they have to do is build all the levels proper, translate the characters into a form which makes sense in context and make it fun. Thus it is easier to end up with loads and loads of characters, because it's a matter of deciding what to include rather than building concepts.

The good news is that Brawl does NOT make use of the motion controller in the Wiimote and all of your actions are governed by the buttons and analog stick. While it's main game mode is multiplayer in the classic sense - four people sitting around the same TV, wailing on each other in a virtual realm - it does have a single player campaign.

In the single player game, the villains (a collection of villains from the various franchises) are running around blasting main characters with their freeze-rays while the "Ancient Minister" (R.O.B. in a disguise) is setting off portal Nukes all over the place. The game introduces one or two characters at a time as it bounces around from place to place and you go through platforming levels to get to boss fights and cutscenes. The platforming is nothing too insane (after all I got through it and I hate jumping puzzles). Along the way, the game follows the Lego schtick of advancing the plot without any dialogue at all (saving on localization and voice acting costs).

As you go along, the at first random bouncing around coalesces into several parallel and convergant plots with each cluster of characters pursuing their particular villain/goal in their subsection of the world. This leads to a series of odd matchups such as Samus and the Electric Rat, Snake and the Hadoken Cat, as well as Star Fox and Diddy Kong. This is where we fall into "Dear God, I hate that character."

But first I have two questions. One - why was Bowser the villain for the Kongs? Two - who is Mario chasing half the time if the Ancient Minister moves so fast that he's in all of the plots? Three - Why didn't Samus leave the Electric Rat inside the generator where he was being useful for the first time ever? Four - who are Marth Lucas and Metaknight?

My best guesses are - One: The villains decided Bowser had a better chance against the Kongs because they too lost to Mario. Two: No one, he keeps stopping to catch his breath. Three: That piteous crying echoed down the metal halls too well and drove Samus insane, so she let it out to shut it up. Four: Oh, they come from Fire Emblem, Earthbound and Kirby. Fire Emblem was only released in Japan, so that explains its effeminate swordsman. Earthbound was a demi-rpg about psychokinetic kids I never played. And sue me, I didn't play Kirby's games either.

The plot lines start to converge and we find out that Gannandorf, who'd been directing the villains up to this point, is taking orders from the big giant hand. Since Master Hand was introduced in the previous Smash Brothers games, I can't really comment on it other than to say I was as yet unsurprised. The now assembled cast storms the bomb storage facility, and Gannandorf orders all of the portal nukes set off at once. Realizing that this will kill all of his robot buddies, the Ancient Minister (R.O.B.) defects and Gannandorf sets off the bombs remotely anyway. You get a big "flee the exploding facility" sequence and boss fight against the second most obnoxious boss in the game for me - MetaRidley. Mainly because I'm not good at floating and MetaRidle frequently knocks out the platform you have to stand on.

Your assembled mess storms through the portal in a big cutscene and Gannadorf discovers that Master hand was literally just a puppet (with strings) whose puppetmaster turns out to be Doctor Manhattan. (So the game calls him Tabuu, but seriously, it's a PG Doctor Manhattan.) For whatever reason this offends Gannandorf and he joins your team. What, destroying the world in the name of Master Hand is ok, but destroying the world in the name of Doctor Manhattan is wrong? Since we get no dialogue, I have to assume that this is the case.

You wander through Doctor Manhattan's maze until you reach him and just before the final boss, the game introduces Sonic. Worse timing could not be had. Just before the final boss they introduce a new character with markedly different perfomance parameters and then don't give you time to learn how to use it. Needless to say, I didn't use Sonic during the boss fight, and lost five of my six combatants, finally winning with Marth. (Androgynous Anime swordsman for the win? *shrug*)

Now there are more characters than are unlocked in a playthrough of the single-player game. Most walkthroughs say you have to go back to certain levels and do certain things differently. But for two of the three, all I did was just keep playing classic mode until they popped up to challenge me, and were unlocked upon being defeated. The last guy, I've just ignored. It's not worth the bother.

Classic mode is the single player game from Smash Brothers: Melee. It's a series of events against various semi-random opponents with randomized modifiers on them. The announcer tries to make it sound epic, but this task is beyond any human capacity in some instances. When you play Luigi the announcer sounds like he's questioning your choice of characters, "Luigi?" But it really comes off as strained for the character 'Jigglypuff'. Seriously, there is no way to make that name sound like an epic combatant. What's worse is that just by fighting it, you've already lost all face. Winning is not something you can brag about ("I just beat Jigglypuff") and losing... well I'll put it another way. You just lost to a pink marshmellow whose most devastating attack is to FALL ASLEEP. Live that one down. I'm embarassed just to fight the thing.

