This is coming a bit later than I had planned, hence the “last minute” part. Christmas is nearly upon us, and I’ve wanted to assemble a short Wii gift guide for those looking for a good game at a good price. Nothing against Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, but I haven’t really played too much of the former this year, and don’t even own the latter, so I can’t say I would be too qualified to judge beyond the stuff I’d want to try on them.

On that note, I’m going only by games I’ve actually played and feel qualified to recommend. That said, here we go:

New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis

New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis is likely not what a lot of people are expecting, particularly if they are new or returning to gaming with the Wii. When one thinks of “tennis” and “Wii,” odds are the first thing that comes to mind is the console’s included copy of Wii Sports. As such, if one were to think of Mario Power Tennis on the Wii, one would likely imagine the same game, only with Mario characters and themes.

As it turns out, the game is actually quite a different experience. For starters, it is not just Wii Sports with a new skin; there are many new gimmicks and differences among the characters in this one-time GameCube exclusive title. Furthermore, different courts and different modes can provide different rules, and even different obstacles as you play matches against other players or work your way through a tournament versus computer-controlled characters.

In addition, each character has their own signature moves, which can make things even more frantic. In truth, the matches against the computer were far more intense than those in Wii Sports, and had a tendency to be longer and more drawn out. As a result, Mario Power Tennis will likely wear you out more quickly than the other game.

The other big difference might be considered detrimental. Whereas Wii Sports would follow the player’s movements in holding and swinging the racket to some degree, Mario Power Tennis does no such thing; the controller needs to be held a certain way, and specific movements with the controller (sometimes accompanied by a button press) are required to get the character on screen to swing his racket a certain way.

Fortunately, they did take at least one thing from Wii Sports, and included a control scheme which has the computer move your character around the court for you. But for more precise movement, you can plug in the Nunchuk controller and move them around yourself.

New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis isn’t a bad game, but again, it’s different from what a hardcore Wii Sports player might expect. But for $18.99 from Amazon.com, it’s certainly worth a try.

New Play Control! Pikmin

New Play Control! Pikmin is another remake of a GameCube game, and one whose controls are arguably better served by Wii functionality than Mario Power Tennis. As Captain Olimar, your goal is to restore your crashed spaceship to working order so that you can leave the toxic planet you’ve been stranded on before your life support gives out. To accomplish this, you will recruit a small army of plant-type creatures known as “Pikmin” to help fight off the local wildlife and do the heavy lifting of your spaceship’s parts.

Key to getting through the game is directing the Pikmin to where you need them to be, and the Wii interface makes this a snap. Overall, the controls feel more natural for what the game requires of you than the GameCube controller did, allowing you to simply point at where you want the Pikmin to go.

Some downsides remain from the original, however. As is strangely characteristic of some of the games made by Shigeru Miyamoto which call for and encourage exploration, there is a time limit in place for each “day” spent on the planet which gives a sense of urgency, pushing you toward your goal with little chance for sightseeing or investigation. It makes sense from a story perspective, but still gives the game a hurried feeling in a setting which seems perfect for relaxing and oftentimes calls for some contemplation.

This is an arguable flaw that has been remedied for Pikmin 2, which has also been released under the New Play Control! label for Wii, but only in Europe and Japan so far. As such, it does this game little good, nor does it really help us now.

New Play Control! Pikmin is still a fun adventure despite this, and is a steal at $16.97 on Amazon.com.

New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat was one of my favorite games on the GameCube, and despite being one of the most different on the Wii, still remains a favorite.

This game is a sidescrolling 2-D-styled platformer with 3-D graphics, and was created by the team who made Super Mario Galaxy before they would go on to make that game. The original GameCube version was controlled completely by a set of bongos, making it a unique and immersive experience like no other; tapping one bongo would make Donkey Kong move in one direction, with the other taking him the opposite way. Tap faster, and he would run; hitting both would make him jump, and clapping your hands would make DK do the same, stunning enemies with mighty shockwaves.

To a degree, this tapping of bongos has been replaced in the Wii version, but thankfully, you don’t have to shake the controllers to make him move. Instead, control is normal, as you use the Analog stick on the Nunchuk to move him back and forth, while the Wii Remote’s A button makes him jump. Shaking the controller will lead to DK clapping, and in certain instances during which you are prompted, the two Wii Remotes are shaken furiously to deal tremendous damage to stronger foes.

One problem with the original GameCube title is that it was actually rather difficult, requiring a level of near-perfection to proceed. This has been done away with to a degree in the Wii version, and moving through the levels is easier, though you can still go back and try to obtain a better score. But even with this change, the game is still a challenge, and has added certain enemies and obstacles to accommodate the new control scheme. It leads to a fun, challenging game which nudges you ever further, without becoming daunting or overwhelming.

