Genre: Party
Year: 2006
Developed by: Ubisoft
Published by: Ubisoft
Platforms: Wii and a dozen others
Feeling Like: A Fuzzy Rabbit

Have I talked about the Wii at Mount Allison?

*Checks excel document*

Huh. Guess I haven’t. Batter up.

I loved my time at university in Sackville, New Brunswick. Aside from the unbearably cold temperatures and the varying trials of trying to do well in school, it was the ideal lifestyle for Henry ages 18-23. It didn’t take me long to find like-minded nerds who were obsessed with video games. Most of them displayed superior maturity and had infinitely better scholarly discipline, but thankfully they didn’t hold that against me. After three years in residence, a group of us found our home away from home at 36A King St. (Far left)

Securing a Nintendo Wii was a necessity. We had an elaborate set up with switches, multiple TVs, every console imaginable, hundreds of games and a giant entertainment cabinet to hold said consoles and games. But we wanted something new and exciting and the Wii came out November 2006. We were going to graduate (God willing) in April of 2007 so we didn’t have a lot of time to engage in a digital swan song.

Unfortunately for us, the Wii was impossible to find. The novelty of motion controls had swept the world and demand was sky high. Early morning phone calls were made daily to every retail outlet nearby (we didn’t have a Future Shop or EB Games in town) to ask if they had any Wii in stock. No, of course they didn’t. And there wasn’t even a pandemic or chip shortage to compete with. Sigh.

Eventually, one of our friends called us from a Best Buy in Moncton and wanted to know if we wanted him to buy the last Wii on the shelves. Could we pay him back when he got to our place? Yes. Absolutely we could.

So, we rounded up the team, put on our five layers of sweaters and jackets and braved -30 with wind chill to trek down to Sassy’s, the local convenience store and the closest ATM. It had a very small cash limit; annoying then, amusing now. I have a vivid memory of standing inside the store, trying to get warm as we all converse about how much we each owed, how much we should each take out, navigating daily withdrawal limits, promises of repayment and who was going to take it when we graduated. Somehow I ended up with it when I flew home in May. Do I owe anybody some Wii money?

It was perfect. Our place was abuzz. Word spread quickly of our newly acquired treasure. The Wii’s initial library was small, but it had a few gems. Wii Sports, obviously. That’s the one everybody talks about and hooked them on the system, and with good reason.

But Rayman Raving Rabbids gave us nearly as much joy.

It’s so stupid. I mean you really have to accept the Rabbids’ freakish appearance and the constant exasperations of shock they bellow every few minutes to have a good time. Think Minions before Minions. They’re cute in their own way; they seem impervious to physical pain, which is good since the game’s entire premise seems to be how much physical torture you can bestow upon them. But, it was the ideal experiment with motion controls. It was a great party game. We frequently had people over and the conversation almost always led us to migrate to the TV so we could show our friends how “cool” we were by having a Wii and a few zany games.

I don’t know how many times I’ve mentioned my buddy Fuzzy yet on the 500, but he’s going to get a mention again here. I cannot discuss this game without sadly admitting we played an unhealthy amount of Rayman Raving Rabbids. The co-op version of the rhythm section in particular was the section we tried to master. And we did it over and over and over.

Us playing this mode together was even featured in a video project by a former roommate, Ryan. It’s moderately embarrassing – I’m playing a character, mind you, but I can’t help but look back at my puffy cheeks, splotchy skin and glasses that are too small for my face and cringe. I definitely thought I was funnier than I was, although I wasn’t given a script so I should cut me some slack.

Maybe I’ll be brave enough to post it one day.

Our trek to Sassy’s and spending money we couldn’t afford was totally worth it. I’m shocked we didn’t wear out the TV we played Rayman Raving Rabbids so much. You never had to organize anything, just head downstairs to the living room and somebody would be there playing something. The nature of the mini-games ensured that even onlookers would enjoy the dramatic whips of the nunchucks, or precise timing with a song, or shooting at targets with unparalleled accuracy. The end of a match meant a passing of the controllers, and a verbal reminder to ensure you strapped the Wiimote to your wrist. One of the earliest viral videos I can remember, many unlucky gamers did not strap in properly.

I doubt many gamers would want to try this one today. The Wii’s allure is long gone, just another curious chapter in the history books. Motion controls are still around, but the initial craze surrounding it has been dramatically tempered. There are superior party games out there; if Rock Band had launched a year earlier, I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have passed my final exams. I’m grateful for small miracles, and for a ridiculous game about launching Rabbids out of minecarts and jamming along to the beat with my buddies Fuzzy, Danimal, Randy, Dave and Lipsit.

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