Games of 2008
The Wii's second full calendar year on the market was marked both by the arrival of some highly anticipated hardcore efforts and a continued transition toward more games intended for a casual audience. Here are 11 of the year's most notable titles, presented in the order in which they first arrived on store shelves (or the digital equivalent, the Wii Shop).
The 2008 calendar year got off to a bloody start for the Wii, with the release of No More Heroes -- an Ubisoft-published action/adventure that seemed to pride itself on its excessive amounts of violence and gore. The game, which was headlined by Suda 51 (the same creative force behind the GameCube's Killer 7) put players in the role of would-be assassin Travis Touchdown, a young man who wins a Star Wars-like lightsaber in a contest and then spontaneously decides to go on a killing spree, targeting the world's most deadly hitmen. It's a game that's definitely not for the faint of heart.
And it's a game that's definitely not without its flaws, as the vibrant and over-the-top style paired up with some questionable and shaky gameplay elements that ultimately detracted a bit from players' full enjoyment of the carnage on-screen. Despite its drawbacks, though, No More Heroes is a truly unique entry into the 2008 Wii lineup and a game that's definitely worth revisiting if you missed it back in January -- especially now that we know a sequel, called No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle, is in development for release in the future.
Gamers who don't mind a little off-the-wall violence can grab a look at Travis' assassin aspirations in action by clicking here for our video review.
Undoubtedly the most hyped and anticipated first-party title in Nintendo's history, Super Smash Bros. Brawl finally arrived on Wii in early March. The release was preceded by an epic countdown, supporting by a daily updated developers' blog on SmashBros.com that slowly revealed more and more of the game's secrets over a period of months stretching all the way back into 2006 -- so by the time this March finally rolled around, and by the time fans had endured several delays, the hype train for this cross-over mascot fighter was rolling faster than it had for any other title ever before.
Luckily, all the hype was warranted. Super Smash Bros. Brawl proved to be exactly the kind of evolutionary advancement we'd all hoped for, lending even more depth and replay value to the design that was already nearing perfection in the GameCube's Super Smash Bros. Melee. The addition of new fan-favorite Nintendo icons like Pit from Kid Icarus and third-party visitors like Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake, the stage-creation mode, the full-on single-player adventure mode and more have all kept players enthralled for months on end now.
So if you missed out on the first wave of Brawl's hype and popularity, you can still get it on the action right now. A good place to start would be Super Smash Bros. World, IGN's fully dedicated subsite that hosts our resident Smash community -- its blog continues to be updated every day by hardworking contributors, keeping that hype train that started years ago fueled and still moving forward into the future.
A fair amount of the Wii's new releases in 2007 were projects originally intended for last-generation systems, delayed a bit and ported to the Wii instead -- games like Super Paper Mario and Donkey Kong Barrel Blast were two of the most notable. The most notable example of that trend continuing into 2008, though, has to be Capcom's Okami. This third-person adventure was so highly praised by both critics and fans that it earned IGN's Game of the Year award for its 2006 release on the PlayStation 2. And Nintendo fans, who'd been clamoring for a Wii release since even before '06, finally got their wish this past April.
The celestial journey of wolf god Amaterasu was even more beautiful running on Wii, and the Wii Remote made the natural transition to controlling our hero's world-altering heavenly brush perfectly well. This is a game that you might have skipped over this past Spring, writing it off because it took a fairly long time to make the leap from PS2 to Wii. But you don't want to make the mistake of skipping it entirely, because it's a magical experience that now serves as one of the best adventure games available on Wii.
If you want to see it in action for yourself, click here to check out our full video review.
Ever since the SNES, nearly every single piece of Nintendo hardware has received its own installment in the Mario Kart series. Console or handheld, it doesn't matter -- if it's from Nintendo and it runs video games, Mario and the rest of his Mushroom Kingdom crew are eventually going to go racing on it. Even with its inevitability though, for the Wii, the checkered flag waved a little earlier than we might have guessed. Though some thought it might not make it out until later in 2008, Mario Kart Wii shipped to stores just one month after Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
The game arrived as most expect a Mario Kart sequel would, with a new set of crazy tracks to race across and a handful of new characters to race as. New to this series installment, though, were motorcycles -- with altered handling and a different boosting method, the two-wheeled vehicles could be used interchangeably with the more traditional four-wheeled go-karts. Support for Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service was also included, making MKWii the first console Kart game to offer online multiplayer for the Big N.
