This is my personal review of the Nintendo Wii; it will be different from most of the other reviews which can be found on many game web sites. I will not give a rating such as 9/10 or anything. Instead it will be about my experience with Nintendo Wii. When I say ‘my experience’ then I will from time to time include what my kids thinks about it all, since they have different opinions and views on things.
I will in this review only write about the Wii, so no game reviews or information about the various channels (build in software). I will also not write about the lovely Mii’s which I have to say surprised me in a positive way, the kids just love to create and modify their Mii’s (same with me actually). Oh, already got started on a subject I would write about in a feature article…More another time. So this is about the hardware but not about how many MHZ/GHZ, how much memory, how many polygons…
Getting the Wii
Let’s turn time back a bit. On the 30th of August 2006, World of Games (WOG) here in Switzerland opened for preorders of the Wii. I had at that stage already decided that I would pre-order one so I was ready for it. This turned out to be a good plan, as within a few hours they close the pre-ordering, all units already gone. They later had another pre-order session which also went over quickly.
On the 23rd of November 2006 I received an invitation to a midnight launch event held by WOG; this would take place on the 6th of December, where the Nintendo Wii would be handed out at midnight. I went and got the Wii at that event, to read about this and see the pictures please go here (including un-boxing). I later heard that WOG sold around 130 units that evening.
Setup of the Wii
The setup of the Wii was extremely easy and all went very smooth. I got to admit that I did read in the manual but it was more because I was very excited about it all. I was rather surprised that the Wiimote controller worked right away with the sensor bar. I had expected that it should be calibrated before it would work.
Next was setup of the wireless connection, lucky I already had a wireless router. People who have a router without wireless will run into some issues.
There are some adaptors that can be used together with a PC. Nintendo will also be releasing a USB adaptor for the Wii so a normal Ethernet cable can be used (Heard this today in a store in Basel), should be ready in March. There should be some adaptors on the market already, just not from Nintendo. Anyway, the setup of the Wireless connection went without any problems, I just had to select what wireless access point I wanted to use (found some other ones here in the building).
The Wii itself
It is small… I have it standing next to the TV and it adds style to the whole thing. The Wii can also be used lying down, so it could fit into a small rack. A nice touch to the Wii is that it got some blue lights inside it; at the disc drive which turns on if there is news or a new message. The Wii never turns fully off (unless you unplug it), so it might download messages and new material while you have it ‘turned off’. One of my friends asked if there where anyway to enable the blue light all the time… On the front of the Wii there is the slot for the discs, no tray coming in and out. Put the disc a bit in and it will pull it in. There is also a slot for a SD card which can be used for storing data, more about that later.
On top of the Wii there is space for 4 Game Cube controllers as well as 2 Game Cube memory cards. On the back of the Wii it got the power connector and also 2 USB ports.
There are 4 buttons on the Wii: Power, Eject, Reset and Sync (Hidden).
There have been written a lot about the new controller system for Nintendo Wii, both before and after the launch. The system came with the Wiimote and the Nunchuck. I bought the Classic controller at the same time as I got the Wii. So a few words about the controllers:
This is the controller that got the same form as a normal TV remote control. Actually it got the same size as the one I use for my TV, just a bit thicker. It got 8 buttons and a direction pad (dpad). One button is the power button which is used to turn on/off the Wii. There is also a ‘home’ buttons which often is used to pause any game and decide if the system should exit to the main Wii menu; it is also here the settings for the controller are changed. The remaining buttons are used in different ways, all depending on the software.The controller also got a build in speaker, but do not expect high quality sounds. I got to say that the speaker is a brilliant addition to normal controllers, some actions in games will trigger a sound in the controller, adding more ‘feel’ to the games.
There are 4 blue LED (lights) on the Wiimote, used to indicate the number the controller got, up to 4 controllers can be connected to the Wii at a time. (Wireless connected).
Oh, and there is a strap on the Wii which should be around the hand when the Wiimote is in use, lots and lots have been written about this and problems with it. I will just say we had no problem with it… yet.
The controller also supports vibration which most people will expect from a controller. The vibration is used heavily in the user interface of the Wii; small vibration can be felt any time the Wiimote points to something that can be selected.
Enough about this, what is SO unique about the controller is how it works beyond the few buttons. The controller has several sensors build into it, so that it can detect tilting, rotation. At the same time it receives data from the sensor bar which has to be placed in front (below or on top) of the TV. People first thought the sensor bar was receiving data but it turned out it is a bar with some infrared transmitters. The Wii can with the sensor bar detect where the Wiimote is relative to the screen.
