Having just come into recent possession of a Nintendo Wii, I was thrilled and overjoyed at the potential to relay my jubilation to my e2 family. I started to search for Wii material on e2, but there really isn't any! At first I was incredulous at the lack of content, but a realization slowly dawned on me: those other noders can't put the fucking controller down.
"Wii would like to play."
The biggest and most ground breaking difference between a Nintendo Wii and anything else you've ever played in your life is the controller. The Wii Remotes, or "Wiimotes," are all cordless designs, that are meant to be used one handed for the most part.
The Wiimote is white in color, about six inches long, one and half inches wide and an inch tall. Holding the controller in your dominant hand, there is a a D-pad under the tip of your thumb and the A button under the knuckle of your thumb. The dimensions of the controller are uniform throughout, except for the end under the D-pad. The bottom half of the controller is cut away so that your index finger rests on the B button, in the form of a trigger.
There are also minus (-), Home and plus (+) keys from left to right about halfway down the controller. If you fold your thumb down (think of how it ends up after striking a lighter), then you can comfortably reach these keys. The last two keys, 1 and 2, are three-quarters of the way down the Wiimote and are not easily used in most gaming situations, but the game designers know this and plan accordingly.
The beauty of the Wiimote though is the range of input functions it has. Of course you can use D-pad, A, B, -, +, Home, 1 and 2. But it's a pointing device as well--when you are browsing through the Wii operating system, the Wiimote controls a cursor. As you point the Wiimote at different spots on the screen, the cursor glides across just like you were using a computer mouse. The controller picks up left, right, forward, backward, up and down, as well as roll (twisting your wrist).
And for those of your who aren't extremely imaginative, if you turn the Wiimote sideway and hold it lengthwise in front of you, you're looking at a NES controller! The D-pad is the D-pad and 1 and 2 become A and B. Sweet!
There is also a port on the bottom of the Wiimote below the 2 button that accepts a cable from the Nunchuk. This is a smaller handle held controller that is used in tandem with the Wiimote. It features an analog stick under your thumb, along with a trigger button and shoulder button astride your index finger. The nun-chuck also features motion detection similar to the Wiimote. The nunchuk is not used in all games and is sold separately from individual Wiimotes. Individually packaged Wiimotes retail at $40 and include a pair of AA batteries and a wrist strap. The nunchuk and all other controls or controller add-ons retail at $20.
Wii have so much more
While you cannot imagine all the implications of a Wiimote control device, let me just tell you that it will blow you away. Basically, I have to lay out this whole write-up just so that I can describe the gaming experience to you, but I digress. One of the great benefits of a Wiimote is the endless adaptability. Gamestop has already released a package that has a round handle that encloses the Wiimote along with a golf club, tennis racket or baseball bat head that attaches to the handle. Depending on what sport you with to play, you just swap on the corresponding head and swing away (games sold separately). There is also a steering wheel that holds the Wiimote in the center of the wheel and allows you to steer through a game. However, the as yet unreleased, and my personal favorite controller add-on has to be the light gun. It appears to be somewhat larger than the Zapper from days of yore, but I can't wait to buy one. The Wiimote rests in the barrel of the gun and the nun-chuck is placed in the pistol grip such that the trigger button is used as the Zapper trigger. While the nun-chuck doesn't have that satisfying clack! that the original Zapper featured, I'm going to do everything with the Zapper. Which reminds me. . .
Non-Gaming Wii Based Fun
The Wii is an amazing piece of equipment. It comes with a wireless networking adapter built in. No additional expense, no bullshit. It's the easiest wireless device setup I've ever used, from handheld devices to tablets and desktops. You tell it to find the network, it does and barring MAC address filtering or the need to input security passwords, and you're on the net.
