Review by bluej33

"I used to be a huge Nintendo fan"

There was something magical about the first time I laid hands on a GameBoy Color. It was the first time I'd played a video game before and my delight with the system and its games led me to become a Nintendo fan -- and stay that way for nearly ten years. But now, after my disappointing encounter with the Wii, I find myself drifting away from Nintendo and toward the more hardcore systems out there.

My biggest problem with Nintendo this generation is that they've been incredibly deceptive; I feel ripped off and I didn't get what I expected with the Wii. While it's advertised as the cheapest home console video game system out there, Nintendo has implemented a number of money-grabbing techniques that you won't realize are present until after you purchase the console.

Yes, the game is fifty bucks less than Microsoft's 360 (currently retailing for $299.99) and a hundred and fifty less than the least expensive PS3 (retailing at $399.99). And to sweeten the deal, MSRP for Nintendo Wii games is fifty less than that of the PS3 and 360's titles, with some costing even less. But at the same time Nintendo has been really pushing it's more expensive titles: Guitar Hero, Wii Fit, and now Rock Band. Controllers are currently 60 bucks a pop -- more than any other controller of this generation -- and with the coming “Wii Motion Plus” accessory rumored to retail at $25, those controllers are going to get even more expensive.

Plus, Nintendo has a dirty habit of requiring you to buy accessories. So far, this hasn't been a huge issue; while we have had peripherals like the Wii Balance Board or Wii Zapper. So far, many games haven't required you to use them (for example, it's been optional to use the Zapper in games like Umbrella Chronicles or Medal of Honor Heroes 2). But that's scheduled to change when Wii Motion Plus releases; it's inexcusable that Nintendo is charging players for an accessory that allows 1:1 control, something that should have been present originally. Plus, at the minimum all first party releases are sure to use the accessory, meaning you'll have to shell out 25 bucks for every controller that you own.

Another huge problem with the Wii right now is its online play. Compared to the likes of the 360's fantastic Live system and PS3's online system, the Wii is an online failure. The vast majority of games released don't even include an online component, and those that do have one often don't possess a real fleshed-out online mode. Even major first-party titles like Brawl are full of lag and cheaters abound. There's also the monstrous problem of Nintendo's friend codes: in an attempt to completely protect the privacy of online players, you'll have to exchange a 16-digit code with anyone you want on your friends list. And if somebody's not on your list, you can't set up games with them. It you want to frequently play with somebody you'll have to exchange clunky friend codes and register them in your system. What a hassle.

It doesn't stop there; Nintendo has also announced a “Pay to Play” program that will charge you for playing certain games online. Paying 50 bucks a year for Microsoft's online service seems reasonable considering all the many features it offers and the fact that it's such a fleshed-out multiplayer experience and nearly every game offers online play. But for Nintendo to take up a similar practice is absolutely insane. Online is glitchy and not particularly fun, and now Nintendo has decided to charge for it. It goes against what Nintendo used to stand for and it's clear now that the representative “Seal of Quality” has gone down the tubes.

The biggest problem with the Wii is its library. While its predecessor had tons of quality first and third party titles, the Wii has just a handful of truly quality titles. Of course you've got the blockbuster titles that any console needs -- like Brawl, Galaxy, and Metroid Prime 3. Additionally, you've got a couple of quality third-party projects that turned out quite well: Okami, Zack and Wiki, and Trauma Center: New Blood. But the vast majority of games out there are either absolute crap (shovelware that's been released to trick trusting parents into buying terrible, value-less titles for their children) or games that are bearable only for casual players.

Ultimately, that's what it all comes down to: Nintendo has moved its focus from the hardcore gamers, the Nintendo-lovers, and its target market is now the millions of people out there who have never played a video game in their life. Admittedly, the motion-sensitive Wii Remote controller is well-conceived and it's easy to see why Nintendo would have utilized that fact to create some more casual, intuitive games. But at the same time, we've already seen that the Wii Remote can definitely improve more traditional games; I just don't know why Nintendo hasn't also worked on appealing to hardcore gamers.

Aside from these fairly major issues (library problems, shameless price gouging, and terrible online) the Wii actually does have quite a bit to offer. It's got a number of features and I've had a lot of genuine fun with the system, but the thing is the system's problems overshadow the good that the Wii has. The user interface works quite well and is easy to get into; the channel spots on the main menu are easy to navigate and quite intuitive. Finding downloaded games and a variety of other “applications” on the Wii is quite easy.

The number of different features of the Wii is also pretty impressive. It pales in comparison to all that the 360 and PS3 can do, but compared to the GameCube which was strictly a game-playing machine, it's quite a step up. It's got a simple photo editor that also allows you to save photos, the Mii channel that allows you to create customizable avatars, channels for checking the weather and news, and a decent web-browser. Some channels, like the Mii one, are a bit unnecessary. But the internet browser and news channels are actually pretty neat. The browser is quite slow but it does have a flash player -- meaning you can watch videos online and surf the net (admittedly at a rather slow speed). The one major feature that I wish the Wii had was a DVD player -- an add-on was rumored but so far we've got nothing. It's not a big deal as regular old DVD players are practically being handed out now, but it would have rounded out the Wii's feature list quite nicely.

By far the nicest aspect of the Wii aside from its gaming capabilities is the Wii Shop Channel. From here you'll access WiiWare titles as well as Virtual Console titles; both of these are titles that you can download directly to the Wii's hard drive. The VC list is quite extensive and contains a good number of classic retro games -- at the same time, there are a lot of duds on the list. But it's a great feature and one of the few of the Wii that clearly is geared toward hardcore gamers. WiiWare titles are somewhat more casual-focused but they're essentially modern-day games, though there's a limit on their size that ensures they're generally simple and short. Still, it's a great feature and when there's nothing you like in stores, there's almost always something interesting to download.

Unfortunately, the downloadable content also brings up yet another big issue with the Wii: internal storage. The 360 has a 20 GB hard drive and the PS3 is available with up to 80 gigs on internal memory with the ability to upgrade it yourself. The Wii, however, has none of this. The internal memory is in short supply, and to “solve” this problem Nintendo has allows you to transfer save data from the Wii itself onto an SD card. But you can't access data directly from the SD card, so you'll have to transfer the data back onto the Wii whenever you want to come back to a game, as well as delete the title from your Wii when you want to free up space (you can get it again for free on the Wii Shop Channel, but downloading it again is a hassle). Nintendo has not yet come up with a legit solution to the storage issue and until they do, downloading games is a quite a hassle and not nearly as fun and effortless as it should be.

Overall, the Wii really is a mixed bag. If you're a casual gamer you're going to flip out for this system; it's got a number of user-friendly programs and a plethora of casual titles. But if you're like me and are more into hardcore gaming, you'll be disappointed. Nintendo just didn't pull through with what it promised: gaming has not been revolutionized for us. We're still playing Brawl and Mario Kart with old GameCube controllers, and the vast potential of the Wii Remote is being wasted on titles that are no good to begin with. The Wii is a botched job and unless Nintendo can clean up their act, I'll be keeping my distance from their released games. I'd like to see a return to a GameCube-like system next generation, but I highly doubt it. Nintendo is getting rich enough stealing money from people who don't know any better and if they're going to ignore people like me, I see no reason whatsoever to support them. I'm expected to play the scant “hardcore” titles that are actually on the system and Nintendo is constantly trying to shove casual crap down my throat. That's not the type of video game experience that I particularly care for, thank you very much.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 07/31/08

Game Release: Wii Hardware (US, 11/19/06)

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