On a thread about Godzilla: Unleashed, there was a debate about why the Wii doesn't have as good graphics as other consoles but some games have lovely lighting effects, etc. As a hobby game developer, I wanted to shed some light on this.
(Disclaimers: I've never written a game for consoles. This is all just my opinion. I could be wrong.)
At the lowest level, every console is a computer. Every computer is theoretically capable of the same things; it's just a matter of how long it will take to do it, and what specific hardware is used for input (mice, keyboards, etc.) and output (graphics, sound, etc.).
So, within a given console or computer you have basically three kinds of hardware that determine graphics:
An X-Box 360 probably has more graphics accelerators than a Wii. However, this will only affect certain kinds of graphics.
- The processor itself (faster is better)
- Memory (more is better)
- Additional hardware like math processors and graphics accelerators, which make certain operations quicker
Textures are textures. They're just flat images. If one game has better textures than another, it's not the hardware's fault; it's because one developer spent more time or money or talent creating better textures.
I agree that Wii games seem to have excellent lighting effects. If the Wii is graphically underpowered, that's strange, because lighting effects require a lot of processor power. This suggests that the Wii isn't as underpowered as people think.
So, the Wii is capable of quite a lot graphically. I think it's up to developers to fully harness the graphical capabilities of the Wii.
(Which is certainly a challenge; game development is hard, and learning a new console is even harder. Developers have it tough, and it'll take them a while to figure out how to use the Wii's graphics best.)