Well, you know, Wii all want to change the world.
Sun, 7 January 2007
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I've been having a lot of fun with the Nintendo Wii. It really is quite an amazing system. It is a trip and just so unique. I'm not going to give a standard review of the console though. This is just me shooting the breeze about the Wii and Nintendo and things of that nature. More or less, I just felt like crapping on about the various things it got me thinking about.
Special K will be providing Buttonhole with an article looking at the actual experience of using the Wii and going into all the of details of that. I'll leave that in his capable (gigantic) hands.
You're just talkin' loud, you ain't sayin' nothing...
Nintendo's latest console has been talked about constantly, ever since people first heard about it under its development title of The Nintendo Revolution. The big N promised that name was a fitting one; because their upcoming system was going to be unlike anything we'd even seen before. Not long after that, they let it be known that main 'revolutionary' aspect about their next home system would be the control interface it used. From there, all the gossip and speculation came thick and fast.
One early rumour was that the Revolution would use controllers with touch screens, similar to the Nintendo DS (or even that the DS itself would serve as the machine's control pad). You'd map the game's buttons on the touch screen, thus enabling it to be adjusted to suit each individual title accordingly.
I was a believer of this story for a while myself, since the...I'll politely describe it as 'information', was given to me by a usually very reliable source. I guess his connections just let him down a bit on this particular occasion. (Or perhaps Nintendo even purposely let some false info out, to keep people off the right track). Anyway, nobody knew for certain exactly what Nintendo had up their sleeves, but it had everyone talking.
Perhaps all the hype and conjecture lead to some people building up unrealistic expectations. Whether that was the cause of it or not, the fact is, when Nintendo finally unveiled their new baby, the majority of initial reactions weren't exactly overwhelming positive. Many early comments and conversations, after the first pics of the system went public, were along the lines of: "You mean you control the games using a DVD remote? That doesn't sound very good."
And: "It seems like too much of a niche, impractical idea. How many kinds of games will even get released to make use of this thing? Most developers probably won't bother spending the extra time and money required to produce new games for the console. It'll become another Nintendo system with a lack of third party support, like the Gamecube & N64."
Hell hath no fury like a geek with a keyboard.
Then Nintendo got the doubters speaking even louder, by telling everyone that the system was not going to be called Revolution (which, most agreed, sounded pretty cool) and instead would be known as Wii. Like every other person I know (and many I don't), the first thing I thought when I heard this was: "Wii? You've gotta be fuckin' kidding me. That is the most retarded name for a game console I've ever heard!"
I truly hated the name and I was anything but the only one who felt that way.
The Wii (I mean the name, rather than the console itself) became the biggest laughing stock the game industry had seen since Nokia's N-Gage (in that stupid thing's case, I do mean the system itself). Still, I wasn't willing to write Nintendo's machine off all together because of its goofy title; especially not before I'd even personally tried the console. After all, by now we should all know to never count out or underestimate the big N (especially not after seeing how phenomenally successful the DS wound up being - but this was before anyone knew all that).
Not everyone was willing to show that sort of faith though, at least not right away. People came out of the woodwork to claim Nintendo had now officially lost their collective minds and to accuse them of being completely out of touch with the modern gaming audience. Some folks went as far as to declare that this ludicrously named system was going to be a monumental disaster and its certain failure would result in it being just a matter of time until Nintendo wound up joining Sega as a company that no longer manufactured their own consoles.
In itself, this claim was ridiculous. While it could, conceivably, have happened eventually; Ninty getting into such a predicament would have been a long way off. Nintendo were, financially, just nowhere near the point Sega got to when they were forced to bow out of the hardware market. They had quite a way to go for their reputation to be as badly ruined as Sega's as well.
Hell, even if hardly anyone purchased the Wii, Ninty's entire worldwide staff could probably wipe their arses with 100 dollar notes for the next ten years before having to seriously worry about running out of cash - thanks to their Pokemon and Game Boy revenue alone.
Of course, now the DS has become an amazing success worldwide and the Wii is selling extremely well too. So, any thoughts of Nintendo being in any sort of danger - financially, popularly, or otherwise - have since become outright laughable.
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Fact is though, for a while there, the positive buzz about the Nintendo Wii had drastically diminished. Then Nintendo gave a select few people a practical demonstration of the console. Yep, some lucky boys and girls got to actually try the Wii for themselves and play some games using its weird looking remote control device. Guess what? They liked it. They really liked it. Most early reports were that controlling games using the movement of the Wii-mote was a really cool deal. It made quite an impact on most all the people lucky enough to get any early turn at it. Perhaps, according to them, this would truly be a bold and exciting new direction (no pun intended) for gaming. It seemed Nintendo might really be onto something special after all.
From there, the buzz began to spread again. The word was that the Wii definitely had the potential to, at the very least, bring us something different. Nintendo was going to show us something refreshingly new and unusual. Even more importantly, this Wii thing looked set to be a whole lot of fun. Just like that, the flow of negativity towards the system had ended (for the most part). While most still despised and ridiculed the name, the Nintendo Wii was now firmly back in favour. As more people began to learn further details and speak about the machine, it started gaining (and/or re-gaining) fans by the day.
