A couple of weeks ago I decided to put some unused Wii Points to purpose on a WiiWare title. There were a few larger ones that I was interested in, so I decided to go into the Wii system menu to clean out some old game saves of titles I no longer play. I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to Wii’s flash memory, in large part because the process to delete something is quite slow and cumbersome compared to, say, housekeeping on a PC. Nevertheless, I knew I needed some space, so I figured in a few minutes I could create the room I needed.
As I got down to business, I found myself fascinated by what I saw. Nearly five years of gaming history lie before me, mostly intact. More than once I found myself thinking, “wow, I’d totally forgotten about that game,” or “man, that game was terrible.” It was as if the console was saying to me, “this is your life, even the parts you’d forgotten about.” I decided, then, to dig a little deeper into the life of my Wii as it has been.
Now, as most of you probably know, there are three ways that Wii keeps track of your gaming, either directly or indirectly:
- The Wii Message Board. The board gives daily totals for game sessions, down to the minute for each session. This is good for daily sessions but not really useful for my purposes here.
- Wii Memory. Wii’s memory contains every save game you have, provided you haven’t erased it. It won’t tell you how much time you’ve spent on games and isn’t particularly data rich, but it is a viable source of some information. If you have a GameCube memory card, the Wii System Menu is also the only place where you can find any information on your GameCube habits, as Wii does not record any information about GameCube games you play on Wii.
- The Nintendo Channel. Probably the best source of data on your gaming habits. The “Records” tab of the Nintendo channel sorts the games you’ve played by the number of hours played or the number of times played. (I think the number of times played is a little misleading, as it will count two or three sessions in one day as a single play session.) This lets you see what you’ve poured the most time into, so if you want to, say, look with embarrassment upon the 156 hours and 5 minutes you put into Monster Hunter Tri, you can.
As I surveyed the expanse of games that had graced (or sullied) my Wii over the years, I found myself thinking about the different kinds of games I had come across.
One of the first and largest classes of games that jumped out were library games. My public library system generously loans out video games for Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3, and while there are some caveats (no M-rated titles), their selection is varied enough that there are games for both the casual and core. The list of library games, on balance, was actually quite impressive: Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Red Steel 2, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, Metroid: Other M, Wario Land: Shake It!, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Rune Factory: Frontier, Geometry Wars: Galaxies, Animal Crossing: City Folk, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, Trauma Team, Soulcalibur Legends, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I… well, you get the idea.
The library option was fantastic because it was free. That meant that I could sample games that I might otherwise never be able or willing to buy. It exposed me to several critically-acclaimed titles like Other M, while also allowing me to take a chance on a more middling title like Soulcalibur Legends. Library loans are only good for one week and there are no renewals, so playing all the way through Arc Rise Fantasia (which they have) or Monster Hunter Tri (which they had two copies of on the shelf the last time I was there… *shudders*) may not be as practical. But for dipping your feet in the water, playing through a shorter game like Crystal Chronicles, or picking up some entertainment for a low-key bachelor party (as I did with Brawl a few years ago) it has been sublime.
The library was also the place where I borrowed High Voltage Software’s vaunted Dora Saves the Snow Princess for my daughter.
A second, large class of games that stood out to me were review titles. I have written for Nintendojo for over four years now, which means I’ve played and evaluated plenty of titles across the GBA, DS, and Wii platforms. Reviewing is a love-hate business; for every gem you get to experience, there is also that torturous run through gaming perdition that threatens to destroy your soul. Thus, the review games I saw in my Wii memory ran the gamut between awesome and awful: Super Paper Mario, Okami, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare– Reflex Edition, Sid Meier’s Pirates!, Dead Space Extraction, and Conduit 2 on one end of the spectrum, and Marvel Super Hero Squad, Furu Furu Park, The Price is Right, Transformers: Cybertron Adventures, Code Lyoko: Quest for Infinity, Nat Geo Challenge: Wild Life, and the exemplar of shovelware, Showtime Championship Boxing, on the other end. I should also not forget Chicken Shoot, which I panned in a review only to later discover that my wife actually liked it.
Wow, that’s a lot of time.
A third, fond class of games were old favorites. These were good titles that I had either bought or borrowed from a friend. In some cases I would go on to review them for the Dojo, but I had them primarily for my own purposes. I was amazed at some of them that I had all but forgotten about: Zack and Wiki, Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, and Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon were titles I’d hardly thought about in recent years. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was, of course, my very first Wii game, one I haven’t picked up again since beating it back in late 2006. There was Wii Fit, whose balance board still sits reliably under the coffee table. I took note of several adventure or RPG titles that I enjoyed despite their flaws, like Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (the second-longest game I played), Bully: Scholarship Edition, Arc Rise Fantasia, and the ever-charming Opoona. In a time when the Wii libary has gone barren, it’s nice to reminisce about the times when Wii has been good to me.
A final, poignant class of games that I saw in my Wii’s memory were what I came to think of as, well, haunted memories. These were games that, for one reason or another, came with sad memories. I’ve said plenty here and elsewhere about my adventures in and escape from the trap that was Monster Hunter Tri, a fact I was reminded of given its prominent place dozens of hours above any other game on my Wii Message Board’s most-played list. Another with sad memories was, of all things, Dragon Quest Swords, the disappointing, short on-rails slasher that was a warning shot of things to come. One other punch in the gut I recall distinctly was The Conduit, which released with such promise only to prove so troublesome in the online department that I finally got rid of it.
Wii’s ability to record gameplay data is not typically touted as one of its selling points, and I admit it isn’t something I’ve given a lot of thought about. I also wish GameCube information was available, since I did a fair bit of that on Wii, too. Even so, it has proven to be a meaningful experience combing back through those old Wii and WiiWare games and recalling my memories on them. I realized that there was certainly plenty of everything: joy, irritation, heartache, you name it. That, I suppose, sums of the life cycle of the Wii pretty well.
I’d be interested to hear about anyone else’s gameplay history in the comments section. What game have you poured the most time into? Did a walk through the past trigger any fond, or forgettable, gaming moments?