Amongst all the shovelware, there were a lot of top games on the Wii and DS this year. Mario made a return with his best-selling kart racing Wii debut, many a character joined forces for a brawl of smashing proportions, the Japanese sun god and a crime solving dog and rabbit duo made their way to Wii. This overview takes a look at all the finest games that 2008 had to offer, from the yoga habits of Wii Fit to the arty DS RPG The World Ends With You.
Welcome... to the Class of 2008
Although to many it didn't seem like Nintendo did much this year, the famous company released quite a few games in 2008. They started the year by releasing Super Smash Bros Brawl in January to North America, who enjoyed fighting with all the Nintendo veterans (Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Pikachu) and some less familiar faces as well (Pit, the Ice Climbers). Added to the mix were Konami's Solid Snake and Sega's Sonic, in what was the most epic version of the game so far, thanks to a great side scrolling single player adventure, a huge roster of characters, loads of different arenas and many, many more collectables. Sadly, the game didn't reach Europe until late June, due to "translating".
In the Spring, they launched the (still) popular Wii Fit and Mario Kart Wii games, each of which came bundled with a new accessory. The Wii Balance Board added a whole new experience to gaming, and was extremely handy when getting Family Ski or Shaun White Snowboarding out, and the Wii Wheel allowed casual gamers to be at ease when driving around, due to the steering wheel attachment that made driving games feel more like they should do. Sadly though, the plastic mould wasn't perfect for everyone, with few users taking control with the wheel when it came to the more competitive online mode, which is still going excessively well today, and rightly so. The Mario Kart Wii online mode was a huge step above that of Mario Kart DS, with all stages, characters and karts being available in both VS and Battle modes, with a great new scoring system as well that meant you could drop in or out after any race, but get penalised for cheating. Mario Kart Wii was extremely hard to get hold of after it's release, since once shops started stocking them again, they'd run out before each copy could reach the shelves. This was also the case with Wii Fit, however that particular game is still hard to find in shops despite the £70 asking price.
It was Wii Fit that led many casual gamers to try out the simplest way of gaming yet, with the possibility of moving around in games - just as you would in real life - becoming reality, with no need for extra controllers at all. Many people also turned to the software for keeping their health up to scratch, which was actually proven to work several times after excessive testing by many journalists.
Nintendo also released some second-party titles towards the end of the year that didn't leave core gamers feeling left out, with the new Trauma Center game hitting European shores in August (despite it's release many months before over in the States) as well as Fire Emblem and DISASTER Day of Crisis both finally getting a release as well. Due to the cinematice plot involving terrorism and the presidents daughter, DISASTER still hasn't seen the light of day in America, whilst many people thought that the game was dead and buried forever until Nintendo released information for the first time in two years just two months before it's eventual release. Many people still didn't know about any of these games though, since Nintendo refused to advertise them on the television, opting instead for videos and trailers on the Nintendo Channel, a technique which clearly didn't get the attention the games rightly deserved.
One other Nintendo character made a return to Wii this year in his own game - Wario Land The Shake Dimension saw Mario's "nemesis" embark on a new 2D platform adventure, in another critically acclaimed but commercially underwhelming effort for Nintendo. They didn't stop there though, with Wii Music and Animal Crossing - two more titles that the casual fans would love - making their way into stores in time for Christmas.
Animal Crossing Lets Go To The City was only announced at July's E3 conference, and boasted a whole new online city to visit, rather than having to wait for individual characters to make their way to your own town all the time. Otherwise, little was changed. The graphics were almost the same, the furniture and items were the same - the online features were the only reason to give this one a go instead of the DS version - especially since the utilised the new Wii Speak attachment (which connects to the users sensor bar and records all sound in a room at once, rather than in a microphone on a headset). The Wii Speak attachment was also used in its own Wii Speak Channel, where friends could talk to each other or send short voice messages. Due to it's set up, the accessory wasn't very well liked by core gamers looking for an Xbox Live style experience, but hopefully future games will use it in new ways to keep those gamers happy.
Wii Music, the main attraction/main flop at Nintendo's E3 conference, was designed to be a way for people to make music without needing any kind of skill whatsoever. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto created this game with those who don't have money for real instruments and every casual gamer in mind. There were more instruments than songs available, from the piano to the guitar to the cowbell, and the option for multiplayer "jamming" was there, but due to the lack of skill and the fact that swinging your remote around to the beat loses it's "fun" after a few minutes, the game didn't do well at all critically, but still sold a fair few copies to make it worth its while.
This year, Nintendo also released Professor Layton in Europe, allowing everyone to start puzzling their way through the highly commended game - if they could find a copy in stores. Sadly though, this was Nintendo's only really big seller on DS, with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games losing half of the "Olympic feel" in its transition from Wii, and Cooking Guide not having the same effect on DS owners that Dr Kawashima's Brain training had.
