I recently resumed my playthrough of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King. Besides the name being long in the tooth (not that that’s unusual for Japanese games), it has some of the typical issues with Wii games, those being developers not properly considering the implications of the hardware and its use.
First, a primer. MLaaK is a city-building sim game, in which you play the leader of a kingdom that was destroyed in the first Crystal Chronicles game, who is attempting to refound his father’s realm. In a third-person over-the-head perspective, you run around deciding where to place buildings such as homes, which then allow families to move in and in turn make adventurers available for you to send into the wilderness to bring back loot and riches.
The first failing of this game’s design is that the Wiimote’s forward sensor is unused. When you’re running around with a camera hovering over your back, the precision of that sensor is pretty much mandatory. But no. You simply use the D-pad to move about your town, and even that isn’t as precise as it should be–the King turns at nearly right angles, meaning if you’re not aligned with a street’s length you end up making an awkward zigzag to keep from bashing your head into buildings. Thank Romero the game doesn’t have character collision, or it would be a nightmare just to go for a stroll.
Apparently wanting to add to the inelegance, the Wiimote is used in its “normal” orientation, that is you hold it lengthwise, with the D-pad under your thumb. Why? If you’re not going to use the motion sensor, why not have it turned into “retro” orientation and make use of the extra buttons in a much more comfortable way? Many Wii game designers don’t seem to realize what they’re making can use other modes than what you see in the advertisements.
Another case in point: Metal Slug Anthology. It’s your typical sidescrolling platformer game (well, a colection of games), and smartly makes use of the Wiimote’s retro configuration. Okay, not so smartly. The game has no totally retro control scheme. In its simplest setting, it’s played much like it was an NES game, with one very annoying exception–throwing grenades requires the Wiimote be snapped quickly with the wrist. Obviously this makes gameplay extremely difficult, as moving the controller this way means you either can’t move or can’t shoot, and doing neither for even a second in a game like Metal Slug means death. Meanwhile, the “B” trigger is entirely unused. Why is the grenade function not mapped to this button?
Is this intentional? If so, why do developers feel the need to do this? It only makes gameplay awkward, at best, and in the case of Metal Slug‘s grenades, painful after a time. The game dev’s aim is to make it comfortable to play; otherwise there is little incentive to play. Not every unique feature of the Wii hardware needs to be exploited for every game–conversely, useful design mechanics should never be ignored when they will complement gameplay.
Or, at very least, games should allow full freedom of customization when it comes to command mapping. Personally, this is my preferred solution, but I can see reasons why it would be problematic for some developers.