The Nintendo Wii: - Does the Revolution Live Up to the Hype?
Decent Library of Games, Fantastic List of Upcoming Titles, Unique Features, Innovative Controller
Weaker Graphical Capabilities Than the Other Consoles, Many Bad Games
The Bottom Line:
The Wii Is A Pretty Good Console So Far and Shows a Ton of Potential.
The word 'revolution' in itself is a very powerful term - something so massive in scale that it has the power to change the way we see something. This is why I was expecting big things from Nintendo when they codenamed their next console the 'Revolution' in it's early conception. You see, they claimed it would change the way we play games, but I didn't know what to expect. The big feature of the console turned out to be a very unorthodox remote controller design complete with motion controls. Since then the console has undergone a name change to Wii, and has been released on the mass market around the world. I was one of the early adopters, but has the console actually changed the way we play videogames?
What's Included With the Nintendo Wii:
Nintendo Wii Console
Wii Remote Nunchuck Attachment
Wii Sensor Bar
Wii Sports Video Game
A/V Cables and AC Adapter
The Nintendo Wii Console
Last generation Nintendo's console more closely resembled a purple lunch box than an actual gaming platform. This time they've thought things through a lot better. About the size of your average high speed internet modem, the guts of the Wii console are enclosed within a rectangular box that is quite similar in basic size and shape to a stack of DVD cases. This time Nintendo stuck with slick white as the default color and it's currently available in only that scheme. Knowing Nintendo, new colors should be available in the next few years.
One thing in particular that I like about the Wii's design is that you can easily set the console on it's side. It's actually meant to be situated either way, and for those of you with less space Nintendo also included a handy little console stand to better secure the console when being stored vertically. That was very thoughtful of Nintendo to include it for free.
Located in the front of the system are the obligatory Power, Reset, and Eject buttons, along with a disc slot that lights up when you've got new messages. You will also find a compartment containing a 'synch' button, and a slot for SD cards. The side of the console features two compartments which hide four Gamecube controller slots along with two places to plug in your old memory cards. The back of the console is quite a bit less interesting - you'll find the plugins for the sensor bar and the power supply and that's about it save for a vent.
Nintendo decided to do a little something different as far as the interface is concerned. Upon booting up the console you will be brought to the channel menu. Here you'll find rows and rows of channels. This is how nearly every feature of the Wii is accessed - from the weather and news reports, internet browser, loading up a game, and all of your virtual console games even get their own channel. I wouldn't call it the most intuitive system ever but it's actually pretty original and very easy to comprehend.
What's really awesome is the fact that Nintendo is continually uploading new content for you to download. This comes in the form of new channels. While some are quite useful (the internet browser for example) many are just good useless fun (Everybody Votes). I imagine that further down the line Nintendo will come up with some even better ideas for this service.
One of the more unique features of the console are the Miis. Basically a Mii is a character you can design to look like yourself (or like anyone else for that matter) using a rather large and powerful customizing palette of hair styles, face types, eyes and more. These Miis can actually be used in certain games, for example, you can play as them in Wii Sports or Wii Play. Your stats for various games are saved onto your Mii character which is in turn stored in your console's internal memory. I'm quite excited to see what Nintendo comes up with using these characters.
Right out of the box the Wii is able to play Gamecube games. This is the first time that Nintendo has allowed backwards compatibility in one of their home consoles, and it's about time that they jumped on the bandwagon. The Gamecube discs go into the same front loading disc slot that the Wii's DVD discs do which is kind of surprising given their much smaller size. This is a very pleasant feature and I'm darn glad Nintendo included it so I don't have to haul around my Gamecube too. Unfortunately the Wii isn't compatible with many of the GC's peripherals, such as the Gameboy Player, so people who use stuff like that may want to keep around their purple lunchbox consoles.
Unfortunately the Wii does not include a built in harddrive, or currently the option to connect one to the console. Given the ability to download virtual console games it seems like it is inevitable, because the rather tiny 512MBs of internal memory really doesn't last very long. At least they did opt to include a slot for SD cards. With USB slots located in the back of the console there is the possiblity that Nintendo will release a harddrive peripheral so there is hope.
