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Eye On '07: Wii

Wii, Wii, Wii all the way home.

Eye On '07: Wii

Of all the platforms I've looked at over the past week, Nintendo's handheld and home console pairing of DS and Wii are the most tricky to make predictions for. Despite Nintendo's wealth of superb gaming franchises, the chances are that the top titles of the next year will come out of left field - after all, who could have predicted a couple of years ago that games such as Brain Age, Phoenix Wright, Nintendogs or Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! would become so dearly beloved of DS fans?

No excuses though - I said I was going to do a round-up of 2007's most wanted, and I'm going to do it even if the Internet Archaeologists of the future laugh at my meagre skills of prediction. Here's one thing to chew over, though - even if not a single game emerges from left field and wins us over, the Wii will still have a stellar line-up for the next 12 months, and every single game on this list is a platform exclusive. It's an almost unprecedented level of quality for a console in its first year on the market, and one which makes us very excited indeed about the new ways we'll be shaking, rattling and rolling our Wiimotes in the coming months.

Eurogamer's Top Picks

Animal Crossing

  • Developer: Nintendo EAD
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Wii Exclusive
  • Gamepage

European gamers will probably remember Animal Crossing as one of the lowest points for Nintendo Europe - it took almost two years for the quirky, charming game to make its way over here. Expect no such delay for the Wii version of the title, however, because since Animal Crossing: Wild World on the DS sold millions of copies and became one of the top titles for the vastly successful handheld, Animal Crossing is likely to be damn near the top of Nintendo's priority list.

Details of the Wii version are thin on the ground, but the designers have mused in public about the potential for online communication (you'll be able to send messages to people in the game from your email account or mobile phone), for user-designed furniture and items which can be traded with other players, and for the game to send messages to players using the Wii dashboard, so you don't even need to be playing to get notifications of new events. Arguably the most interesting feature, however, is the suggested ability to visit other people's towns while their console is in standby mode, using the WiiConnect24 service (which maintains an open Internet connection even when the console is "switched off"). Visiting your friends' towns was one of the most compelling features of Wild World - it was also one of the most annoying, since it generally required setting up a visit either using instant messenger or a phone-call.

The always-on nature of the Wii is ideally suited to Animal Crossing, and will add a whole new dimension to the game - while being able to design your own furniture would give the game almost limitless longevity. Many gamers, of course, will turn their noses up at Animal Crossing's simple pleasures; but for every person who doesn't understand why catching fish and growing fruit trees to pay off a mortgage on a bigger house is fun, there are plenty who will fall in love with the charms of Nintendo EAD's bizarre, quirky simulation of village life.

Big Brain Academy

brain
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Wii Exclusive
  • Gamepage

The Touch Generations series of software on the DS has turned out to be one of the most successful initiatives in the history of videogames - one need only look at the sales figures of the various brain training games to see that. Not only have they proved a major hit with gamers, but they have also been a key reason for the DS' success with people who have never laid hands on a game console in their lives - mums, dads, grandparents, wives, basically all the people who previously rolled their eyes to heaven and loudly wished you'd get a proper hobby, like building forklifts or collecting men or something.

As such, Big Brain Academy is something of a test for the Wii - because if Nintendo can repeat the success of the Touch Generations games on its new home console, then the success of the platform is almost assured. That's part of why we're including Big Brain Academy on our top picks for the Wii this year - but beyond that, we're also fascinated to see how the puzzle solving aspects of the game will work with the Wiimote, and whether this game (and several others like it, including Animal Crossing) will actually manage to make spending half an hour with the Wii every day into part of your regular routine, over and above any "traditional" games you may be playing on the console.

Besides - Big Brain Academy, while not as compelling in the long term as its predecessor, Brain Age, was still a fantastic set of puzzles and brain teasers. A little tweaking of the difficulty curve to provide a more long-term challenge, combined with a bit of judicious lifting of the calendar and progress graph systems from Brain Age, could make Big Brain Academy into one of the most addictive games of 2007. Just watch out - those of you still living with family could suddenly discover that access to your Wii becomes a precious commodity.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

mp
  • Developer: Retro Studios
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Wii Exclusive
  • Gamepage

Nintendo has a tricky balancing act to pull off with the Wii - the company wants to extend the gaming market to encompass people who have never lifted a joypad and find conventional games boring, intimidating or both, but at the same time, the last thing they want to do is to lose their core gaming audience. Nintendo has hardcore fans too, remember - the kind of people who keep series like Fire Emblem, Zelda and Mario on the go year after year. And, of course, the kind of people for whom the stunning Metroid Prime games represent one of the finest conversions of a much-loved 2D series into 3D ever.

