Even though Nintendo’s console is far and away the top seller this generation, great,
buzz-generating games can trickle out in dribs and drabs. Oh, sure, there’s an ample slate of new releases every week, but most of ’em have titles like “Help Wanted: 50 Wacky Jobs!” and “Hannah Montana the Movie.” A lot of Wii titles will appeal to a particular niche, like “Word Jong Party,” or make a decent rental, like “Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop.” But bona fide blockbusters have been scarce.
The violent, game-show oriented “Mad World” (rated M, $50) from Sega got plenty of gamers talking with its blood-spattered, black-and-white visuals. But review scores, though favorable, and sales figures failed to match the hype. For its part, Nintendo seems to have been happy to spend the early part of the year releasing GameCube games with added motion controls while the Wii temporarily took a back seat to the DSi, the latest iteration of the company’s handheld gaming device.
Well, the console’s slow start to 2009 is finally over, with this week’s arrival of “Punch-Out!!” (rated E10+, $50) headlining a strong week. The game’s minimalist moniker, absent the word Wii or a catchy subtitle, is no accident, as the 2009 iteration of the game will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played the classic (available on the Virtual Console for a $5 download). It has 11 fighters from the original game, a couple of fighters from “Super Punch-Out!!” and a few surprises. If you’re a “Punch-Out!!” veteran, you’ll probably breeze through the main game, but once you finish, the game’s Title Defense mode makes you fight everyone again. They’re a lot tougher the second time around, naturally. In a nod to “Punch-Out’s” retro roots, the remake even lets you skip the motion controls, hold the Wii remote sideways and stick with the original NES control scheme of directional pad and two buttons.
Of the reviews I’ve read, most of them written by critics old enough to have played the original, nearly all praise “Punch-Out!!” as excellent fan service, as well as a solid game in its own right.
“Boom Blox Bash Party” (rated E, $40 on Wii): This is a beefed-up sequel to Steven Spielberg’s well-reviewed physics-and-action-based puzzle game. The $40 title features hundreds of new challenges, as well as the ability to make your own and share them with others online. The game’s team-based, easy-to-grasp gameplay and E rating make it a great buy for families looking for something new.
“The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask” (rated E, $10 download from the Wii’s Virtual Console): The Wii’s Virtual Console, where you can download games from older Nintendo systems, as well as several other old-school game consoles, just hit its 300th game this week. To celebrate, Nintendo made sure that game was a classic. “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask” (rated E, $10) is the well-reviewed follow-up to “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” “Majora’s Mask,” originally released on the Nintendo 64, sends series hero Link to a world due to be destroyed in three days, in search of the titular mask.
“EA Sports Active” ($60, rated E on Wii): If you thought “Wii Fit” was a little too much of a game and not enough of a workout program, Electronic Arts’ latest might be what you’re looking for. The game ships with some resistence bands that attach to the Wii controllers and can also be used with “Wii Fit’s” balance board. I wonder how many of those Nintendo would sell if they let EA bundle it with this game.
“Bionic Commando” (rated M, $60 on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360): You’ve got to give it to Capcom for trying something new with this remake of an old 8-bit game. You won’t play another game like this 3D mashup of third-person shooter, Spider-Man game and parkour adventure. Reviews suggest that “Bionic Commando” is something of a noble failure, though. It’s got an insipid main character and bland writing, but the risks it takes with game design make it worth checking out. Whether you’re willing to pay full price to do so is up to you.
“UFC 2009: Undisputed” (rated T, $60 on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360): I never really got into the whole wrestling/ultimate fighting/mixed martial arts scene, but the reviews on this year’s “UFC” are decent enough that fans should find plenty to like.
“inFAMOUS” demo (rated M, free download from the PS3’s PlayStation Network): The $60 game won’t hit stores until next week, but if you want a free taste of Sony’s, open-world superhero adventure, here’s your chance.
What I’ll be playing this weekend: Not much of anything. Probably a little “Killzone 2,” a little “Gears of War 2.” If I have the patience to download it, I might give the “inFAMOUS” demo a whirl.