Overall I think the Wii is a very attractive looking system. It's the first time Nintendo has really come out with something that looks exceptionally sleek (besides the DS Lite). In the past they've gone down a different route so it's cool to see them put out something that looks quite fitting in a high-end entertainment center.
The Revolution's In the Wii-Mote
The remote controller is the big revolution that Nintendo had long been speaking of even before revealing the console. This is by far one of the most unique remotes ever to embrace the gaming industry, and making it the default pad for the console was a huge risk by Nintendo. The design is based around your standard TV remote, only skinnier. You have a D-pad on the top, a rather large A button just below that, , -, and Home buttons in the middle, and two buttons labelled 1 and 2 vertically near the bottom end. The reverse side of the remote features a trigger button and a battery compartment.
The high point of this controller is in it's motion controls. On top of featuring tilt sensing accellerometers, a sensor bar connected to the Wii console allows for pinpoint accuracy in reading where you are aiming at the television screen. This means that the controller can sense both tilt motions and can act as an on-screen pointer. This combination offers a lot of different ways to play games.
Holding the remote in the default pointer position isn't the only way to play games. Due to the remote's rectangular design you can also hold it horizontally. Using this method for holding the remote reveals a very scheme which resembles the classic NES controller. Quite a few games take advantage of this particular setup, and the virtual console in particular forces you to hold it this way to play many of the classic games.
Motion controls aren't the remote's only special feature though. Located on the top of the remote is a very small speaker. The Wii console streams sound effects to the remote which are output through this. It's a pretty cool effect actually, but it can become a bit annoying after long periods of play and drains the batteries on the remote too fast for my liking. Rumble also comes standard in the Wii-remote, and it feels as if it has been slightly upgraded with more tones of pulsing from the Gamecube controller.
The remote also features a connector on the very bottom of it. This is used for plugging in various controller peripherals. So far only two of these are available - the classic controller which is a controller set up very much like the old Super Nintendo pad with the exception of having two analog sticks, and the nunchuck unit which features a joystick, two shoulder buttons, and it's own accelerometers for even more motion control goodness. Many games require the use of both the nunchuck and Wii remote at the same time, thankfully both come with the console itself.
Nintendo has in the past been a firm supporter of wireless controllers (remember the Wavebird), and it's definitely nice to see that the Wii remote is completely wireless from the console. Had it not been there would have surely been some issues with knocked over consoles and whatnot. One downfall to the remote's design however is that the accessories that plug into it are wired. The nunchuck's wire hangs down a bit as you play and can sometimes get in the way. The classic controller is especially annoying as the Wii remote simply hangs down into your lap while you are using it. There is no reason why these accessories can't also be wireless.
This brings me to my next problem. The Wii uses two AA batteries rather than have rechargeables built right in. This is extremely annoying because the battery life is very short, and you should only get around 10 hours of playtime before having to switch them out. This is why it's extremely wise to invest in your own rechargeable batteries - it will save you a whole lot of money.
Overall I really like the remote. It fits very comfortably into your hand, and thanks to the very thoughtful inclusion of the wrist strap you don't have to worry about dropping it. The nunchuck melds equally as well to your other hand. Now if only the Wii remote itself wasn't heavily overpriced at the tag of $39.99. To make matters even worse, the nunchuck which is obviously rather cheap to make costs $19.99 on it's own.
Given it's wireless nature the Wii is perfectly connectable to Nintendo's DS handheld. This could be used for a number of things - using the DS as a controller (including the touch screen), as a separate screen, or even for mini-games. The possibilities are huge, and given the more unique nature of the DS it should be much better than Gamecube to Gameboy Advance connectivity was. So far the only game that actually takes advantage of this is Pokemon Battle Revolution, but I imagine that many more are in the pipeline.
Wii Hardware Capabilities
Roughly the Wii console is supposed to be about as strong as the original Xbox. That's certainly nowhere near the level of the PS3 and Xbox 360, but for many jaded gamers that really doesn't matter. I'm not a very tech savy guy so I won't go into specifics, but expect Wii games to look very much like your typical titles from last generation. Sure there are times when it goes a step beyond this (Super Mario Galaxy looks amazing), but for the most part don't expect jaw dropping visuals.
