Wii will have fun

I finally gave into my inhibitions and bought a Nintendo Wii this past Tuesday. Just as with the Nintendo DS Lite, which I got late last year, I was attracted to its unique and innovative features, which allow it to offer an experience that other consoles just can’t. This has allowed both of these systems to attract more than just hardcore gamers, and have served to increase Nintendo’s customer base out to a more general audience. It’s no small wonder then, that the Wii is still in short supply, and may continue to be so even into this year’s holiday season.

Nintendo Wii, in stand

Perhaps that played a small part in my decision to pick one off the shelves at Wal-mart this week. Or, perhaps I was just tired of debating on whether or not I should get one. Thankfully, however, by buying during this summer season, I avoided the craziness during the Wii launch.

Revolution and not evolution

The Wii’s code-name was ‘Revolution’, and for good reason – instead of just making another console with more powerful graphics, Nintendo decided to put all aspects of the console onto the drawing board for redesign. The end result is the innovative Wii remote, which uses a combination of accelerometers and an IR sensor to determine position and orientation. This allows for game play that comes closer to imitating what you’re actually doing than any other console currently out there.

For me, there wasn’t too much that the Xbox 360 and PS3 were offering. Most of the types of games that are available for these consoles are also available for PC – and I’ve already invested heavily in that, so why bother shelling out for another system that offers the same sort of game play? The Nintendo Wii was different, since it promised to offer a completely new style of play, so that struck me as being worthwhile. Additionally, it’s the cheapest of the three console systems right now, being priced at only ~$280 CAD, while the Xbox 360 is still $500 CAD the PS3 was recently reduced to “only” $550 CAD.

It’s not perfect, but it’s fun!

There are a few drawbacks. As pointed out in the Ars Technica review, the Wii possesses outdated, last-gen graphics. A Microsoft V.P even stated that the Wii doesn’t have the graphical horsepower of the original Xbox. Additionally, the Wii can’t output HDTV-quality resolutions, meaning that nice, new 1080p or 720p TV you bought won’t be used to full-effect with the Wii.

However, these are minor drawbacks, in my opinion. If game play is fun and fast-paced, graphics will not play a big part. Graphics in games have improved by an immense amount in the past ten years, but have games really become that much more enjoyable? By focusing on game play, Nintendo has gone “back to the basics”, spending time and money on improving the way we game rather than just improving how the games look.

Also, about the only non-graceful aspect of the Wii is its sensor bar, which is basically just a bar with IR-emitting LEDs used to provide orientation information for the Wii-motes, so they know where and when they’re being pointed at the screen. It’s a thin bar that has to be placed either on top or below the TV, and adds another wire that must be plugged into the Wii. However, since all that’s needed is two sources of IR, some enterprising people have found replacements for this.

The included Wii Sports title does a good job of emphasizing the Wii’s strengths and is a perfect match for the system. However, the graphics are decidedly low-quality, even for Wii standards. Though the models have the same level of detail as you’d expect from a Nintendo 64 game, game play is very fun and addictive. In particular, I am addicted to Wii Tennis – I have to stop myself from playing too much every day, lest I get a nasty case of Wii elbow. While I don’t think I’ll get the more severe problems some have been experiencing, it’s worthwhile to ease into any new activity to prevent soreness or risk of RSI. (Those who’ve gotten sore thumbs from playing the original Nintendo will know what I mean.)

In many respects, the inclusion of Wii Sports (at least for the North American versions) was a very good decision on Nintendo’s part, and is reminiscent of Nintendo’s earlier bundles of Super Mario Bros with the original NES and Super Mario World with the SNES.

Hidden costs

Since the Wii is inherently a social system, you have to get at least two controllers for it. The system comes with only one Wii-mote and one Nunchuck attachment, forcing you to buy a second one of each of these. A separate Wii-mote costs $45 CAD and the Nunchuck $25 CAD! This automatically adds an additional cost of $70 CAD to the base system price, and you can now see where Nintendo is bringing in the big bucks. Couple this with the lost cost of manufacturing the system thanks to its low-specs, and you have a cash cow for Nintendo. I ended up buying the Wii Play game along with the system as well, since it came with another Wii remote and was only about $60 CAD.

I have yet to see third-party replacement for the Wii remotes, perhaps because the motion/axis sensor are hard to engineer into a device, or perhaps because of some proprietary communication being used by the Wii-motes. The end result is that there are no cheap or low-cost replacements, though apparently there are third-party Nunchucks available.

Availability of good games

It’s been 8 months since the Wii came out, yet there don’t appear to be any real “killer titles” out there. Indeed, on GameSpot’s Wii section, four of the 10 highest-rated games are Virtual-Console games, dating back to the N64, SNES and even NES era! This says something about the quality of games nowadays – or maybe is a testament to the lasting quality of these legendary Nintendo games!

Lastly, check out my Zooomr photostream for more pics of the Wii unboxing.

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