Review by Anclation

Reviewed: 09/21/07 | Updated: 10/15/08

Why the Wii is still well worth getting.

The Nintendo Wii has become quite a controversial console during the course of its existence. It is an unqualified success in terms of sales, being the best selling next gen console on the marked and barring a catastrophic event, it will eventually even surpass the NES as Nintendo’s most successful home console ever. However, it has sharply divided the gaming community. From one camp you hear that the console is a disgrace, unworthy of even competing with (let alone trouncing) the far more powerful HD consoles, the Xbox 360 and the PS3. These people will usually point to the Wii’s dated graphics, weak online-support and mountain of shovelware to make their point. Another camp claims the Wii is the future of gaming, substituting high-tech graphics for pure, unadultered fun. They’ll point to the Wii’s unique motion controls, its superb Nintendo-made exclusive games and its great offline multiplayer titles. Both camps raise valid issues, but I for one happen to think that the Wii all in all is an excellent console, which in many respects is far better than its critics give it credit for. And now I’ll explain why.

Design: 9.0/10

The Wii is a very stylish console, with its slender shape and tasteful, white coloring. The console itself is quite small (in fact, it’s Nintendo’s smallest home console yet) and tall rather than wide, with means it takes up very little space, always a welcome thing.

Controller: 9.0/10

This motion sensitive wonder is the Wii’s big selling point, and it allows the player to control the on-screen action by making physical gestures or (if we’re talking about more traditional games) by button pressing. The Wiimote (short for Wii Remote) is remarkably versatile, and can be used to simulate everything from a baseball bat and a steering wheel to a ringing phone waiting to be picked up (no joke, WarioWare features a microgame where the Wiimote is used in this way). It can also be held sideways and handle the task of controlling 2D games, as if it was a NES or SNES gamepad. This setup works brilliantly in games like Super Paper Mario and Wario Land: Shake it!. The Wiimote itself lacks an analog stick, but the Nunchuk (an essential controller attachment which can easily be connected to the Wiimote) does feature one, as well as some additional buttons, and is needed to play certain games. With the player holding the Nunchuk in one hand and the Wiimote in the other, this way of controlling a game works very well indeed, and feels surprisingly natural.

So what does the Wiimote/Wiimote-Nunchuk combo add to the gaming experience? A lot. Swinging the Wiimote to hit a ball in the baseball game from Wii Sports, pointing Wiimote at the TV screen and shooting down Ganados in Resident Evil 4, drawing with the Wiimote in the role of Okami’s Celestial Paintbrush or generally using the Wiimote in tons of crazy ways in Rayman Raving Rabbids and WarioWare: Smooth Moves, it all works great. This control-system can really make the gaming experience far more exciting, intuitive and engaging, and even traditional games that don’t use the motion controls all that heavily, like Super Mario Galaxy, control very well with the Wiimote-Nunchuk combo. And when in comes to a number of games and genres, the Wii’s control-system is easily the best I’ve seen so far on a home console.

So why not the top score? Well, the controller does have some obvious issues, one being the button placement: The more remote of the buttons on the Wiimote are pretty far apart, and when holding the Wiimote in the common remote control position, it is pretty difficult to go straight from the d-pad to the ”1” or ”2” button far down. Despite this, the actual number of buttons is pretty small. The motion sensoring itself is also not always perfect, there is a slight lag in some games, other times specific motions won’t register properly and you can’t be too close or too far away from the Sensor bar in order for it to work. Finally, being wireless the controller requires batteries to function, and the lifespan of these (especially when using the Wiimote-Nunchuk combo) is not that good (60-30 hours depending on the conditions are the official numbers, but from my experience 40-20 hours is closer to the truth). There’s also no official recharging option for the batteries. These issues aside, the Wii’s control-system is still brilliant, and really adds something to the gaming experience.

Official Accessories: 7.5/10

Besides the Nunchuk and the upcoming Wii MotionPlus (designed to further improve the Wiimote’s motion sensoring abilities), there are some official accessories and controller expansions out for the Wii:

•The Classic Controller: The ideal controller for the Wii’s Virtual Console games, this little thing looks kinda funky, but actually feels great to use. Also compatible with some Wii games.

