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Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Shutdown Survival Guide

On May 20th, Nintendo will cease operating Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection worldwide, meaning all of these games will no longer be able to access their online functions. Last June Nintendo shut off the Wii Connect 24 service, most notable for its use in sending messages and Miis to friends, in Animal Crossing, and the various Wii Channels, so the writing has been on the wall for a little over half a year now. Well, really longer, as when the hell was the last time you played a Wii game online? That said, maybe you want to wring every last ounce of online-enabled joy that you can out of the little white monolith before it becomes IMPOSSIBLE*. Here, then, is a guide to living it up in the endtimes.

First Things

What’s NOT getting shut down:

    Netflix/Hulu Plus/Amazon Video
    Wii Shop Channel
    Internet Channel (though it’s pretty useless for today’s Web)

What IS getting shut down:

    Online multiplayer
    Leaderboards/high score tables/tournaments
    Access to free add-ons
    Sharing user made content like levels, replay ghosts, pictures of penises
    Exchanging in-game items

Uncertain:

    Some games like Mega Man 9 have paid DLC that is purchased from within the game; the game connects to the Shop Channel without exiting to allow this. It seems likely that this functionality will continue based on the given information, but the fact that it is not purchased/discoverable directly through the Shop Channel gives reason to pause. I’m awaiting a reply from Nintendo and will update when I receive it. Also, I won’t be covering online leaderboards.

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Multiplayer Highlights

While online multiplayer never really took off on Wii or DS for a number of reasons, including arguably boneheaded decisions like Friend Codes, there were still many fun times had with some of the bigger games. Finding a worthwhile public match was often an exercise in futility, but playing faraway friends proved worthwhile, even if there was no easy way to communicate with them through the system/game itself to set up a match. Now with the ubiquity of cell phones and texting it should be slightly easier to get your friends on board at short notice to make some final memories in these titles (at least, if you still have their Friend Codes entered):

Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

Tons of characters! Tons of stages! Nostalgasm! And this time online! Brawl‘s reputation as a balanced and competitive fighting game… never really lasted long, with most obsessive players preferring Melee on the Gamecube, but for the rest of us in those first months after release it was a smorgasbord of beating the shit out of each other for fun. Lag could be an issue, but I had matches with people in Japan that played just fine. I’ll always have those match replays on YouTube, unless Nintendo decides to send a takedown notice. A new Super Smash Bros. is on the way this year, but this remains THE game to play for someone wanting one last hurrah in a Wii online multiplayer game. I will probably fire it up multiple times before the hammer falls.

Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS)/Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)

Both of these have largely been superseded by Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS already, but if you don’t have that game, or have special affection for your town in either of these two, now is the last relatively easy shot you’ll have at getting help filling out your catalog, getting fruit, or fucking around with the Wii Speak microphone. Yeah, remember that thing? I ended up with two of the fuckers.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (Wii)

Like Brawl, this one is kind of poo-poo’d upon by more serious fighting game enthusiasts, but aside from 300 versions of Street Fighter II on the Virtual Console (including the Genesis version of Super Street Fighter II with added online play, far too late and probably soon defunct as well) it was the most Capcom fighting game love the Wii got, and will likely remain a Wii-exclusive experience for the foreseeable future given the licensing involved. If you ever wanted to pit Battle of the Planets characters against Zero from Mega Man X over the Internet, that time is now!

Mario Kart Wii/Mario Kart DS

Snaking.

Excitebike: World Rally (Wii)

A surprisingly fun little WiiWare update to Excitebike from Monster Games, who also did ExciteTruck and ExciteBots on Wii. Ray and I raced against each other feverishly when this was released. Finding other racers to play against was also pretty easy at the time, though I imagine it’s been barebones for months. Maybe there will be an influx again at the end. Also of note: there are unlockable paint jobs for the bikes that can only be obtained by racing online to earn points needed to unlock them. There is no offline multiplayer, sadly.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)

The only Zelda game with online multiplayer, this one also features unique unlockables from playing the online mode, in this case custom parts for your ship. The multiplayer mode itself is pretty fun, with one person controlling Link and the other drawing paths for the three Phantoms to prevent Link from gathering Force Gems into the player’s goal, with players swapping sides when Link is attacked.

Metroid Prime Hunters (DS)

The Nintendo DS’s premiere first-person shooter, it’s subject to balance issues both in-game and physically. I never got very far in story mode and never played it online, but hey, it’s Metroid!

Tetris DS

One of four Tetris games for Wii and DS, all with soon-to-be-dead online multiplayer. Tetris is going to be around in some form forever, but many people consider Tetris DS a highlight for its smattering of unique modes and the Nintendo-drenched atmosphere that pervades its soundscape and imagery, from the menus to the game modes themselves.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon/Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (DS)

These entries in the long-running turn-based strategy series were the first with online multiplayer. Fire Emblem Awakening on 3DS provides a current fix, but there’s no word on another game for TBS fans who prefer tanks and such over dragons and such.

