Sep 21, 2007

Nintendo Wii: A Retro Gaming Guide

According to our venerable but flawed gnomish calendar it's been almost a year since one of Nintendo's latest consoles found refuge under my TV and, despite the sadly obvious lack of an abundance of great games, I'm as happy with me Wii as a punter can be. Why? Well, besides enjoying the occasional Wii mini/party game and being blown away by the Twilight Princess, there's a strong and rather unique retro gaming appeal to the console, that I've learned to love and cherish. Hopefully so will you. After all, that's what this very guide/article thingy is all about.

First of all, we have the Wii Virtual Console, which despite its many shortcomings and definitely overpriced games, is the only online service currently providing access to Nintendo's impressive back catalog (NES, SNES, N64 anyone?) and some quirky hard to find TurboGrafx 16/PC-Engine games. Classic SEGA Genesis/MegaDrive games and the already announced Neo Geo offerings are a nice touch too, as is the addition of video previews to the games, though downloadable demos -a standard feature of Xbox Live for example- seem to have somehow been forgotten.

Admittedly though, and please consider this as an extra cost, to fully enjoy the Virtual Console retro gaming experience and to be actually able to play those SNES and N64 games you will need the modestly priced Classic Controller, that plugs into the Wii-mote the Nunchuck way and provides a more traditional option for game control. But is the Classic Controller really worth it? Of course it is, even Kotaku says so. It's extremely well built, sleek and even though it won't allow you to play GameCube games, quite a few Wii games support it as an alternative to the Wii-mote/nunchuck method.

Anyway, here are five VC games you must absolutely download. Mind you, they are not the best, neither a top 5, just some essential/excellent games currently available for your retro gaming pleasure:

Air Zonk (video link, MobyGames) It's a sci-fi Bonk spin-off and a wacky shoot-'em-up with amazing parallax scrolling, brilliant cartoon graphics and some of the weirdest power-ups you've ever seen. Nice splashes of humor, tactically demanding gameplay (well, for a shmup at least) and a smart buddy/power-up system are also a plus.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (video link, MobyGames) According to most this is the best Zelda game ever crafted and who am I but to humbly agree. Delving into Hyrule's past, time traveling and investigating the origin of the Triforce and all in breathtaking 3D? Yes, please! It was amazing back in 1998 and still is, as apparently is the sound and really everything else about this game. Probably will last you for more than 30 hours too.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (video link, MobyGames), the surprisingly named sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog, also happens to be the best Sonic game ever (with the possible exception of Sonic CD) and the first platformer to offer split-screen action and truly satisfying bonus stages. If you haven't played it yet, well, here's your chance.

Super Mario 64 (video link, MobyGames), the absolute N64 killer-app, was the first game to provide Mario with a 3D corpus complete with a suitably 3D landscape to play in and consequently the game to show mankind just how 3D platformers are supposed to work. Mario 64 is huge, diverse, smart, beautiful and probably one of the best games you'll ever play. Mind you, first time I read about its glory about it was in PC Zone...

Super Metroid (video link, MobyGames): The Space Pirates, truly nasty agents of the abominably evil Mother Brain, have stolen the last Metroid from a research station, and Samus Aran must don her awesome array of high-tech weaponry and lingerie and save the world. Again. Only this time, the open-ended Metroid experience comes with excellent 16-bit graphics, new weapons, dozens of different enemies and one of the best stories ever told in video gaming history.

On the no-so-old yet-quite-interesting games gaming front, the Wii is fully (and truly) compatible with the not particularly successful Nintendo GameCube. Of course, to enjoy them top GC games you will definitely need a GC compatible controller and most probably a memory card to save your games & settings too. Happily you're spoiled for choice. From the excellent Wavebird wireless controller, to the cheaper standard GameCube controller to the dirt cheap Logic 3 alternatives (which are more than decent, really) frankly anything will do. As for memory cards, well, it might just be me but I'd suggest choosing the first party ones.

Now, for the five Gamecube games you absolutely have to try, and no, there's no point in grabbing Resident Evil 4. The Wii version is way better. Also thought you could do without more Zelda, Mario or Metroid suggestions.

