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Video Games Review: Nintendo Wii
Nintendo Wii: First Impressions
Friday, thousands flocked to game stores up and down the country in
anticipation of the all-new Nintendo Wii - only to return in most cases
empty handed and disappointed as the pitifully low number available failed
to keep pace with demand. A delighted Blue Feathers on Fire were one of the
lucky few to succeed in actually getting a Wii on launch day.
So how does the machine measure up?
Billed as a revolution in gaming thanks to the inventive new way in which
games are played - using a unique new remote control controller – we were
unsure whether it could possibly live up to the hype which has greeted its
worldwide release. The mad videos you may have seen on the Internet
depicting folk of various nationalities grinning like buffoons while playing
on the machine immediately looked suspect to us.
Setting up the machine is initially baffling (“what the hell is this?” “I
have no idea what this is for” etc.) – you need to place an extremely flimsy
looking sensor bar above or below the TV. Once installed, the remote
controller easily picks it up – and its accuracy is immediately and very
impressively exhibited. The remote perfectly replicates your every motion on
screen to the minutest detail. It also features a force feedback and its own
speaker that genuinely adds to the sense of immersion when playing (see
We spent a bit of time attempting to eject the disk draw, only to realise
after maybe slightly too long that there wasn’t one, and that there is
instead a mouth which devours discs (which made us feel like idiots but were
nevertheless grateful for the fact that it wasn’t, as previously feared,
broken already). The mouth glows blue when you feed it discs, or if you
receive an email. Just like real life!
There are several bog standard features are in evidence on the main
dashboard screen including a “News Channel” and “Weather Channel” which
evidently aren’t online yet. Other features such as email and seem
unnecessary and tacked on for the sake of it as, if you have the broadband
necessary to get your Wii online, chances are you already have them done
much better elsewhere. We suspect that the News Channel will serve as
right wing propaganda a la Fox News in the US.
The irony of the weather channel on a Wii console is delightful as well as,
with games like Wii Sports supposedly creating a new way to exercise without
having to leave your living room, the implication of the Weather Channel is
you can’t be arsed to get out of your chair to look out the window.
Perhaps then the function of the Weather Channel is to find out what the
driving conditions are like so you can better predict the likely
ETA of the pizza delivery guy? Anyway, it’s
a minor point!
Mii wants to play
A further feature available as you boot up the machine is the option to
create yourself as a little on screen cartoon incarnation. These characters
(called “Mii”) can be edited using an array of facial and bodily features
(fatness, glasses, a hat etc.) Once
you’ve made yourself, you can choose to play as that character in games.
This was more than mildly funny in Wii Sports for reasons mentioned below.
Mii’s can be uploaded to the controller or taken online so you can play as
yourself against others.
It’s a feature which serves as a quaint distraction in spite of the fact
that at heart it is really rather pointless.
The first game we played on the Wii served to showcase the new controller
perfectly. Playing tennis as our first game, control over the racket is
initially stunning and really has to be played to be believed. Once you get
over the almost surreal madness (and an
outward paranoia brought about by your own sense of self-consciousness) of
using the remote as a tennis racket, a baseball bat, a golf club, a bowling
ball or, most humorously, boxing gloves, the game is a multiplayer work of
genius. The comic hilarity of the game shines through as farcical set pieces
and camera angles frequently reduce you to uncontrollable fits of laughter
to compliment your inane grinning; especially palpable when playing against
Bowling, for instance, will have you actually taking a run up as, using the
controller as the ball, you throw it down the alley with initially
unbelievable realism. Curve the remote as you arc it forward to spin the
ball, the speed too perfectly well replicated. Two player games of boxing
will have both players punching the air as virtual blows reign in on screen,
using the remote and nunchuk add on (also supplied with the console) as
gloves. It’s all supremely good fun as you weave and block by putting the
two controllers in front of your face. You can even clap in celebration, as
your pummelled opponent lies unconscious on the canvass.
The controls are so intuitive and such a joy to use that each of the five
games are in our opinion, and in terms of the mechanics of the game play at
least, the absolute pinnacle of their respective sports in video game form
The one drawback is that prolonged playing of the game will leave the out of
shape coach potatoes among us crippled up the right
arm. You have been warned!
In theory, the Wii’s WiiConnect24 service offers further services “straight
out of the box” (ha!) via various online enabled channels. The much-touted
Virtual Console allows you to buy old games and store them on your Wii to
play at your whim in future. This intriguing service is, however, clearly
targeted at those of us who have incomes on the scale of whole nations. For
between £3.50 and £8 you can buy the sort of retro games that will have you
thinking, “did I really used to enjoy THIS?” At least, we think that’s how
much they cost, Nintendo has seen fit to distort the prices by introducing a
non-floating exchange rate currency of their own
called “Points” (their imagination presumably run completely dry
by this stage). By our reckoning, you can get a rate of circa 142 Points to
the Pound. Which incidentally is enough to buy sod all at their online
At any rate, non of this stuff matters because it is damn near impossible to
get the bastard up and running. We spent far too long trying to get online
using Nintendo’s own Wi-Fi USB connector but to no avail. We did, however,
get to see it working on another machine and so can at least confirm that it
isn’t all a total jip (just most of it).
With Wii Sports spectacularly proving the accuracy and enjoyment to be had
using the new style of control, we can only anticipate what further delights
await us all in future. In the meantime, we also had a copy of
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess to
cruise through. Using the nunchuk to manoeuvre the chap on screen, the game
controls superbly. Mercifully, it is a much more serene experience to play
compared with Wii Sports, reducing the risk of “Nintendo Arm” as the
repetitive strain it causes may or may not come to be known. The remote
control is deployed here in a variety of inventive and entertaining ways. In
the main this had us swiping away with a sword, aiming expertly with a sling
shot, and catching fish by casting the line into a river while wrestling to
retrieve hooked fish against the force feedback from the controller.
The graphics in both Zelda and Wii Sports could probably have been done on a
PS2, yet this initially off-putting factor really doesn’t effect your
enjoyment of playing. What the Wii appears to have succeeded in doing, and
this really must be the most striking plus point of all, is to reinvigorate
our interest in gaming in general. And for that it receives top marks.
BFOF Rating: * * * * *