Nintendo may have lost some ground in the last console war, but while their popularity among mature gamers decreased, their position as the most creative game developers in the world was only reinforced. The advent of the Nintendo DS helped to reestablish the company as the true gaming powerhouse that is, and the Wii only looks to build on that.
With an attractive price tag of $249, it’s difficult not to think how excited mothers will be this holiday season, and when given the chance between the Wii and Sony’s mega-expensive PlayStation 3, they’ll certainly be more likely to pick up the family-friendly (and bank account-friendly) gaming system. And that’s exactly what the Big N is counting on. The graphical power of the console may only fall somewhere between that of Nintendo’s last-gen GameCube and Microsoft’s Xbox 360, but it offers the most unique gameplay experience of all the new systems. Inside the box you’re going to find a controller and nunchuck attachment, a sensor bar, a console stand, the five-in-one party title “Wii Sports” and, of course, the system itself (which is incredibly small – about the size of three DVD cases). Additionally, the system features an SD card bay, built-in WiFi, two USB 2.0 ports and 512 MB flash memory.
While Microsoft delivered the best all-around controller last year, Nintendo hasn’t just reinvented the wheel; they’ve invented a brand new way to play games. The Wiimote is truly a sexy piece of gadgetry, using a built-in accelerometer along with some other technology to judge motion and depth inside a 3D space. It also features an internal rumble feature and speaker that help in creating more realistic gameplay experience. All in all, the motion detection is very intuitive and should make for some incredibly creative games in the near future.
Also worth noting under this section is the included nunchuck add-on, which is required for some games, and the optional Classic Controller (which can be described as the perfect amalgamation of an SNES and N64 controller), which can be used for playing games that you have downloaded from the Virtual Console (note: more on this later).
“Wii Sports” looks to be the most mainstream title of the bunch, but the rest of the launch lineup is also quite impressive, and should offer something for everyone. Longtime fans of Nintendo have been greatly anticipating “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” (widely considered a must-have for any Wii owner), while “Red Steel” and “Trauma Center: Second Opinion” look to offer the best examples of the controller’s unique abilities. Two new party titles (“Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz” and “Rayman Raving Rabbids”) also hit stores on launch day, while some of the biggest games of early 2007 – “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” and “Mario Galaxy” – will also be appearing exclusively on the Wii. It might sound crazy, but this just might be the best launch line-up in the short history of the industry.
Nintendo’s menu interface isn’t nearly as fluid as the 360’s Guide, but it’s easy to use and navigate. Along with dedicated channels for your loaded game disc and downloaded Virtual Console titles, the menu also includes a Mii Channel (where you’ll create personalized avatars that you can then use in games, like “Wii Sports”), a Wii Shop Channel (where you’ll purchase VC games or other future software), an Internet Channel (which will include a free download of the Opera Browser), as well as Forecast and News Channels, which won’t be up and running until the end of the year.
While Nintendo’s competitors are only offering a handful of titles from their back catalogs (and even then you have to download some lame patch), the Wii plays GameCube discs with absolutely no hassle. Even better, the top of the console includes a GameCube docking station with four controller ports and two memory card slots so that you can still play your favorite games on the new system. The GameCube controller will also be compatible with many of the VC games you download.
The aforementioned Virtual Console marks the second part of Nintendo’s backwards compatibility plan. Offering classic titles from past systems like the NES, SNES and N64 – as well as the Sega Genesis and TurboGrafz-16 – there’s really no reason to have your other game consoles sit around the house collecting dust. Many fanboys have criticized Nintendo’s pricing tiers (NES - $5, SNES - $8, N64 - $10) as being too expensive for a digital copy of the game, but I think that it’s more than a fair payment system.
While the Virtual Console’s pricing plan may sound fair, the system of currency is just plain stupid. Nintendo had the perfect chance to move away from Microsoft’s foolish conversion system of buying points to use on downloadable content, but they too seem content on making buyer’s do a little math in between gaming breaks. Luckily, their system isn’t nearly as confusing (100 points = $1), and it seems to fit the mindset of the Japanese yen.
Probably the biggest complaint of any hardcore gamer is the Wii’s lack of HDTV support. Unlike the 360 and PS3 (which both offer resolution outputs of 780 and 1080p), Nintendo only features 480i out of the box. In addition, if you do have an HDTV, games will actually look worse with the included composite cables. Now, here’s the kicker: Nintendo is offering component cables for those interested (which would take the resolution up to 480p), but they won’t be available in stores until mid-December. They also cost $29.99, which greatly hurts the system’s low price point. Previously, these cables were made available via Nintendo’s online store, but sold out in a matter of days.
It’s going to be quite some time before we know for sure whether the Wii is just another failed gimmick (see Virtual Boy and the Power Glove) or a true contender in the console wars, but the future is looking a little brighter for the Big N. Ultimately, it will likely come down to a few things – the foremost being whether or not third-party companies continue to develop innovative and exclusive titles worth playing. As of now, Nintendo has gone beyond impressing me that it’s capable of competing in the console wars. It’s currently my favorite system out on the market, and should continue to impress well into 2007.
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