A while back I stood in line to pre-order a Nintendo Wii, which is the newest gaming console from Nintendo. While Sony and Microsoft are duking it out in the powerhouse graphics department, Nintendo has taken a different approach. Rather than focusing on having the most realistic visual experience, Nintendo is going after the most realistic physical experience. The innovation in this product is the controller. While it looks like a modified television remote, the Nintendo Wii controller, or Wii-mote, is actually a game pad that is able to sense it's orientation and movement. The system comes with a game, Wii Sports, that shows off what this unique joystick can provide. When playing golf, you swing the controller like a golf club. No more meters where you have to time a button press. Playing tennis? Just swing it like a racket. Bowling? Hold it like a bowling ball and send it down the lane. It even picks up the spin you put on the ball.
Rather than go on and on about the technology, I thought I'd give my impressions of the console. The Wii is an awesome console for the casual gamer. My wife doesn't hate video games, but she doesn't really enjoy them either. She played Super Mario Brothers and Tetris back in the NES era, but hasn't been interested since. Newer game systems simply require too much investment to master. The button combinations and complexity of the games can be pretty intimidating alone, and when she is matched up against someone like me who has spent hours mastering the game, well, it isn't much fun. The Wii is totally different. The face of the controller has a large, clear A button, a direction pad, a home, plus, minus, one, and two button. Underneath there is a trigger 'B' button. Yeah, that's a lot of buttons, but when held like a remote the 'A' and 'B' buttons naturally rest under the thumb and trigger finger, and those are the only two buttons used, if at all, in most games. I had spent the night of release playing with the Wii until 4am, and when Jenn woke me up the next morning she had a big smile on her face and said "The Wii is a LOT of fun!" I couldn't believe it! I was so excited that jumped out of bed to go downstairs and start having some gaming goodness with the family. Even Corbin was able to throw a bowling ball down the alley. And Jenn is good at the sports games too. She consistently trounces me in each one we play. And I'm no slouch either.
I've been reading about this console for some time, and was really excited to get it on launch day. What I've found, though, is that very few people even knew Nintendo had a new console on the market. Our good friends and neighbors are gamers, and they had heard very little about the Wii. One evening they dropped by for dinner and we played for a bit. It's amazing how this new controller allows people to immediately pick up and start playing. Right away our friends were bowling and playing tennis. On Sunday I brought the system to my brother's house for a family dinner. Our parents were even excited to pickup the controller and play. My father surprised everyone by saying that he might have to get one.
Nintendo has definitely done a good job of achieving their goal, which is to get non-traditional gamers interested in a video game system. The Wii is a very fun toy to break out during family get together or small party. It's easy for new players to get into the game and immediately play. Another nice touch are the Mii's. A Mii is your cartoony avatar that you will play as in the sports title. There are a variety of styles you can apply to everything from hair style to eye shape. I went for the look-alike Mii, while my brother and father went for the goofy looking Mii. It was just a little bit of extra flavor that was nice.
It remains to be seen whether this new take on gaming has staying power. I was really concerned when Nintendo released the DS, a portable gaming system with two screens and a touch pad. I thought it was too gimicky, and their wouldn't be much staying power. I was sooooo wrong, and now I have a DS and have played many innovative games that could only be played on such a system. I'm hoping that the Wii has the same story, with game producers developing innovative titles that take advantage of this new control scheme.
In summary, I highly recommend the Nintendo Wii to anyone and everyone. Go have some fun!