Thursday, April 12, 2012

Report Card - Nintendo Wii

Are you up for a new segment on SuperPhillip Central? I am ever trying to create new experiences for readers of my blog. The creativity comes and goes, but I do my best to come up with ideas that other blogs are not doing. Report Card might just be one of those. What is Report Card, you ask? It is where I take a product and review individual portions of it and give each a grade. Then I view all of the grades I have made and post an overall grade. Our first subject? It is the Nintendo Wii.


Hardware

To say the graphical capabilities of the Wii are modest at best would be an understatement. The console is using decade's old technology. It was underpowered at launch, and that fact is even more apparent six years into the console's life. That isn't so much a problem as is the quality and durability of the hardware. For the first time in my history as a gamer, a Nintendo system broke down on me. I could not get my launch Wii to load the health and safety screen, meaning the system was basically dead. All of my saves (Brawl hurt the most) were lost when Nintendo repaired (see: sent me a new Wii). It is with these reasons I cannot give the Wii anything short of...

Grade: B-

Controller

Nintendo does not normally show up at the Tokyo Game Show, so when they did, they had a specific reason. That reason was to unveil the Wii remote and a video showing some of the uses the unique controller could have in gaming scenarios. There was chopping vegetables, fishing, and swordplay, for starters. But just how games that were more involved like a 3D Mario or Zelda would be controlled with just a remote was a question many people had. The Wii remote (or Wiimote as fans like to call it) was only half of the equation. The nunchuk controller which had a wire that hooked up to the bottom of the remote created the actual Wii remote/nunchuk combo that most deeper games used.


This combination allowed for a wide range of movement and comfort. No longer was one tied to having their hands locked together. Hands could be spread apart for maximum relaxation. The only two problems I have with the Wii remote and nunchuk are: 1) the crappy speaker that sounds terribly tinny when in action, and 2) the cord that combines the nunchuk with the Wii remote. It can get tied up between your arms and get in the way when performing more perplex motion controlled actions like in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

The Wii remote would be upgraded with the release of Wii Sports Resort, offering an attachment called the Wii MotionPlus. It allowed close to 1:1 movement, something that many gamers thought the Wii would bring when it initially launched. The peripheral is now built inside the Wii remote, so there is no need to work with the annoying attachment. The Wii remote and nunchuk remains my favorite controller to work with in gaming this generation.

Grade: A-

Features

With the introduction of the Wii, Nintendo begin including packed-in software. This trend would continue with their 3DS portable. The software contained inside the little white box consists of a Photo Channel, the Mii Channel, and the Shop Channel. Miis have become massively popular. They are in-game avatars that you can make to look just like you, your family members, friends, or figures from history and pop culture. They were such a hit that Microsoft tasked Rare to create a knock-off in the form of Avatars.


The Shop Channel requires a broadband Internet connection. On the shop you can purchase games from the Virtual Console which possesses games from the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo, the Nintendo 64, the Sega Genesis, and the TurboGrafx 16 consoles. A handful of games were available at launch to be bought and downloaded with more being added each Monday (and then when that changed, each Thursday). The prices are set based on the platform the game is on regardless of value. So nearly every NES game is 500 points while nearly every N64 game is 1,000 points (special games like never-before-released-in-America ones cost more). Later on downloadable games like LostWinds and Toki Tori hit the Shop Channel via WiiWare. With little in the way of marketing as well developer griping, I feel WiiWare was a failure and a heavily missed opportunity by Nintendo. Better luck next time, I guess.


New channels would be added to the Wii throughout its life including the News, the Weather, the Nintendo Channel, Netflix, and now Hulu Plus. Netflix has seen the most success and most viewership of any other current gen platform, so at least there's that online victory for Nintendo. That said, I do enjoy the channel interface and the creativity Nintendo had in creating new ways for Wii owners to interact with their system.

Grade: B

Online

Nintendo's first real attempt at online for a home console was nothing less than an interesting experiment. They had some experience with the Nintendo DS and friend codes, twelve digit numbers that two people had to share if they wanted to play with one another. Nintendo thought that taking this strategy and sending it to the Wii would be a good idea. Unfortunately, each online game required a different friend code. Not only are friend codes as an idea are a pain in the you-know-what, but it is a hassle to go to a forum or whatever, share codes, add one another, and actually find each other online. Just as bad is that some of Nintendo's biggest online titles did not even function properly such as the infamously horrible Super Smash Bros. Brawl's lag-filled online play.

I really hope that with the Wii U (if that remains its final name) that Nintendo opts to have friend codes as something for players who have the parental settings on solely. That way they couldn't send messages and invitations to complete strangers or people they met online. Players who do not need parental settings would be free to send messages, voice chat, and send friend requests to whomever they desire. Such an idea is to forward-thinking for Nintendo, however, so I am wasting time pondering such a thought.

