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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Consoles, Part Wii.

It's weird how I'm a decidedly old school gamer who has little interest in the cutting edge next gen, yet after this Christmas we have two of the three next gen consoles in our collection. The Wii I gave as a gift to the fiance, as I was lucky enough to find one the week of Christmas (after all the bum luck I'd had in December, I guess I was due.) Then, after making a half joking comment to my father in law to be, I ended up getting a PS3 myself for Christmas. Weird how things work like that.

The Wii is kind of a nifty piece of kit. It looks a little like an external hard drive out of the box. I was kind of surprised at how easy setting up the motion sensor stuff was and that we've run the Wii on four different TVs in four different locations now and haven't had any major problems with the remotes (aside from everything losing sync once, which seems like a fluke.)

Rather than competing with Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo seems to be going for a different demographic. Sure, they're still playing to their traditional base of fanboys and kids, but there seems to be an emphasis on "non-traditional" gamers. From our completely unscientific research (we had it out at our New Year's party,) I can say it's working so far.

Everyone at the party wanted to try the Wii out and even the people who had no interest in Guitar Hero or the PS2 sitting there, were really enjoying themselves on the Wii. Part of this is that the controller is not intimidating. I'd never though about this until I heard one of our non gamer friends mention they were intimidated by the Dual Shock.

Speaking of the remotes, unless you are really flailing around or completely messed up on something, I can't see how people keep putting these things into TVs, ceilings, etc. I will say buying the controller gloves help, but even then, you've got to really be a spazz to let go of one of these. We had a room full of adults in various states on intoxication and not one was ever in danger of letting a remote fly, even the folks who were really putting English into the Wii Sports.
As to what you see on the screen, I think I can sum it up by saying the Wii is to the Gamecube what the DS is to the Game Boy Advance. It's not a quantum leap by any stretch. For right now, the graphics don't look bad, but looking at my PS3 running true HD, it's obvious the Wii is going to be left in the dust within months.

However, the interface is pretty easy to navigate and the whole thing is pretty intuitive. There's a built in weather and news channel, though the news isn't live yet. There's also a Mii channel, where you create a custom character for games that support it (right now, only Wii Sports does.)
My biggest beef with the system is you only have 512mb of internal flash memory. Considering how much they've hyped the Virtual Console, it seems odd to me they would have put such a small amount of internal memory in the system to hold downloaded games, game saves and who knows what else.

Speaking of the Virtual Console, I guess I do have a second beef with the Wii as a whole. While I think the idea of the VC is outstanding, the prices are a bit too rich for my blood. It's hard to justify paying $8 for a straightforward port of the SNES port of Street Fighter II when you could get the arcade version with online play and ranking on Xbox Live for the same price. And Genesis games at $8 a toss hardly seem like a bargain when the Genesis Collection for PS2 with 28 games retails for $20.

Of the two new consoles, I have to say the Wii has really captured the most attention both among Kristen and I and guests to the house. (I didn't even bother setting up the PS3 for the New Year's party and really, it wasn't missed.) I'm far from a Nintendo fan and I certainly did my share of mocking when I'd first seen the Wii mock ups. But I have to say, in action, the damn thing just makes sense.

There are two problems I see for the Wii's future. One is third party support. As anyone who has followed Nintendo knows, the company hasn't exactly had lots of third party support lately. Part of this may be retaliation for iron fist policies of the past, but I think a large part of this is due to Nintendo's against the grain consoles. The carts of the N64 and mini-DVDs of the Gamecube meant developers had to rethink any games they wanted to bring over to a Nintendo box. The Wii's radical controller only makes this a trickier situation.

Secondly, the Wii is going to need some games with real depth. So far, there's the new Zelda (which is also available on the Gamecube) but it seems like the rest of the Wii's library is pretty short on the kind of experience most gamers expect from modern games. Sure Excitetruck and Raving Rabbids are fun, but they are pretty shallow once you get past the novelty of the Wii controller.

I'll be interested to see what happens with the Wii. I don't think it's going to "win" the console wars, but I think a lot of people are going to buy it. At $250, it's not going to put too big a dent in most people's pocket and I think it's going to be a lot of people's second console. I also think the Wii is going to be a heck of a party toy for people who normally wouldn't care about video games at all.

Later I'll talk about the PS3 and the portables I got for Christmas. Yes, it was a video game Christmas around these parts. Ho ho ho.


Butchie said...

Check it out

Butchie said...

Did you run out of steam?