LOS ANGELES – The rush to get hold of Nintendo's new Wii video-game console is being fueled by demand for another attraction — the new game in Nintendo's "Legend of Zelda" series — but game critics were uncertain this level of interest would continue.
Nintendo turned to one of its most popular franchises to make sure its Wii console got off on a good start in the three-way race for sales this holiday, against Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox 360 and Sony Corp.'s (SNE) PlayStation 3.
For almost 20 years the "Legend of Zelda" series has been one of the top properties in the video-game industry, selling more than 47 million copies, so Nintendo ensured "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" came in tandem with the launch of Wii.
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The new game makes use of the new controls of Wii such as its motion-sensitive controller, with players swinging the remote to make sword attacks, pointing it to fire arrows, and even simulating reeling motions in fishing challenges.
"Nintendo has an opportunity to reclaim the market share lead [with the Wii]," said Jamil Moledina, executive director of the Game Developers Conference.
Nintendo has some ground to make up. Its GameCube held just 14 percent of the global video-game market, compared to Sony's PlayStation 2 winning a 70 percent share and Microsoft's original Xbox 16 percent, according to DFC Intelligence.
The new "Zelda" game has received rave reviews since its release with some critics calling it one of the best "Zelda" titles yet. According to Gamerankings.com, the title has an average rating of 97 percent among critics.
"It took Nintendo almost a decade to do it, but the publisher has finally created a new 'Zelda' game that is so epic that it deserves to be crowned the best in its class," raved game critic Matt Casamassina on IGN.com.
The long-anticipated release of the "Zelda" title was expected to create a buzz, but Nintendo has said that only about two of the 30 new Wii games by year-end are Nintendo titles.
Critics said they would look more at the pick-up of other games to realistically gauge future third-party support to Nintendo which has been lacking in the past.
A new release, "Red Steel," is an original created by developer UbiSoft for the Wii that puts gamers in a modern conflict with Japanese gangsters, firing with a variety of guns and swinging the remote during in-game swordfights.
"Red Steel," however, has received mixed reviews from game critics, who have criticized its sluggish controls.
It received a 5 out of 10 on 1Up.com, which called the game a "ho-hum shooter with a creative but flawed gimmick stapled on."
"Having the support of third-party publishers is a bigger issue than having a hit game [like Zelda] at launch, because Nintendo already had an amazing reputation for first-party titles," said Moledina.