Hardcore Nintendo: why the Wii isn't just for casual gamers anymore

Nintendo is running away with the lead in this console generation, but if you ask hardcore gamers, they'll paint a very different picture.

Don't Worry About Wii

For those who feel abandoned by Mario and Link's conspicuous absence from the Wii, rest assured that Nintendo will never, ever neglect the two icons that have defined the company during good times and bad. Nintendo is also wise enough to know not to abuse or cheapen the duo, and will only bring out dedicated sequels when the time is right. In retrospect, back-to-back holiday seasons featuring the eponymous mascots may have spoiled us. We will see both Mario and Link again this console generation, but their next incarnations won't be simple sequels.

The Legend of Zelda will likely come first, with a dedicated Wii control scheme that puts the shoehorned controls of Twilight Princess to shame. And Mario fans know that each new adventure is completely different from the last, as he's gone from 2D to 3D and from the earth to the sea to outer space. We have no idea where he could possibly go next, but you can guarantee Nintendo does, and that he's already started going there.

Nintendo's challenge in 2009 is to bring life-long gamers back to their console with multifaceted, challenging, mature-themed games while still holding onto the casual crowd with games that are creative and easy to play. It won't be easy, but if Nintendo publishes the right games in the right ratio and remembers both its audiences, then 2009 could be the year that the generations that grew up with the NES and SNES feel like they can go home to Nintendo once again.

MadWorld

Developer: Platinum Games

Publisher: Sega

Release: AVAILABLE NOW!

For the Hardcore: In the eyes of some, this is the only upcoming Wii game that really matters. MadWorld is the story of a man called Jack, forced to compete in a terrorist-run "game show" called Death Watch in a once-sane metropolis called Varrigan City.

Jack's real goal is not to win but to learn the secrets of the Organizers behind Death Watch. You control Jack with the Nunchuk, and Jack's weapon with the Wii Remote. He starts with a chainsaw, and his arsenal only gets better from there on out.

The Organizers want ratings, so your score increases as the way you kill opponents becomes more brutal and creative. Throw a man out of a window? Fine. Throw a man out a window and onto a wall of spikes? Much better! Throw a man down two stories and onto a conveyor belt where massive butcher blades will vivisect him? Now you're talking! The entire game is littered with environmental hazards for you to use, plus wieldable weapons like spiked bats and, yes, the proverbial kitchen sink.

For the Casual: You're not going to sell a game about ripping people apart with a chainsaw to anyone's mom or grandma, period. But MadWorld does have the potential to be a hit with fans of action flicks or pop culture in general. MadWorld's black-and-white graphics recall the work of American graphic novel legend Frank Miller, the man whose work formed the basis for the hit movie Sin City and countless best-selling graphic novels. Even the bleak satire built into MadWorld's plot (you're starring in a reality show, after all) recalls Miller's work.

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