Bomberman Blast!

Online will live on in the version of this game released on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, so this isn’t a huge loss in terms of online multiplayer. The WiiWare version of the game does support eight players offline, however, besting the PlayStation 3 release by one, and making it the next best thing to Saturn Bomberman.

The Conduit/The Conduit 2 (Wii)

Oh, what a pipe dream. Released in a drought of FPS games on Wii, the first Conduit got a lot of attention and previews. Apparently it was fun enough, but far from a savior. Now there are multiple Call of Duty ports and GoldenEye 007, all of which have player bases on other hardware.

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Grab These Add-Ons

More potentially devastating in my opinion than the loss of multiplayer is the upcoming unavailability of certain special items that were offered for free download in certain games.

WarioWare D.I.Y. (DS)/WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase (Wii)

These games are actually the first that came to mind when I heard the announcement. Losing the ability to easily share the games and music and comics you create with friends sucks, especially for a game designed to encourage that, but what’s more is that Nintendo made a special series of microgames available. These microgames were made /by famous game designers, popular indie game developers, and the staff of Nintendo Power, and use a special icon for them on the game menu. Among these is an exceedingly simple microgame from Edmund McMillen featuring Meat Boy, which nonetheless is the closest thing to Super Meat Boy to arrive on Wii, an interesting footnote after all of the press the game received in Nintendo Power before it became too ambitious for WiiWare and had to be cancelled. There are also microgames from Metroid head honcho Yoshio Sakamoto, Cave Story‘s Daisuke Amaya, and a Bit.Trip Runner-inspired one from Bit.Trip developer Gaijin Games.

Picross DS/Picross 3D (DS)

In addition to letting users create and share puzzles, both of these had extra puzzles made available from Nintendo. The puzzle packs for Picross DS include puzzles from the Game Boy game Mario’s Picross. In fact, I’ve read that *all* of the puzzles from Mario’s Picross are included, though I’ve been unable to verify this.

Professor Layton series (DS)

Each of the four games in the Professor Layton series on the DS has an extensive series of weekly puzzles that are obtained by connecting to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Apparently they are already on the cartridge and connecting just downloads an unlock key, so just hacking to unlock them is completely do-able. But why bother with that while you don’t have to?

Jam with the Band/Daigassou! Band Bros. DX (DS)

The sequel to an often previewed launch rhythm game that eventually never left Japan, Band Bros. DX has a TREMENDOUS amount of extra songs to download in Japan- something in the neighborhood of four thousand. Due to licensing restrictions you can only download 100 to any one copy of the game, and have to erase the entire cartridge save file to try out any others, so at this point you might want to choose wisely. This sequel actually did make it to Europe under the name Jam with the Band, with a different included song list and it’s own much smaller catalog of downloadable songs (50).

100 Classic Books

All region versions of this have their own handful of additional books that can be downloaded. Not a huge loss, since all of these books are public domain just like the ones included on the cartridge. Still, you know you want those bragging rights.

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Pokémon

Pokémon Pearl/Diamond/Platinum, HeartGold/SoulSilver, and Black/White/Black 2/White 2 will all be unable to trade or battle online anymore. Anyone interested in Pokémon probably has one of the newest pair, X or Y, however, and it is possible to transfer, through an incredibly convoluted but not unfeasible hardware and software chain, any Pokémon you have all the way from Ruby and Sapphire to the new games thanks to the recently launched Pokémon Bank and Poké Transporter programs on the Nintendo 3DS. I won’t get into the details here, even though it tickles me that this stuff is possible.

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Unaffected

Bangai-O Spirits (DS)

Bangai-O Spirits lets users create levels, and developer Treasure came up with an ingenious method to allow easy sharing of levels without relying on centrally-controlled servers. The levels are converted to sound data, which can be recorded directly from the Nintendo DS to a PC or any other device that can record sound via either a microphone or directly connected to the headphone jack on the DS itself. This data can then be transferred to another Bangai-O Spirits cart by plugging in headphones (or turning up the speakers) to the recording device, playing back, and using the Nintendo DS system’s built-in microphone, pressed near the speaker or headphone, to receive the sound. What this means is there are a bunch of Bangai-O Spirits levels ready to be downloaded from YouTube just by plugging your earbuds into your phone or laptop and finding the appropriate option to receive them in the game itself, and this won’t change on May 20th. Have fun!

If there are any of your personal favorite games that will be affected by the shutdown, especially ones I missed, please chime in in the comments/forum!

*Of course, the Wii and Nintendo DS are both hacked wide open so a lot of this stuff should still be possible, if a slight pain in the ass. Maybe less of a pain in the ass than changing your router settings so the Nintendo DS can connect, though.