•The Wii Zapper: Bundled with the game Link’s Crossbow Training, this is a huge gun shell you put the Wiimote and Nunchuk into, supposedly giving you the feeling of holding a real gun while playing shooters. It’s actually quite terrible, way too big and clunky to handle well, and it actually makes targeting your foes a lot more difficult. Awful.

•The Wii Wheel: It comes bundled with Mario Kart Wii and actually works surprisingly well. This little wheel shell you put the Wiimote into is comfortable, feels solid and handles great. And I say this as an early sceptic.

•The Wii Balance Board: Comes bundled with Wii Fit. Initially it looks like a stylish bathroom scale, but it’s actually a great piece of hardware. It can pick up very precisely the motions performed by the person standing on top of it, and even works for people weighing over 300 pounds. It’s a very versatile, used in Wii Fit for everything from yoga to snowboarding and ski jumping. Here’s hoping developers will use the Balance Board a lot more in future games.

Innovation: 9.0/10

Out of three current gen consoles, the Wii is easily the most innovative, with its radically different controller changing the way games are played as opposed to just tinkering with it. Whether one approves or not of what Nintendo has done, opting for a brand new control-system rather than a big graphical upgrade, it sure differs from the norm, and the result is a unique console

Graphics & Sound: 5.0/10

The Wii’s Achilles’ heel is its lack of raw power compared to its competition, and this shows in terms of graphics: It’s almost a gaming generation behind its competition in this respect. For quite some time, the Wii’s best looking game was Zelda: Twilight Princess, which is also available on the GameCube, with that version looking roughly as good as the one on the Wii. Not good. Since then however, Wii exclusives like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl have arrived and finally provided the Wii with visuals superior to pretty much anything the past gen consoles could produce. And when these games are compared to Xbox 360 and PS3 games using standard definition TVs as the norm, the differences are no longer quite so drastic. Still, even the Wii’s best looking game will never completely match the efforts of those two consoles. Worse, a lot of third party Wii games look like PS2 games. Why? Because they are PS2 games with tacked on motion controls or as many like to call it, shovelware.

In terms of sound however, the Wii should be able to stand tall on its own, as it has the power necessary for fantastic soundtracks and realistic sound effects, all that’s needed being capable developers to take advantage of it. Case in point, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, featuring one of the greatest gaming soundtracks ever. At least in sound department, Wii owners will not be lacking greatness.

Multiplayer: 9.0/10

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is about as good as offline multiplayer games get, and Mario Kart Wii is also amazing in this respect. The Wii has since its launch gained the reputation as a console with tons of minigame-collections and party games, which in terms of multiplayer is no bad thing. Some of the more enjoyable multiplayer games of this kind are Wii Sports, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Big Brain Academy and Mario Party 8. Some other good multiplayer games are Mario Strikers Charged and Excite Truck. Most Wii multiplayer games (with some noteworthy exceptions, like Excite Truck) support up to 4 players at the same time. Co-op modes in games like Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles are also excellent. Don’t forget about all the great multiplayer games on the Virtual Console either.

Online: 4.5/10

The Wii can connect to the internet and has a host of internet channels with different features that the user can check out. When it comes to online gaming though, be aware that the Wii is the weakest current gen console in this respect, even though there are games like Mario Kart Wii that feature awesome, almost completely lag-free online-play. The list isn’t very long though, some noteworthy online compatible games being Medal of Honor: Heroes 2, Mario Strikers Charged, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, Battalion Wars 2 and Pokemon Battle Revolution. Brawl’s online is pretty much broken if you play with random people, with friend codes it’s quite good though. Games like Blast Works feature neat online sharing systems, allowing you to download stuff other people have created and upload your own creations online. Other games, like Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, feature online leaderboards. All in all, the Wii’s online support is still weak, but with some notable exceptions.

Backward compatibility & the Virtual Console: 7.5/10

The Wii is capable of playing all the games of its predecessor, the GameCube. The top of the console can be flipped open to reveal four controller ports and two slots for GameCube memory cards, making the whole process of preparing your Wii for some GCN action very userfriendly. But as far as retro gaming goes, the Wii’s biggest asset is the Virtual Console, which allows older games to be downloaded for a certain price.