The Wii is also the only console from this generation that doesn't support High Definition visuals. This is one thing that I in particular couldn't care less about because I think HDTVs are a ripoff currently, but those of you who own $2000 televisions are not going to be very happy that Nintendo has left you hanging.
Take Your Game Online With the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
Unlike with the Gamecube Nintendo has begun to get it's act together and support online play. Their network is just starting off as they currently only have a few games available that takes advantage of it (Pokemon Battle Revolution and Super Mario Strikers), but many third parties have pledged online titles for the system. I expect that all their traditional franchises will eventually be taken online (save for Mario and Zelda of course) so that's something to look forward to.
Like with the controllers the system's internet connection is completely wireless. The use of Wi-fi is quite awesome in my opinion and totally what next gen is all about. It certainly feels good no longer having to run wires across my room.
Unfortunately the online infastructure is a bit crippled. The annoying friend code system that plagues the Nintendo DS has been incorporated into the Wii. In order to play online with someone you must first add each other to your list. This isn't exactly a complicated process but it's just incredibly annoying. On top of that the game's usually feature no lobby - just simple matchmaking. They've still got time to fix this so hopefully they do.
Probably the best part of Nintendo's online network is the virtual console feature. This basically allows you to buy and download classic games for the following consoles - NES, SNES, Turbografx-16, N64, and the Sega Genesis with promised inclusion of Neo Geo games in the future. New games are added to the service every Monday here in the United States, and every Friday in the United Kingdom. So far we've got a lot of classic games to choose from on the service, but there are still a lot more to be added.
The pricing scheme for virtual console games is as follows - NES games cost $5, Turbografx games (generally) cost $6, Super NES and Genesis games rank in at $8, while N64 games round out the bunch at $10 a pop. These are decent prices especially because many of the games will cost you more than that even if you manage to track them down used for the original consoles. All major third party developers are supporting this service including Capcom, Konami, Square Enix, and many more.
Buying these games is all managed through a system of Wii System Points. You can buy these online through the console using your credit/debit cards, but for those that are less trusting of the internet gaming stores will also sell physical cards with codes on them that you simply input into the console. It's a very painless process although you do have to enter your card information every time you buy points online, but I imagine this is mostly to prevent people from spending your money without your knowledge.
Downloading the games is a rather painless experience. Just a few clicks and it's being uploaded onto your console. One quirk that brought a smile to my face was the downloading screen, which features an 8-bit Mario running across the screen grabbing coins and hitting blocks which indicate your progress in the download. It's a small but charming feature.
The main problem with Wii is the kind of support it's getting from third party developers. Many companies have seen it fit to rush their unpolished games to the market, or to port assets from last gen titles. This isn't necessarily a bad thing so early in the console's life but there are so many offenders that it's getting quite annoying.
Don't get me wrong - the Wii actually has a ton of original games coming out for it. This raises another problem though; developers don't seem too keen on putting a lot of effort into their titles. Game creators are seemingly out to overrun the console's library with cheap little mini-game fests. While there is a market for titles such as these, I feel that they are ignoring the hardcore market by doing this. Nintendo themselves are guilty for this too.
Most developers were caught with their pants down. The Wii became a surprisingly huge success when nobody thought it would, and so now we're just beginning to see serious developers putting effort into their games. Among the major supporters we've got Electronic Arts, Capcom, Konami, Square-Enix, Koei, Namco, Sega, and even Rockstar Games who didn't commit themselves to a single Gamecube game have signed on with pretty decent support. The list of developers that have signed on is huge, and probably due to the fact that making a Wii game is incredibly inexpensive when compared to the prices of doing so on the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Presently the big problem area in the Wii's library is RPGs. There are some being made (Tales of Symphonia 2, Opoona, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles etc.) but there are currently no traditional ones on the market. Besides that the console has a pretty good spread on first person shooters, action titles, adventure games, and sports. Many upcoming games are also looking quite amazing.
