For a console aiming to be simplistic, Nintendo's Wii always brings in a lengthy discussion. Gamers can debate the business model, the name, and gimmick of the controller, the expensive virtual console titles, and lack of high-end graphics until message boards melt due the mass of fan boys arguing. What they always miss is the most obvious benefit of the console: Fun.
Out of the box, the Wii comes with a controller, Nunchuk attachment, sensor bar, composite cables, AC adapter, a mass of manuals, vertical stand, and Wii Sports. That's all you'll need for hours of entertainment. The only difficulty in setting things up physically is the sensor bar. This is how the wireless Wii controller communicates with the console, and setting it up in relation to the room could require some effort before taping it down above or below your TV.
Once connected and powered up, standard information needs to be entered before playing. You'll name your console, set the date, and state your birthday, along with other basic pieces the system asks for. From there, assuming the sensor bar is in place, you can start playing immediately. The total time from box opening to playing a game is around 10 minutes at the most.
If you plan on going online, things will take a little longer. The console requires updates before connecting to the Wii Store, which currently contains only a spattering of Virtual Console games. Items like a web browser, news feeds and local weather are expected later. The set up here takes some time, though it's worth noting that the servers are currently taking in some heavy traffic from all new users.
Using the system's main menu proves easy to understand and accessible. Base features like playing a game and changing personal preferences are readily available with a few button presses. You'll navigate with the Wii Remote, using a hand indicator to move around and select options. In a nice touch, the hand will rotate along with your wrist if you turn it. It's a simple way to show new owners a small slice of what the controller is capable of.
Issues are apparent when trying to find other options. To set things like the volume of the speaker on the Wii Remote, you'll need to head into a separate menu from other basic preferences. Using the home button on the remote brings up this sub menu, though when you're already in the home menu. It's a small annoyance, but one that a player could miss entirely if they make the obvious assumption that this should be grouped with the other choices.
As for the controller experience, the nicely weighted remote feels great. Buttons are easy to access, provides powerful rumble, it responds to any motion accurately and will sync with the console out of the box. The dud feature is the speaker in the center. Audio pouring from the tinny low fidelity device detracts from the experience instead of add to it. Also, while the provided wrist strap offers some protection, there should be some form of rubber strips on the sides to prevent the controller from flying from users hands. As it is, the slippery surface doesn't feel secure.
Being fully backwards compatible, the consoles nicely designed self loading tray takes in GameCube games without a problem. All games tested ran without any noticeable flaws. GameCube controllers, including the wireless Wavebird, can be used by plugging them into the top (or left side if used horizontally) of the console. The same goes for GameCube memory cards. Wii specific SD memory loads into a slot underneath the disk tray, though the system has plenty of internal memory to play with.
The final Wii surprise is the Mii feature. Here you'll create a caricature of yourself with numerous available options. This avatar will be used in certain games (like the included Wii Sports), can interact with friends, and will track your accomplishments amongst other statistics. Friend codes that are a feature brought over from DS, are thankfully one to a console and used across all software.
With a friend code, you can mingle with your buddies Mii's over the consoles Wi-Fi connection. Sadly, you'll need to buy additional pieces to hook the console up with a wired connection as the system lacks an Ethernet port. Once set up online though, you can send messages to friends, and the sharp blue light around the tray indicates a new message has been received. If an internet connection isn't possible, you can save you Mii to your controller and take it wherever you go.
Not being online isn't quite the experience killer it would be for an Xbox 360 owner, but you will be missing out on some of fun. The Virtual Console, soon to be littered with tons of classic games across all eras from the NES on up, is a strong selling point. You can even receive special features when the console is in standby mode if you choose to directly from Nintendo. The blinking tray indicates you've received something.
The Wii experience is a positive one overall. There are definitely a string of small annoyances that detract slightly from the experience. With future updates, it's possible these will be fixed and made easier to use. Based on the hardware itself, this elegantly designed console is an easy recommendation, though the games will of course tell the full story of its potential success.Powered by Sidelines