The Virtual Console features not only games that appeared on Nintendo’s past consoles (the NES, SNES and the N64) but also games for consoles like the Sega Genesis and the TurboGrafx-16. The game library for the Virtual Console is quite strong, featuring classics such as Zelda: Ocarina of Time, A Link to the Past, Super Mario 64, Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros. 1-3, Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country 1-3, Super Castlevania IV, Sonic the Hedgehog 1-3, Mega Man II, Star Fox 64, Paper Mario and many more. However, it will probably be graced by few of the N64 classics made by Rareware (back then a second party developer for Nintendo, now with Microsoft) and some SNES greats such as Crono Trigger will probably never appear on the Virtual Console. N64 games are in general few and far between. Something the VC really does deserve credit for though, is making some previously Japan only/Japan & US only classics like Sin and Punishment and Super Mario RPG available worldwide.

Another issue with the Virtual Console is the price of the games, which range from the equivalent of 5 bucks for NES games to 10 bucks or more for N64 games. Considering the age of many of these games, coupled with the fact that gamers in some places can buy actual carts for less, this may be a bit much. On the other hand, one would be hard pressed to argue that gaming masterpieces like Ocarina of Time aren’t worth those ten bucks. Still, there’s certainly room for improvement, as far as the Virtual Console is concerned.

WiiWare: 7.0/10

While the Virtual Console features classic games available for download, the WiiWare features brand new games, often made specifically for the Wii, available for download. They are a lot shorter and cheaper than full price Wii games, but a number of them are worth checking out nonetheless. Mega Man 9 is certainly excellent in all its old school glory, while World of Goo has received rave reviews. Some other notable WiiWare games out now are Toki Tori, Strong Bad Episode 1 and 2, Bomberman Blast, Dr. Mario, My Pokemon Ranch, Final Fantasy: My Life as a King, LostWinds and Defend Your Castle. The WiiWare will be very interesting to watch in the future.

The Games

Seeing how I haven’t played anything close to all the Wii games available, and how subjective judgements about what makes games good and bad are, I’m not giving a clear score here, but more like a presentation of a number of Wii games I deem notable and some general opinions about the more important games First, the games I deem the very best on the system:

My Top Wii Games

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is an incredible fighting game, featuring extremely fun brawling that’s easy to learn, yet hard to master, a huge and almost perfectly balanced cast of characters, more than 40 amazing stages, an 8-10 hour long adventure mode, stunning graphics (by Wii standards) and a fantastic soundtrack, a stage editor, tons of gaming modes and an online-mode. I could go on for days about its virtues, while the game itself could last you months and even years. Super Mario Galaxy is meanwhile my favorite platformer of all time, stunningly varied, gorgeous to look at and a dream to play. Zelda: Twilight Princess is considered by many people (including me) the best game of 2006, and offers an amazing 40-50 hour long adventure. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is likewise superb, a first person adventure game that’s easily as good as the first Metroid Prime for the GameCube. Super Paper Mario is an excellent title that combines platforming and RPG elements, as well as featuring a system of 2D-3D flipping.

But there are also some third party gems that deserve to be mentioned. Okami, the PS2 masterpiece, has arrived on the Wii and still a must buy game, and for those who felt Twilight Princess was too traditional a Zelda game, Okami likely offers a far more memorable gaming experience. Resident Evil 4 was considered one of the best games of the GCN/PS2/Xbox generation, and the Wii edition of the game features the best elements of the PS2 and GCN versions, as well as a far superior control system. No More Heroes is a great action game, unique, crazy and highly entertaining. Zack & Wiki, a point & click/adventure game, offers heaps of brilliant (as well as challenging) puzzles to solve.

Back to Nintendo’s offerings, Mario Kart Wii is a lot of fun offline and superb online, the best online experience available on the Wii in fact. Wario Land: Shake it! is an excellent 2D platformer, as well as a great looking game. And of course, Wii Sports is tons of fun.

Other Games

Being well known for its party games, the Wii naturally has plenty of those on offer. WarioWare: Smooth Moves is an excellent party game, same with Rayman Raving Rabbids, and Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree is quite entertaining too. Mario Party 8 is good if you have plenty of friends over (as a singleplayer game it’s very limited), while Rayman Raving Rabbids 2, Wii Play (worth buying only for the Wiimote that comes with it) and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz round off the second tier of party games.