Our full video review, as well as an extensive series of IGN Strategize videos pointing out some of the game's best shortcuts, can be yours for the viewing by clicking here.
Exercising, made fun? If any company could do it, Nintendo could -- and did, with Wii Fit. This year's hottest expanded-audience title for the Wii made it to market in May, and has been consistently sold out across the country ever since. Like the Wii system hardware itself, Wii Fit packages fly off the shelves any time any store gets a shipment to stock. Why? Because it makes exercising fun.
The signature Wii Balance Board peripheral, which comes packaged with the game disc, makes it all possible -- a flat plastic controller that you lay on the ground and stand on top off, it's made to resemble two bathroom scales placed close together and functions in a similar manner. With one foot on top of each pad, the Board measures the subtle shifts in your weight distribution and balance -- and, in doing so, facilitates Wii Fit's inclusion of both off-the-wall mini-games like headbutting soccer balls and hula-hooping, as well as more traditional exercises like yoga. The Board itself has gone on to be employed in titles that shipped later in 2008, too, like Skate It (where it becomes your skateboard) and Rayman Ravings Rabbids TV Party (where you sit on it to control certain mini-games with your rear end).
Wii Fit's unique appeal captured the interest of one of our own earlier this year, so in addition to checking out the game's video review right here, you can also see Mr. Mark Bozon's progressive weight loss series by clicking right here.
The summer months of June and July came and went with little fanfare on Wii, except for some of the interesting announcements made at this year's E3 -- like the Wii MotionPlus. The attachment, which promises to enhance the responsiveness of the Remote's motion-sensing capabilities, should allow for true 1:1 game experiences when the device ships next year. It made it all the more interesting, then, that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play shipped to stores one month later -- and it, without the added functionality of the MotionPlus, did an excellent job of offering a 1:1 experience all its own.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play is the best game of golf to be found on Wii, and its excellence serves to provide proof that Electronic Arts' new direction for its Wii products in 2008 was the right way to go. Though some of the "All-Play" titles still have some kinks to work out, Tiger and this year's Wii edition of Madden NFL Football both presented excellent Nintendo-exclusive features and content that made Wii owners feel like a priority -- like we weren't just getting a downgraded conversion of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 renditions. It will be interesting to see how the All-Play branding continues into 2009, and it'll be even more interesting to see how the developers responsible for the next Tiger Woods best their efforts from this year when they actually do have access to the 1:1-enabling Wii MotionPlus.
For our video review of Tiger's latest trip to the greens on Wii, click right here.
The summer came to an end and autumn began as de Blob rolled onto the Wii, bringing with him an even greater variety of colors than the shades of changing leaves outside. Color was the whole point, in fact, as de Blob was a hero committed to bringing the brilliance back to his black-and-white world -- he'd hop, roll and bounce around his monochromatic city, fill his body with vibrant paints of blue, red, green and yellow and then make contact with the structures surrounding him. At even the slightest touch, those buildings, fences and other fixtures would then take on the same hue as him. It was a sight to behold.
And quite a fun game to play, which is all the more impressive considering that de Blob was first born as a student game development project before making the long journey to its ultimate retail release. This is one of those games you easily could have missed in September, the time when the overall number of new releases each week really starts to ramp up for the holiday season. But if you get the chance, or if you get a gift card in your stocking this year, consider de Blob. His springtime shades will bring some life back to your bleak and weary winter days.
You can see all of the colors of the rainbow yourself in our video review of de Blob, accessible by clicking right here.
de Blob was only the beginning of a packed week on Wii as fall began in late September, as that same week also saw this generation's console debut of Nintendo infamous anti-hero, Wario. Fueled by his gluttony and greed more than ever before, Wario Land: Shake It! was the first home console installment in a side-scrolling action series that had gotten its start on the original Game Boy in the early '90s. And it held fast to the conventions established in the portable space, even when it seemed odd to do so for a retail Wii release -- it was strictly two-dimensional, for example. No 3D graphics at all.
