Right, so the Wii has been installed for 3 days about time I wrote something about it!
Firstly – excellent form factor! It’s about the size of a Mac Mini, can stand horizontally or vertically on a (decently stable) stand. Setup is straightforward if (unlike me) you read the instructions properly. On first boot it asks you to press ‘A’ to continue, and then select a language by using the Wiimote. This didn’t work for me at all, and I quickly sank into a black depression, knowing for sure my Wii was broken. Eventually it dawned on me (being the technical expert I am) to check the connections. Lo and behold the ‘sensor bar’ was unplugged. This is the device which sits on (or underneath) your TV and works out where your wiimote is pointing on-screen. I was quite surprised to find that this only relays positional information, the button presses – and presumably the tilt sensing aspects of the wiimote are transmitted directly to the console.
Friday night and most of Saturday was taken up with Wii Sports – Tennis, Boxing, Baseball, Golf and Bowling – all making good use of the wiimote. There’s something extremely natural about playing sports games, using genuine sporting motions to carry out the action. My first real concern was how two people would play in front of the same tv – especially tennis and not be smacking each other round the face. Tennis is great fun, and along with bowling my favourite game, potentially because the learning curve is gentle, and if you’ve ever played either of the sports – you’ll know how to ‘use’ the controller. I quickly found I was able to put slice and topspin on tennis shots, and you can add realistic spin to the bowling ball as well. Golf? Well it’s golf. I found it rather hard to keep any kind of consistency in my shots, but that’s probably due to me and not the game as Simon was able to pretty much par every hole for my bogey. Boxing is the only game to use the nunchuck attachment and is occasionally fiddly to place the punches when you want them, where you want them. However it is also the game most likely to give you a proper work out! Both Simon and I found breath was short after 6 rounds or so (unfit blokes that we are ;)). Baseball is only really fun with 2 players – at least for me. I’ve never played baseball and the action of pitching and batting is unnatural to me – this resulted in the console giving me a whipping every time on the most simple of levels. A bit of mental recalibration and with 2 players this becomes a lot more fun (as you’re both rubbish) but it doesn’t matter, and occasionally smacking the ball out of the park is worth the wait. Bowling is great. It’s going to be THE perfect party game for years to come.
I spent some time last night revisiting the games solo. There’s enough entertainment here for the lonely nerd, but these games were designed for competition, and with even just one more player, suddenly become incredibly good fun. For a console freebie – Wii Sports is great.
I went into town on Saturday to pick up some accessories (SD card, extra wiimote, classic controller and Wii points to download games) and was glad I did. The extra wiimote came with Wii Play, which Simon and I blasted through very quickly come the afternoon. A series of ‘orientation’ minigames that get you used to the controller, they can be good fun, but are nowhere near Wii Sports in quality. The only games with real replay value are probably the pool game (nice 3D and fun to play), Cow Racing (had us in stitches) and Laser um, well I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s Pong (or air hockey) on steroids and is pretty good fun. For a fiver with a wiimote, not a bad deal. Probably great if you’ve got kids under 8.
The real winner of the weekend was unsurprisingly Zelda. First up, it looks like a GameCube port. The graphics are NOT all that great (even kind of muddy at the start), but it’s Zelda – so I, for one, couldn’t care less (I’ve done just as much Zelda playing in 2D as 3D!). After a slowish start, the game really picks up, and once you’ve got a couple of hours of gameplay under your belt the control system (completely unlike WindWalker and Ocarina of Time etc) becomes completely natural. I played this most of yesterday as my arm was aching after the Wii Sports marathon, and I’m happy to say that after 7 hours and 43 minutes invested in it yesterday I was not suffering any additional ‘arm fatigue’.
In fact this is the great thing for me – I hated the design of the controllers when they came out. I still rate the N64 controller as the pinnacle of design, but the wiimote and nunchuck again – just feel *right* in your hands. Once you’re used to the slightly different positioning of your hands, it’s like you’ve never used anything else. And the control system in Zelda is sublime. Being able to swing around in all directions, pointing your slingshot at the appropriate object, fight with a flick of the wrist – it’s just fantastic, and so much easier to achieve than in previous games.
The storyline is of course pure Zelda – your parallel states (twilight and light) in this case, a princess called Zelda (unsurprisingly!), an eponymous hero who is unaware of his destiny, set in the Hyrule we know and love. I think something like 60% of Wii sales in the US were accompanied by a copy of Zelda – it’s currently probably the game driving the Wii sales. I know between Zelda and Metroid – that was all I needed. Oh and to be able to download a whole backcatalogue of games…
So I tried the Wii Console too – bought myself a copy of Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog (the original and best) and Ninty’s own Donkey Kong Country (SNES) over the Wii shopping channel. Redeeming the Wii points was straightforward although they are markedly cheaper (£5) at HMV than Virgin! After applying a couple of software updates you can also top them up with a credit card – this is what I will be doing in future. Both games are pixel perfect renditions of the original titles and brought back a huge feeling of gaming nostalgia for me. After ripping through 6 levels of Sonic (and failing to get very far in DKC) I was glad I’d picked up the Classic Controller – they really are better for the retro games than the sideways turned wiimote. Of course now even these things are like gold dust around town, nowhere has any Wii accessories (except Gamestation which appeared to have Wii Play + wiimote in). Woolworths have them in stock online. Nunchucks I can’t get anywhere, I have an order in that’s likely to be satisfied somewhere around the 11th Jan!
Anyway, just go out and buy one (after Christmas) and chuck your Xboxes in the bin. This is the future of gaming. It’s fun, its cheap and we really don’t care if it’s not popular with the technofetishist HD brigade. This is the console for ‘the rest of us’.
Is it time to go home yet?