Pros: Nintendo franchises, Virtual Console, online play, very cheap, great same system multiplayer
Cons: Accesories sneak up on your wallet, a lot of filler and souless ports
Nintendo has always been a company that does their own thing. It’s a love/hate relationship with some fans, but die-hard Nintendo fans are incredibly loyal. It’s a solid guarantee that Nintendo will release games that continuously set the bar for innovation and fun. While Sony and Microsoft moved on to the “HD era” of media, Nintendo said to hell with that and chose to focus on motion gameplay. The Nintendo Wii is a little giant among giants. While it’s not a major central media unit like the Xbox360 and PS3, the Wii began a revolution in motion control, which Sony and Microsoft have since implemented with Sony Move and Kinect, respectively.
I’ve been a Nintendo supporter since the first Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the 1980’s, and other than the Super Nintendo, I’ve owned every console since. It took me 5 years, but I finally bought the Black Wii that was bundled up with Mario Kart (one of my favorite games on the N64 back when I was in middle school). For $150, the Wii is the most affordable console on the market. The Wii is definitely the winner for the “best family entertainment” console. Even with major Nintendo franchises like Mario, the emphasis on in-house multiplayer is heavily used in a lot of games on the Wii. Nintendo wanted to make a system accessible by as many people as possible and the sales worldwide certainly show their success in achieving that goal.
I’m not going to list or go over technical specification jargon because honestly, I really don’t know what most of it means. I’m going to keep this simple and to the point. While Sony and Xbox fully supported the transition to High Definition, Nintendo kept the Wii specifications to be more of an upgrade from the Gamecube rather than a drastic jump in hardware. Not that the Wii can’t produce some amazing visuals, but it can’t keep up with the power of the Xbox 360 and PS3. The way I look at it, while the competition went with a V8 engine, Nintendo stuck with a V6 and focused on how to tap that potential fully rather than going for the bigger engine.
The Wii console itself can be set-up vertically or horizontally. It comes with a sturdy plastic base for setting it up vertically and is designed to allow the fan to circulate air without anything getting in the way. The Wii system is only about the size of three standard size DVD cases stacked up together, so it can easily fit any entertainment set-up without taking up much space. On the front of the console there are three buttons: Power, Reset, and Eject. If you just take a break from playing, then you can power the system to standby mode by holding down the power button on the Wii remote instead of completely powering it down every time you get done playing. If you’re not going to be using the Wii for like a day or more, then it would be better on the system and save electric costs by powering it down. The DVD slot is also on the front, and the Wii uses 12cm optical discs instead of the mini-discs they used with the Gamecube. The Wii is backwards compatible, so the DVD slot will accept the mini discs as well. If it’s set up vertically, the top of the Wii has a compartment that houses four controller ports to play Gamecube games. Gamecube games are only compatible with the Gamecube controller, and the controller can also be used for certain games available on Nintendo’s Virtual Console. The back of the Wii has two USB ports for certain peripherals that require it, as well as connectors for the power supply and AV cables. Sadly, the Wii doesn’t support HDMI so hardcore techies will have to deal with standard connections. Thankfully the majority of Wii owners seem to be families with young children who probably won’t notice the difference in picture quality.
The Wii has 512MB of internal flash memory used to save game files, and there’s also a compartment on the front with a slot for an SD card if more memory is required. Gamers who plan on downloading quite a bit of Virtual Console games would probably benefit looking into an SD card if they don’t already have one (thankfully they’re available in multitudes of storage sizes).
When you turn on the Wii, you’re greeted with a home screen broken up into several pages of “channels.” From here you choose what you want to do, whether it’s play whatever game disc happens to be in the drive, or launch the Netflix application. There’s different kind of channels you can download and use like the Internet Browser, Weather, Netflix, and one where you create Nintendo’s version of an avatar: Mii. You also access the Wii settings from the home screen. The Virtual Console is a channel that can potentially get a lot of use from, especially if you’re into older games from the NES, SNES, Commodore 64, Genesis, and Nintendo 64. There are hundreds of titles available to download right to the Wii, each game being its own channel on the home screen. Each game has a point value like 500, 1000, 1200 that you have to buy from Nintendo in order to download games. Using a credit card you basically get 1000 Wii points for every $10, and there are a couple different denomination packages you can purchase. Retail stores also carry Wii point cards that you can redeem to make purchases as well. There are also original low-budget titles designed specifically for the Wii that can be purchased. I haven’t messed with any of those titles other than the Dr. Mario online, but I’m sure some of them are fun.
