Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wii Hardware Review

This is uncharted territory for SuperPhillip Central. We've never witnessed a hardware review, but that's exactly what we're going to do here on this fine Sunday afternoon. Our subject for our very first hardware review is the Nintendo Wii. Without further ado, let's have it up, right here and right now.

You Hate What You Fear Or How I
Learned to Ignore the Haters

The Nintendo Wii is quite the controversial console. From the sect who say it has no games to the ones who argue that Nintendo "abandoned" them or whatever, you're not a "true gamer" if you don't loathe this platform. Whatever side of the fence you're on, it's difficult to argue that the Wii didn't change the face of gaming forever with its intuitive control methods (motion control gaming) and its library of both core and casual software. Even Sony and Microsoft were forced to imitate the Wii to varying degrees of success through the Move and Kinect respectively. Nearly five years after the fact, is the Wii worthy of being in a gamer's collection?

Right away, let's talk about the new control method used for the Wii, the motion controls. At first the Wii was relegated to an overused term in the industry "waggle." You usually shook the Wii remote to replace a button press such as in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess where shaking or flicking the remote made the hero Link swing and slice his sword. The Wii remote then was imprecise, and it couldn't do intricate movements. Regardless, some games made great use of the controller in this form still including Boom Blox, Wii Sports, Mario Kart Wii, and The Godfather: Blackhand Edition (to name a select handful). Then came the Wii MotionPlus peripheral which Nintendo wisely attached to every copy of the ultra-popular Wii Sports Resort, the sequel to the immensely-popular Wii Sports. This attachment allowed for greater range of movement, and it was much more precise. However, many games do not use this peripheral to its full advantage. Some titles that do, though, are Red Steel 2, the already said Wii Sports Resort, and the upcoming blockbuster The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

The MotionPlus accessory added increased functionality.

I love the combination of the Wii remote and nunchuk attachment. The Wii remote itself has several buttons (1, 2, A, B on the backside, + and -) and a d-pad whereas the nunchuk whose cord plugs into the bottom of the Wii remote possesses the analog stick and the Z and C buttons on its backside. The controller is enjoyed by myself so much because it is super comfortable. You can stretch your arms out instead of being forced to hold your hands together like typical controllers. Being able to rest your hands on your lap is a godsend, and it just feels right. First-person shooters work wonderfully with this setup. You move around with the analog stick, and point the Wii remote at the screen to look around. This setup is ultimately but subjectively superior to dual-analog where you have to slowly move the cursor or iron sights to your intended target on the screen. With the Wii remote (and later the shameless copy, the PlayStation Move), faster precision was never this simple!

There were alternate peripherals aside from the Wii MotionPlus (now you can get the Wii remote with MotionPlus already built-in) such as the Wii Balance Board (for Wii Fit), the Wii Zapper (for Link's Crossbow Training and Resident Evil: The Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles), and the Wii Wheel (for Mario Kart Wii and various other racing games). Nintendo is known for-- and annoyingly so-- making one-off peripherals that are utilized in one or two games and then cast to the wayside. Many of the following peripherals fit this bill. Regardless, besides the Balance Board, the others were just shells for the Wii remote, and didn't really have an effect on gameplay.

Let's go from the controls to the games, shall we? The vocal minority (i.e. entitled gamers) declare that Nintendo turned its collective back on them. This is a ridiculous statement as Nintendo has never been more on top of their game. They brought back long-forgotten franchises, made some of the highest-rated games this gen, and constantly put forth effort in the majority of their titles. The Wii showed that you didn't need a triple-A budget to make fun titles. It's a shame most gamers have forgotten this. Let's list some of the first-party (whether developed internally or published) highlights to clarify this.

- Super Mario Galaxy*
- Super Mario Galaxy 2*
- Donkey Kong Country Returns**
- Kirby's Epic Yarn
- Punch-Out!**
- Excite Truck**
- Excitebots: Trick Racing**
- Sin & Punishment: Star Successor**
- Metroid Prime Trilogy
- Metroid: Other M
- Super Paper Mario
- Mario Strikers: Charged
- Mario Super Sluggers
- Mario Sports Mix
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl
- Mario Kart Wii
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii
- Animal Crossing: City Folk
- Wario Land: Shake It!
- Wii Sports
- Wii Sports Resort
- Wii Fit
- Wii Fit Plus
- Wii Party

*Two of the highest-rated games of this generation.
** I.P.s that were otherwise forgotten before this gen.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii was one of many
terrific Nintendo-developed titles.