Eternal Darkness - Sanity's Requiem (Mobygames, official web, Amazon) Lovecraftian (with a touch of Poe), scary, atmospheric and featuring one of the most innovative insanity system ever, this game is an ignored survival horror gem. Already played 10 hours of it and am more than enthralled. Thankfully, the nightmares haven't started just yet.

Pikmin (Mobygames, official web, Amazon) despite its cutesy graphics and cheery atmosphere is one hell of a brainteaser. Huge time-sink, great game, a Miyamoto spawn, but whatever happened to Pikmin 3 Wii?

Animal Crossing (Mobygames, official web, Amazon) is to console gamers what The Sims has been to PC gamers: a glorified digital doll-house. AC though is definitely the better of the two games, going for the less realistic feel and providing hours of fun, tons of little games and incredible depth.

Beyond Good & Evil (Mobygames, official web, Amazon). One of the best games ever conceived, this beautiful arcade adventure sported an elaborate storyline, a brilliant setting, a greatly written female lead, good humor and a sublime mix of exploration, mini (and not so mini) games, combat and puzzle solving. Sadly it flopped. Tsk, tsk.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (Mobygames, official web, Amazon). Not as good as -say- TIE Fighter, but one of the better Star Wars games of the last decade. Very enjoyable, oddly addictive and sporting some of the most impressive GC visuals.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Thrii Wii game reviews, Just how fast is the Wii?, 10 unsung Indiana Jones games, Mario's Game-o-graphy


  1. *golf clap* Nicely played, Gnome. Nicely played.

    Seriously... Loved this article. I think I use my Wii more for the retro games I can buy from Nintendo than I do the new games coming out.

  2. Thank you oh Adventures! Nice of you to drop by and use your Wii the proper way...

  3. Loved the Rogue Squadron trilogy. It is one of the reasons I still own a Gamecube.

  4. I never had a Gamecube so it's nice to see what that platform has to offer. The Rogue Squadron looks very good graphically.

    Also, I guess I was given bad info that the Classic Controller could be used with GC games.

    I've been playing Actraiser from the VC. Very interesting game.

  5. Actually funnyman hadn't tried any of them recent Lucasarts console games, and Rogue Squadron was quite brilliant. Probably the best graphics my Wii has managed so far too.

    Guttertalk my friend same thing here. Enjoying all those cheap GC games I had spectacularly missed. Unfortunately you'll have to buy a controller though. I got a used Logic 3 one for 5 euros.

    Acraiser huh? I'll definitely have a look.

  6. Very good article indeed, Mr. gnome!

    About the gamecube games, I wish the top 5 was a top 10 instead, then you could mention gems like Resident Evil 0 and 1 (remake), MGS: Twin Snakes or Starfox Adventures.

    Now that I think of it I should really buy a Wii to play GC games...

  7. I'm now the owner of a GC controller and Rogue Squadron II.

    I have to admit that for a sim game, I've debated Animal Crossing vs MySim .

  8. That is a good point NebachadnezzaR. How the hell could I forget about Metal Gear Solid. That is my favorite game of all time.

  9. Thank you Mr. Nebachadnezzar... I thought of a top 10, but decided a top 5 is a more realistic approach from a consumer's point of view ;)

    Hopefully Guttertalk you will thank me. Just don't forget to grab Eternal Darkness too... Oh, and where are the debate keynotes?

    Never played any MG game in my life and happy about it...

  10. FWIW, I'm not crazy about some of the typical sims/Animal Crossing elements, like eating, sleeping, etc., which feel like gnats I have to swat away. However, I like interactions among characters.

    From every account, MySims seems to be really a construction game that requires resource fetching. The appeal seems to be the creativity of constructing the town and the challenge of improving the town rating. No micromanagement.

    On, someone compared it to playing with legos with very limited but some character relationships.

    My only beef with AC is that it can feel very repetitious, day to day to day. What makes it addictive can also make it a pain.

    But to be honest, I'm going to hold off on some games because 1) the Wii in particular is getting a ton of games coming out and 2) there are rumors that I might get a 360 for my birthday, thanks to my brother's persuasive tactics.

