Nintendo Wii well worth the wait

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

On Nov. 19 the Nintendo Wii turned one year old.

A couple days before that I finally got around to buying one. So here are my personal impressions, a bit of a retrospective, and a brief holiday gift guide of Wii games.

The Wii may not be for everyone, but I love it. I’d wanted one since Nintendo first showed what it could do at E3 2006.

The Wii was a gamble for Nintendo, They’d been the underdog as far back as the Nintendo 64, having been branded as “kiddie”. Still, The N64 and the Gamecube had some incredible titles, but not the sales, or the third-party development to back them up. Furthermore Nintendo downplaying the importance of graphics in favour of innovative controls was worrisome, until we saw what it could do.

The “Wiimote” controller is amazing. The Wii tracks it on screen like a mouse, and it can measure acceleration in all directions. What that means, practically, is you can literally play games by waving the controller around.

I was, and still am, amazed by Wii Sports (which is included with the Wii system). Granted the gameplay is not very deep, but it’s so fun. The control feels right, for each sport you move the controller and it behaves just like you think it should for golf, tennis, boxing, baseball or bowling. If you can wave the Wiimote you can play Wii sports. It’s incredibly intuitive.

The intuitive controller has gotten third-party developers on board, so the Wii gets good all-around developer support and Nintendo keeps making their games as amazing as ever. There are Nintendo hallmarks for the hardcore fan, great pick-up-and-play games for the casual gamer and a pretty good range in between.

So why did I take so long to get one? I don’t know, I’ve wanted one since they came out, and I just kept putting it off, but I’m VERY glad I finally made the jump.

Apart from the games themselves, which can be pretty fun, there’s the Wii interface itself. It allows you to make a virtual representation of yourself to use in various games, which is a lot of fun, particularly in Wii Sports.

It’s great to bowl with your friends, and have them look like your friends on screen.

Along with the Mii channel is the excellent Virtual Console (VC). For a few dollars per game the VC lets you download select NES, SNES, N64, Sega Genesis, Turbo Graphx 16 and Neo Geo games. They all work very well and the selection grows on a weekly basis. Some classic games are available as well as a couple previously Japan only releases, so props to Nintendo for that.

There are some cool added features like a news channel and a weather channel that do what you expect and do it well and there’s a channel where you can vote on various mundane questions and see the worldwide results. These are all fun, but not essential.

All that great stuff aside there are some problems with the Wii. If you want a console for its graphics you should get a different console, but that’s personal preference. The other big problem is some developers see the Wii as a cash cow, just like other consoles. So some developers release quick and dirty games just to use the Wii and make some money. Some of the games don’t work very well, or don’t use the Wiimote very well, but this problem is not unique to the Wii.

The fact remains, the Wii has been out for one year and it already has some great pick-up-and-play-games for everyone, and some heavy hitters for hardcore gamers to. With that, I present you my holiday gift guide for Wii games:

casual games

Wii Sports: If you buy a Wii this holiday it comes with Wii Sports and that’s good. It’s the best pick-up-and-play game for the Wii. If you play this game with friends, it never gets old, and it’s got almost no learning curve. Five simple sports, hours of fun.

Excite Truck: I love this game. It’s incredibly unrealistic and ridiculous, and lots of fun. You hold the Wiimote like a steering wheel and steer supercharged monster trucks across the globe at breakneck speed by turning the Wiimote like a steering wheel. This game can take some getting used to, but after 15 minutes or so anyone can have a blast tearing up nature virtually.

Wario Ware: This game is insane. It’s a collection of five-second mini games that give you one word of instructions. It’s incredibly fast paced but great fun and easy to get into. Plus the games are so crazy you’ll lose half the time because of laughter. It also supports 12 player multiplayer with one wiimote. It’s a blast.

Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure: By far the deepest of these games, and maybe not a great fit in the “casual” category, but Zak and Wiki is good, and I think it suits casual gamers. It’s basically an adventure game, but makes use of the Wiimote for some great puzzle solving. A deep game in an approachable package. It’s going on my Christmas list.

hardcore games

Super Mario Galaxy: If you have ever liked a Mario game buy this one, you will not be disappointed. It picks up the dropped legacy of Mario 64. The game is full of great levels, all the Mario magic you’d want, and all sorts of crazy gravity that’ll warp your mind. I can’t stop playing it. It also has the best graphics on the Wii so far, and that’s nice. Hailed as the best game on the Wii so far and the best Mario in years.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: It’s Zelda, it’s on the Wii. Get it.

Great story, great controls, great graphics (and it’s a Gamecube port!) This is the Zelda game for anyone who was put off by the graphics in the Windwaker for Gamecube. It’s also the Zelda game for anyone with a Wii.

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition: Resident Evil made a splash when it hit the Game Cube and has been ported to the PS2 and the Wii. The Wii version is the best of the three, proving to be more than just a port. It’s definitely a mature game, but one to check out if you’re of age.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 proved to be great moves for the franchise into 3D and Prime 3 takes that formula and adds the Wiimote to the mix, making a great adventure/shooter hybrid. Add full voice acting to that and you’ve got a winner.

So that’s a year’s worth of Wii, and now I finally have one. I love the Wii, but it may not be for everyone. Read up on the Wii and these games before you commit the money to it. I love it, but you may not.

Calen Henry is a fourth-year student of Japanese Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film. Calen can be reached at calenhenry@gmail.com

© 2007 Osprey Media Group Inc. All rights reserved.

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