That's why Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has to be good - because if it's not, then the hardcore will find their faith in the Wii severely rattled. Luckily, everything we've seen so far of the game suggests that it's not merely good, it's bloody brilliant. The exceptionally well-designed environments, combat and physics of the previous Prime games make a welcome return, accompanied by a Wiimote and nunchuck control system which felt smooth and natural right back as far as E3 last May, and has undoubtedly been tweaked even further since then.

This is the final game in the Metroid Prime trilogy, and Retro are determined to finish it with a bang; even the scant information available now suggests that the game will be filled with dramatic new abilities and characters, including a variety of new weapons and a visor mode which grants the player control over Samus' gunship. Much bigger areas than the previous games and a rock-solid 60fps frame rate complete what has to be one of the most exciting offerings on any console in the next year.

Super Mario Galaxy

galaxy
  • Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Wii Exclusive
  • Gamepage

It's not a Nintendo console without a Mario game - and just as Mario 64 was a groundbreaking game which showcased the potential of the 3D hardware in the N64, so Super Mario Galaxy is shaping up to be a real showcase of the abilities of the Wii and its unique controller. Gamers who roll their eyes at "another Mario game" are missing the point; no game franchise has done so much to utterly define the genre which it inhabits as Mario has. Certainly, the series can slip up sometimes - Super Mario Sunshine is a good example - but at its best, Mario sports the kind of innovation that drives the whole medium forward, regardless of what character is in the title role.

Mario Galaxy may well come to be seen as Mario at its best, too. The E3 demo shown off last year was one of the most promising things on the show floor, revealing a game which was comfortable in using the Wiimote controller to tear up many of the conventions of videogames. Players can interact with the world not just using Mario himself, but also by "touching" items in the game world with the Wiimote - thus allowing direct interaction with objects which are out of Mario's reach. As an example, in an early part of the demo Mario stands under a tall arch, and the player can reach into the world and ring a bell on top of the arch to shower him with goodies - a bizarre but incredibly fun and original way of playing.

On top of that, and of course a wide variety of platforming, puzzles and great boss encounters, the game also appears to be willing to play with gravity in ways previously unexplored by the series - and there's even talk of a co-op mode for the game, as well as another mode where the second player's objective is to hinder Mario, not help him. It would take a hard-hearted gamer not to get excited over the ideas that Nintendo is pouring into Mario Galaxy, frankly - everything we've seen so far suggests that this is one of the finest creative teams in the industry firing on all cylinders, and determined to catapult Mario back to pole position in gamers' hearts.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

smash
  • Developer: Nintendo (Unknown Team)
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Wii Exclusive
  • Gamepage

Including this game on the list is undoubtedly going to polarise opinions in the comments thread - it's fine, though, since I specifically asked for flame-retardant socks for Christmas. Do your worst! The fact is that while it's reviled by some, Super Smash Bros Melee remains one of the best-loved games on the GameCube - and there's a school of thought which says that the minority who detest the game so vehemently are simply those who can't get to grips with its utterly frantic pace.

Underneath the epileptic fit inducing pyrotechnics of the game, you see, beats the heart of a finely balanced and incredibly subtle beat-'em-up - a game which effortlessly straddles the dual purpose of being a great party game which will entertain drunken fools for hours, and being a nuanced and well-designed game that a dedicated player could spend months mastering. The Wii version of the game is perhaps less innovative than its brethren on this list, since it's designed to work with a traditional control system (it'll be totally compatible with the GameCube controllers, in fact, which suggests that there may be no motion sensing at all), but if anything, that simply demonstrates an interesting willingness on Nintendo's part to stick with traditional controls where innovation would only do harm, rather than forcing its teams to use the Wiimote come hell or high water.

The game looks stunning, running as it is on hardware significantly more powerful than the last iteration, and boasts tons of new characters and stages - including, of course, Solid Snake, after Hideo Kojima reportedly "begged" to have his most famous son included. Rumours persist that Sonic the Hedgehog could be in there too, putting an end at last to the playground arguments of our childhood years regarding whether Sonic could take Mario in a proper fight. Haters be damned - unless it all goes horribly wrong somehow, Super Smash Bros Brawl is going to put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.

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