You always wonder if you’ll know gold when you see it…
I don’t consider myself a videogame critic. Heck, I barely consider myself a “videogame writer” (the purpose of this site is dubious and baffling). If forced to label my relationship with videogames, I consider myself simply an avid, lifetime hobbyist (though I likely take a small pause after rereading the phrase “my relationship with videogames”). I like videogames, I’ve played them all my life, and I probably will continue to do so; however, I don’t feel like that makes me an expert on the subject. This is a hobby, and if there were some sort of “Videogame SATs”, I feel like I would fail. I always screw up on the section about block puzzles…
However, as I’ve mentioned before, I have something of a social anxiety when it comes to my videogame opinions. I want to say it started sometime around the PSX/N64 era, and it has led to this bizarre, creeping fear that one day I’ll have to pugnaciously defend my general distaste for the Resident Evil series. Other franchises that I have never absolutely enjoyed: Animal Crossing, Doom, and Fire Emblem (though I did enjoy that time Fire Emblem was actually Persona). It’s not a matter of “these games are bad” for me, either, it’s just that none of those franchises ever really land for me, and I’m left saying things like, “Sure, it’s fun, but…” or “That’s cool, but I’m going to play some trashy anime shooter now”. And, all the while, those games sell millions of copies, top everyone’s “best of the year” lists, and are eventually sold at Target for $20 bucks with a complete “all DLC included” edition. Okay, that last thing shouldn’t be a measure of success, but I don’t see House of the Dead sticking to the shelves longer than about two months. Popularity is longevity, one way or another, and the world has all but forgotten Time Gal.
So, while it impacts nothing, I have this general unease about not being able to see a good game when it arrives. I picture myself out in the cold, huddled around a Sega 32X playing Knuckles Chaotix while all the cool kids talk about their FPSs and racing simulators and whatever the heck is popular with those damn cool kids and their warm jackets and perfect hair and showering every day. Argh! I wouldn’t know the next big thing if it crushed me under its next big thinginess.
Then again, I might be in good company.
The Nintendo Wii Launch was… basically my one big console launch. Let’s see here… the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis were all released when I was way too young to expect anything but a birthday/Christmas present, and the Playstation (1) wound up being in the same boat. The N64 I dedicatedly saved my allowance for months to purchase at launch during the day at Toys R Us. My grandmother drove me, so it wasn’t exactly a high-octane affair. The Playstation 2 was another, much later (in my memory) Toys R Us reserve… and I ebayed that system almost immediately because of focused, teenage greed. The Gamecube, as previously mentioned, had its midnight launch opposite the premiere of the Justice League cartoon, so there were other things to do. The various Xboxes and Playstations of later generations always forced me to wait for a price drop and/or hardware revision, and the WiiU decided to be released well after my friends started having kids and jobs and reasons to actually wake up before 8 AM. But! In that tiny window of life when you and your friends have financial and physical freedom, but not all the lovely burdens of being a useful member of society, Nintendo decided to release the Wii. Hooray for one big system launch in my lifetime!
And “big” in this case simply means that my friends and I were all available to hang out at midnight and play the dang system immediately afterwards. Actually, come to think of it, one of my friends was working at the local videogame store at the time, so… hijinks may have ensued. A cardboard “our princess is in this castle” life-sized diorama may have been built. Liquor may have been passed around. And, not saying this did or did not happen, but, thanks to there being no “release minute” limitation on strategy guides, I may have threatened an entire line full of people with an oral reading of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Player’s Guide so as to properly inoculate a group of superfans against spoilers. What? I didn’t actually do it, it was just a warning to keep people well behaved. I swear.
But eventually the “launch event” ended (later than for most people, as we all dutifully waited for our friend that was working… and we may have also had to disassemble a castle), and we retired to my friend’s den to actually play this newfangled Wii system. While there weren’t any spare controllers available at retail (why are there limited peripherals opposite every Nintendo launch? I remember not being able to score a second N64 controller for weeks…), we were able to crack open our collected systems and gestalt together four active wiimotes. Now let’s get to playing these brand spanking new games!
Everyone was, naturally, excited about LoZ: Twilight Princess, but we were all experienced gamers, and no one has tried to make Zelda a spectator sport since that time Rich made us all watch him play Ocarina of Time and he wouldn’t even listen when we told him there’s a gold skulltula up that vine wall, we can hear it, geez when can we go back to playing Rampage. I’m a raging iconoclast, so I was most excited about the new Wii Metal Slug collection. That would have been ideal for a room full of guys anxious to try out a new system… but the damn thing got delayed. Boo. So we decided to give this Wii Sports thing a try. We were all used to the typical “game that comes with the system that is a damn useless demo” nonsense, but, hey may as well at least try this disc so insignificant that it didn’t even bother to ship in a proper DVD case.