The decision to keep things out of the third dimension helped the style, though, as Wario Land: Shake It! ended up with some of those most fluidic, cartoon-like graphics ever seen in a video game -- its animation was superb. And it also took advantage of the Wii's unique capabilities in an element of its gameplay -- the "Shake It!" subtitle refers to the physical motion you make with the Wii Remote, which triggers Wario to shake the living daylights out of enemies and objects on screen. Like a Polaroid picture, perhaps.
You can get a sense of the game's great animation through our video review, viewable here. And if you want an idea of what the shaking is all about, you might want to check out this YouTube trailer. (Be sure to watch the whole thing if you do.)
A new 8-bit NES game, almost two decades after the peak of the 8-bit era? It seemed like a ridiculous idea, but it came true this year as Capcom took its legendary Mega Man series straight back to yesteryear for this brand-new, old-school update to the classic Blue Bomber franchise. Mega Man 9 debuted on WiiWare on September 22, giving Wii owners the exclusive privilege of experiencing it first -- the game also came to the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, but only days later. The Wii edition of MM9, then, became the definitive edition for many.
New Robot Masters, incredibly challenging levels, extra options like Time Attacks and a presentation that looked right in line with the NES Mega Man titles from the '80s all came together to make up this release, which quickly skyrocketed to the top of the download charts for both WiiWare and the Wii Shop Channel in general. Then, weeks later, downloadable content packages offered players the chance to play as Proto Man, experience an Endless Stage or showdown against a ninth new Robot Master boss. The digital dollars are no doubt still streaming into Capcom's bank account, and it's probably a safe bet to predict that Mega Man 9 won't be the end of the robot hero's retro revival.
You can grab a glance at all of the new old action by viewing our video review, right here. Get your weapons ready.
The debut of Nintendo's new game digital distribution service, WiiWare, was certainly one of the biggest events of the year -- the service kicked off in the Spring, and has been provided fresh, download-only gaming experiences to Wii owners through the Wii Shop Channel every Monday since then. And while several titles worthy of your Wii Points -- like LostWinds, Dr. Mario Online RX and Mega Man 9 -- arrived in the first half-year of WiiWare's existence, it wasn't until October that the first truly exceptional project arrived there. It was World of Goo.
This incredibly addictive, highly stylized physics-based puzzler took many of us by surprise when it was released, arriving with such polish and such instantly accessible gameplay that it hooked us from its very first level. The game tasks you to complete structures of goo creatures, all sticky and linked to one another, all striving to overcome some obstacle or environmental hazard -- but no simple description like that is enough to give justice to the concept, which gets progressively more involved, more complicated and more rewarding the further you go into goo's world. At an asking price of just 15 dollars, too, it's also fairly easy on the wallet.
World of Goo also shipped a PC version (which is where that boxart graphic comes from), and developer 2D Boy has a free demo available online that you can download by visiting this page on our sister site, Fileplanet. But trust us when we say that you could just skip the demo and jump right into putting down those Points for a download from the Wii Shop, because you're not going to be disappointed by World of Goo.
And closing out the games library of 2008 is the year's most notable music game on Wii (and that's certainly not Wii Music) -- it's Guitar Hero World Tour. The fourth installment in Activision's radically popular rock 'n roll rhythm action series shipped at the end of October, and brought the GH franchise in line with rival Rock Band by including new drum kit and microphone peripherals in addition to the requisite replica guitar. World Tour wasn't just a catch-up-to-the-competition package, though, as its design put a unique spin on every element of the gameplay.
The guitar got a new touchpad on the neck that allowed for more dynamic solo sequences. The bass got new "open" notes, finally separating its style of play from the guitar side of things. And the drums and microphone were all new to Guitar Hero, but still managed to innovate all the same -- the drum kit, for example, featured a high-cymbal placement that made playing it feel different than the equivalent four-pad setup over in Rock Band world. The fact that developer Vicarious Visions was also able to offer a unique Mii Freestyle mode and downloadable songs for the Wii version was also a major win, representing a considerable upgrade over last year's Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
If you've held out on get into the Wii's latest virtual concert experience, or if you're still weighing out whether or not you want to keep waiting for the yet-to-be-released Wii edition of Rock Band 2, you might want to click over to the World Tour video review to inform your decision-making.