Thankfully, the Prof didn't own the only good game on the DS this year, with Bangai-O Spirits, Soul Bubbles, Nanostray 2 , horror game Dementium The Ward (in NA only), Trauma Center 2 (also only in North America) and The World Ends With You keeping core gamers very happy amongst the dross of Shaun the Sheep and the like. With Grand Theft Auto on it's way next year, the DS may no longer be seen as a console for kids and brain trainers, despite the more recent (and badly scheduled) 100 Book Collection, allowing users to read through 100 (old) tales on their DS, which was released on Boxing Day across Europe.
Nintendo didn't stop there though, with the Wii Shop Channel also having it's biggest year so far. On top of classic RPG Secret of Mana, there were two more Hanabi Festivals (which launched SNES exclusive Super Mario RPG for the first time in PAL regions) and the launch of the Master System and Commodore 64 consoles becoming available (the latter only in Europe). This wasn't all though, since Nintendo also launched the long awaited WiiWare service. This service, which allows independent, smaller developers to create games for sale at cheap prices. This was a triumph, bringing some online fun (Dr Mario RX / Germ Buster; Bomberman Blast; Tetris Party), some top puzzling (PLATTCHEN twist 'n' paint; Toki Tori; MaBoShi's Arcade; Pop), some family treats (TV Show King; Actionloop Twist; Home Sweet Home), some absolute dross (The Incredible Maze; Bang!; SPOGS Racing) and some more excellent and unique titles that will go down in history (LostWinds; World of Goo; Mega Man 9; Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles My life As A King). Games range from 500-1500 Wii Points (approx £3.50-£10.50 / $5-$15), and some of them even used the new Nintendo Pay & Play service, allowing you to buy "extra bits" of a game using your Wii Points (Mega Man 9, FFCCMLAAK; Space Invaders Get Even).
One of the biggest uses of Nintendo Wi-fi Connection Pay & Play was in Activision's new Guitar Hero World Tour game. The Wii version this year was much bigger and better than Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock, and brought a new guitar controller, alongside microphone and drum controllers as well (pioneered by Rock Band, also released earlier on in the year, though without any online modes whatsoever). World Tour also allowed users to create their own rock star, play online against (or with, if you like) other bands and even create new songs from the ground up in GHTunes, before being able to upload and download other creations for free! World Tour wasn't the only Guitar Hero release this year, with Guitar Hero Aerosmith being the first title based entirely on one band (which didn't go down too well), and Guitar Hero On Tour going on sale for the DS, with a revolutionary new Guitar grip that featured four small fret buttons, and cramped the hands of many a user. The game didn't feature too many songs though, so Guitar Hero On Tour Decades was released just a few months later, bringing a much better track list and improved controls. Sadly, many other companies attempted to claim some of Guitar Hero's fame and failed miserably, with the likes of Battle of the Bands, Pop Star Guitar and Guitar Rock Tour now being sold dirt cheap as a result of their unpopularity.
In 2008, there were also some excellent Wii ports. Bully Scholarship Edition made it's way onto the console in a revamped version of the PS2 classic (known as Canis Canem Edit in the UK), as did Okami, the excellent adventure game where you paint your way through lands as a wolf incarnation of the Japanese Sun God. Geometry Wars Galaxies arrived on Wii and DS in Europe at the start of the year, offering the Xbox Live Arcade original alongside a host of some excellent new multiplayer and story modes. Sega attempted to relive the old favourite NiGHTS, but this ended up doing quite poorly in a completely new adventure NiGHTS Journey of Dreams, where the controls, difficulty, graphics and gameplay were all in a terrible mess. De Blob was another new title inspired by an old project, and was well loved by all who bought it. In the game, you had to colour a world where everything has gone black and white. How do you do it? Get rolling around the city covered in paint, of course! This game won several awards for the Australian team behind it, and rightly so.
There were a few more hardcore titles worth mentioning, including No More Heroes, the fantastically weird cel-shaded adventure game where you must attempt to become the worlds number one ranked assassin and Zack & Wiki, the great point 'n' click adventure that's a child at heart, but a complete genius when it comes to the puzzles. For point 'n' click fans, Sam & Max Season one was ported from the PC after much demand from fans, whilst Tell Tale Games also released a series of Strong Bad episodic adventures through WiiWare, based on the internet phenomenon Homestar Runner.
Amongst the other highlights were EA Sports favourites Madden and FIFA, Steven Speilberg's Jenga-style explosive puzzler Boom Blox, Skate remake Skate It; online favourite Call of Duty World at War; the DS's Ninjatown; family fun in TV Show King Party and of course the Lego Indiana Jones and Batman games, which stayed true to the Star Wars co-op gameplay. Of course, there were lowlights as well, but let's forget about those, and give attention to the titles that so well deserve it -
THE CLASS OF 2008!
Note - since Wiiloveit.com only started in August of 2008 and is still run by a very small team, it's hard for us to get all the reviews and game articles we'd like. We're going to keep on filling our back-catalogue as the months go on, but the reviews that we have done are linked above. Check out the games index to see the lot, or if you're feeling helpful, why not volunteer to help us out with a few? Any help would be appreciated, and you can let us know by using our usual contact form.
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