Hardware Review: Nintendo Wii

After much wait, much hype, and some confusion (initial controller reaction, disagreements over the name), the Wii has arrived. Will it be the gaming revolution it hopes to be? Will we really see men, women, and children of all ages and races joining together in front of the TV for some simulated tennis? Or will it be viewed by the gaming public as a gimmick and derided for its weaker graphical horsepower?

I don't think either of these extremes are the case, but I'd imagine the former is closer to reality. Nintendo really is on to something with this system, and I think it's going to pay off in spades for them. For the last three days, my apartment entrance has basically been a revolving door of people wanting to experience the Wii firsthand. Some were hardcore gamers, some hadn't played a game since Duck Hunt. You know what they all had in common? They all had an absolute blast with the console.

Everything about the system screams accessibility. Upon booting it up, you're greeted with a well-designed channel system with options for News, Weather, Games, Photos, Mii creation, and plenty of available spaces for Virtual Console games or whatever else Nintendo cooks up.


The Nintendo Wii.

My favorite aspect of the interface is definitely the Mii Channel. It allows you to create the same type of bobblehead-esque characters seen in Wii Sports, and the outcomes are almost always hilarious. Every time someone came to my place to see the Wii, I had them create a Mii before they even started playing. It's not some complex character creation tool like Tiger Woods or Smackdown, but it's perfect for Wii Sports. Even if you're playing one-player, you'll see your friends caricatures pop up in your batting lineup or in the outfield.

Before the console was released, the Wiimote and nunchuk were a thing of mystery and intrigue. How responsive would it be? Would your arms get tired? After an extreme marathon of Wii playtime over the last three days (the clock in the Wii menu puts me at well over 10 hours a day, with almost 20 for today), I can absolutely confirm that most worries are unfounded. Your arms absolutely never get tired, even after super-extended sessions.

After all these hours I've spent with the Wii, I had almost forgot that it was a new, risky direction for game controllers. It just seemed absolutely natural, and I couldn't even imagine playing Twilight Princess any other way.

Almost all aspects of the Wiimote work as advertised. If you'd like, you can swing your sword in Zelda with overly dramatic slashes, or you can simply perform slight wrist flicks. Excite Truck seems to be a bit difficult to control at first, until you realize just how well subtle motions register with the system. Most people I've seen try to steer it way too much in their first race, and end up going way off the road. A few races later, however, and most people pick up on the fact that you can ever-so-slightly "steer" the controller to achieve the desired result.

Wii Tennis

Jeff Croft (left) plays David Ryan in the lawrence.com dungeon in a spot of Tennis a la Wii Sports. It might be noted that Croft was victorious over Ryan.

The only aspect that can be a little off at times is the pointer. Most of the time, it works without any hiccups. If you're sitting 6-8 feet away from the TV, with your hand pointed directly at the TV, you should be fine. I countered some problems, however, when I had my hand rested against my knee. For some reason, this seemed to make the pointer jump around more than it should. It also seems to have some trouble registering when you're over 10-12 feet away. Don't let this worry you at all. There was never any real instance of problems arising during gameplay. Just sit a reasonable distance from your TV set, and it's fine.

It's too early to see how well the Virtual Console games perform on the system, but we'll have reviews up as soon as possible. Expect these shortly after the launch.

Wii Excite Truck

Jacob Kaplan-Moss cruises Wii-style on Excite Truck in the lawrence.com dungeon. Gamer Dan Ryckert (to the left of Kaplan-Moss in the photo) waits patiently to begin playing <em>his</em> Wii.

I'm not going to assign the system a numeric score in this review. It's too early to tell how it will compete in the long run, and there's just not enough games right now to give us an accurate idea. However, with Smash Bros, Mario Galaxy, and Metroid coming out in the near future, it's safe to say that the Wii will have a tremendous first year, both in terms of sales and great games. After my three Wii-packed days, I'm a firm believer that Nintendo has constructed a machine that will have a positive lasting effect on the industry and the way games are played.


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