Nintendo Wii quick review

Is the latest games console a must-have or mere novelty?
 
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  • Updated:1 May 2008
 

01 .Introduction

Playing Nintendo Wii

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.


Why Wii?

 NintendoThe 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.

Pros: Playing the wii

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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

 
 

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BowlingThe Wii is relatively simple to use. The Wii remote's made up of a flat block-shaped unit with a control pad a trigger button and several menu buttons. The smaller Nunchuk controller plugs into the remote and the devices work in tandem. The Nunchuk has an analogue control stick as well as buttons and is great for more animated or intense movement when playing.

Both controllers use motion sensitive technology, and future games could combine your movements with other activities. For example, musical games that let you use the Wii controls as drum sticks.  

Features and performance

The Wii is clearly the least powerful of the new consoles in terms of specifications. But it's still capable of delivering better graphics than the outgoing generation of consoles.

The Wii features:

  •  IBM Power PC Chip
  • Proprietary 12 cm optical disc storage system (you can't play normal CDs)
  • Flash memory support
  • Motion sensitive control system for up to four controllers.
  • The Wii has the potential to change the way people play games.

The Wii bundle includes:

  • The console
  • Wii remote and Nunchuk controllers
  • Sensor bar
  • Standard TV AV cable (RCA white, red, yellow)
  • Stand for the console
  • AC adaptor.

The console comes with the Wii Sports pack to get you started. Other titles include:

Driving games

  • GT Pro Racing
  • Monster Truck 4x4
  • Need For Speed Carbon Playing the wii
  • Mario Kart

Shooters

  • Call of Duty 3
  • Red Steel
  • Far Cry Vengeance

Sports

  • Pro Evolution Soccer

Adventure

  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Professor Layton and the curious village

Instant fun 

  • Rayman Raving Rabbids
  • Spongebob Squarepants
  • Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz
  • Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam

Exercise (Body and Mind)

  • Wii Fit
  • Brain Training
  • More Brain Training

And more are in the pipeline.

Zelda is hard to ignore as the first game you should get with your Wii . The game play is great and you can swing your sword by waving the Wii remote about.

The Wii is a little unusual to set up when compared to other games consoles. This is because you need to place a sensor bar on top of your TV as well as plug the console in. The innocuous looking sensor bar communicates with the Wii remote and Nunchuk controller and measures your movements so that they become a part of the gameplay.

It takes time to get the hang of the new control method. It also takes some tinkering to get a feel for where the bar should be placed, the range and how the system works.

It's possible to wave the Wii remote around too much — the sensor bar will sometimes then place your movements outside of what is happening on the screen, resulting in everything going ‘dead’.

This isn’t a major problem, but you just have to be aware of the fact that some Wii games, like Wii Sports Bowling will let you indulge in massive movements with the Wii remote and game play isn’t affected at all. Other games, like Red Steel, require more precision and accuracy.

You’ll also find that playing with the Wii feels very different to other consoles. Waving your arm when you slash your sword in Zelda is terrific fun. Similarly using the Wii remote when you play shooting games like Red Steel adds another level of immersion to the experience. You have to move the Wii remote forward to zoom in and this gives you a greater sense of actually being ‘in the game’. This is the essence of the Wii’s appeal.

If you want a general purpose entertainment solution for your lounge room the Wii doesn’t really fit the bill.

The machine won’t allow you to stream media from your computer, it doesn’t have a hard drive that you can use to store files and, most significantly, you can’t use the Wii to play DVDs.

That said, a cheap DVD player or even a unit that is better than average plus a Wii will cost less than an Xbox 360 or PS3.

The Wii does have some online functions, though:

  • You can download classic games using a broadband connection and the Wii 's Virtual Console and online market place.
  • You can get in touch with other Wii owners
  • You can check out media channels with news, sports and other content.

The Wii doesn’t have an Ethernet jack — you have to set up a wireless connection. And any games you do download must be stored on SD memory cards.

Will Wii Rock You?

The console offers some ground-breaking features and could change the way we play video games. The motion-sensitive Wii remote brings the fun back into gaming and Nintendo has supported the control system with games that take advantage of its features. It has also introduced gaming to a whole new generation of people that may otherwise have been less inclined to deal with the often demanding aspects of playing a traditional console game.