The power of the Wii isn't so much in the console itself, but in its versatile and visceral motion controller.

NO MORE HEROES 2: DESPERATE STRUGGLE
Ubisoft/Grasshopper
Action
   


Letís pretend for a minute, shall we?  Youíre Travis Touchdown, nerd.  No, scratch thatÖ youíre Travis Touchdown, extra strength turbo-nerd.  Your apartment is littered with cardboard standees for Japanese cartoons.  You follow professional wrestling the way John Hinckley Jr. followed Jodie Foster.  Your idea of a date is a bottle of baby oil and the latest episode of Bizarre Jerry 5, a show with girls so young and provocatively dressed that it makes Sailor Moon look like The McLaughlin Group.

Finally, you love light sabers.  Thatís not a surprise considering all Iíve told you before, but what if I said that you used them as a freelance assassin?  Yes, Travis Touchdown, you are no ordinary Primatine-huffing geek, but a world-renowned hitman, capable of bringing down targets ten times your size.  Youíre an expert martial artist, an unparalleled athlete, and youíve been known to transform into a tiger every now and then to even the odds in a tough fight.  You, my friend, are a god among nerds... or maybe just a nerd among gods.

One night, after carving up your latest target, you come home to find your best friendís head in a bag.  Youíre shocked, youíre beside yourself with grief, and youíre furious.  So naturally, you do what any man would do in that situationÖ you exercise your cat.  Hey, you were out of town for a while and she gorged herself on Meow Mix until you got back!  Once youíre done with feline yoga class, you dive headfirst into your work, slicing your way through the ranks to reclaim your title as the best assassin in your hometown of Santa Destroy.  Why the cops donít step in to stop this competition is anyoneís guess, but hey, thatís not any less ridiculous than everything else Iíve told you.

Now that youíve started your next mission and are up to your neck in thugs, hoods, and goons, itíd be a pretty good time to know how to use that light saber.  Just swing the Wiimote while tapping the A button, and youíll cut a path through the human debris.  When one of your enemies is out of energy, just swipe the Wiimote in the direction shown to slice him into deli meat.  If your sword is running low on Schwartz, youíll have to rely on punches and lethal suplexes until you can recharge it either with batteries or the same technique you used while watching those Japanese cartoons.  Seriously, give it a tryÖ Iíll even turn my head for a while if that makes you more comfortable.

When youíre not fighting endless waves of mafia members or doing your best imitation of Pee-Wee Herman in a movie theater, youíll earn money with jobs that suspiciously resemble old Nintendo games.  Some of them, like Bug Out, are good enough to pass for the real thing, while Man the Meat and Tile in Style are closer to what you might find in one of those awful unlicensed collections from the early 1990s.  Youíll also take an occasional break and let an acquaintance thin the herd of chainsaw wielding lunatics for a while.  This includes both your fawning understudy, who looks like a young Tina Turner, and your brother, whom youíve affectionately nicknamed Sir Henry Motherfucker.  Gee, sounds like the relationship I have with my brotherÖ

Itís fun to pretend, and for the first five hours of No More Heroes 2, itís a blast to be Travis Touchdown.  However, after the ten hours it takes to finish the game, youíll be relieved to step back into your own shoes.  The rough graphics, cryptic conversations with your panty-flashing love interest, and miserably cheap boss fights all take their toll, making you crave the moment when it all comes to an end.  Sometimes, the best part of pretending is that you can stop.

RESIDENT EVIL: THE DARKSIDE CHRONICLES
Capcom/Cavia
Light Gun
   

One of the preferred complaints of the Wii's self-entitled crybabies detractors is that most of the system's top-shelf titles are light gun games.  I don't see the problem, though, because I happen to love them.  From my earliest memories with the Coleco Telstar's massive rifle to picking off ducks with the Zapper to clearing a path through hostile jungle battlefields with Operation Wolf's machine gun, I've been staring through a crosshair for as long as I've played video games.  Light guns were motion control before anyone had a name for it, offering a level of precision, ease of use, and visceral satisfaction unrivaled by any other input device.  You just aim and shoot.  It doesn't get any easier than that... and it doesn't get any better than the first time you disarm a thug in Virtua Cop, or behead a zombie in The House of the Dead.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's nothing like a well-designed light gun game.  And good lord, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is nothing like one.

