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Nintendo Wii


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To Grasp the Future. First Impressions of the Wii: Nintendo's Boldest Move Yet

It must be said that I am very fortunate to have laid my hands on something as wonderful as a Wii controller. I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a Wii on launch day and I feel I must share my experiences with the world.

First of all, great thanks and praise are due to Nintendo for taking this brave direction with their new console. From the moment the milky white remote flashes it's blue light in your hand as the system powers up, it handles beautifully. The potential of the remote is tangible as you use it to deftly maneuver through the interface, called the Wii channel, it vibrates slightly as you highlight options, whilst sounds from the speaker trick your mind into thinking your hand is immersed in what you are doing. In short the Wii remote comes to life.

Wii Sports is included free with the system, so it is probably the first game (or games) you will try. On paper and in still shots Wii sports looks like a graphically simplistic, gimmicky type of game indicative of packaged software, but I will tell you now there is depth and lots and lots of fun to be had. My first personal reactions to Wii sports went something like, "Oh wow I never need to go to a bowling alley again." "I don't know whether to be embarrassed or grateful that I'm sweating from playing a boxing game" and most telling of all, saying to myself, "I wish I had someone else to play this with!" Not because it's boring on your own, but simply because you want to share the experience. So I did.

I took my brand new Wii for a visit to my family, who all exist on different levels of video game involvement, from my younger brother - lifelong gamer, to my mom - hopeless video game illiterate. We could only really get a big group going on the turn-based games like bowling and golf since I only have two remotes, but everyone had a blast. It seemed like it had been a long time since everyone was that into a video game. The best thing about the whole multiplayer experience was that even my mom was able to play decently with minimal explanation and practice, which in itself puts the Wii in it's own universe as a console. Usually Mom wanting to try something leads to a frustrating ordeal of explanation and discomfort for everyone involved, by the second hole of Wii golf she was taking a putt to birdie it. It bears mentioning that the little speaker on the remote, which had me baffled as to what it would contribute, is one of my favourite features. Basically it creates sounds tied to whatever your hand is doing in the game. In tennis, it makes a thwack sound when you hit the ball, in golf you hear that nice ringing chip sound coming out of it. It seems like a small thing, but it really gets you involved in the game more, almost tricking your mind into thinking your hand is in the game, even though you’re still in front of the TV. Needless to say, Wii sports is a hit in my books.

The only other Wii specific games I've played so far are Red Steel and the new Zelda title. Red Steel suffers from some low production values but the gameplay, however, is immersive, fluent and most importantly fun. The swordplay was not as good as advertised but the Wii nunchuk remote setup handles like an FPS dream. There's something very wonderful about strolling down a hallway with a shotgun, blasting thugs left and right as they pop out of cover with nonchalant ease, all without the screen panning every time your aim alters slightly. The nunchuk sensor adds some nice touches to the overall experience, like shoving tables over for cover, and offering an easy reload interface. Overall Red Steel suffers from a few negative issues but with some tweaking the sequel could be a hallmark of first person action.

I've barely scratched the surface of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. What I have experienced so far is exactly the kind of gameplay you would expect from the Zelda series, only in Wii nunchuk form. It bears saying that the whirlwind attack has never been easier to perform. Link's sword now works as though waving the remote has replaced the "A" button. I personally was hoping that Link's attacks would be more tied to the actual motions you make but it still handles tidily so I can hold up my hopes for future games I guess. The graphics and music are beautiful, and the story, from what I have seen, seems to follow a spiritual, mysterious bent.

The Wii's other main features are also very well done. The collection of titles available for download is kind of small still, but it seems like they're adding more all the time. I just picked up a Bomberman title from the Turbografx 16 for about 6 dollars, it will work with Wii remotes, Gamecube controllers and the Wii classic pad. The chance to play a 5 player Bomberman game from 13 years ago with wireless controllers on my new console is kind of bizarre and very exciting. The backwards compatibility with the Gamecube works great, I was pleased to find that my Wavebird controllers worked just fine. The weather and news channels haven't launched as of yet but they're pretty much icing on the cake. I don't have a digital camera so I can't really comment on the photo/video editor at this time.

Overall the future looks very bright, I just hope Nintendo can get more accessories into the stores out there so I can get another nunchuk and box my friends silly!

Jon 'saintjon' Peplinski © 2006

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