Grade: D

First-party Exclusives

When one buys a Nintendo console, they don't do it for third-party games. They do it for Nintendo's stable of iconic characters and magical titles. It is my belief that Nintendo has not been this hot and this on top of their game since their Super Nintendo days. We had a bounty of hits such as the intergalactic masterpieces known as Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, the best motion controlled game in existence in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, retro revivals like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns, a great collection such as Metroid Prime Trilogy, the brawl to end 'em all, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the wildly successful titles like Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Party, and Mario Kart Wii, the highly overlooked Excitebots: Trick Racing, the epic RPG named Xenoblade Chronicles, and a whole slew of intriguing titles that prove that when Nintendo has it, they have it. It has been an extraordinary time to like Nintendo and enjoy their games.


Grade: A

Third-party Exclusives

Let's face it-- third-parties bet on the wrong pair of horses this gen, and it bit them in the ass. Studios closing, budgets reaching unprecedented levels, and the difficulty for Japanese developers to ease into HD gaming were all effects of this. That isn't to say there weren't any worthwhile titles coming from companies like Capcom, Konami, EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Namco Bandai, Sega, among others. They just were made by the B teams and lower instead of A teams. I have no question that this will continue with the Wii U as there is something about Nintendo that makes third-parties go stupid and leave money on the table.

Third-parties had the opportunity to build an audience for their games on the Wii. They failed to capitalize. Regardless, Wii owners had a fair amount of interesting titles to sink their collective teeth into such as Monster Hunter Tri, Tatsunoko VS. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, Sonic Colors, the pair of on-rails Resident Evil games, The House of the Dead: Overkill, No More Heroes and its sequel, GoldenEye 007, We Love Golf! (seriously, one of my favorite golf games of all time), Boom Blox and Boom Blox: Bash Party, MadWorld, Rabbids Go Home, Red Steel 2, Elebits, Disney Epic Mickey, and Super Swing Golf: Season Two. The AAA blockbuster game mindset is unsustainable in these economic times, and if we don't get games with lower budgets (not every title needs to be AAA), the industry will soon see another crash, in my eyes. Nonetheless, if you have an open mind and don't care if you miss out on RPGs and big budget blockbusters, the Wii wasn't the hellhole most gamers would have you to believe.


Grade: B-

Overall

The Wii is my favorite console of this generation. I easily have around 100 games for the system, and no, none of them could be classified as "shovelware", a term that is so loosely thrown around. It isn't without its fault such as an embarrassingly bad online system. Regardless, what the system is is one that revolutionized the industry, made its competitors-- who once mocked Nintendo's insight into the future-- copy the company with their own forms of motion controls (though nothing as blatant as Sony's Move), and made it seem cool and natural to game for the mainstream. Gamers did not have to just be fat, neck-bearded individuals who raged over the ending of their precious game. They could be soccer moms, blue or white collared dads, and people of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Fun is a universal language, and Nintendo managed to help many in the world speak it.

Overall Grade: B
(not an average)


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And thus Report Card's first outing has concluded. Feel free to give teacher an apple. Hopefully this new segment has been an enjoyable read for you. Stay tuned in the coming weeks when more platforms and products are reviewed in Report Card!

3 comments:

Chalgyr Vokel said...

I find myself mostly in agreement here, at least with the grades and assessments you've made, though for me I think the PS3 was my console of choice this generation.

Reggie White Jr. said...

Great new feature, SuperPhillip. I'm pretty much in agreement on all points. Online sucks and the hardware can leave something to be desired, but on the whole, the Wii is a fantastic system with some awesome first party games and some nice third party titles.

The Dread Pirate Guy said...

The Wii did some really good things. I've covered the Wii on my own, but our thoughts aren't that different overall.

When companies used motion controls intelligently and creatively, they worked very well. Unfortunately, most comapnies did not, and that goes for Nintendo at times. Metroid Prime 3 was still one of the best examples for me.

Online was a mess. From the near-total abandonment/game removal of the Virtual Console, sporadic WiiWare content, the Friend Codes that did nothing to build community, useless social channels.... Fortunately 3DS has taken steps to fix it, that but what a mess.

The hardware is the first Nintendo system that has ever physically failed me, that's coupled with being unable to transfer accounts to new systems without Nintendo's permission, and even then you couldn't transfer save files, and other save files (like Brawl) were bound to the system.

The system had great games, but great games got lost so many times in the shuffle of mini-game compilations and fitness knock-offs. Nintendo's own attitude was condescending and limiting: No major new IPs (outside of Wii Series) or characters introduced, limited genre options, and the fact that gamers had to beg for Xenoblade, Last Story and Pandora's Tower(?) Even then, they were extremely limited releases that are exclusive to stores or other publishers taking the reins. That's a problem Nintendo caused.

Honestly, 3DS has been the real turnaround point for me in regards to Nintendo. They've addressed a ton of the issues that I had with the Wii, and gives me a more positive outlook for the next system.

But a really solid and good article overall!

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