And… it was fun. Boxing was probably the biggest hit, because it allowed all participants to spaz out like a flailing magikarp and claim that the sweet science was taking place, but bowling and tennis also saw quite a few rounds. Golf was right out. And baseball was tried, but that necessitated creating a full team of Miis (okay, it wasn’t completely necessary, but the impulse to make an entire team of Jesus Miis was there). It was enjoyable. It wasn’t an earth-shattering experience, but it was a fun way to spend 3 AM on a Sunday.
And then, the next time we all got together, we played Wii Sports again. And again. When I played videogames with other groups of friends, we played Wii Sports. When I played videogames with my girlfriend, we played Wii Sports. When I had to awkwardly hang out with my girlfriend’s friends, we played Wii Sports. When my father asked, “What’s this Wii Sports thing everybody is talking about?” we played Wii Sports. The last time my dad touched a controller, he died to a goomba on World 1-1, and never looked back. And here we were, on my couch, bowling. When you throw in office parties and family outings, I want to say that, by 2008, I had played Wii Sports with literally every person I knew. Well, except my grandma. She never much cared for those ‘intendas.
Of course, by the time that happened, everyone knew Wii Sports was gold. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was long forgotten, and even the typical Nintendo party games of Mario Kart and Smash paled in popularity to the game where you can play tennis without getting up. Even the (vast army of) naysayers had to admit that Nintendo had “won” that console generation, and it was almost entirely thanks to one game. One game that didn’t feature Mario, Bowser, or even so much as a mushroom. It was a flimsy little pack-in game, and it wound up being the most important game of the 21st century.
And did I see it coming? No. Did anyone see it coming? Maybe yes, but I can safely say that, of the people in line at that Wii launch, not a single one was on the edge of their seat for that game where they might get to play a little golf. And playing Wii Sports for the first time, was that a world-shattering experience? Heck no. But it was fun, and maybe that’s all it ever needed to be.
Maybe I’m not the kind of person that will ever be able to identify gold, but at least I’ll be able to bowl 200 along the way.
FGC #246 Wii Sports
- System: Nintendo Wii. Wasn’t there also a “HD” version of some kind for the WiiU? Does that count? Did that ever count?
- Number of players: Four is the maximum number of tennis participants, so I’m going to claim that’s the max number of players.
- Track and Field: There are so many stats and “tracking” graphs in this game, but they’re all completely inaccurate. Sure, you’ve saved all my bowling scores when I played as this Mii on this Wii, but what about all those perfect games I bowled on my friend’s Wiis? See? Did you think of that, Nintendo?
- He’s a Character: Mario and Link may have sat this game out, but Wii Sports is the premiere game for the character find of 2006, Reckless Wiimote Guy. Look out, everybody! He’s coming this way!
- Further Wii Memories: For better or worse, I purchased a Wii system four times in five years. There was the initial launch in 2006, a Christmas gift for my (then) girlfriend in 2007 (which was a generally selfish gift, as it was purchased mainly so I could escape having to bring my Wii over every time we stayed at her place), a Christmas gift for my (still) mother in 2008 (thanks Wii Fit!), and then a Christmas gift for a friend in 2010. This is compared to nearly every other system I’ve ever owned, which have generally only gotten a second purchase thanks to hardware failure. And one extra PS2 to replace that one I ebayed.
- Did you know? You can still go back and read old Wii Sports reviews criticizing the graphics. In other news, some gaming journalists have criticized the ocean for not also offering free smoothies.
- Would I play again: This is the most important videogame in recent memory… but I think I might be over it. I mean, it’s not like I play with my ol’ Bop It anymore, either…
What’s next? Random ROB is back to being truly random and has chosen… Gravity Rush! I suppose I can squeeze a Vita game into some wild Switch sessions. The sky’s the limit! Please look forward to it!
Wii Sports, yeah, that’s definitely a game I never expected to be as big as it was back at launch. But that li’l launch game ended up being super popular and a system seller, beating out Super Mario Bros. as the best selling game ever.
I’d say Wii Bowling is the breakout hit of the package. Easy to learn (swing arm back while holding ball/trigger, release ball/trigger as it goes forward) and it’s the only game besides golf to feature alternating multiplayer with one Wii Remote.
And criticism of the graphics really shows how flawed the old tier-based review systems are. This is literally a game where pretty graphics don’t matter, where the priority was all on making simple sports sims that play well (mostly). Hitting that 60 frames marker was more important, allowing for more precise player/avatar coordination for the motions.
Also the simple visuals make for a great excuse to send in the Miis.
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