Working at Buttonhole I am, on a daily basis, deluged with press release emails and similar material proclaiming pretty much every product to be the greatest thing ever made. You get used to that and dismiss the majority of it as mere propaganda. However, you learn to pick up on things you can tell the companies sincerely love - as opposed to stuff they say is great purely because it is their job to do so.
That's definitely the case as pertains to Nintendo's Wii. This console is already much loved throughout game industry. Numerous publishers clearly want it to do as well as possible & are genuinely excited by it. This is a great sign for the Wii and, honestly, I've not seen many gaming products get such a fond reaction from those working in the industry. What's more, the people at Nintendo are clearly utterly stoked with the thing too; it is almost comparable to seeing a proud mother, beaming with joy whilst holding her newborn child!
So, yeah, around and up to the Wii's official launch, it was well and truly back to being a very keenly anticipated console amongst publishers and consumers alike. Since launch the Wii has sold like crazy all around the world. So now nobody can deny that the console is off to a very successful start.
However, there are still a few complaints or concerns about the Wii going around, such as the accuracy of the Wii remote (aka Wiimote) being a bit unreliable. There have also been reports that the Wiimote's wrist straps break too easily (some people even claim to have let go of the remotes and smashed their windows or TV screens with them!).
The other knock people have against the Wii is that some of its games can be hard on the arms and lead to the player getting sore joints or muscle pains.
I've heard some other little niggles, but those seem to be the main ones. I decided to wait until I had my own Wii system, that I could play extensively in the Buttonhole Cave, to discover and fairly judge for myself how valid those supposed problems truly are.
Cry me a river. When it rains, it pours.
Now that I've spent plenty of time using the lovely little bugger, I believe I'm qualified to address these supposed Wii troubles. Firstly, I tried not to set my hopes too high about how smoothly the games responded to the Wiimote control, just so I wouldn't be too disappointed. So I was extremely pleased to find them absolutely dead on accurate! Maybe the reports of difficulties in this regard were from people trying out demo units and such.
When you have your own personal Wii at home, you can set it all up in the way that most suits the room you're playing in. Of course, it takes a brief while to get used to controlling games in this new and unique fashion. But once you get the hang of it, I can't see how you could claim the Wiimote lacks accuracy. I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but I can tell you for a fact that I've certainly had no such problems with mine. Every game I've tried thus far reacts to the Wiimote exactly the way it is supposed to and they all feel remarkably smooth and natural.
As for the "wrist strap snapping, screen smashing" deal...to be honest, I am rather perplexed by that. Assuming those stories are actually true, what the hell are these dickheads doing with their Wiimotes? The controllers are not at all difficult to keep a decent grip on and the wrist straps seem perfectly sturdy to me. I really dunno what's going on there. The force required to smash a television screen (or even most windows) is pretty great. I would suggest that people just shouldn't go pelting the devices at glass objects, or anything else for that matter.
Basically, just use a bit of common sense and you ought to be able to avoid any property damage. The Wii games don't require you to twirl the controllers around above your head at high speeds, in some sort of helicopter-style fashion. If you are not a complete and utter imbecile, there's just no reason for you to be doing anything with the Wiimote that could cause it to fly out of your hand, snap the wrist strap and go rocketing through the air with enough velocity to shatter a TV.
When discussing this Wiimote flinging caper on our Forums, I said I simply don't believe it is fair for people who go turning the controllers into projectile weapons to blame the resulting damage on Nintendo. The comparison I came up with is this: If I were to play a 'real life' game of backyard cricket and lost my grip of the bat, causing it to then smack my mate in the head, or smash a window; I would not blame the accident on whoever manufactured the cricket bat.
Next, there's issue of some of the Wii games being tiring and/or causing pain when played for long periods of time. I guess this criticism has at least slightly more merit to it. For instance, the games on Wii Sports (which comes with the system, so most Wii owners will spend some time playing them) do require you to move your arms around quite a lot - boxing, tennis and baseball in particular. But I suspect some people might be putting more physical effort into them than is actually required.
At first, when playing Wii Sports, I was flailing the Wii-mote around like a drunken madman. But I've since found that you can, in fact, play these games successfully by using relatively light movements. The games respond to good timing, rather than sheer pace, so there's no real need to go flapping your arms in the air as though you're hoping to take flight. Just relax, use smooth, easy 'strokes' and focus on the timing of your actions, instead of trying to put all your strength into it. And, yeah, if you're arms start feeling tired, just give it a rest for a bit.
Actually, since you can often play Wii titles using either hand, why not go southpaw if you're right arm is getting weary, or vice-versa (incidentally, I love being able to choose which hand to play games with - as a lefty, I'm used to needing to adjust to living in a world predominantly designed for right handed folks). Essentially, not straining any muscles or joints using the Wii once again comes down to simply using a bit of common sense (unfortunately though, 'common' sense seems to be getting increasingly more uncommon these days).
