in Gaming, Reviews, Tech

Wiik in Wiiview

My Xbox 360 and WiiForgive me, I can’t resist a bad pun. Translation: Week in Review.

A little over a week ago I stood in line very early on a cold rainy morning outside Circuit City, and managed to buy one of the thirteen Nintendo Wiis they got in stock that day. Now that I’ve had some serious playtime, here’s my impressions:

Put simply, I love this system. The novel motion sensitive controller works just as advertised – playing tennis feels like tennis, bowling like bowling, etc. Being able to point at the screen to select options makes it much easier to enter text and set options than on previous generations of controllers. The game it comes with, Wii Sports, is an excellent introduction to the Wii. It’s a package of five games: Bowling, Tennis, Boxing, Baseball, and Golf. I haven’t managed to figure out the right timing to hit the baseball reliably, but the other four all work just as advertised. Most game types even let you pass one or two controllers around among players, instead of having to buy more. Boxing is by far the most physically intensive of the five, and can be quite a workout depending on how much you allow yourself to get into it. The Wii controller can be used with multiple intensities – a flick of the wrist, for example, will return a serve just as well as a full arm swing. It’s up to you how you want to play.

The interface of the Wii’s main menu is extremely well laid out. Finding options and starting programs is easy – there are freely downloadable ‘channels’ that let you browse the world’s weather or new by rotating a globe, and another that provides a basic version of the Opera web browser. The console also comes with the ‘Mii Channel’, which is where you design your cartoony avatar. This avatar then shows up in a number of games, primarily as your player in Wii Sports.

Games from previous generations of video game systems are also available to purchase and download (NES, SNES, N64, Sega Genesis, and Turbografix 16 games are all represented). I take a bit of an issue with Nintendo’s pricing on these games – A Super Nintendo game costs $8, and an N64 title is a whopping $10. I won’t buy very many games at these prices. But if they were cut in half, I could convince myself to make the smaller purchase more repeatedly. Logical? Maybe not, but that’s how I feel. As it is, I broke down and bought the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Even after all these years, I still feel surreal playing a Sega game on a Nintendo system. My 10 year old self would never have predicted this day.

Here’s a couple blurbs on the other games I’ve tried:

Rayman: Raving Rabbids

This collection of minigames is the best thing on the Wii so far. There’s something like 75 games available, usually lasting a minute or two to play. Each uses the controller in a novel way – a whack-a-mole style game, swinging a cow over your head before throwing it, and keeping rhythm using the controller like drumsticks are three that come to mind immediately. The single player game is relatively short-lived, but has a very entertaining bizarre sense of humor, and is necessary to unlock the games for multiplayer use anyway. And multiplayer games is where Rayman really shines. Anybody can pick up the controller and play almost instantly. The games are short enough to get everyone in a large group involved, yet still long enough to have some substance.

WarioWare: Smooth Moves

Another collection of minigames, but this time I wasn’t quite so impressed. WarioWare comes up with some more novel ways to use the controller (like holding it to your nose and manipulating an elephant’s trunk), but never really reaches the full potential that Rayman did. Each Wario game can be as short as less than one second, and usually only requires one quick movement of the controller. This makes some of the games frustratingly rely on what feels like blind luck to complete them successfully. It’s fun in the short term, but I managed to complete the single player mode in less than two hours of play over a weekend. Again, like Rayman there’s some extension of the game’s life in multiplayer modes, and WarioWare is definitely worth playing. But something didn’t click for me, and I’m glad I only rented it.

In the end, the success of minigame compilations like WarioWare and Rayman are also the Wii’s biggest weakness. Game developers are still figuring out how to work motion sensing elements into longer, story driven games. With the exception of Zelda (which I have not yet played), none of the attempts so far have been reviewed very well. But the innovation is there, and that’s the key factor. The potential is here, now games just have to follow through. Given time, I have faith that will happen.

The highest praise I have for the Wii is that it has me excited about finding a chance to play the newest version of Madden. Players hike and throw the football with semi-realistic motions, which has me intrigued. And I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to a sports game. I think the last one I bought was for the Playstation 1. Nintendo’s plan to reach out to new groups of gamers just might work.

P.S. If anyone has a chance, give the Huntsville Circuit City some business. The manager on duty brought us a big bag of Sausage McMuffins while waiting outside in the rain at 7AM, just because she thought we looked hungry.

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  1. Just because you live in Alabama doesn’t mean you can say things like “Wiik in Wiiview” and not get punched. You may not receive this punch for several months.. but you’ll get it.

    Our Wii arrived last Thursday, and I’m surprised by how little I’ve played with it. Well, maybe not. I did get my initial Wii experience over Christmas. And I’m slightly peeved at our Wii. My brother set up the internet connection, and managed to boot my off of our local network. Apparently my network card and the router had formed some sort of suicide pact because they both stopped working. So, that was definitely an annoyance. Plus, we had to rearrange the furniture in the family room to optimize Wii usage and I’m not fond of the new layout.

    Wow. I sound kinda crotchety. Ha!

    Anyway, so far I have had the first-hand pleasure of experiencing Wii Sports and WarioWare. And while I agree that WarioWare is best for short doses, I was disappointed that you didn’t mention the humorous in-game explanations of the Wiimote positions. They deserved a little of your love, and you gave them none.

    I am very glad to hear that you enjoyed Rayman. I saw the X-Play review of that several months ago and fell in love immediately. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to slapping choir boys. So, it was good to hear that the game is a worthy investment.

    Thanks for the update. Also, today is National Gorilla Suit Day.

  2. Thanks for the comparison of Rayman to Wario – have been leaning towards Rayman all along and this helps me stick to my guns come purchase time. Just bought my first two virtual console games yesterday and was happy enough to pay 1000 points for Mario Cart, but was then majorly disappointed at having spent 600 points on Super Soldier – I would *love* it if Nintendo would allow preview downloads – even 5 minutes would’ve told me not to buy SS – gonna have to find another site with reviews on the available VC titles – no longer trust my first site!

    Have fun!

  3. I second the punching motion (so to speak).

    I played the beginning of Zelda on my brother’s Wii over Christmas, and–while it’s a fun game–the Wii controller aspects seem a little tacked on. If I remember correctly, Link’s sword moves don’t depend so much on the motions you make with the controller as with the buttons you hold down while you twitch it back and forth.

    Another question the Wii raised in me: is the controller sensitive enough to allow for finely tuned skilled gameplay, like the kind you would need to win at the higher levels of Tekken? I wonder if the controller has created a sort of pass/fail gameplay system, where you either do an action right or not at all, instead of allowing for finer skill gradients like previous controllers.