Nintendo Wii - 18 months on
Written: May 1, 2008 (Updated May 1, 2008)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:The cheapest of the current-gen consoles, and the most accessible to newcomers.
Cons:Lack of truly great games and limited online functionality will upset more dedicated gamers.
The Bottom Line: The Wii has a colossal user base, but only a handful of great games. Unless better titles are released more regularly, the Wii may prove to be a missed opportunity.
If you weren't living under a rock for the past year, then you'll most likely have heard of the Nintendo Wii. Launched in September 2006, its unique motion-sensing control system made waves in both established gaming circles as well as the mainstream media. Hailed as an inclusive gaming experience that even your grandparents could enjoy, its launch title Wii Sports allowed non-gamers to pick up the wireless controller (or Wiimote) more easily than a traditional gamepad, and play one of the five mini-games on offer by physically waving the device in order to emulate actually playing the sport. The result? The Wii has been selling out constantly since its release, and has been Nintendo's most successful console in years. But for continued success, a home console needs a lot more than an innovative new control system and an accessible launch title.
The Wii is Nintendo's fifth home console, and uses the DVD format for games. In size, it approximately resembles three DVD boxes placed side-by-side, and it weighs just 1.2 kg. This makes it the smallest of the three current-gen systems available, and as a bonus it also uses much less power just 18 watts when switched on and 1.3 watts on standby. The Wii relies on a combination of flash memory and additional SD cards as a storage medium, although this is somewhat limited compared to a real hard drive. And in an about-turn, Nintendo have relented and given the Wii access to their new 'WiiConnect24' service, which allows internet access and online play. This is progress for a company that mocked the prospect of online functionality just five years ago!
But now that the novelty factor of Nintendo's latest home console has worn off, how does it stand up against both the company's impressive and illustrious history, as well as alternative machines from market competitors Microsoft and Sony? Has the emphasis on a more casual gaming audience improved or limited Nintendo's fortunes? Has the console's motion-based control system been utilised effectively enough to compensate for its relative lack of technological power compared to other current-gen systems? A year and a half on, these issues remain hotly debated amongst the gaming community. As of December 2007, the Wii has shifted an astonishing 20 million units worldwide an impressive achievement, especially considering the underwhelming sales of Nintendo's previous home system - the Gamecube. But despite remarkable commercial success, much of the gaming community remains divided on the Wii.
Most of the criticism can be attributed to the system's relatively low technical abilities. In a bid to lower production costs and keep the retail price low, Nintendo opted to upgrade the existing hardware of their Gamecube console, and the Wii as a result is a lot closer to the previous generation of home consoles in terms of basic system horsepower. The big problem here is that many modern games demand high performance from the platform in question, and by opting out of the top end of the market Nintendo have ensured that most of the big name 3rd party titles will never be released on the Wii. Games like Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto IV, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Assassins Creed and Valve's Orange Box are some of the crowning videogame achievements of the past few years, but the Wii simply doesn't have the power to cope with them. Those games that have been ported to the Wii (such as Guitar Hero III) also inevitably look inferior to versions on other consoles.
The two other big criticisms of the Wii are the lack of an internal hard-drive, and the limited nature of online multiplayer in those games that possess the feature. The lack of anything other than flash memory further hinders the Wii's hardware capabilities, and the online play greatly pales in comparison to Xbox Live or Valve's Steam service on the PC. The Wii also lacks the ability to play DVD's, although this is less of an issue than it would have been five years ago, as stand-alone players are so cheap these days - but more importantly because most people will likely own one already at this stage.
Nintendo's in-house titles are as good as ever, and Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Mario Kart Wii are as good as anything on the more powerful Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Unfortunately, at present the same cannot be said for the majority of 3rd party releases. Many are poor quality mini-game compilations, with clumsily-designed motion controls. Very few have made good use of the Wiimote's potential which is a real shame, especially so given the creativity demonstrated by Nintendo's own software development teams (however, it should be noted that some of the ported Playstation 2 games such as Resident Evil 4 and The Godfather are excellent). Hopefully in a years time things will look a bit different.
One of the really great things about the Wii is that it offers 100% backward compatibility for Nintendo's under appreciated Gamecube system. This has gone some way to make up for the shortage of truly great games available on the system, and titles such as Super Mario Sunshine, F-Zero GX and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker are definitely worth seeking out. The Wii also offers some quality downloadable content, with a growing library of retro games available from the Wii Shop Channel. Games originally released on the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, N64, Turbografix and the Sega Master System are available for download at various prices on the Wii's Virtual Console, and the recently announced WiiWare channel promises brand new games from indie developers, as well as fresh takes from the big companies on more established franchises. If you are new to gaming, the Virtual Console in particular is a great opportunity to get acquainted with some older classics. Alternatively, for long-time gamers it is a chance to revisit some of your old favourites and wallow in nostalgia.
So in short, 18 months on, does the Wii still live up to the hype? The answer is both yes and no. Everyone seems to like the Wii, casual and hardcore gamer alike. But as of yet, considerably less people seem to love it. Sure, if you're new to gaming by all means go out and buy yourself one - you won't regret it. The unique and intuitive motion-sensing controls are great for newcomers, and make the games very accessible to those not used to modern gamepads. But if you're a long-time gamer, you might need to have a bit more of a think before committing. If you belong to this category, then you should probably consider the Wii a good 'secondary' system to be enjoyed alongside your Xbox, PS3 or PC, because there are some 'most-own' games that the system will not support. On the other hand, the traditional Nintendo titles are certainly worth the asking price, and the Wii is probably the best off-line multiplayer system around at the moment, so these are factors you need to consider as well.
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