I give in already! Four months too late, but whatever: the Wii is mine. The most important question arises: is the Nintendo Wii Wii? If you’re too lazy to read the rest: yes it is. The TV remote shaped controller even calls himself Wiimote, controllers are a mechanic of the past. Thanks to this convenient shape, people who have never played a game before are able to pull off quite impressive moves. In the end, all that is needed is pointing at the screen and sometimes pressing a few buttons - just like a remote. Bad part #1 discovered: the thing requires 2 AA batteries and burns through those quite fast. Combining the Wiimote with the Nunchuck attachment gives most newcomers to gaming a bit of trouble, as the attachment is essentially just an analog stick and two buttons. But wait! The Nunchuck has a built-in separate motion sensor, neat. It takes some time to get used to the separate parts, espacially since in the past two hands hold only one controller.
Me and others have had a lot of fun, tinkering with the console itself, without playing any real games yet. There is a built-in communication system present which enables you to send and receive messages once you’ve added the contact’s friend code to your list and vice versa. You can even send edited pictures made by the Picture Channel, and receive e-mails from other systems. Bad part #2 discovered: oh no, more friends codes! Luckily, there’s only one present per system. For now, since there are no real online play games on the market yet (25 may, Mario Football charged).
The Wii console comes with a “free” game called Wii Sports. This package lets you play different sports games with the Wiimote (and boxing with the nunchuck) for up to 4 players. It’s ideal to start out, fumbling with the motion sensors and trying to get things right. Tennis, bowling and sometimes even golf are popular choices here. The boxing game mostly results in “bash the Wiimote and nunchuck like crazy until you’ve landed a hit”. Even with tactics, most matches end up swining the controller parts (Am I even permitted to still call it a controller?) like mad, although you can evade enemy hits with careful movement. Most players love to mimick baseball or tennis swings, standing up from their comfy chair and throwing the Wiimote at the screen (thank god for those wrist straps). Even a small wrist flick does the trick, but what’s the fun in doing that when you can take the whole swing? Anyway, there’s one thing certain: Wii Sports is a success.
The Wii Play package features an extra Wiimote, and some minigames playable with up to (only) 2 players. Those games mostly last a few minutes and are much les entertaining than the sports variant, sadly. The only game worth playing would be pooling or maybe the fishing game. Tanks is fun, but there are not many levels and it never takes more than 3-5 minutes. Well, don’t expect much from it, at least you’ve got another Wiimote! There also isn’t a training or fitness option present like in Wii Sports.
Without a doubt the most entertaining part of the Wii, at least for the first couple of weeks, is the Mii Channel. As a player, you can create your own cartoony “avatar”. The avatar is used in different games, like in Wii Sports and Play. You can store your created Mii onto the Wiimote (up to 4, I believe) and take them to your friends. You won’t need to recreate yourself then. Of course, you can also send your newly created Mii to your friends! (Not in the Pinboard channel, but directly in the Mii channel). After you’ve created a couple of funny looking guys and girls, the real fun starts. You can send up to 20 Miis per day to friends, and besides explicitly sending and receiving, you can also go to the “public” Mii area. Every now and then, when players enabled Mii Migration, they pass by on your console. You can pick them up and add them to your main area, which enables you to play as one of them. Or even funnier, as you are bowling, you can see your friends Mii bowling in the same area in the background!
The Mii and pinboard system does have it’s share of problems, though. As you can organize all Mii’s based on the alphabet, color and gender, there is no option to sort your incoming messages. When you receive over x messages at one day, a separate screen pops up where you can scroll to, but that solution is far from elegant. Messages can be ordered manually by picking them up with the A+B button, but it would have been nice to be able to quickly sort on sender or time. You can only send pictures too other Wii’s, and not e-mail addresses. Strange decision. There is no option to attach something else besides pictures (wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to send savegames?). You can only see a portion of the message title, and there’s no option to set the label to the date or sender.