All these unique systems open up for controller usage never seen before. It is possible to point the Wiimote to the screen and have a cursor moving around, you can rotate it and the cursor rotates with it. You can swing it and use it as a tennis racket, a fishing rod or a sword. Tilting and rotation is used heavily in racing games.
For me the controller just felt right from start on, never had problems with it. The same can not be said about when my kids tried to use the Wiimote (4 and 7 years old). The main problem was to be able to point directly at the TV and not just point with the arm, but holding the controller as an extension of the arm/hand. They got rather frustrated about this in the beginning and almost gave up. This has now changed and they both much more in control of the… controller.
This controller does not work on its own but have to be connected to the Wiimote. The wire for this is around 90 cm, so not too short and not too long. The Nunchuck just got 2 digital buttons but also an analog controller on the top. First it felt a bit strange to use this. Depending on the game you can actually relax and have the hand laying on your leg or couch and just chill out. But some games require the Nunchuck to be moved, yes, this controller also got some sensors build in, not as advance as the Wiimote, as it got no infrared reading (How the hell does it then work in boxing where you hold it up to your face to protect yourself). Actually I once got hit in the face by the wire, took both hands up to block in boxing, did it a bit too fast I guess.
- Classic Controller
My first thought when I got the classic controller was “Oh damn, it is wired”. I was already imagining the kids playing with it and pulling a bit hard in the wire and then the Wii would come crashing down. Would not happen with other consoles as they are heavy…Anyway, I was so wrong. Well, yes it is wired but just like the Nunchuck it is wired to the Wiimote. So you plug in your classic controller, selects the game to play and then you put the Wiimote on the table, couch, lap or wherever, just not too far away.
So what is it good for? It is used to play the games on the Virtual Console, works with all games as far as I have seen. It got the analog controllers for N64 games, all the digital buttons for SNES, NES, TurboGfx games and Sega Megadrive (Genesis). It should be featuring rumble according to Nintendo but I have not yet been able to test this as the only downloaded N64 game so far is Mario 64 which does not support rumble at all. So future games might support it…
I really like the design of the controller and it feels right when playing with it. Oh, I’m still wondering what the ‘button’ on the top does, seems it moves some plastic at the two holes on the back.
One note, most Virtual Console games does NOT require the Classic Controller but some will require it, so keep an eye on what controllers are supported by what games.
- Gamecube controller
The Wii supports up to 4 Gamecube controllers to be plugged into the top of the console. Here I’m again worried about too much pulling in the wires; time will tell if people will have such problems with flying Wii’s when going crazy.
The Gamecube controller is needed for playing Gamecube games but some Virtual Console games will also support it. One example is Mario 64 which requires either a classic controller or a Gamecube controller.
The Wii supports SD cards for extending the storage space (512 MB is build-in to the system). When I bought my Wii I decided to get a 2 GB SD card right away. Thought it would be enough for tons of Virtual Console games and for photos and music. My first experience with the SD card didn’t turn out well at all. Just didn’t work, got messages that the card inserted was not working/valid. Not sure if it was bad formatted but it also failed on my PC using a card reader/writer, but worked fine on the notebook. I was then able to format it and then it worked on the Wii also. So what can it be used for, can Virtual Console games be downloaded and stored on it… Nope. Well, indirectly yes. It is possible to move content from the internal storage to the SD card, but only for backup as you can not use the content directly from the SD card. You can of course store pictures and movies on the SD card and view them using the Wii’s Photo Channel. This works very well and you can this way do family slideshows. There are no Music Channel but MP3 files can be played from the Photo Channel as part of a slide show. Rather strange way to do it… Interesting enough some games (Excite Trucks, not released in Europe yet) should be featuring a build-in MP3 player.