By far the worst character to go up against in classic mode is Mr. Game and Watch. I have no idea what franchize it comes out of, but I do believe it was a GameBoy game. It is two dimensional, completely lacking any telescoping of attacks, batshit insane and a cheating bastard. It's even worse when its Metal Mr. Game and Watch, because your one way of taking it out (pushing it into the side walls of its stage) is impeded to next to nil, and it's still a cheating bastard. And in classic mode you only meet him on 'flatworld' which is a stage that looks like a GameBoy screen - thus completely lacking any pits to trick it into.

In all, Brawl is a fun time sucker, but it aggrivates my wrists to the point of agony so much so that typing at work the next day was still painful.

Elfboy's got Lycanthropy

I owned the original gold catridged Legend of Zelda on the NES, and I sucked at it. I would always be dead within a few screens of the starting location. I never found the first dungeon and I never knew the villain's name until recent years. That said, I didn't play another zelda game until just recently. Twilight Princess was the second game I got for the Wii, and I'm left wondering why people praise it.

I bought a classic controller because it had better positioned buttons (only the A button is unreachable as opposed to five of them) and caused less wrist strain. Twilight Princess won't let you use it. The game literally throws up a wall and tells you to plug a nunchuk into the Wiimote and prepare to suffer. Ok, it doesn't say 'prepare to suffer', but it might as well with the wrist damage the Wiimote inflicts. This time, in addition to the ergonomic problems, the game expects you to wave around the Wiimote to control Link. Control is too strong a word. "Suggest Link act" is more accurate. The game responds only if it feels like it. Also, Link loves to take flying leaps into lava because you were a mere five degrees off on the direction your pushed your analog stick. You have no camera controls while moving, and the game wants you to aim your ranged attacks by pointing the Wiimote at the screen. While I found you could disable the pointing aspect, this left you aiming with the analog stick, which is even worse. (if those are USB ports, can I plug in a mouse and keyboard? No? Darn)

The game makes the mistake of letting the player rename Link, so I called him ElfTwit - a literal decriptor. After your tutorial section, you get turned into a wolf and become the unwilling thrall of the most obnoxious little girl shadow demon they could have come up with. This character is so annoying that when the plot suggested she might be killed I was rooting for it to happen. Sadly, the plot spared her.

So as a wolf, you go around collecting mote of light to restore some part of the map to normal so you can go back to normal and enter that area's dungeon. You then kill the regional boss and recover it's plot item for your master. Good doggie, you can fetch.

Unfortunately, this game has so many moments where I had to consult a guide that its neither funny nor fun. Combine that with Link's lousy platforming abilities in a multitude of instant death jumping puzzles, and I was yelling at the screen in frustration. Did I mention the controls suck? Well it gets worse. Throughout the game there are 'Hidden Skills' which a Revenant on break from Dragon Age teaches you. The problem? The controls to trigger half of these are so fickle and difficult to trigger that A: you never use them, and B: it took me over fifteen minutes to get out of one of the teaching sessions because I couldn't activate the effect and it only lets you out once you've activated it. I've picked up five thusfar and I use a grand total of ONE. The FIRST ONE. The rest don't come into play.

I hope you like minigames, because you'll be forced to play several just to advance the plot. None of them actually help you learn skills related to the main game, they're just pointless obstructions. And then there's the swimming. The swimming controls are so atrocious that I end up struggling to get anywhere I actually want to go. I ended up simply toggling on the Iron Boots to submerge and toggling off the Zora Armor to surface and trying to do as much as I could at those two levels. I could move more or less on a level plain some of the time, so when it was absolutely required that I hit a mid-depth opening, I would repeated toggle the Iron Boots for short durations until I sank to the appropriate depth, moved through the gap and then headed for either the surface or the floor.

This game is hard on the wrists. Not just the carpal tunnel, but the whole bloody joint. The game itself is poorly done and filled with frustration. It also has the highest number of "You've got the be Kidding me" moments. And these are not the good kind, these are the "You've got to be kidding me" moments followed by a massive moment of suck. I snuck a peek at a plot synopsis and apparently I've only halfway through.

The sad part is, you can tell that the developers tried. They wanted to make something worthwhile and failed horribly. Their first mistake was tying it to the Wiimote's motion controller and screen pointer. The rest just went downhill from there.

Lastly

I wasted my money. I've burned nearly $300 so far and only got Brawl. Brawl was worth the $40 I paid for it, but doesn't come close to garnering enough enjoyment to justify the cost of the console or to subsidze the failure of Twilight Princess. I feel ripped off, as does my hand. If I didn't know better I'd swear it had been severed at the wrist.

-- Robert McCarroll