I came in with the highest expectations... and why shouldn't I?  Sega had perfected the light gun shooter with House of the Dead over a decade ago.  That trail was blazed long before Capcom had gotten to it... all they would have needed to do to make Darkside Chronicles a success was take the Resident Evil brand down the same path, bringing the graphics up to 21st century standards and making the voice acting less horrible.

Admittedly, Capcom did meet both of those requirements.  The script and acting are hugely improved over the early House of the Dead games, with dialog that makes sense and skilled voice actors who can sell it to an audience.  You'll never catch a character saying something unintentionally hilarious ("Don't come!") or putting intonation on the wrong word of a sentence ("No, help ME!"), because this is 2010. With the video game industry firmly under America's thumb, Japanese game publishers know better than to half-ass a localization... and the ones that don't are no longer in business.

There's certainly nothing wrong with the graphics, either.  Critics have praised this as one of the best looking games on the Nintendo Wii, and if you favor realism over creativity, that statement is hard to dispute.  The opening scene does an admirable job of mimicking the first ten minutes of Resident Evil 5, with a brightly lit, sun-scorched town teeming with the undead.  A later stage sends the cast on a midnight tour through Raccoon City, with flaming cars littering the streets and a police station that's been turned into an all-the-brains-you-can-eat buffet for the zombie horde.  While it may not meet the standards set by the fifth or even the fourth game in the flagship series, the lifelike animation, effective lighting, and wealth of breakable objects in Darkside Chronicles make it more than acceptable as a spin-off on the red-headed stepchild of game consoles.

So the game looks good and sounds good, but that's just window dressing.  What matters most is the core gameplay, and that's where Darkside Chronicles fails miserably.  The first issue with the game is a camera apparently held by that cracked out chihuahua of film directors, Quentin Tarantino.  It's impossible to draw a bead on targets because the lens refuses to stay focused on any subject for more than a couple of seconds.  It sways, it shakes, it spins... it does everything within its power to interfere with your aim and make you lose your lunch in the process.  What's most galling is that an on-rails game like this one should take camera issues out of the picture entirely, offering only the choicest angles for your shooting pleasure.  Taking what has always worked in light gun games and breaking it is not the right way to stand out from the crowd.

The next major malfunction on Capcom's part is senseless inventory management.  This was clearly done to strengthen the bond between Darkside Chronicles and the standard Resident Evil series, but while customizing items adds depth to a lengthy action-adventure title, it makes a lot less sense here.  Weapons start off wimpy, and only improve through a tedious process of mining each stage for gold and using it to purchase upgrades.  This not only takes the fun out of playing a mission once, but forces you to repeat it multiple times to bring your firearms up to speed.  Even after several upgrades, your guns still don't tear through zombies the way they had in House of the Dead 2.  Each enemy has just one weak point that's hard to target- even with a shotgun!- and does little to reward the effort.

Then there are the boss fights... the horrible, horrible boss fights.  Each of these battles has a climax triggered by some action that makes sense only to the developers.  It doesn't matter if you've completely drained the life bar of that giant squid... the only way you can finish the fight is by dropping a church on him.  The biggest slap in the face is that adversaries you've beaten will come back for more punishment, regardless of what you did to them in the previous mission.  Even the Terminator couldn't survive a fall into molten metal... you're going to tell me that the Tyrant can just shake it off like hot coffee spilled on the crotch?  No.  He's dead, dead, DEAD, and fuck you for saying otherwise.  Don't insult my intelligence.

The tug of war between two conflicting genres is what ultimately drives a stake through the heart of Darkside Chronicles.  Light gun games are designed to empower the player with a truckload of devastating weapons, while Resident Evil and other survival horror titles take that power away with a pervasive sense of dread and hopelessness.  House of the Dead worked because despite outward appearances, it was a light gun game at its core, with all the brainless fun that comes with the territory.  Darkside Chronicles won't commit to either style of gameplay, and the player suffers immensely for it.



NINTENDO WII

tech specs

CPU

PowerPC

MHz

729 MHz

RAM

88M

Media

DVD-ROM

Sound

Dolby Pro Logic

Gfx

ATI "Hollywood"

Res

640 x 480

Color

24-bit color

Sprite

N/A

Polys

100M per second

best games

King of Fighters: Orochi
Muramasa
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Wii Sports
Zack and Wiki

worst games

Anubis II (and clones)
Baroque
Far Cry Vengeance
Ninjabread Man
Red Steel

(note: worst games chosen by common consensus, with the exception of Red Steel, which I know stinks from personal experience)