Though Nintendo focuses a majority of their efforts elsewhere, the Wii can connect to wireless internet signals with the built in wifi connector. I get my internet signal from about a football field away, and the Wii picks up the signal really well. I didn’t notice very much slowdown at all while playing Mario Kart and Goldeneye 007 online, and downloading games off the Virtual Console never takes more than a couple minutes to complete.
This is where Nintendo throws their koopa wrench into things. The Wii Remote, or Wiimote, is what’s used to control all the action on the screen. Using a shortwave Bluetooth signal and a 9-inch sensor bar (that can be set above or below the TV in the Wii settings and changed any time, and yes it makes a difference), you hold the Wii mote like a standard remote and point it at the screen. You don’t have to be right in front of the sensor bar for the wireless to register and you can be approximately ten feet away before signal starts to dissipate, but the sensor has to be free of any obstructions. I have my HDTV mounted on the wall, with my Blu-Ray player and Wii below it and the sensor bar on top of the Blu-Ray player right at the edge of the front and I don’t have any problems with the wireless connectivity unless the sensor bar gets pulled back from the edge a little bit.
The remote itself is about 6 inches long and an inch wide and thick allowing it to fit mostly any size hand comfortably for long periods of time. The face of the remote has the power button at the top with the directional pad centered directly below it. You can power-up and power-down the Wii with the power button, but only in standby mode. If you wish to power down the Wii completely you’ll have to push and hold the power button on the front of the console. Below the D-pad is an enlarged A button. Not as exuberant as the Gamecube A button, but is easy to push and my thumb rests comfortably on it when holding the remote. There’s also a select, start, 1, 2, and a home button that are placed for easy access. On the back of the controller is the new trigger button, which is now B, as well as the battery compartment. The Wiimote uses two AA batteries, and they can last anywhere from 5-6 hours to 20 hours of life. It just depends on how much you play. It seemed like every time I played for longer than 4 hours at a time they drained much quicker than jumping on and playing for a couple hours at a time. I eventually bought the Nyko rechargeable battery set which I highly recommend. Since players will be moving their arms a lot more using the motion controls for certain games, there’s also a short wrist strap that attaches to the remote to help prevent any TV mishaps. I’ve had some pretty intense Wii Tennis matches against friends that could have ended in a busted TV had there been no wrist strap keeping the Wiimote from barreling through the screen.
The first generation Wiimotes require the Wii motion plus attachment, which was released a few years ago to correct issues with the motion controls. Remotes sold recently already have the Wii motion plus built into it, as many recent game releases require it to play correctly. The most notable use of the Wii motion plus is in Skyward Sword, which is amazing.
The nunchuck accessory connects to the port on the bottom of the remote and has an analog stick on top with a trigger and smaller button on the back. Together with the remote you use this set-up for a lot of games like Super Mario Galaxy and any first-person shooters. I’ve only played a few games that use that set-up though; a lot of the games I’ve been playing recently have been platformers where you play with the Wiimote sideways like a traditional controller. The nunchuck also has motion control capabilities, so for games that take advantage of the motion control you’ll be able to perform different abilities using both the nunchuck and Wiimote. I’m still not a huge fan of motion controls. I’d still rather sit with a regular controller and use motions for certain aspects, but it’s interesting what developers have come up with for the Wii’s technology.
There are a ton of accessories for the Wii, which was a brilliant tool for Nintendo especially with families buying products for multiplayer. The Wii allows up to four players to play cooperatively or against each other, and extra remotes and accessories are sold separately. There are all kinds of shooter peripherals available for first-person shooters and on-rail shooters, as well as the Classic Controller and Controller plus. The classic controller can be used with certain games, primarily for older 16-bit downloads from the Virtual Console. The classic controller was designed similar to the SNES controller, but had several issues and so Nintendo released the Classic Pro, which was a lot more functional. I couldn’t get into the motion controls for Goldeneye, so I used the Classic Pro to play that. That’s a whole other review though. My favorite accessory is the Wii wheel, which has a compartment for the Wiimote to fit into snugly on its side. Mario Kart comes bundled with one, and I highly recommend purchasing 3 more for multiplayer madness.
One of the biggest Wii phenomenons was the Wii Fit, which caused a shortage in Wii consoles and the Wii board. It’s a huge hit with casual gamers and those who enjoy exercise but just can’t seem to push themselves to make it to the gym.