And while the game may seem short, it will still take some time to overcome, as one’s arms can only keep up the furious swinging for so long. At the same time, it’s fun to feel the muscles really working as you do so.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is the most expensive of the titles to fall under the New Play Control! label so far, at $27.82 on Amazon.com, but it is definitely worth it. Supposing you want the more unique experience, you can get the original GameCube game with bongos for as little as $18.95 used, or $69.94 new. Or, if you already have the bongos (as they were used with the Donkey Konga titles), you can get the game alone for $9.00 used, or from $34.19 to $39.98 new.

Mind, the GameCube game and bongos will work on the Wii, but the bongos don’t work with the Wii version of the title. Either way, the two provide a pair of fun, unique experiences that are also unique from one-another; as a fan of the GameCube title, I still had a new kind of fun going through the Wii version.

Metroid Prime Trilogy

Metroid Prime Trilogy is normally one of the most expensive games on the list, usually asking for $50-$60, but it seems Amazon’s sellers are asking for a lower price of as little as $29.99 new.

And for that price, it’s practically a steal. As the name implies, Metroid Prime Trilogy collects all three of the games in the Metroid Prime series: the GameCube titles Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, plus the Wii title Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. And the two GameCube titles have been reworked to include the Wii style of controls introduced in the third game. In a way, this makes it a spiritual member of the New Play Control! line, which stands to reason; in Japan, the two GameCube games were released individually under their version of the banner.

Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of first-person styled games, as something always felt off, but I can honestly say that the Wii versions have drawn me in, as something just feels right about them. This title is perfect for a serious gamer who likes long, sprawling sci-fi epics, as you essentially get three of them for ten dollars a piece. And in case a little assistance is needed, there is also a handy player’s guide available for $13.59 or less.

Edit: And I’ve just learned that Best Buy has the game for $19.99. It’s backordered online, but you can apparently pick it up at one of their retail locations for the same price. Given that some places want nearly $90 for just Metroid Prime 3: Corruption alone, it’s an incredibly good deal.

Wario Land: Shake It!

Supposing you’re unable to get your hands on New Super Mario Bros. Wii, as the game has been selling out in a lot of places, this title might make for a good holdover until the Bros. come hopping back.

While Mario sets out to rescue his fair princess, his rival Wario is less concerned with damsels in distress and more interested in shaking down pirates and baddies for cash. Wario Land: Shake It! is a 2-D action platformer not unlike a Mario game, but with its own quirks. With his own style and moves, Wario goes through the Shake Dimension, beating down villains and grabbing any coins he can find, and also does a bit of treasure hunting in the process.

Using the Wii Remote, players can control various contraptions and make Wario shake enemies, coin bags, and more until they let loose money, garlic, and other odds and ends. Wario can also throw enemies by tilting the Wii Remote to aim, and can shake things up further by shaking the Remote for a devastating ground-punch.

And throughout the game (and not just in cut scenes), you’re treated to the gorgeous animation of Production I.G., the studio behind such animated hits as Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell.

For $19.99, it’s hard to go wrong. And if you need a little help finding everything, the player’s guide is available for as little as $1.99 new on Amazon.com.

Excitebots: Trick Racing

Last, but certainly not least, is one of the year’s most underrated games, Excitebots: Trick Racing. Sequel to the Wii launch title Excite Trucks, Excitebots brings back and refines the same gameplay while adding new courses, tricks, and other quirks to the mix to create a wild party game.

Excitebots is compatible with the Wii Wheel which many people received with Mario Kart Wii, though it’s not required to play. Instead of trucks, you control your choice from a number of cool robot-vehicles based on different animals, and perform various stunts off of jumps, as well as other bizarre tricks during races, such as throwing a pie at a target for extra points, or using items to take out your racing rivals. Excitebots also features multiplayer and online play, as well as several modes, including a combination of racing and Poker.

Mario Kart Wii has held a strong showing for Nintendo month after month on the NPD sales charts, and Excitebots really deserves more of a chance. So if you know a group of friends who love playing Mario’s racer, try breaking this one out sometime instead and see if they’ll give it a chance. There’s a lot of fun waiting to be had.

Excitebots: Trick Racing is available alone for $27.97 or less, though I’ve heard of some places selling it for as little as $19.99. There is also a version which includes a Wii Wheel, though it might just be cheaper to just get that separately, if you even need it.

And that wraps up my last minute shopping guide of cheap Wii games, great for stocking stuffers, people you don’t know well but wish to make a good impression on, or best of all, someone you want to impress by getting a lot of games for your money.

Happy Holidays.

–LBD “Nytetrayn”

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