Nintendo was once again at PAX with a small booth, but this year, they weren't packing a ton of first-party titles. Instead, they chose to focus more on Wii Sports Resort, the Metroid Prime Trilogy, and a handful of downloadable titles and DS releases. Of those games, four new WiiWare titles were available at Nintendo's booth: Pokemon Rumble, Bit. Trip Void, Contra: ReBirth and Cave Story.
Here's a brief breakdown of each, starting with the game that came out today:
Released Monday on the Wii Shop Channel, Contra: ReBirth is pretty much everything you have come to expect from a Contra game: a tough, brutal title that might require you to have a second player to beat it, but one that offers a challenge and is a throwback to the games of old. The controls are straight up classic Contra, the graphics are a tip of the hat to Contra III, and other Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis titles like it, and there are a plethora of hard bosses and crazy power-ups throughout the game. ReBirth is essentially a console version of Contra 4, and mind you, Contra 4 was a wonderful title.
Perhaps most importantly, the game actually explains what a Contra is, or so I've been told. I never made it far enough to find out.
What started as a freeware PC game a few years ago grew into one of the most beloved free PC titles this decade. Cave Story was later announced for WiiWare, and a playable version was at PAX.
The core of Cave Story remains the same, with the only changes being a new controller (the Wii remote held sideways a la the NES controller) and buffed up graphics. The new graphics still retain Cave Story's original style, but there will be an option in the final release to switch back to the original graphics if you don't like the new look. Either way, it's still every bit as fun and challenging as it was when you played it on PC.
Bit. Trip Void
You'll notice a trend here, but Bit. Trip Void is a little more of the same from the Bit. Trip franchise. I hate to keep saying it, but it's true in this case, though less so than the first two games. Like in the first two games, Bit. Trip Void is a musical experience in an 8-bit shell. Unlike the first two, though, the game play is somewhat different. Sure, you're still trying to collect bits, but you're not using bars this time or limited to a certain plane of movement.
In Void, you take control of a little black circle using the Wii remote nunchuk. As you collect black bits and avoid white ones, your black circle grows and grows, making it harder and harder to move and dodge the white bits. You can bank your points and reduce your circle's size back to normal by hitting the A button, but you lose any multipliers you might have at that moment. The bits also begin to move in crazy different patterns, coming from multiple points on the screen as the game progresses further and further. It's a rather fun experience and one I'd easily recommend to anyone who owns a Wii.
And here's where we break with the aforementioned trend, because Pokemon Rumble is most certainly not a part of it. The premise of the game is that you play as a collector of Pokemon toys that do battle. Now now, before you start assuming it's just Pokemon with toys, I meant, quite literally, what I said — you play as the actual Pokemon itself, fighting other Pokemon in arenas and dungeons, adding more to your collection by defeating them. It's real-time combat, or pretty much what I have wanted every Pokemon game to be for the past 2-3 years, and it's actually very fun. The graphics are perhaps not as polished as I had hoped, as there are some jaggies on the Pokemon models, but it's got several levels to explore, several arenas to fight in and level up through, and the final version will support four-player multiplayer. The Japanese version came out in June, but PAX was the North American debut of the title and I came away very impressed with it. If not for another title at Nintendo's booth, I would say it was their best first-party game at the show.
In conclusion, these four WiiWare titles at Nintendo's booth are all great games and worth your Wii Points. As the guy who covers WiiWare every week and the guy who's seen a lot of awful releases in the past on WiiWare, I'm hopeful that these four games will help the download service turn the corner and become a competitive rival for Xbox Live Marketplace and the PlayStation Store.