Let us not kid ourselves; the Wii is not the console to get for games with realism. The Wii is a fantastic system for same system multiplayer and for families with the multitudes of children type games available. If you’re not into shooters like Call of Duty or adventure games like Uncharted, the Wii is perfect for you. There are tons of games designed to take advantage of the motion controls and multiplayer like the Wii sports, Super Smash Bros Brawl, and tons of party games. I am more into shooters than any other genres, but I bought the Wii specifically for the key Nintendo franchises. The sales numbers for Wii are incredible and most of it is due to those key franchises. There are a few key third-party games developed for the Wii like Red Steel and Resident Evil 4 (well it was actually ported with specific Wii controls in mind), but a lot are watered down ports of PS3 and Xbox 360 titles that have motion controls thrown in as an afterthought. Wii owners tend to get the shaft on these multi-console games, but the Nintendo exclusives really push the system and I’m sure a lot of Nintendo fans buy the Wii primarily for these exclusives anyway. For $150 the Wii is definitely worth picking up over the holidays.
Other than shooters though, the Wii has a pretty wide selection of games and I’ll list a few of the ones I’ve played:
Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2
Always looking for the next way to blow people’s minds, Nintendo experimented with Mario in space with very successful results. The first game played very well and was fun – the next step in Mario’s 3D adventures. The sequel was even better, expanding and improving everything that the first game introduced. Blasting away from planet to planet and navigating the various platforming challenges are fun and entertaining for pretty much any kind of gamer.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
I’m only a few hours into Skyward Sword, but it already feels like an amazing game. It’s the first true use of the Wii’s motion controls with 1:1 sword control. There are new moves and the art design is fantastic. This is sure to move systems. Also marks the 25thAnniversary of the Zelda series, and is actually incorporated into the game’s story which is pretty cool. It also delves deeper into the relationship between Zelda and Link so there's a bit of romanticism involved as well.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
It’s been 15 years since DKC came out on the SNES and Retro Studios brought the series into this generation with challenging side-scrolling gameplay, awesome visuals, and it’s just plain fun.
Mario Kart Wii is packed with a ton of new tracks, characters, and karts and introduces bikes and online play. It’s my favorite game in the Mario Kart series, primarily because of how addicting the online multiplayer is. If you thought multiplayer was chaotic in previous installments, just wait until you play someone around the world that whoops your butt with ease. If you thought you were the bada*s among your friends, just wait until you go online. The online play is smooth and rarely has any lag issues, and I get my wifi from about a football yard away.
New Super Mario Bros
Many gamers born during or after Super Mario 64 most likely hadn’t played any of the NES and SNES games that made Mario so iconic. This is Nintendo’s answer to that, a brand new side-scrolling adventure that goes back to 2D basics to introduce new players to old school style gameplay.
Metroid: Other M
Team Ninja, the team behind the difficult Ninja Gaiden games, developed this action sidescroller. It had a few problems, but overall it makes a nice rental.
Dr. Mario Online
I use to play the hell out of Dr. Mario on the NES. This updated online version has a few different types of multiplayer modes, but for the most part is still just as awesome as the NES version AND you can take your skills (or lack there of online). Prepare to be amazed though; some of the players on there are super fast and I've had my butt kicked several times.
There are also a ton more games that I haven't played but there are tons that have been critically acclaimed like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Red Steel, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Okami, Mario Party, Mario Sports Mix, and many many more that make the Wii incredibly versatile. Other than shooters, the Wii has many different titles for all types of gamers, rather than focusing heavily on Call of Duty and Halo and other shooters of that nature (I'm not saying that they're bad though, just not Wii's favored genre).
With the Wii’s successor, Wii U, announced and possibly prepped for a 2012 release, will the Wii be relevant? Nintendo President Reggie has said that there would be continued support for the Wii even after the release of their next console. The Wii U is supposedly backward compatible with Wii games and peripherals, including the remotes, but with the Wii bundles going for $150 right now I suggest going for it and just trading in the actual Wii console for the Wii U once it’s released. I haven’t bought a console at launch since the Gamecube in 2001, and I plan on upgrading my Wii to the Wii U when the time comes.
The Wii is a really fun console though. It’s perfect if you’re more of a casual family type gamer or a long time supporter of Nintendo. If you’re looking for more realism and action oriented games, the PS3 or Xbox 360 might be more up your alley. As for me, I bought the Nintendo Wii primarily for all of the Nintendo franchises that I’ve grown up with. Right now the Wii is selling for $150 as a bundle with Mario Kart or New Super Mario Bros, and for that price it’s an amazing console. I actually use Netflix almost as much as I play games, and it kept me from going crazy while I’ve been stuck at home the last six months. That alone made the Wii the ideal choice for my needs. It’s also a good choice if you already have a PS3 or Xbox 360 and you’re looking for a second console to keep you busy. There are some priceless moments having 2 or more friends over swinging the Wiimote around playing Wii tennis and avoiding running into and smacking them in the process.