James Temperton takes a look at the European Wii hardware in this pre-launch review...
This is Wii. The simple words of Nintendo in their recent Wii promotional onslaught. Well, now Wii is here and we’ve been playing it like crazy to bring you our full verdict on the system. What Nintendo hope will be the future of the video games industry is now here and from what we’ve played so far it is going to take the industry by storm. Sleek, well designed, innovative and most of all fantastic fun, playing Wii is a gaming experience unlike any other. Read on...
From the second you open the Wii box things are different. The word ‘Nintendo’ isn’t emblazoned all over everything, there is a sense of sophistication about everything and there isn’t a plumber in sight. This is a new dawn for Nintendo and they are doing it properly. Open up the box and you are presented with two compartments; 1 and 2. Open them up and go through them in order and within three minutes you’ll have your Wii up and running on your TV. Nothing complicated, nothing confusing and nothing infuriatingly obscure, the Wii really is an ‘out the box’ piece of technology.
The first thing that strikes you about the system is how small it is, but also how heavy and solid it feels. The Wii is a very well made console. It doesn’t rattle, all the buttons on the console are satisfying to touch, the finish is exquisite and the whole thing just reeks ‘class’. And at £179.99, class is coming at you for a bargain price. With everything plugged in and turned on, it is time to boot up your Wii for the first time. You’ll be asked to enter time, date, console nickname and a few other things before you can get through to the main menu, but with all these simple tasks done and out the way the Wii is all ready to be enjoyed.
The Wii Channel menu is where you’ll start every single Wii experience, be it checking the Message Board, playing a game, downloading something from the Wii Shop, playing about with the Photo Channel, the Mii Channel or even looking over the News or Forecast Channels. Nintendo see it as a great way to get people who don’t like gaming into gaming, and we think it’s brilliant! The design is excellent, everything looks clean and crisp and the way that the Wii controller vibrates just a tiny bit as you roll over the Wii Channels is a lovely little touch. The sound effects and music that accompany it are excellent too, making the Wii feel like a genuinely mature but also fun experience. This is a trick Nintendo continue to pull. It looks smart and gadgety, it screams iPod, yet it has a fun, cute and dare we saw ‘kiddy’ side that is so damn appealing you’ll soon fall in love.
A good example of this is in the Photo Channel. On the front of the Wii is a small ‘door’, which when opened reveals the synch button for adding new controllers and a slot to insert an SD card. Pop in the SD card from your camera or phone, go to the Photo Channel and before you know it you’ll be viewing all your pictures on your Wii! You can rotate them, view them as a slideshow, turn them into jigsaw puzzles, doodle all over them and send them to friends and family; the choice is yours. Everything seems to be accompanied by a funny sound effect, for instance when you rub out your doodles on pictures you get a funny squeaking sound and when you move between pictures in a slideshow you get the noise of a camera shutter, the little things make a big difference. Also, if you have MP3 files on your SD card you can use them as the background music for your slideshows. This is a great way to share your pictures with people in a fun and simple to understand way. Picture quality is good and even better all this playing about doesn’t change anything on your SD card, so your precious pics will remain untouched. Clever stuff.
The Mii Channel is perhaps the best place to start when you first boot up your Wii. Simply hit start and you can start creating your very first Mii. Pick a gender and then you can play about with all sorts of attributes to make a strange looking virtual version of yourself. Get all that done and then your Mii character is plonked down in a big empty space all alone. If your friends or family are also going to use your Wii, then they can create some Mii characters to keep your one company, and when you take your Wii online you can ‘socialise’ with friends all over the world.
The Disk Channel is probably where you will be spending a lot of your time, and just like the rest of the channel it is very well put together. When you select it with no disk in you see two pictures of Wii and GameCube disks, pop in a Wii disk, both disks start spinning, after a while the GC image stops spinning and the Wii one carries on before dropping down off the screen as the start-up screen for the game fades into view. It might be pointless and unnecessary but we love it all the same. Loading times are minimal or nonexistent and titles like Wii Play and Wii Sports almost ‘merge’ into the main Wii interface, which is quite a nice touch. Once again this is an example of the Wii being hassle free, user friendly and simple to use.