  11. Dear Santa,

    This Christmas.... nintendo wii...enough socks... just read Gnomes marvelous retro gaming guide.... essential...pass over my house.... have to send someone around to the North Pole...

    thank you


    ps world peace...

  12. Guttertalk you're right on the repetitiveness bit. It feels sort of like turning gaming into some kind of job, which admittedly is quite an impressive feat.

    MySims seems quite different than the PC version of Sims then. Just had a look at the GameTrailers review. Interesting to say the least... Xbox 360... kewwwlll... How'd you manage? Oh and WTF is a FWIW?

    (wears Santa hat and pink beard)

    Well, Elderly childe, you want your Wii with 3 or 4 controllers? Should world peace extend to the whole universe including a certain galaxy far far away? Should i bring Angeline too?

  13. Rogue Squadron is much better than the Battlefront series. The Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Eternal Darkness and Rogue Squadron games put the Gamecube on the map.

  14. Indeed, even though shockingly Eternal Darkness wasn't such a high seller. Ah, the taste of the general public...

  15. Brilliant post. Especially the part about Animal Crossing :-)

  16. I really want a Wii. I have The Simpsons Game reserved, which comes out on Halloween I believe. I hope I get one before then.

  17. Thanks Ross!

    Good luck Trevor. Great blog too...

  18. Brilliant article Gnome! I've just got my Wii online and downloaded Comix Zone (a game I'd never played on the Megadrive, but had read an extensive and highly favourable review of in Games TM...)

    As for the GC potential, it is as yet untapped for me, owning as I do only Metroid Prime 2 and the GC remake of Resident Evil... I'll be looking out for your reccomended Cube titles!

  19. Isn't Comix Zone fantastic? Great artwork and I love the way you get to cross through frames. Lovely.

    AS for GC games Father you will definitely enjoy Eternal Darkness. It's like an improved RE with dollops of class...

  20. am... erm.. dear Santa.. thank you for responding to my letter so fast (scratches head..)

    aye Angelina and 3 controllers... not 4 it'll give me something to wish for..... and Keep the World peace just for the world and the star wars satellites but please dont' extend the peace to the cylons, the borgs or the romulans or clingons.. otherwise I wont' be able to watch my favourite tV series' any more...

    oh and thanks for not asking me to sit on your lap..... thank you... did anyone ever tell you, you look very like Gnome....

  21. (still wearing rapidly decomposing Santa hat)

    Yes, yes, I get that all the time. Same thing used to happen with the pope. Anyway, will see what to do with the Romulana and trow in an extra GameCube controller. Yes...

    Gotta go... Be..uh.. nice. Yes, that's it... Nice.

  22. bye Santa...(waves goodbye to Santa....) wow he's really small, and the old pope looked like Gnome.. never knew that.. hey Gnome.... Gnome? wher'd Gnome go?

  23. FWIW = for what it's worth

    I have a stash of Best Buy card, my brother has a 360 and insists that I have one, and my wife just got an unexpected bonus, which I think she should use for my birthday. :)

    Father: Congrats on the Wii.

    Trevor: The Wii supplies are to improve, especially as we get closer to the holidays. I don't know about Illinois, but Target has been the best bet for a lot of folks: get there before they open on a Sunday. When I was willing to get up and be there by 7am, I got one.

    We just might have to find some time for a good multiplayer game night.

  24. I'm right here Elderly... (pant, pant)

    Ah, thanks for the mini-lesson guttertalk. Hope the Xbox 360 conspiracy works too...

    Multiplayer game night...

  25. "...and the 2007 International Comedy Double Act Award goes to...

    *Opens shiny envelope*

    "... Gnome and Elderly!"

    *Thunderous applause and much wooting! WOOT!"

  26. ..Gnome, where were you? you missed Santa, he was here a minute ago... and look we won an award ... oh i'll remember this day for ever...

  27. (Kicks Elderly off the stage)

    Thank you, thank you...


    (throws ties to hysterical crowds)

    I knew it really...

  28. (accidentaly kicks baby palm tree on Elderly)