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Wii on the wane?
Edge #178, August 2007
In 2005, a group of presumably embittered, cynical and heart-broken doctors at an Italian university discovered it wasn't angels singing that caused people to fall in love, but an evolutionary, biochemical process.
A study of a group of people 'in love' found that they had higher levels of neurotrophin proteins than people who were single. These nerve growth factor proteins can be responsible for feelings of euphoria, butterflies in the stomach and a strong desire to write stupid poems and put together soppy mix-tapes. The scientists discovered that after a year the neurotrophins begin to fade - coinciding with the end of what can be termed 'romantic love'.
We've all been there. We've all skipped hand-in-hand through fields during that first, year-long blooming, before realising what a terrible mistake we've made. Prior to that you're prepared to forgive all sorts: constant references to former lovers, endless picking of the nose, chewing with the mouth open, and a nagging suggestion that - perhaps - he or she isn't the most beautiful person in the world after all, but a bit plain and ordinary, with a hairy back.
Perhaps it isn't just people that it happens with, but items of consumer electronics too.
I've cut the Wii a lot of slack in this column over the past year and a bit, but the honeymoon is over. The tide of love has gone back out again, and I'm faced with the stark truth that maybe it isn't the perfect system that I'd once believed.
Before I begin, let's get one thing straight; I still think the Wii is the only must-have console out there. The Wii Remote is the biggest step forward in gaming since CD-ROM, and Nintendo has realised it brilliantly. In short, it's the only console that knows that consoles are - look away now, editors of gadget bibles featuring half-naked women on the cover - simply toys. They're not sophisticated entertainment hubs, or cool lifestyle accessories. They're something to play with.
Unfortunately, it would seem that I'm running out of ways to play with my Wii.
Nintendo has always sought to stagger its cornerstone releases in the well-intentioned belief that quality over quantity is better. That's all well and good if the gaps between the big games are bloated with decent titles from other publishers, but - let's be honest here - the Wii has very few triple-A games to its name, whether we're talking first or third party.
Yes, Zelda's brilliant. Yes, we all love WarioWare: Smooth Moves. Yes, I'll still be playing Wii Sports at the end of time (or until they release Wii Sports 2: whichever is sooner). But what else is there on the Wii? They're mainly iffy multiformat releases with some bolted on, token gameplay element that works with the Wii Remote, or same-old licences. I can't believe there's anyone who got excited at the prospect of a Meet The Robinsons tie-in.
Admittedly, it's a problem that plagues most consoles in their first year, but - having browsed the release list for the rest of 2007 - it's not a problem I see being resolved any time soon. There are sackloads of games coming out on the 360 that I'm looking forward to, and even the PS3 has a handful of titles that look as if they'll be worth a play (although most of them will also be available on the 360).
The Wii desperately needs another triple-A title to squat alongside Zelda. However heavily they promote Mario Strikers or Excite Truck, Nintendo is never going to convince anyone that they're up there with the other all-time greats.
I'd argue that - more than nine months into the console's life - Zelda remains the only true classic, and every other potentially brilliant release is bottle-necked at the end of the year.
Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3 and Super Paper Mario have all been punted to the end of 2007 - if not beyond (based upon past experience) - and that's really your lot for big, exclusive Wii releases on the horizon.
I dare say part of the problem is thirdparty developers being slow to get their brains around the shift in emphasis ushered in by the Wii Remote. The PS3 may have clambered aboard the motion-sensing bandwagon, but the console is basically a tarted-up version of what came before. It's a format that developers can get their heads around, rather than having to experiment with a whole new way to play.
Nevertheless, even with this in mind, by now we should at least have some promising announcements. Instead: nothing. I've no idea if there's that oft-dreamed of Wii sword game in the works, or anything that capitalises on the potential hinted at in Wii Play, or Smooth Moves. I'm sure Nintendo has plenty of secret titles up its sleeves, but unless it starts throwing us a bone or two, we dogs are going to get fed up.
It speaks volumes that I've spent nearly as much on Virtual Console games as I have bona- fide Wii titles, and have spent almost as long playing with the Mii creator, or spinning the Forecast Channel globe, as I have on games.
I'll love Nintendo till I die, but however romantically blinkered I may be, I'm starting to feel a bit starved of affection.
Mr Biffo co-founded Digitiser, Channel 4's Teletext-based videogames section, and now writes mainly for television
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