Life at the Descent of the Waggle: Shattered Dreams

"So like... how is this better than pressing a button?"

It often pays off to be a cynic.

Granted, when the Wii was first revealed to the world, I didn’t hate it. I didn’t go batshit ga-ga over it like a certain Ethos did, but I was intrigued. More than anything, though, I was about to blow my load in anticipation of Twilight Princess. That was the main reason I reserved my unit before release.

Twilight Princess was a great game, sure. But, that was no thanks to the Wii, and we all know that now. At the time, many of us were just all too enthralled with the fact that you could make Link swing his sword by flailing the Wii-mote. That was “immersion,” for some reason. Tear away the fad-glasses, and you can see that the tacked-on control scheme for Twilight Princess was, at best, a harmless substitute for what came before. At worst, it was unresponsive and unwieldy. More than anything it was just pointless. Substituting a flail for a press of the B button is *not* revolutionary. In any way.

The sad thing is that it all went downhill from there.

Not long after Twilight Princess, I bought Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, a game that, ironically, didn’t even use Wiimote controls. (I played with a GameCube controller the entire time).

After that…

Oh, I bought Metroid Prime 3. The game is one of the better examples of motion controls (because it showcases pointer controls rather than just waggle) but it pissed me off because it was too damn easy, and the atmosphere suffered. It felt dumbed down. And then I realized that Nintendo was doing just that: dumbing us down. Or trying to.

We were all hoping that Nintendo’s revolution was going to attract a whole new crowd of gamer, and convert them to our side. Essentially. The passer-by would gravitate to the Wii because of its accessible and interesting control scheme, and eventually learn what it was to be a gamer. That’s what we all wanted.

What we got instead was a crowd of bandwagon morons who bought the thing not because it was a gaming system, but because it was the goddamn Wii. And the Wii was the thing to have. It was the hot Christmas gift; it was the new household amenity to sit snugly atop your DVD player in the family room.

It wasn’t marketed as a videogame system. Nintendo had made a toy. A hot novelty toy. An exciting gimmick. They already had their target audience of suckers; the hardcore gaming world could go to hell.

In fact, I’m pretty sure they very pointedly told us to go to hell on more than one occassion. What else could they have been attempting to communicate with that 2008 E3 presser?

And the shovelware. The fucking shovelware. Every cheap shit studio in the world rushing to get their crap published with tacked-on waggle controls to take advantage of the fad. Every major publisher commissioning an obligatory, dumbed-down waggle-happy port of every big name release. Within months of the system’s release, this wasn’t the exception, but the rule when it came to the Wii’s software library. There were some scattered bright spots to be found, but most of these were in the form of first-party titles. And hell, even some of those were on the verge of shovelware. Wii Music, anyone?

And let’s not forget the utter insult that was Wii MotionPlus.

But, I digress. The point here isn’t to bash Nintendo and their Wii, necessarily. That’s been done enough. The point, here, is that Nintendo took what could have been an actual revolution, and whored the fucking shit out of it. Motion controls have proven that, when properly implemented, they can enhance a gaming experience. They don’t always have to define a gaming experience. Look at Kirby’s Epic Yarn. A game on the Wii that makes very limited use of the Wii’s motion sensing capabilities. But, when it does make use of said capabilities, it’s a sensible addition.

More developers need to learn this simple fact: just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you necessarily need to use it. Twilight Princess would have been a stronger game if it used motion controls only for the bow-and-arrow. Y’know, the only implementation that actually enhanced the experience.

Nintendo’s done a hell of a job sullying the name of motion controls, and that’s why it’s difficult not to cast a wary eye towards the PlayStation Move and the Xbox Kinect. I’ll take the opportunity here to admit that I’m fairly impressed with the Move’s lineup of current and upcoming titles. The Kinect notsomuch, as it were. But while it’s too early to judge the fates of either, both devices reek of cash-in. I’d have more respect if Sony and Microsoft had bided their time and released these new technologies alongside new systems.