One day I was moving some downloaded content to the SD card, just to test it out and then suddenly I got errors, the SD card was corrupt and could not be used. I was not worried about loosing the data as I could always download it again but I was rather shocked that it could happen. Thought that I had to format it again (what would people without a PC with card reader/writer do?). I took the SD card to the PC, all worked fine. Then just for fun I copied a few pictures over, mainly to check if the pictures worked so I could impress the kids. Keep in mind; the photos are not stored in directories on the card that is used for Wii content. Went back to the Wii and tried the card, ALL problems gone. I will be doing more tests to see if I can trust the SD card for backup of downloaded content…
Getting connected with friends
A few of my friends also bought the Wii, so of course we would get connected so we could write messages to each other. Nintendo uses the same system as on NDS where people use a code to identify each other. This is a 16 digit long code, often written as 4×4 numbers. Mine is 8732 3017 9917 4072, not easy to remember (I’m not even trying to remember it). This is the bad side of the system, remembering a nickname from someone else like ‘NovaVoidCon’ is easy, to remember ones own Wii code can be done, but if you ask someone about their Wii code then you will likely forget it, unless you use write it on a post-it as I do. Now the funny thing is that you can register your friends to the address book by entering their number, but you can not communicate with them before they also registered your code on their Wii. Both good and bad, would be nice if I could enter a Wii code of a friend and send a message ‘Hey, Sam here’ and then they could choose to register or not. Then again, the good side of the system is that you don’t get spam, see, I wrote my code before well knowing that people might try to register me, but hey, if I don’t have their code then what’s the point. This also means that parents do not have to be worried about ‘dodgy’ people starting to talk to their kids.
Anyway, after getting connected you can write messages, send photo, send Mii’s to your friends. Not much more at the moment.
Nintendo implemented a simple but very useful system for entering text and numbers when using their menu system. What I do feel is a bit strange, it seems it is not a part of the OS of the Wii but just their own implementation, would have been nice to see it used by other games. Some games actually got a system where the Wiimotes pointing system is not used at all, seems SO wrong. Anyway, the system shows a keyboard (QWERTY) on the screen and there is a pointer that can be moved around, small vibration can be felt when it is over a letter. Just press and the letters are added to the text. The keyboard layout supports shift, caps lock, backspace and enter. After been using it for awhile and then go back to XBox and write a message there it feels wrong to move the cursor around with an analog pad.
What to expect from the Wii?
Some people will be disappointed with the Wii if they compare the visuals with XBox 360 and PS3, same probably goes with sound. But visuals and sound is not everything (some will disagree). Some will complain that the Wii does not support HD, but how many of them have a HDTV?
I myself just have a normal TV which does support 100 Hz (so it is not all crap) and it does have stereo (and some simulated Dolby.. I think). Good thing is that all games are then designed and tested in low resolution and not as XBox where it seems people develop using HD and when the game then is shown on a normal TV the text is unreadable. Anyway, if you do expect visuals on pair with Gamecube then you will not get disappointed. Some of the current games do look like Gamecube games but I’m sure we will see better quality in the years to come. Just look at Resident Evil 4/Biohazard for Gamecube, this is one of the most impressive games for Gamecube, to be compared to even more powerful systems.
I don’t know if the audio is much better than Gamecube, it sure works fine. If I had a surround sound system then I would be able to tell.
Nintendo’s force with the Wii is the unique controller system, no doubt about that. This might attract a lot of people to the system, especially in the early days. It is impossible to say if it continues like this for long, only time can tell. It will also require game developers to rethink the control system of the games and will make it possible to play with ideas that were unheard of before. The low price point of the Wii is also a factor not to ignore.
I’m looking forward to see what 2007 will bring us, some might say that the current release schedule for the Wii does not look that impressive, but the year is not over yet. As long as there is one interesting game pr month that is worth buying I will stay happy.
I did run into a few problems while playing with the Wii. The controllers lost sync with the Wii a few times, often this could be solved by pressing the Sync button on the Wii and on the controller but I had one case where I had to turn the Wii off before it worked again. I recently also ran out of battery for one of the controllers. I didn’t know it was that, one of the games complained that it lost connection all the time, but I could just press a button a few times and it worked again. Turned out that the battery was almost empty, could see that when I pressed the ‘Home’ button. Changed battery and was playing again without problems.
Of course we all hope for new innovative games that will redefine what we think about game play. But what I would like to see very soon would be online multiplayer games. To be honest I’m a bit disappointed that no game in Europe/US supports this yet. Tennis or some of the Wii Play games would have been SO nice with online multiplayer, even just 2 players.
I read that this will changing in March, that the first multiplayer games will appear. Then I just hope they will somehow enable voice communication with a headset, loved this on XBox 360, been able to chat with a friend when we played a game. Of course allowing 8 players to talk at the same time is also nice. But to be honest, does the Wii have enough power to handle that???
There is SO much more to write about, all the channels, Virtual console, Mii and Mii creations, the games, but I will leave that for another day.