Well, Casa del Mono finally acquired the much coveted Wii technology on Friday, and I’m here to tell you: It more than lives up to the hype. In fact, it completely blows it’s own hype away with its own astounding levels of awesomness.
I picked up WarioWare and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz with the Wii, and it took me two days to even try them out. That’s an incredible testament to how enjoyable Wii Sports is, (not to mention the Mii functions, internet browsing, and the Virtual Console games), and how much care and attention went into making the Wii console a playable experience in and of itself. The setup was painless and quick (interestingly enough, Nintendo ships the units with old-school RCA adapters, and not s-video or HDMI), and after literally just minutes of setup I was on my way to the world of Wiigasm, as I’ve taken to calling it. The mechanics of using the controller (which I’d heard various reports as to the difficulty of) were next to nothing, and I was bowling, batting, pitching, and boxing like a pro within minutes.
The physicality of the gameplay is amazing, as 30 minutes of all-out play in Wii Sports can really be a workout. Not only does the game have a built in Training mode, it’ll also gauge your ‘fitness age’ based on how you perform during certain games. One gent went so far as to incorporate Wii Sports into his workout regime with very positive results. After just a couple of days with the Wii, I can understand how that’s possible. Sure you can sit on the couch and just lightly flick your wrist and get the same gameplay results, but how fun is that? It’s much more fun to stand up in a boxer’s stance and duck and weave like you’re in the sparring ring. Nintendo seems to genuinely care about the health of it’s players, as you can track how long the Wii was in use every day (if you’re wanting to curb excessive gameplaying for yourself or kids), and the console itself will remind you to take a break every 30 minutes or so (with a great ‘go outside’ message conveyed on the screen). That’s just cool.
The ability to download the classics from the NES, SNES, N64, Genesis and TurboGrafx is looking to be a complete and utter time killer for me (and was one of my main reasons for wanting a Wii). I mean really: I’m using a Wii to play Super Mario Bros, a game that’s over 20 years old. That’s beautiful. The catalog of games isn’t mind-blowing yet (and I’ll admit that the prices, which range from $5 to $10 dollars per game, seems high considering the zero cost of production and distribution), but it’s an impressive start that expands more each week. So far, about 5 titles per week is the norm. The beauty of being able to play classic games like this is what made the Wii a deal breaker for me. With two babies in the house, I can’t invest the time in playing sprawling epics like Zelda (yet), so having the micro and mini games in WarioWare and SMB:BB, as well as short play games like Super Mario Bros. means I can relax with some games and break away to chill with the girls without ever feeling like I’m missing out. Now all that needs to happen is the incorporation of Sega Dreamcast games, and I’ll be complete.
While the graphics might not be as eyeball molestingly realistic as the PS3 or Xbox 360, the level of detail (and the overall style) work wonderfully and underscore the type of experience Nintendo wants to create with its players. The emphasis is on fun not technical prowess and power, and that works toward our favor. To be honest, what some see as it’s biggest weakness (the difficulty of translating traditional game play into Wii-play) I see as it’s absolute greatest strength. Finally game developers will be actively rewarded for coming up with really innovative game play, and the ‘fun for the whole family’ aspect of the Wii looks like it’s going to encourage companies to give distribution to widely played Flash style games. For instance, Line Rider is set to be released as a Wii game (though no info on if it’ll be a stand alone or Virtual Console game), and I can’t think of a more perfect console fit. I’m hoping that’s a trend that will continue, and that we’ll see stuff like the wonderful Grow series translated to the Wii platform.
Hands down, the Nintendo Wii is the finest console ever brought to market, and that’s saying something. Likewise, Nintendo may have the single best launch of a new console ever achieved by putting out a first-gen system with no real bugs, a healthy catalog of games, and the promise of what this system can achieve apparent in every title. Thank you, Nintendo. You’ve made this monkey very happy indeed.