Many developers also don't seem that keen on releasing Mature titles for the console. Thankfully companies like Capcom have seen the platform fit for a new Resident Evil game, but the bigger issue is Rockstar's Adult's Only rated Manhunt 2, which is set to come out this December. There seems to be a perfectly good market for these kind of games, as can be witnessed by the sales of Resident Evil 4 and the more mature than usual Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess so I expect many more developers to jump on the bandwagon with their adult oriented titles very soon.
My Top 5 Favorite Currently Released Titles
Here are my top recommendations for anyone looking to jump into the world of the Wii.
#5. - Elebits
Released: December 12, 2006
Konami's innovative first person shooter/puzzle hybrid is one of the first games that wowed me with the console. This gravity defying game has you manipulating electricity from your ray gun to life pieces of the enviroment around in search of electric little creatures named Elebits. This one gets honors for it's clever design and nice use of the Wii remote.
#4. - Wii Sports
This is the pack-in game that comes with the console, and it's probably my most played title for the system. Using the controller's motion sensitivity you can play numerous sports from tennis, and baseball to bowling and boxing. The bowling game is the only one that me and my friends still come back to, but that's because it's the perfect party game. This is one seriously cool pack-in title.
#3. - Super Paper Mario
Released: April 9, 2007
I've never been the biggest fan of the Paper Mario series, but since Nintendo decided to re-invent the idea as a hybrid platformer/RPG I just couldn't resist, and now I love this game. Super Paper Mario takes all that was great about the original side scrolling Mario titles and shakes up the formula with a new 3-D perspective for solving puzzles and some cool RPG features like hit points. This one is awesome, but it would have been a lot better had Nintendo cut out about half of the game's dialogue.
#2. - Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
Released: June 19, 2007
Capcom's Resident Evil series offers by far some of the most scary experiences you'll find in the realm of video games. This fourth entry was a total re-invention of the ideas, but with a much bigger emphasis on action. Though it was also released on the PS2 and Gamecube the Wii edition is the definitive version with vastly superior controls using the Wii remotes pointer for aiming. This is a must-have even if you've already played it on another console.
#1. - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
The latest (but not greatest) Zelda title was the killer launch game for the Wii console. The quest was bigger and it was longer than ever before, and the puzzles were even more clever. What's more is that instead of merely pushing a button to swing your sword the game actually required you to swing the entire remote. This alone made the game more immersive than any Zelda before it. At present time this is easily the best game on the console.
My Top Ten Most Anticipated Titles for the Wii
You can't really make an accurate buying decision on a console without first knowing what's coming up in the pipeline. Here's what I'm most looking forward to.
#10. - Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn
Release Date: November 5, 2007
As a big fan of the Fire Emblem series I am more than a little excited about the next installment appearing on the Wii later this year. Goddess of Dawn appears to have all the facets of earlier Fire Emblem titles - turn based strategy RPG gameplay with an intriguing story. What's more is that this seems to be a sequel to the excellent Gamecube game, Fire Emblem Path of Radiance.
#9. - Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and Tower of Mirrors
Release Date: Sometime in 2008
The next installment of the Dragon Quest series is going to be hitting Wii next year. As a long time follower of all things Dragon Quest you can be sure I'll be picking this one up. Differing from past titles, Swords features a more action based battle system wherein you walk around in a first person viewpoint slashing your sword at oncoming monsters. With the master of Dragon Quest heading this title, Yuji Horii, I don't expect anything less than a masterpiece.
#8. - Zak and Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros Treasure
Release Date: October 16, 2007
This is one of the more interesting looking Wii titles coming out this year. Zak and Wiki is being made by Capcom, and all impressions say that it is an adventure game in the vein of the classic staples of the genre, such as the Monkey Island games. The main difference here is that you use the Wii remote to carry out all actions within the game. With a graphic style that resembles the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and some rather positive impressions of it Zak and Wiki sounds like it will be a big winner.
