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Wii would like to play

Michelle Fordice | Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Nintendo took a chance with the release of the Wii. It would not compete with the latest Microsoft and Sony releases by traditional measures – such as enhanced, high-definition graphics – but Nintendo’s innovation made the Wii a highly interactive console that appeals to both hardcore and casual gamers.

Nintendo’s new system packs power, customization and high levels of interactivity into its hardware for the intense gamers while adopting a sleek, white look similar to the iPod in order to attract a more general audience.

The Wii comes with an LED equipped sensor bar (centered above or below any television screen) that in conjunction with the remote picks up the player’s movements. The console is the smallest of all Nintendo units, only about the size of three DVD cases, and can be oriented horizontally or vertically. The front of the console accepts Wii optical disks and Nintendo GameCube discs (though not standard DVDs and CDs). The console also has two USB ports and one SD card slot. The remotes run on AA batteries.

The remotes (or Wiimotes) are surprisingly sensitive. While there are limitations as to how far and from what angle a player can approach the sensor, the remotes can distinguish a multitude of different motions and provide six degrees of movement. Most of the time, the required motions are intuitive. The remote takes some time to get used to for more complex games, but the basic games, like those offered in “WiiSports,” can be picked up in a couple of plays.

Often, for those more complex games the remote is paired with the included nunchuck, which adds on an analog stick and two additional buttons. The remote has a speaker on it, allowing the user to hear the sounds of their movements, such as the clash of a sword. Nintendo also included a vibrating feature on the remote, which is often used to remind the player to make a menu choice. An additional controller can be purchased that allows users to play classic Nintendo games they have downloaded to their Wii.

“WiiSports” – a game which comes bundled with the console – allows users to play bared-down versions of games including tennis, golf, bowling, boxing and baseball. Tennis and boxing stand out as the more fun of the five, but all the WiiSports games are entertaining as players physically roll their bowling ball down the alley and swing their tennis racquet.

Other games specifically designed to be played on the Wii showcase the range of its ability. “WarioWare: Smooth Moves” requires the user (like in past editions of the game) to play a series of short, random games in which they must figure out what to do on their own. There are no more button combinations; the player has to move the remote in many different ways, all of which the system can differentiate, from letting it drop in free fall, hitting it between two hands or using it like a pencil. “Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz,” which similarly cashes in on the motion capability of the remote, is a little more difficult to use as the motions are a little less intuitive, but can be just as fun.

Wii also works well with more traditional games that have been updated to work with the Wii controllers, such as “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” and “Madden NFL 07.” Players swing their sword and throw passes, making the games more immersive than their predecessors. The Wii console is also backwards compatible with all Nintendo GameCube software, though a GameCube controller is still necessary to enjoy these games.

The interactivity of the Wii makes it most suitable for multiplayer use. Unfortunately, most of the multiplayer games require the use of multiple remotes, which adds on hefty $60 fee for each new remote and nunchuk pair.

Unlike other game consoles, the Wii is attempting to create a more versatile piece of equipment than just a pure video game system. Users can upload photos from their SD memory cards and use the basic image editor to view and change them (mostly in fun, rather than serious ways). They can leave messages for other players on the console and send messages over the internet and to cell phones. Also if they connect the Wii to the internet, users can check the weather, surf the internet, use the shopping channels and get news updates.

After creating a Mii – a 3-D caricature of the user – players can store up to 10 on the remote and bring them to play on another Wii console. Eventually, Wii is supposed to have on-line game play where gamers play as their Miis in multiplayer online games, although this feature has not yet been perfected.This merger of gaming with online interactivity will bring a sense of community to video gaming that has never been accomplished before.

One thing that needs to be improved on the Wii is the straps on the remote. Considering how much the remote swings around, Nintendo should have created a stronger way of keeping it attached to the user’s wrist to prevent it from flying across the room. However, Nintendo is offering to replace the original straps with new ones made from a slightly thicker material.

As video games like “Guitar Hero” and others become more and more immersive as gaming technology becomes more advanced, the versatility and interactivity of the Wii should serve it well.