Nintendo’s Wii introduced a new era of gaming by eschewing the path taken by the other games console manufacturers and produced something a little innovative.
The Wii is less powerful and has fewer features than its multimedia-oriented competitors. But it does offer a new way of playing games: a motion-sensitive controller that’s very different to other consoles.
Please note: this information was current as of May 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
The Wii unit looks simple. It’s much smaller than the Xbox 360 and Sony PS3 and has a relatively uncluttered design. On the front:
- a games disc slot that you put the games in
- a power button
- a reset button
- a game controller synchronisation button
- an SD memory card slot
- an eject button.
On the back:
- two USB connectors
- a standard AV output
- a sensor bar connector
- a DC power input
Much like the Xbox 360 and PS3 you can lay the Wii flat or stand it on its edge. You can plug in a SD memory card to store games and other data. And it's backwards-compatible with Nintendo's older console, the GameCube, so there's also a panel on the side that provides access to four GameCube controller ports. You also can use GameCube memory cards to save game information - but only for GameCube game discs.
But it's the sophisticated motion-sensitive controller that sets it apart from other products. If Nintendo’s approach succeeds then games will no longer be about button mashing and a joystick. You can play games by simply waving your arms about or by making a quick flick of the wrist.
This is done with the Wii remote and its sidekick, the Nunchuk. These wireless controls track your movement and translate it so that your actions become a part of the gameplay. You don't always need both controls and the way you hold and operate them will depend on the game.
Your movement determines what actually happens on the screen. You'll be able to throw a ball, box with your fists, fire a bow and aim your gun just like you were really doing it, by moving your hands. The Wii opens up the way for game developers to come up with some really innovative new forms of game play and some titles already take advantage of this feature.
The Wii remote means you don't have to be an expert at thumbing lots of tiny buttons.
Wrist strap replacement
The Wii remote includes a safety strap to prevent an accident should it slip from your hands during play. But consumers have reported that the strap supplied with the console can break if you accidentally let go of the remote during particularly energetic activity. This can cause property damage — and you don't want to accidentally throw the remote at the TV screen!
Nintendo is offering to replace the original strap with a newer version. And some Wii consoles already use the new strap. To find out which version you have, click here.
The Wii remote that came with the review unit we bought used the original strap. But we also purchased an additional Wii remote that came with the newer strap. We tested them to see if they'd break:
- The original strap broke at 135 Newtons (N).
- The newer strap didn't break at up to 180 N. Even strenuous activity is unlikely to break the new strap.
If you've already bought a Wii with the original strap, contact Nintendo on (03) 9730 9822 to organise a replacement. You will need the serial number, which is located on the base of the console.
At $399.95, the Wii is also affordable when compared to the competition and some of the initial games look promising.
Cheapest ‘new' console on the block
Exclusive Nintendo games such as Mario, Zelda and Metroid
- Games are more physically demanding, so you're not just sitting around playing computer games
Motion-sensitive Wii remote controller and Nunchuk.
No DVD drive — you can't play regular CDs or DVDs
No high definition TV support (by Australian definitions)
- Could be a fewer games released next year compared to other consoles.
* This review is written by freelance journalist Steve Polak