Personally, I'm stoked with the idea of getting a little bit of exercise while playing videogames. But it isn't as though you need Hulk Hogan-esque "pythons" (meaning arms, not trouser snakes) to wave these very lightweight Wii-motes around. Frankly, unless you're about 100 years old, or you suffer from a serious physical disability, if you find playing Wii games truly exhausting; you oughta take that as an indication you need to improve your level of fitness.
I'm a bouncer in a titty bar, Bill. If she wants to fight me, all she gotta do is come down to the club, start some shit, and we'll be in a fight.
Batman, Bruce Lee and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: You know what these three people (characters) have in common? Firstly, they do things by their own rules, are fearless and never back down from any challenge. Secondly, they don't have any 'super powers' and, as such, every so often they'll get hurt and put down for a while. This leads to the third quality they all share: Those foolish enough to underestimate and pick a fight with them might get the upper hand for a while, but eventually they will come back to kick your arse.
I'd suggest that, by now, Nintendo deserves to be considered the same way. They can be overly arrogant, set in their ways and occasionally make decisions that don't work and, in retrospect, seem illogical & foolish. Ultimately though, they are fighters who always manage to survive against enormous odds, thanks in part to the very same qualities that occasionally hurt them.
It was arrogance that hurt Nintendo so badly when Sega and Sonic gave them such a scare. Ninty didn't give enough credit to their competition, hence the unexpected and incredibly well fought (albeit short-lived) upset Sega gave them in the 16-Bit days. At one stage they had them beat. They went on to screw it up (spectacularly!), but there was a brief moment when Sega truly had them on the ropes. But, the big N withstood that and rose above it.
It was arrogance again that hurt Ninty so badly when they chose to make the N64 a cartridge system (after pissing off Sony enough to lead them to creating their own CD-based console to begin with) thus leading to Square deciding to go with the PlayStation for their Final Fantasy series (this alone did an enormous amount of damage to the N64's chances of success in Japan).
But what Sega (and numerous other challengers) did was nothing, when you consider the sheer amount of money and power that Nintendo has since had to compete with, from the likes of Sony and Microsoft. I honestly don't believe any other company in the world could have survived in a market that either (let alone both at once!) of those two giants chose to put so much effort into taking control of. That Nintendo was able to keep going was thanks, at least partially, to their legacy.
Plenty of today's 'hardcore gamers' really cut their videogame playing teeth on NES carts & many of them will always keep a place in their hearts for Ninty because of that. But the main thing (I reckon) that's enabled the big N to always stay in the fight is, quite simply, they make some really cool shit. They've always kept confidence in their unique skill for producing what their fans love. Nobody else can do what Nintendo does, as well as they have always done it. Long time gamers know this to be true. Mario, Metroid, Zelda and their other exclusive properties share this: They are unique, they are amazing and it is Nintendo alone that has always made them that way.
Without promotion something terrible happens... Nothing!
So, do I recommend everyone buys a Nintendo Wii? Sure, if you can afford the thing. I mean, I personally think it is worth buying, if that's what you want to know. I don't think all gamers need one right now though. If you're purely after just great games, nobody really needs to have the Wii right now. But right now, for those purposes, you don't need an Xbox 360 or PS3, for that matter, either. There's still so much good stuff out there, on all kinds of other formats.
But the Wii is a really fun system to mess around with. There's nothing else like it and that alone makes it pretty cool. You'll be able to get your mother to have a go, or you're girlfriend, boyfriend etc. You'll have an easier time getting folks to try this thing out, because of the control mechanics, than you would with just fancy graphics. You know what I mean? Like, if your partner, if he/she isn't a gamer - they aren't going to give a fuck that you're now shooting dudes in a game who look more detailed, or realistic, than the last time you did it. But there is a better chance of getting them to give it a go with the Wiimote controls. That's what Nintendo is clearly hoping to do and I think they'll likely be able to do it.
I am a Nintendo fanboy, so I'd get it right away based on that. But there aren't many killer games for the system yet - though there are some cute ones out and even the Wii Sports disc that comes with the system can keep you pretty entertained. Plus, there's the new Zelda game, of course. But, again, I'd buy any system for a new Zelda game, because I'm such a huge fan (I even named my cat Link, for crying out loud! How tragically geeky is that?). But, for most, one or two games alone is unlikely to be enough of a reason to part with the moolah just yet. I believe plenty of valid reasons for owning a Wii will be arriving soon though.
Check out Special K's more in depth review of the Wii console itself and hopefully that'll help you make your mind up about what it offers. I'm just really pleased with the fact that Nintendo are doing amazingly well again.
I find the Wii to be one of the most exciting consoles in ages, as far as the potential it offers. I also love it being on the market at the same time as Xbox 360 and PS3. All three have so much to offer. This is a fight in which all three competitors genuinely have something to offer and that sort of competition will lead to better products and more variety.
I consider the 32-Bit (or, in Nintendo's case, 64-Bit) era overrated. Not that there weren't any great games on those systems - there were plenty of them. But the greatest 16-Bit titles still play much better, in my opinion. However, I thought the last round of games (PS2, Xbox, PC, Gamecube etc.) was fantastic and produced a massive amount of truly amazing titles. I think this new round will be even better and, thanks especially to the Wii, the variety of different kinds of design concepts should be expanded greatly too.
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