The Message Board is another area that Nintendo hope will conquer the non-gaming world. You can leave messages for friends and family and beam messages and images all over the world to people on your friends list from here and it is also the place where Nintendo can communicate with you by sending you messages and perhaps even special gifts. Everyday a ‘Game History’ file is created where you can view how long you’ve spent playing and what you have been playing during that day on your Wii. Again, a nice little feature that just makes the whole Wii experience all the more fun. Wii settings is packed full of things to change and fiddle about with and is also home to much publicised Parental Controls system. Not the most interesting aspect of the hardware, but certainly nice and comprehensive.
We can’t really say enough about how sexy the Wii looks. The finish on the console isn’t iPod like at all, it shines with a brilliant reflective quality that is really quite different to the Apple style. The system itself is totally minimalist, apart from the little hatches for adding in GameCube controllers and memory cards on the top and the hatch for the SD card and synchronisation button on the front it it pretty much pure white plastic all the way round. Even the Nintendo logo is hidden away as a very small little addition on one side of the console. But not only does the Wii innovate in terms of looks, but it also packs a punch from another aspect...
The controller. Hold it in your hand and it instantly feels at home, the shape, size and design of it means it works in small and big hands and never feels awkard. All the buttons are well placed and feel good and sturdy when you press them and everything is responsive and ergonomically designed. The technology that makes the Wii remote such a clever piece of kit has also been tweaked and perfected to make it very responsive and accurate. In Wii Sports all movements are faithfully acted on on screen just as you have done them in real life and even the slightest change in angle or flick of the wrist can make a huge difference. Any worries that the controller technology would be patchy and unreliable can safely be laid to rest. So long as you stand far enough away from the TV (just over a metre) all your movements will be picked up just fine.
Nintendo have said that you can have your Wii stored horizontally or vertically, but for us there is only one option. Using the Wii Stand makes the console look very dynamic and even sexier than normal, but lying it on its side makes the system look a bit messy and in all honesty a tad rubbish. To an extent it’ll make the console look better when you start running GameCube controller wires and Wavebird receivers out the top of it, but the whole unit just looks ‘wrong’ when placed horizontally. Perhaps one of the coolest aspects of the unit itself is the disk drive. To load up a disk all you have to do is offer it up to the hole in the front of the Wii and it’ll slide in as the drive sucks it in. The same works for GameCube disks, it really is very clever indeed. Did we mention the blue light at the front? Yes, the tech-geek inside us is having a field day...
The Wii is noise free, loading time free, hassle free and from what we’ve played about with so far bug free. Nothing has gone wrong, confused us or not worked so far and fingers crossed it won’t in the future. The Wii Channel system is a lovely way to start your playing experience everyday and everything about the Wii is perfected, tweaked and fine tuned until it purrs like a little white pussycat. When you consider that for £180 and perhaps a little bit more on a copy of Wii Play for the extra controller you can enjoy an unrivalled gameplay experience that anyone can pick up and enjoy.
So far the Wii has been with us for just a couple of days and already it has got more attention and excitement from non-gamers than the GameCube did during a whole lifetime. It is just so much fun to play that everyone wants a go and everyone instantly falls in love. Even those who say it looks stupid want a go just to see what it is like and even though they won’t admit it, they too love the Wii.
So, how have Nintendo done with the Wii? Well, apart from it looking stupid when you shove in all your GameCube kit this really is a rather perfect little system. It looks brilliant, it plays brilliant and every ruddy aspect of it is for lack of a better or different word, brilliant. If this superlative ridden review hasn’t been enough to convince you that the Wii is the future of gaming, pick up the controller and have a play about yourself. Once you play it, you’ll never look back. Nintendo have finally cracked the home console market again, expect Wii to take the industry by storm...
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