Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Wonderful World of Wii

The Nintendo Wii, originally developed under the name Nintendo Revolution underwent a focus shift shortly before its debut being re-marketed to families instead of hardcore gamers. This move seems to have been a good one as you’ll find the Nintendo Wii present in many homes throughout the nation.

The Nintendo Wii Console
As its original name implies the Nintendo Wii abandoned the traditional buttons on a controller solution as the primary interface option for many of its games. Instead the Nintendo company spent years perfecting motion tracking software that allows the games to detect the location, speed, orientation, tilt, and rotation of your controller (Wii-mote) allowing users an, at the time unparalleled “point-and-click” interface. Many games took advantage of the new technology such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit to create a truly unique gaming experience for the whole family.

The most obvious advantage to the console’s interface design is that it actually requires movement on the part of the user. For games like Wii Fit this was actually exploited and built upon to help people be more active without needing to head to the gym or go for a run when it was threatening to rain. Additionally the interface allows for a more realistic interface for sword and gun combat with setups that included inserting the Wii-mote into a decorative plastic piece that helped the player really get into the game.

The feature of the Wii that originally sold me however was its ridiculous level of backwards compatibility. Not only can the Wii play Wii games, it can also play GameCube games, allowing me to finally get and play those sequels to Star Wars: Rouge Squadron that I had missed out on. Additionally Nintendo provided the option to download even older games onto the console and play them from there. Classics like Super Mario Land, Star Fox 64, and Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time could be installed and played for a modest expense with new titles being added each month. These titles weren’t just limited to Nintendo systems and included a number of great games from Sega platforms and older systems as well. To continue to add to this feature the Wii also included a section for independent developers to create and make available their own games making the titles available on the Wii virtually limitless.

You’d think all this would be enough, but as a special addition the Wii also includes channels that you can download through its on-board wireless connection or an Ethernet adapter to increase the systems utility, allowing you to create and share Mii’s (your avatars in the various games), vote on popular topics, read headline news, check the weather anywhere in the world, or even watch your favorite TV shows through Netflix or hulu plus.

Though the system came with a great concept that many took to heart, others (including many gamers of old) found the new system’s implementation a bit wonky at first with many titles struggling to get the coding for their games just right in order to make them work with the motion controls. Some games abandoned the idea altogether and stuck with a more traditional controller format (Super Smash Bros. Brawl for instance) offering players the option of several different controller formats, none of which took advantage of the motion sensors.

Wii-motes with heat-sensitive rubber sleeves
The nature of the motion sensing technology made traditional setup somewhat more daunting as a good deal of space was required to prevent people from accidently (or accidently-on-purpose) hitting objects or people around them. For many owners, this was a challenge as even a 42” television only affords four people so much room to spread out before the picture becomes distorted. However things were done to offset this (rubber covers on the controllers most notably) which interestingly opened up new customization options for the Wii system

Finally and most importantly for the hardcore gamers out there was the low graphics quality compared to the other systems of the same generation. I personally experienced the dissonance playing Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on both the Wii and the Xbox 360. I have to tell you the difference was stunning, not just in graphics quality, but actually in the different content of the two allegedly alike games. For those who consider themselves serious gamers, you’ll want to steer toward the other platforms which are more performance driven than innovation driven.

The Nintendo Wii was my first taste of the last generation of game systems and I have to say I was more impressed than I thought I would be. Despite its drawbacks the Wii did prove to be an entertaining and enjoyable play experience that not only provided a source of amusement for myself and my friends, but also broadened my horizons to include the possible interface options of the future. Needless to say, the Nintendo Wii has found its place in my N3rd C0rn3r.