It has been brought to my attention this week (thanks Ryan) that the basic facts about Nintendo’s new console, the Wii, have been confirmed. Whilst this includes the boring essentials such as price (£180) and release date (8th of December), it also includes more elaborate nuggets of information which, when put together, make the Wii look like the best piece of home entertainment hardware ever released.
Let’s look at this in more detail. First of all, the size of the console – this thing is tiny. Its largest dimension in any direction is less than 22cm, which basically means you could hide it behind a piece of A4 paper. Secondly, the control system is completely revolutionary (pardon the pun.) This isn’t a gimmicky addon or an optional extra; it’s an entirely new way to play games. Whilst the obvious uses have already been leapt on (swordfighting, tennis) in time developers will come up with all kinds of bizarre and ingenius uses for the Wiimote – and because it’s so naturally intuitive, it will lead the way towards ever more absorbing gaming experiences.
But still, this is all just so much faff. The real reason why this console will be the best one ever made is the fact that it’s Nintendo. Nintendo are the only company in gaming who can release games which are essentially updated versions of their previous games, yet still make them completely unmissable. Check out any ‘greatest games of all time’ list you like and you’ll undoubtedly find Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario Brothers 3, Super Mario World and Mario 64 on there. Yup, all four of them. Because the gameplay dynamic has been improved every single time without sacrificing the playability of the game – hell, most of the time the playability has been increased. As such, it follows on that the new Mario game, Super Mario Galaxies, will be the new ‘best Mario ever’ – and even if it’s not, like Sunshine failed to be, it’ll still be a brilliantly entertaining and most importantly fun game – just like Sunshine was.
Factor in the other first party titles like Super Smash Brothers Brawl (the sequel to the most fun multiplayer game of all time) and Twilight Princess, as well as the new avenues open to enterprising third party developers, and we’ve really got the ball rolling. There’s even a classic control pad for those die-hard skeptics, which will allow ports of multi-console games which can’t utilise the Wiimote to transfer across – or if you prefer, you can plug an old-fashioned Gamecube control pad in as well (as well as Gamecube memory cards).
This is just as well, because the Wii is backwards-compatible with the Gamecube. That’s right, you can stick your old Gamecube discs in there and play them just like you used to. But this backwards compatibility goes even further than that – you can play Nintendo 64 games on the Wii. You can play SNES games on the Wii. Shit, you can play NES games on the Wii. Nintendo realised that things would get a bit confusing if they had to add ports on their state-of-the-art machine for twenty year old cartridges, so in a move of genius they created the Virtual Console. This concept takes the idea of gaming emulation to its literal, and legal conclusion – much like iTunes has done for mp3 downloading. What it basically amounts to is that you can download pretty much any classic game from your childhood, and using a Gamecube controller or a Classic Wii pad, play it on your TV like it’s 1993. It even includes Megadrive games, thanks to SEGA pulling out of the console market several years ago and allying with Nintendo. Sonic The Hedgehog? Yes please.
So of course to use the Virtual Console you need to go onto the Internet. So, in accordance, Nintendo have created a costly ‘pay per minute’ online system whereby you buy an account and then use your minutes as you wish. No, wait… that idea sucks. Nintendo clearly realised that too, which is why what they’re actually doing is enabling the Wii to use your current home Internet connection, at no extra cost to your monthly bill. The same connection you’re using to read this is the one you’ll be plugging your Wii into – and if you’re on an unlimited access broadband account (which currently costs from around £15 – £35 a month, depending on your speed) that means that you can use your Wii whenever you like, as much as you like. It’s all wireless of course, so assuming you have a router already then you really don’t need to do anything at all – the Wii is essentially plug and play 🙂
You’ll need this Internet connection of course, because you’ll be using your Wii to surf the web. Or not, if you don’t want to – but it’s nice to know that you can. What might be more useful are the Wii Channels. You can check out a local weather report, or catch up on all the important news of the day. These little touches are completely unnecessary, but the fact that they’re there all the same is great. You won’t even have to turn on your PC to see if your favourite site has been updated before getting into a Mario Kart session.
Oh, yeah – the games. See, they’re all online too, obviously, which enables you to play the most addictive multiplayer games of all time (Mario Kart and Smash Bros.) a lot more often than usual – because really, organising a four-player multiplayer in real life is a pain in the ass, and you need to own four control pads. You can even make your own little ‘Nintavatar’ which is the same kind of thing as an MSN profile, which is stored on your Wiimote in case you go to a friends house for a game.
All in all, the Wii is the greatest console ever made. Instead of concentrating on graphical power like Sony, or merging consoles with PCs like Microsoft, Nintendo have done what they did with the Gamecube – they’ve made a machine for playing games. Unlike the Gamecube however, the Wii is truly next-generational, and as such represents the new benchmark for console gaming.
I think the world has just become a better place 🙂