For those looking for games with some sort of plot and purpose (apart from the top games mentioned) there’s de Blob, a very well received color-based 3D platformer. Then there’s the GTA-esque Bully: Scholarship Edition, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition and Scarface: The World is Yours, all of good quality. For point & click fun, try Sam & Max Season One. Heatseeker, an enjoyable arcade/action flight game is well worth checking out, while Sonic and the Secret Rings is widely considered to be the best recent 3D Sonic game (not that that counts for much). Lego Star Wars has gotten good reviews as well. Prince of Persia: Rival Swords and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance are also decent games, while Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Dewy's Adventure are not without their moments.

If you’re after first person shooters, the Wii delivers Medal of Honor: Heroes 2, as well as the more flawed Call of Duty 3 and Red Steel. On-rail shooters suit the Wii perfectly, most aptly demonstrated by Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, but the console also offers Ghost Squad, Link’s Crossbow Training and The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return. 2D shooters are well represented with Blast Works (which also features an awesome editor mode, essentially allowing you to create your own 2D shooter), Metal Slug Anthology and Geometry Wars galaxies.

RPGs are however not well represented on the Wii, apart from hardcore tactical fare Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, dungeon crawler Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon and the interesting Opoona.

In addition to Wii Sports, sport fans can try out the various editions of Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Madden NFL, as well as We Love Golf! Super Swing Golf, SSX Blur, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam, MLB Power Pros and The Bigs. Mario Strikers Charged, as well as the more realistic Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 and FIFA 2009, provide the soccer action. If you want to get fitter while playing through some fun mini games, try out Wii Fit. Out of the non-MK racing games currently available for the Wii, Excite Truck is the best around, but there’s also games like Need for Speed: Carbon to try out.

The Wii hosts several decent fighting games apart from Brawl, such as Mortal Kombat: Armageddon and Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 and 3. As far as puzzle games are concerned, Boom Blox has gotten great reviews and has especially been praised for its great multiplayer. Music games include the Guitar Hero games, Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution.

As for the Wii games that are more difficult to place in a clear category, there’s the interesting Elebits and the hospital-dramas Trauma Center: Second Opinion and New Blood. Other worthwhile titles are Mercury Meltdown Revolution and Kororinpa: Marble Mania. Pokemon Battle Revolution might be worth checking out for owners of the DS’s Pokemon Diamond/Pearl.

Some more games I somehow skipped over:

* Battalion Wars 2
* Order Up!
* Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary
* Samba de Amigo
* We Ski
* One Piece: Unlimited Adventure
* Manhunt 2
* Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law
* Endless Ocean
* Sega Superstar Tennis
* Guilty Gear XX Accent Core
* LEGO Batman

Overall, while the Wii’s main appeal game-wise is no doubt it’s AAA exclusives, it features plenty of decent games to play besides the obvious system sellers.

Upcoming Games

After Nintendo’s dreadful E3 2008 showing, some were sounding the alarm about the Wii’s future. Thankfully, since E3 a number of promising Wii titles have been announced. Sin and Punishment 2, Punch Out!, No More Heroes 2 and Another Code are certainly some interesting future Wii games to keep your eyes on.

There were in any case a number of interesting Wii games already on their way before E3. The Conduit, Mad World, Tenchu 4, Fatal Frame 4, Disaster: Day of Crisis, Sonic Unleashed, Tatsunoko VS Capcom, Tales of Symphonia 2: Dawn of the New World, Fragile, Monster Hunter 3 Tri, Spore Wii, Guitar Hero 4, Rock Band 2, Call of Duty 5 and Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels are just some of them. More casual gamers can also look forward to the likes of Wii Sports Resort, Animal Crossing: City Folk, Wii Music and Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party. There are plenty more Wii games on the way, but this review has already gone on long enough, so I’ll wrap things up now.

Closing Comments

Despite having been subjected to pretty harsh criticism lately, the Wii remains a console I can safely recommend. The graphics are indeed dated and the online-support is weak, but the console has plenty of other advantages. Its excellent and innovative control-scheme, strong multiplayer games and brilliant exclusives, coupled with the appeal of the Virtual Console and the WiiWare feature, ensure that the Wii remains a console well worth buying, whether as your first next gen console or as an ideal companion to one of the HD consoles. So snap it up, if you can find one.

My Score (not an average): 8.4/10

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Wii Hardware (EU, 12/08/06)

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