Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My Wii impressions so far

So it's been a few days, and other than getting the Wii there hasn't been too much going on. That said, I thought I'd share some of my impressions of the Wii. I've been playing it a fair bit over the past 5 days and I have to say overall it is absolutely fantastic.

The real innovation of this system as you should know is the motion sensitive controller. It's more than just an upgrade or remodel. In my opinion it is a fundamentally new way to play games. More on that in a bit though. The motion control technology is really pretty good. I was worried that it wouldn't be sensitive enough, but thats just not the case at all. When you buy the system it comes with both parts of the controller that you can see in this picture. The main part (held in the right hand in the pic) is the Wiimote. As far as I can tell, a lot of the launch games, at least for the moment, only really use this. It has a good feel to the hand, there's an index finger trigger on the bottom, and one main button on top. I feel like the simplicity in this is good. And really thats a big part about the Wii overall, something they obviously are pushing hard, is simplicity, and intuitiveness. The Wiimote has a d-pad, and a few other buttons, functions, and a variety of ways to use it; but they are all very straightforward. For the most part they rely not on pushing a button, but on the movement of the controller, and those movements are mostly very obvious. This controller was actually designed around the movement, and that capability makes it actively very fun, and totally unique. The second (detachable) half of the controller in the picture is called the nunchuck and it just adds even more depth to the control scheme. Although I suspect it won't be used in most games, at least for now, it's a great add on.

Each Wii comes bundled with a game, Wii Sports. I'm not prepared to give a full review or anything; but basically I think the game is very fun especially with friends, say at a party. It's a bit simplistic and not really robust enough to last, still it's a great launch game and a good introduction to the controller. For a good full review go check out this link to gametrailers.com. The game is a collection of 5 sports games: baseball, boxing, bowling, golf, and tennis. None of them are really complete games (for example you can only play 3 holes of golf, and at that only the same 3 holes, or that while yes you can play 9 innings of baseball, you can only bat and pitch, nothing more) but they give you a good chance to use the controller in a lot of interesting ways, and get used to this new kind of gaming experience. They're really the kind of fun to just pick up and play for five minutes at a time games. And this is another of the big appeals of the Wii, it's so intuitive, that I think anyone could just pick it up and play it without much instruction, and that a number of the launch games promise speed and simplicity. As I said, this is a great system for a party, it's what the industry is really turning to also; they call it casual gaming. A few things that stick out though. The nunchuck controller is only used in one of the 5 games, boxing. I'm not totally sure if that indicates anything really, but it's noteworthy. Also, when the question was raised of how much gamers (who as we all know can be kind of sedentary) would have to move about, Nintendo claimed that you wouldn't have to change the way you game much at all; in fact though you really do. While in some of the games, like tennis you only have to perform a semblance of the motion, ie a flick of the wrist is as good as a full swing, in most of the games this isn't the case at all. In fact, I would say that you really need to stand for baseball, and both golf, and bowling are impossible if you aren't standing. And not just standing, but you really need to perform the full range of motion that is depicted in the game. While yes, this is really exciting and new, its also really tiring. And you WILL need a space cleared in front of your tv to play these games, so you're probably going to have to move the coffee table. And because its so involved I don't think honestly I could play for more than an hour or so at a time. Maybe that's part of the idea, get gamers up off their feet, and then make them too tired to keep playing so that they'll get back to their lives too. I don't know. But I do know that its fun. What I described is basically a hassle, but frankly I'm willing to go through it. This is just a totally new way to game, and I think that it really does have the potential to not just grab a different portion of the market, but actually change the way people play. This is simply the most fun I've had gaming in ages.

Also from what I can tell, the longer more involved games like Zelda (rpg), Call of Duty (shooter), and Red Steel (shoot/hack/slash) have a lot more fine hand movements as opposed to the big body moves, and can be played comfortably sitting down. Also this is a new technology, and developers are still trying to find what sort of balance of movements big and small will work best. There's bound to be some extremes at first... and thank goodness these extremes are so fun. Actually, the one other game I've gotten for the Wii is Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz and that has very small movements and definitely can be played sitting comfortably.

