A bit of an odd review, this one, and we should ‘fess up at the start. We’ve not had a Nintendo Wii to review on our own testbed. Instead, we were invited to a house in the middle of London that Nintendo has kitted out with its brave new hope. The following is based on the several hours we spent hammering a number of games to death and generally getting to know the new machine.
Arguably, the Nintendo Wii is the most important console launch in some time. The reason? Its ethos is different. While Sony and Microsoft are happy to slug it out for the fast performance crown, Nintendo – as it did with the DS handheld machine – has popped off in the opposite direction and tried something different.
To an extent, Nintendo tried this with the Game Cube too, which it sold as a gaming box rather than any kind of multimedia machine. The result? It was perceived as a kids’ toy and the numbers nearly wiped Nintendo out of this particular segment of the console market.
That won’t be happening with the Wii, though. The first reason is a resurgent, confident Nintendo, whose persistence with its way of thinking has resulted in the huge success of the DS, where it was tipped to fail against the technically superior Sony PSP. The second reason is that Nintendo has been bolder with the Wii, and it really does deliver good fun.
The specs inside the box are fairly modest and well known, easily eclipsed by Sony and Microsoft’s latest console juggernauts. But it’s the way you interface with the machine that’s won the headlines to date, and rightly so.
The main Wii control looks like a remote control, albeit with a speaker and motion sensors built in. It’s a wireless device, and a flexible one at that. Using the Wario Ware Smooth Moves game, at times you need to turn it horizontally and grip it like handlebars, whereas in the tennis segment of Wii Sports you turn side on and swing it like a tennis racquet.
The tanks game within Wii Play and the boxing segments of Wii Sports require you to plug an extra controller into this remote, and the result is staggeringly intuitive. Picture a ten pin bowling minigame where you literally do a bowling motion. Or an air hockey-type game where you wave your controller around, with the movements replicated on-screen by your paddle. It’s delightfully simple and yet adds a genuinely fresh perspective to what otherwise would be fairly unspectacular software.
What’s more, when we went along, you could barely wipe the grin off our faces. The software titles that play to the Wii’s strengths are tremendous fun, accessible for all levels of gamer and contain plenty to enjoy. Multiplayer can be just awesome.
The box itself is small, lightweight and easily expandable. It’ll support old Game Cube games and controllers and it’ll also sport the Virtual Console, which we didn’t get a chance to play with, where you can buy and download old Nintendo classics for a couple of quid apiece.
There are downsides, of course. Much though we enjoyed first person shooter Red Steel – and that works a treat with the Wii controller – the graphical limitations of the machine shone through, against something like Call Of Duty 3 on Xbox 360. We also found that in one or two games the controller can be a little too sensitive, demanding that you point it exactly at the screen. And while the Wii-centric software we’ve seen is both great fun and exciting, we wonder how third party franchises will fare.
Yet these are minor points. Every one of us who went into the Wii house that day came back out with something new at the top of their shopping list. And that’s when Nintendo really plays its trump card, as the machine is selling for a princely £180 at launch, with the excellent Wii Sports bundled in.
That really is the gaming bargain of the season, and Nintendo deserves your support, your custom and your appreciation for continuing to take risks and innovate in a gaming market that otherwise seems a little stale. It isn’t the most powerful games console on the planet by any measure. But at this moment in time it’s by far the most interesting.
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