I’ve done a lot of meandering in the last 800 words or so, but I suppose it can all be summed up a little like this: Motion Controls aren’t the enemy here, they’re the victim. Nintendo took the concept and, for lack of a new (or better) phrased, whored it out. What should have been a minor evolution in the games industry was blown out of proportion, mishandled, and sullied. The question now, is: can all the wrongs of the past four years be righted? Is there a future for motion controls in the core gaming experience? Or will it forever be associated with the with the wankerish “casual” crowd and their collection of shovelware?

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7 Responses to “Life at the Descent of the Waggle: Shattered Dreams”

  1. ConstipatedCow says:

    Uh, Metroid Prime 3 was phenomenal. It felt dumbed down perhaps because Echoes was insanely difficult. The atmosphere was spectacular. I agree that Prime had better atmosphere (Phendrana drifts were freaking amazingly isolating) but Prime 3 still has some really awesome atmosphere. That sky place was wicked cool.

  2. SiliconNooB says:

    If you put it there, developers will use it, badly.

    The Wii was always going to be overrepresented by gimmicky waggle, it’s far too much effort to map motion controls intuitively, shovelware developers wanted in on the gimmick, and let’s be honest; the Wiimote was never as accurate as it should have been even in instances of optimal programming …

    I’m willing to bet that even with the superior motion sensing of Motion Plus, Move and Kinect, the vast majority of these games will still operate on canned gestures.

  3. SiliconNooB says:

    Also, if you’re a cynic and you’re wrong then you get a pleasant surprise. If you’re a cynic and you’re right, well at least you’re right …

  4. 7thCircle says:

    Okay, Fable III reviewt: Worst interface in a big budget game ever, and the boring simulation gameplay feels awkwardly tacked on to a decent action game that wants nothing to do with it.

    Barely on topic — don’t blame shovelware on anybody. The successful console of the moment is always full of it, and I’d wager the DS has more shovelware than the Wii in both game count and the percentage of games made for the system. Annoying as it is in stores (and who the fuck still shops in brick and mortar shops anyway?), it’s an ugly sign of success that brings in more money to the victor of the moment. The real complaint is that there weren’t enough AAA releases on the Wii. We ignored the shovelware on the DS because there were quality games coming out for it every few weeks.

    And COME ON. One of you needs to play Little King’s Story if you’re going to bitch about the Wii in 7 updates/month regardless of the theme week. LKS, Baroque, and MadWorld were the most fun I had on the console, although I would only recommend Baroque to other insane people.

  5. SiliconNooB says:

    MadWorld became seriously repetitive … I really dug the artstyle and dark humour, but the gameplay seemed pretty unrefined.

  6. 7thCircle says:

    If you never get tired of shoving poles through people’s heads and then slamming them into a wall of spikes repeatedly, the repetition isn’t an issue. I wouldn’t call the gameplay unrefined at all though — the motion controls were always spot on and my dude in the game always did exactly what I wanted him to do.

    The commentary really made the game for me though. Without that, I probably would have gotten tired of the gameplay by the end.

  7. Wonderslime says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!! for agreeing with me on Metroid Prime 3. It’s hard to respect a game that was clearly aimed at the hardcore and that was pretty much impossible to die at. Encountering a group of pirates used to be enthralling and even frightening back in the original. It’s hard to take them seriously anymore when their death rays of doom cause a whopping 7 damage, and virtually every other object on the screen poops +50 health pellets. I don’t think I had so much as a sweat drop fighting a single boss in the game, and then the final boss was insulting. Why hunt for every last power-up in the game if they’re just going to strip you of all of it in time for the final “challenge” anyway? *grumble*

    It really, REALLY felt as though Nintendo just didn’t trust their own new control system and had to respond by – exactly as you said – dumbing it down. Ironically, this to me was the most frustrating part of the “core” game that I had been looking forward to. And after that, the very easy (but still really great) Twilight Princess, and the insultingly easy Super Paper Mario, I never fully recovered until Radiant Dawn, when I was convinced that SOMEONE developing for Nintendo still has some respect for those of us who want a challenge.

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