#7. - No More Heroes
Release Date: Unknown
From the creative mind that brought you Killer7 comes a much more fun looking game. No More Heroes looks like a cross between Grand theft Auto and Killer7. The game's story will pit you under the role of a bounty hunter named Travis Touchdown. It's Travis' wish to become the best known bounty hunter in the city, and the way of attaining such a title seems to be by killing all the other assasins. The GTA-esque gameplay should be a big turn on for most.
#6. - Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
Release Date: November 13, 2007
I've always though that Resident Evil would make a darn good light gun shooter game, and it seems that Capcom stole the idea right from me. This is the kind of game that works perfectly with the Wii-remote because of it's pointer capabilities. Supposedly this game will take place throughout the storyline of the first three Resident Evil games, and will end with an all new chapter dedicated to telling the story of the fall of the Umbrella Corporation. Sounds like good fun to me.
#5. - Harvest Moon Heroes
Release Date: November 6, 2007
I'm a big sucker when it comes to the Harvest Moon games, and so I'm all over this upcoming Wii game. Harvest Moon is a series that pits you into the role of a rookie farmer as you raise crops and animals in hopes of becoming rich, marrying, and having children. This Wii specific sequel will supposedly feature everything that makes the series great along with some tacked on motion controls. While the controls don't sound so great the game sure does.
#4. - NiGHTs: Journey of Dreams
Release Date: November 13, 2007
NiGHTs into Dreams was one of the best Saturn games, easily. It was also one of the most 'magic' games I've ever laid my hands on. This is why I (along with thousands of other Sega fans) have been clamouring for a sequel for years. Well Sega is finally listening - NiGHTs 2 is coming this winter for the Nintendo Wii. The graphics don't look that great, but the arcade style action paired with the atmosphere make this one look like it will be as memorable as the original.
#3. - Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
Release Date: Sometime in 2008
When the follow up to the Gamecube's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was first announced I didn't really care for it. Then Square-Enix showed that they're treating it as a serious single player RPG effort, and now they have my complete attention. The one video that they've shown looks absolutely breathtaking - the game looks like a combination of Kingdom Hearts and Skies of Arcadia. Not a bad mix at all if you ask me. This one definitely looks like it could turn out to be one of the RPG greats of this generation.
#2. - Smash Bros. Brawl
Release Date: December 3, 2007
Smash Bros. Melee is easily my most played game of the last generation, by an unimagineable margin at that. This is why I expect Smash Bros. Brawl, the game's sequel, to take over my life this Winter. Featuring surprisingly good graphics, a very interesting character roster, and promised online play this will be a game to remember. Look out for Smash Bros. Brawl when it's released in December, and I'll see you on the battlefield.
#1. - Super Mario Galaxy
Release Date: November 12, 2007
I've been waiting for a true sequel to Super Mario 64 for 11 years, and no, Mario Sunshine simply does not count. All this time I've needed my Mario fix, and this time, it looks as if Nintendo will deliver. Super Mario Galaxy is simply, hands down, the most impressive looking Wii title ever. I didn't think the console had it in itself to produce such wonderful visuals. The Mario in space theme, while cheesy sounding, looks absolutely majestic. I feel like a kid all over again.
If you're on the fence on getting a Wii then it's up to you to look at the upcoming line-up to see if there's anything that interests you. If you're a fan of Nintendo games then there's a lot to love, but if you are into more mature games, and prefer the refined look of high definition then maybe one of the other two consoles is the better choice. The Wii is a very unique piece of hardware, and seeing as how it's selling at a faster rate than even the PS2 did upon release, it's going to be around for a very long time.
Now the big question is whether or not the console is actually the 'revolution' it was promised to be. It's far too early to tell, and anyone who says one way or the other is making a premature judgement. The fact that gamers are clamoring to the system, whereas they've mostly ignored Nintendo in the past is a sign that things are changing. Nintendo is offering us something different, something with vastly inferior tech to the competition, and yet gamers are flocking to it in troves.
I completely recommend the Wii to any serious gamer. It's also a great tool to get those who know nothing of games involved with them. The serious gamer is no doubt going to want to get another console to accent the Wii though because of the Wii's more predominately casual gamer oriented library.
You certainly can't beat the Wii's price point at $250 (with a pack-in game) though.