For the other back end stuff, I'm really happy with the Wii so far. It connected to my wireless internet without incident, and promises a host of cool online functions. Unfortunately for a system that comes internet ready out of the box, there are zero online games yet, but that'll just take some time. For now, you can send basic email to (approved) friends and other Wiis. But of course, there's a bit more to it than that.

The system cannot be accessed as a storage device from your computer unfortunately (until someone hacks it I'm sure) so the only way to get files onto the Wii is by transferring with an SD card. And at the moment the only thing you can store on the Wii is photos. That said the Wii has a (very simple) but fun photo editor, and can make some fun slide shows. Also, you can get your slide shows, and even some games to play your own MP3s, assuming they are on an SD card currently in your Wii. The system doesn't come with an SD card, but I'm sure a lot of people have one from their camera, or the like. If not you can pick one up a 1Gb one for $35-$45 online. One of the nice things about being online all the time with the system is that we'll get updates regularly, so hopefully they'll work on the storage capabilities soon. Actually there are two USB ports on the back of the Wii, and while I haven't tried it, you could probably plug in an extra hard drive for music etc... I should see if that works.

The other service ("channel" is what they call it) up and running besides the email, and the photo channel so far is the online store, which is selling old games at a discount. This is great. I mean great! Basically this is the reason I wanted the system. Even though Nintendo has lowered the price of their new games to $50 a pop, I still don't plan on purchasing too many of them. Its the old games at $5-$10 a piece that really interest me. Check out this post I did for a list of the titles expected to be released by the end of the year. I haven't actually bought any of these games yet, but I plan on it soon.

On the system there is one more channel they have up and running. Not a service channel exactly; it is the Mii channel. Miis are basically little cartoony avatars that you create and customize (to an extent) . You are encouraged to create a number of these avatars (up to 100 per system). They can be used in an email to show who the mail is from, or as a marker beside your name on a high scores list. Reportedly, they will eventually actually be in some games, integrated into the gameplay itself . Perhaps being your rival in a racing game for example. Currently the Miis have a home just hanging out on the Wii though. Except when you save them onto your Wiimote (up to 8 at a time) and take them to another system (a friends Wii) then then can be shared. Also, through the magic of the interweb tubes, when you make friends with another Wii your Miis can be either emailed directly to them or they will wander onto a communal parade ground (think matrix-esque communal meeting place) and be shared by everyone there. I know that for now, they basically serve little purpose, but I have to admit, I really like the Miis. Its a cute concept that has so far been well executed.

There are a few other channels to come. You can read more over at the Wii Channel Wiki. A news service, as well as a weather forcast channel that looks a bit like Google Earth are both on the way in the next few months. Also, there will be a web browser built specially and offered by Opera with which you will be able to surf to your hearts content. I'm definitely looking forward to those things.

Despite any wait though, I'm thoroughly enjoying my Wii right now. The experience is so different, and I think has a lot of potential to break down the walls between gamers vs non-gamers. I've already invited my parents into the city in a few weeks to try it out, and I honestly think they'll enjoy it.

I still need to buy an extra Wiimote and nunchuck to get the full experience, which is unfortunately not too easy to do right now as they're hard to find sans system, but I'm sure I'll figure it out soon enough. The system seems designed to be played by groups more than alone, so I'm really looking forward to that. Even though a number of the older games can be played with a Gamecube controller (for which there are 4 ports), or Nintendo's new classic controller which I don't know if anyone even has yet. Oh, and one more good thing that I forgot to mention. The system is backwards compatible with the Gamecube! Which is very cool.. I mean I don't have too many GC games (only 7 or so), but it's pretty neat to finally have something like that from Nintendo. That said, I'd love it if Nintendo upgraded some of their older titles to add motion control capability, but I'm sure that'll be a while coming, if ever.

Anyhow, after all that talk; I'll wrap up. Yes the Wii is great. There are a few quirks (I won't call them flaws) that I think people will need to get used to. But there is something, or at least it feels like there is, something more fundamentally different about this system than the PS3 or the 360. I think this will appeal to a lot of people who would never really consider playing video games. At the least, I'm sure it'll be used for some great party entertainment. For me, I think the Wii is the right console. And given some more time to develop both online through the back end stuff, and through the games with developers getting more practice at it; it will only improve.


Gillian said...

YOU ARE SUCH A DORK! I Love that picture.

Chappy said...

yes, I am :)