Each service or program the Wii runs belongs to its own "Channel" which is accessed from the Wii Main Menu. The most impressive Channel is the Opera based browser that enables you to surf anywhere. I won't lie, E2 is one of the first websites I checked out. Those plus and minus keys zoom in and out on the page, and holding the B trigger allows you to move the pointer to direct scrolling. I've even watched full screen YouTube videos streaming off the net onto my TV thanks to the Wii. This thing rocks. Currently, all input is done using an on-screen keyboard which can be setup to provide word completion like typing on your cellphone. There is a full keyboard peripheral coming down the pipeline but it is sadly unavailable at this time.
A Photo Channel exists to let you explore pictures stored locally or on removable media. There is also an SD card reader on the front of the machine that allows you to browse pictures from a cellphone or camera. You can doodle on the pictures using a primitive painting program or just set the Wii to run in Slideshow mode with your choice of pre-installed music playing in the background. There are even programs out there that allow you to convert your videos to a compatible format and play them off the SD card. Wii Video 9, for the curious.
There is a Forecast Channel that shows the local forecast for the day, night or five day period. It defaults to your current location, but you can look up a forecast anywhere in the world. When I say world, I mean it. The Forecast Channel has a globe that you can crawl over, zooming in or out, and bring up the forecast anywhere.
The same goes for the News Channel. It may take a little while to download all the news stories, but be patient. Articles are divided into categories such as National, International, Business, Science, Technology, Sports. The Associated Press provides stories to Nintendo, and most articles come with an imbedded picture. The font can be enlarged such that all but the blindest of eyes can read it from any distance you'll encounter in your house. There is also a Slideshow feature that will scroll through the headlines at the bottom of the screen while the previously mentioned globe spins to each story's location. Hitting A at any time with display the current article and upon returning to the globe, the slideshow continues.
There is also a Wii Shop Channel that allows the user to purchase content online via Wii Points. Wii Points can be purchased online via credit card or in brick and mortar stores in the form of a card. The exchange rate is the same no matter what, at 1000 Wii Points for $10, from $10 to $50 in $10 increments.
Mii and You
One creative touch is the ability to create Miis. These are little avatars that represent all the players on a console and they're just so damn cool. They offer an insane level of customization, from height, weight, hair style and nose to lips, eyebrows and a beauty mark. The bodies have no specific features and the hands are just spheres on the end of arms, so overall they look like something of a caricature. But if you put a little time into their creation your friends will instantly recognize who all of your Miis represent.
The Miis all reside in the Mii Channel. They just wander around the Mii Plaza, but snap to and form a line arranged by gender, height, etc on command. Miis can be transferred from one console to another by using the internal memory in a Wii controller, which came as a hell of a surprise to me. Removable storage, built into a controller at that? Shit, Microsoft and Sony would charge at least $20 for removable storage devices of any size.
The amazing thing about Wiis is that they are truly your avatar which persists from game to game. When you play a game, they are you standing on screen. In the Wii Sports game, they stand in your place swinging bats, throwing bowling balls and hurling punches. Similarly, in the baseball game, all of the Miis on the console are used to fill out the two team rosters, so even though your friends or family aren't actively playing, they will make appearances! The tennis, boxing and bowling games have spectators in the stands or behind you in the lanes. These spectators are also drawn from your pool of Miis to the point that you can pick out your friends and family in the crowd.
The only aspect of the Wii experience that I think is comparatively lacking has to be the inter-user communication. I have to admit that Microsoft got something right with their Xbox Live service for the 360. The integration of friends and gameplay, along with typed and live or recorded voice messaging into the service is outstanding. Wii does not currently have voice messaging, but you can share Friend Codes across the world and send typed messages back and forth. There is a Message Board that displays local information, such as the daily gaming accomplishments and play times for users on the same console. But I have even emailed myself from the Wii to test things out and it works fairly well.
Wii've Played This Before
One of the coolest features for the Wii console is the Virtual Console Channel. Using Wii Points, users can download select games from the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 or even Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx libraries. NES games cost 500 points, TurboGrafx games hit for 600 points, Super and Genesis come in at 800 points a game, and Nintendo 64 titles tip the scales at 1000 points per game. I dare say you can buy the overwhelming majority of N64 cartridges for less than $10, but whatever.