Ah yes, Virtual Console, the ability to play all previous Nintendo Consoles, going back to the NES. Personally, before I owned the Wii my number one to get it - sounds stupid with emulation possibilities these days, but still. I’m personally rather disappointed in the VC service, mostly because of two reasons: the price and the quality. The price is set on €5 NES, €8 SNES/MegaDrive, €10 N64. That’s right, in EURO’S. $10 isn’t even €7 but we PAL gamers are used to being treated like garbage, aren’t we. Well okay, I had to try the service, so I bought some virutal points. Oh wait, you can only pay €10, €30 or €50 in advance! So one has to pay at least €10 to enjoy one NES game… Sounds very marketing-ish. But still, come on, €5 for a game from 1985? If the price had been equally balanced (let’s say €2,5 / €5 / €7,5) I’d buy even more VC games and Nintendo made more profit out of me than now with the higher price…
The Nintendo Entertainment System Quality isn’t that great either. I’ve only tried Castlevania and Kirby’s Adventure until now, but both games “feature” sound volume loss and a lot of color drab. The color problem is understandable, but the sound volume adjustments could’ve been easily avoided. Sometimes, the screen flickers a bit when scrolling between them, but I can live with that. The online game manual contents and visual representation on the other hand is very well done! Thanks to the new “Home” menu, you can pause and quit any VC (generally any channel, even Wii games, except Gamecube) game at any given time. When you return to the VC channel afterwards, the game picks up where you left it at. And that’s a good thing. The VC library is huge and growing with 3 items every week. But again, i’d rather pay less per game and more in quantity because the quality isn’t that great. On top of that, PAL VC games suffer from 50Hz and black border problems. Argh.
Gamecube playback compatibility is excellent, every game works as expected, thanks to the not-so-different hardware (kind words, those!). No software emulation troubles like the PAL Playstation 3, ha. But when the Wii is positioned in the vertical stand, you’ll have to open two flaps on top of the console to be able to plug in the GC controllers and memory cards. That completely destroys the otherwise beautiful Wii appeal. Nintendo tought Gamecube lovers would prefer their Wii horizontally, I guess. It would have been great to see the GC memory card replaced by (a portion of) the 512MB internal Wii memory, but alas… Another marketing decision? There is also no option to navigate the Wii Channels in the startup screen with your WaveBird or other ‘cube controller. Starting a gamecube game requires users to first pick up the Wiimote, select the disc channel, press start and then pick up the GC controller. That’s a bit too awkward.
As said before, some little changes could have made the Nintendo Wii console so much more attractive. Like savegame exchanges, copying edited photos to your SD card (yes you can load pictures, edit them, copy to the board and send them to friends) instead of vice versa, posting high scores, etc… Here’s a small list of little things I’d love to see in the near future concerning the Wii base software:
- Take screenshots in the Home menu and exchange those? It’s possible!
- Navigate menu’s with GC controller
- Implement the Home menu with gamecube games (where is it, anyway?)
- Copy and send savegame data to friends
- Receive very short demo’s of 5 minutes from the VC shopping channel to test the game.
- Possibility to order channels into subchannels (it could become a mess now!)
- Exchange high scores, playtime, RPG statistics, … between friends
- There’s no DS and Wii connectivity yet, but I’m sure it will come at some point.
- Be able to play some VC games on your DS? Woah!
All in all, the Nintendo Wii really is a revolutionar piece of hardware. Not really because of it’s raw power, but because of it’s capability to let those so-called “non-gamers” enjoy a game using the Wiimote and the Mii/Channel system. It’s clear that Nintendo designed it for people who don’t have many experience with previous generation consoles. And for those who do, there is Virtual Console, the pinboard, gamecube playback, Zelda Twilight Princess and other great (non-non-gamer) games. Although as a gamer, I’d like to see a little more simple functionality. Like the possibility to order channels into subchannels. What happens when you buy over 42 VC games (the maximum number of available channels)? You’ll have to copy them to your SD card, and copy it back when you want to play one of them. Not that great. So here’s the (temporary, of course!) conclusion:
- Non gamers, family, friends, … - they all fall for it! The big N power really works! Heh.
- Holding the Wiimote vertical is very cool as a race game and it responds well
- Extremely nice exteriour console design (and size!)
- WiiConnect24 enables message exchange, fun.
- Creating and sending (or spamming) different Mii avatars is addictive.
- The new Everybody Votes Channel is original and good desinged.
- Very quiet except the DVD who loads now and then. Blue light is nice!
- Virtual Console offer is gigantic, but quality (NES only?) and price could be much better
- Gamecube ports aren’t exactly placed strategicly
- Channel interface sometimes too limited (see above)
- No built-in ethernet connection, only Wireless. The WFC USB Stick sometimes behaves strange.
- Not really fair, but still: I hate you, PAL!