Third-parties, on the other hand, normally treated the Wii as the red-headed stepchild, even with the console's unprecedented sales. The reason for this is that after the mindshare failure that was the Gamecube, many third-parties considered the Wii as DOA and felt that the HD consoles would be the best sellers. They were wrong and put all their eggs in the incorrect basket. They quickly tripped over themselves, throwing anything and everything on the console with little regard for budget or quality. There were some games that were a blast regardless of budget or those working on the games being the B or C teams such as Boom Blox, Monster Hunter Tri, Zack & Wiki, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (even though a traditional RE in the definitive version of Resident Evil 4 sold over a million copies, let's totally disregard that and make a light gun shooter instead. Smart move, Capcom.), Tatsunoko VS. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, Sonic Colors, No More Heroes and its sequel, A Boy and His Blob, Bully: Scholarship Edition, Red Steel 2, Rabbids Go Home, and many more. Don't forget those underrated gems that the Wii is greatly known for like The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces, The Munchables, Blast Works, just to name a few.

One of the few big efforts by a third-party on the Wii.

Shifting gears, the Wii's menu infrastructure is made up of channels. There's a 4x3 list of channels with multiple of pages to sift through. Users can download new channels alongside the already available channels which include the Mii Channel (where owners can create avatars of themselves or famous actors, characters, and creatures), the Photo Channel, and the Wii Shop Channel where users can buy Virtual Console games and original WiiWare games via Wii points. The shop interface is fairly basic and could be easier to navigate. The problem with using Wii points is that you can only purchase points in 1,000 point increments, so if you want a game that's 800 points, you have to essentially pay ten dollars and have points in tow. Additionally, there's some downloadable channels including the News, Weather, Nintendo, and Internet Channels.

The Wii itself was smartly (business-wise) made nearly as powerful as the Gamecube (hence the two Gamecubes duct taped together line). At the time, HD wasn't as widespread as it is now, so Nintendo made the Wii weak relatively to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The company already made bank on the Gamecube even though it came last place in the previous generation's console war. Profits were even larger with the wild success of the Wii. However, you couldn't tell most of the time that the Wii is more powerful than the Gamecube as many developers don't take advantage of its power. They put shoddy efforts on the platform. Some games like Metroid Prime 3, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl show a clear increase in performance from the past gen, though most do not which is unfortunate. The visuals of most Wii games is what I dislike the greatest about the system. So much untapped potential by lazy developers who'd rather bleed money on the HD platforms (how many third-parties are in the red this gen or have gone out of business betting on the wrong horse? I've lost count.) than develop for the Wii. Nonetheless, that's an argument for another day.

Brawl is but one of the games possibly
not possible on the Gamecube.

Whether you like the Wii or not, there's no questioning the sheer dominance the console has had this generation against its competition. Even the greatest hater must concede that point. Those who complain that the Wii has the weakest library ever for a popular console need to keep their irrational hatred in check. It's not healthy. With such sheer blind dislike for the little white box that could, you'd think the Wii ran over their cat or something and then tweeted on Twitter about it, boasting happily. With a library of games in all genres with varying degrees of fun (my personal collection nears 100 with few clunkers), an innovative control method that inspired the competition, and the first-party surefire hits that Nintendo is best known for, the Wii is one of Nintendo's all-time great consoles. With friends and family, the fun is amplified up sevenfold. Wii would definitely like to play.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

1 comment:

Chalgyr said...

We've definitely enjoyed our Wii at our household, though it has fallen behind the Ds's, PS3 and 360 in my house - both with me and my kids. Every now and then a title comes out that we get hyped up about and play it, but the less social nature of the games really hurts it from the standpoint of my two youngest kids. From a durability standpoint, it's fared decently. None of our controllers have broken, though we did have to get the system repaired once for a hardware failure.