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Console Review: Nintendo Wii

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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.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • Tad

    I love my Wii! It’s super fun to play, and I even got my Grandma to play with me. Furthermore, it’s a blast to sit back and watch others play. The tennis game in Wii sports, which comes with the system is quickly becoming a family favorite, and I can’t wait for the rest of my family to enjoy it over Thanksgiving. Nice review by the way.

  • http://gossett1 gossett

    sorry nintendo fanboys i don’t like the wii, in my opinion the controller is not something i want to deal with i like the way the xbox and playstation controllers are. i know nintendo is trying to change the gaming experience, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix.i don’t want to be swinging my arms around to play a game i want my hands and arms resting in comfort. i like nintendo having had most of there consoles but to me they have’nt entered the next generation market the just have a redesigned gamecube with a dumb controller, but it does not matter anyway because i don’t plan on buying one

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Obviously, you haven’t played one. You don’t need to flail your arms around. I’ve played through most of Red Steel without even lifting my arm. While the games controls are broken due to the programming, it’s a completely natural set up, and far more accurate than any analog stick. Madden has actually turned out to be one of the best versions available because of the controls.

    Change is always met with resistance. Unless you truly give it time, you’ll never get why it’s so much fun.

  • http://www.myspace.com/mechanicalant Jesse Barnes

    What every Nintendo hater needs to realize is that the only reason you even have the controller you wont let go of so dearly is entirely because of Nintendo. Everything about the Playstation and Xbox controllers are innovations from Nintendo.

    Nintendo was the first company to include or invent the following for gaming controllers…

    The D-pad
    The analog stick
    The root of dual analog sticks (C buttons on the 64)
    Shoulder buttons
    The four ABXY face buttons and their placement
    Select and Start Buttons
    The trigger button (Z button on the 64)
    And possibly more that Im forgetting at the moment.

    I will bet you anything that Sony and Microsoft will be quick to adopt their own versions of Nintendos newest controller innovations in the console gaming wars 5-7 years from now.

  • http://none bman

    You also forgot about the rumbling controller and motion sensor which “coincidentally” Sony copied at the last minute for its PS3 controller.
    As much as the PS3 is gonna dominate, 360’s gonna be the runner up, and Wii is gonna be in dead last, all true gamers that have played (or have) all the systems and have beaten or played at least ten decent games on each will know that it should be the other way around. Just like with the PSP and DS. Looks and graphics are everything. And even though the DS is way funner and better than the PSP (I know I have both), the DS will end up in last. And I own a Wii, so you can’t argue fanboys.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com/ Ken Edwards

    I think it has already been proven that the DS is not last, not behind the PSP.

  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com Brad Schader

    Nintendo is trying to reclaim those of us they lost to Sega Genisis. The Sega fanoys went to the PS1 while Nintendo people went to the 64. Sega gave us the violence we craved in our 20’s and PS1 and PS2 kept that up, but now us “Pong Kids” are having kids of our own and our hands do not work the controllers like they used to because of old age. Nintendo is reclaiming us by giving us games our kids can play along with us as well as new game controls for those of us with old hands. DS and Wii are not about graphics so much as gameplay. I have a PS2 and love it, but I have no desire for a PS3 or 360 because it is more of the same. DS and Wii give me something different. ONce they start making games that use both the DS touch screen with the Wii motion sensors you will see Nintedo become King of the Home Systems again.

  • http://www.myspace.com/mechanicalant Jesse Barnes

    PS3 dominate huh? I wouldnt be so quick to say that. the 360 offers so much more variety than the PS3. All Sony has to bank on is its dwindling number of exclusive names; they are in no shape to compete online with the 360 and the motion sensitivity is a tacked on joke. If they dont make compelling games Nintendo will kill them with gameplay and Microsoft will kill them with variety.

    Developers word is that the difference in performance between the 360 and the PS3 is marginal at best. So if the Cell processor is all that Sony thinks it needs to win over gamers, they are making a huge mistake. Other than simply graphics and performance the 360 offers so much more than the PS3 in so many more categories especially with its online offerings. Sony cant compete with that. They cant compete with Nintendo either. In other words, Sony needs to stop worrying about competition and come up with something original that only THEY offer. So far they have nothing unique.

  • javi

    who can help me my wii its freeze in the main menu

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Tech support would sound like a good place to start javi.

  • http://profytsplace.com rj

    i have not bought the wii but i sure am planning on buying it… no doubt the wii is the most advanced system out there