A Nintendo Classic controller can be purchased to play all games available in the Virtual Console library. It looks like a Super Nintendo controller with two analog sticks, if you're into that kind of thing. Otherwise, a Wiimote will play NES and TurboGrafx games, and a Nintendo Gamecube controller is needed to play N64 and Super Nintendo games. Officially, no other support is guaranteed, but "some" Genesis games can be played with a Wiimote or Gamecube controller and "some" TurboGrafx games can be played with a Gamecube controller.
Gamecube games can be played directly on the Wii, with no additional software required. In this case, it's completely backwards compatible. There are ports for four Gamecube controllers and 2 Gamecube memory cards. While the Wii has internal memory, you'll need a Gamecube memory card to save Gamecube games. I think is great, partly because I never owned a Gamecube and now I can pick up all the great games for a handful of magic beans.
For the complete low down on what it's like to play Wii games, you'll have to look to future nodes to actually describe the experience. Each game has its own incredibly intuitive controls and it would not do anyone justice to provide some sort of blanket description here. I will say it's some of the most fun you can have using your wii with all your clothes on.
An interesting side note though is the price of Wii games. Only $50! That may not sound exciting but consider that new Xbox 360 games are 60 clams and Sony has actually said there is no ceiling for Playstation 3 games. While $60 is the normal price for a new PS3 game, expect $80, $90 or more for some games.
Nintendo caught a lot of flak for the hardware specs on the Wii. While Microsoft and Sony are spouting off about more processor cores than your computer and huge harddrives, Nintendo pretty much released a jacked up Gamecube with wireless networking.
However, Nintendo is laughing all the way to the bank. Microsoft and Sony have already dug their respective graves with the new hardware--the whole game at this point is to just not fall in. The non-crippled 360 is $400 and the PS3 is $600 since they eliminated the lower price model. Those companies are looking for an 8 year lifetime from their machines so that they can sell enough software to recoup the massive loss they're selling each console at. Nintendo on the other hand is the only company to actually make a profit off of their current console. Some groups that dissected a Wii at launch said the cost of production was as low as $134, which means huge profit for Nintendo.
While people piss and moan about the lack of graphical processing power on Wii, compared to the 360 an PS3, they are forgetting two things. Firstly, graphics don't mean squat after a certain point and we're at that point with games like Half Life 2, Oblivion and Crysis. Secondly, if Nintendo wanted to, they could release a new console tomorrow because they don't need eight years of software sales to break even on their financial loss from selling over powered bullshit. Oh, and the fact that in America, the 360 is the current leader in terms of units sold, but that's going to change in a month when the Wii blows past it. The 360 has been out for a year and hasn't managed to stay ahead of the Wii which has been out for six months.
Official hardware specs, for the nerds out there:
- CPU IBM Broadway 729MHz
- System Memory 88MB
- GPU ATI Hollywood 243Mhz
- Internal Storage 512MB Flash Memory
- Optical Disc Drive 8cm GameCube/12cm Wii
- Supported Resolution up to 480p
- 12cm Disc Capacity 4.7GB (single) / 8.5GB (dual)
- Memory Expansion, 2 SD memory max
- Wii Controller Ports Wireless (4 minimum)
- Internet Connectivity WiFi 802.11b/g
- GameCube Controller Ports 4 Ports
- Disc Compatibility GameCube
- GameCube Memory Expansion 2 Ports
- USB 2.0 2 Ports
And for those of you so convinced to run out and buy a Wii (good luck!), here's what you get with each purchase:
- Wii Console
- Wii Remote with strap
- Wii AC Adapter
- Wii Stereo AV Cable
- Wii Stand
- Wii Stand Plate
- Wii Sensor Bar
- Sensor Bar Stand
- AA Batteries
- Wii Sports game (not in Japan)
- Warranty/Registration card
Pick one up, you won't regret it!
Coming Soon: Wii Sports review!