The Nintendo Wii

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. 
Nintendo Wii Posted by Picasa

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!


Sam Danziger said...

A lot of people I've talked to have been really excited about the Wii. In short: they want to play the Zelda game where you get to hit things with the sword. However, they're concerned that the motion sensor will be a pain to use*.

So, suppose you were a relatively poor graduate student who would miss the $400 it would take to get a Wii up and running. Would you buy one?


*These are the same sort of people who remember Nintendo Track and Field and may or may not have spent the year it takes you to learn to play Dance Dance Revolution.

Adam said...

Glad you asked!

First, if you were a single player wanting to play Zelda only, your cost would be:

Console: $250
Game: $50
Total: $300 + tax

The console comes with both a wii-mote and a nun-chuk, which is everything you need to play Zelda. If, on the other hand, you were looking to play 4-player tennis and two player boxing.... well, your cost would go up:

Wii-Motes: 3x $40 = $120
Nunchuk: $20
Accessories Total: $140
System Total: $440

As to the concern over the motion sensor, if you are talking about the sensor bar that sits above / below the TV, that's a total non-issue. The bar is really just a infrared emitter with two emitters spaced a known distance apart. The front of the wiimote has a tiny IR camera, and when it sees the sensor bar, it knows it is pointed at the TV. That's all the sensor bar does is to let the wiimote know if it is pointed at the TV. If your concern is instead about the motion sensing tech in the wiimote and nunchuk, it does take a bit of getting used to, but in the end it doesn't spoil the experience.

To get a feel for it, grab a couple of paper towel or toilet paper tubes (minus the paper). Put one in each hand, resting your thumbs on the top and your index finger underneath. This is how you hold the controls. Assuming the nunchuk is in your left hand (the controls can be switched at your preference) your left thumb controls your movement by pushing the analog joystick. Forward and back have you running forward and backwards, while left and right will pivot you to the left or right. If you holding down the trigger in the left hand will lock you onto a target, or point in space if you lack a target. Now pushing left and right on the joystick will cause you to strafe. In your right hand is the wiimote. Pressing your thumb will perform your default action, which is dependent upon the scenario. Pulling your index finger on the trigger will activate the item you have assigned (bow, boomarang, lantern, etc.). Reaching up a bit with your thumb you can reach the direction pad, which allows you to quickly switch between items or call up help.

Now to the motion sensing business. Shaking your left hand in a circle causes you to do Link's spinning attack. Personally, I found this much easier to perform than the spinning joystick attacks from previous Zelda games. Slashing your right hand in a horizontal motion performs a horizontal sword strike. Making a vertical striking motion performs a vertical strike. If locked onto a target, pressing the thumb button is a jump attack. Finally, if locked onto a target, jabbing with the left hand will perform a shield bash.

This all sounds much more complicated than it is. In fact, the system is very forgiving in a fight. Basicly, if you get into a tight situation and just start shaking both fists vigorously, you'll probably come out okay.

The more interesting use of the motion sensing is with regard to aiming the boomerang or crossbow. The wiimote acts much like a mouse in a traditional PC FPS, and you can make aiming changes much more quickly and precisely. The left hand joystick allows you to pan around a scene while your right hand motion aims the bow or boomerang. Pulling the trigger will fire.

To your question about whether a struggling post-grad should pony up the coffee money for a Wii.... well that's a pretty personal choice. The Wii is the casual gamers paradise, but as it has just been released, there are relatively few titles available. If the system is just for you, you might give it some time for the title selection to hit critical mass. If it is for you and a group of friends, perhaps you could all chip in for it. For four friends, that's about $100 each, which is about the cost of a single book for some courses. I am very happy with the system, and glad I have it. I am also the kind of guy that spent the year learning how to do DDR (poorly), so if you and your friends are like me, I'm guessing you'll like it.

And if not, you can always put it on eBay and make a tidy profit :-)

Jade Mason