Well, I finally did it. I finally managed to locate and purchase a Nintendo Wii. These things have been very difficult to find in stock anywhere and thanks to a tip from a friend I was able to get one at Wal-Mart this weekend. They only had 3, and I was there at the store when they brought them out, and was able to get the last one. While I was out and about I also picked up an extra Wii remote controller and a classic controller so I could play with someone else at the same time, and play games using the 'virtual console' feature of the Wii.
After setting up the console and a rather lengthy update process, the Wii was finally ready to go. I have to admit that, though I knew the graphics on the Wii can't compare to the other current generation consoles, that they didn't meet my expectations. Fortunately things improved quite a bit when I hooked up the Wii using a component video cable rather than the included composite cable, but honestly the graphics are still disappointing. I know that the hardware is supposed to be more powerful than the original XBOX or PlayStation 2, but with what I have seen so far it doesn't really appear to be taking advantage of that power. Neither the Wii Sports game included with the console nor Super Paper Mario, which I purchased earlier today, seems to show off what the console is actually capable of doing.
The other thing that immediately became obvious is that the Wii remote control (or 'Wiimote') is very different from anything I have ever used before. I knew that, but I didn't really "know" that. Some motions you make with the remote are very intuitive and natural, others aren't quite so much. For example, most of the games in Wii Sports are pretty easy to learn, because the motions you make with the Wiimote correspond very well to the motions used when playing the real sports. Baseball and Tennis in particular use very natural motions, and the motions used by Bowling are very easy to learn. I had quite a bit of trouble with Golf, as I found it virtually impossible to control how much power was delivered during a swing, resulting in the ball not going anywhere, or overshooting the hole by large distances. Boxing was reasonably natural to control, but I found that it didn't always respond when attempting to control my character. With all of that said, there are definitely times when the Wii doesn't accurately figure out what I was trying to do with the Wiimote and responds by either not doing anything, or doing something that I didn't want it to do. Over all though, the Wiimote idea works fairly well. And I expect that it will get better with time as developers figure out new and innovative ways to use this new control method.
Super Paper Mario doesn't really utilize the capabilities of the controller; it seems to only use the Wii-exclusive features here or there, with most of the control of the game utilizing conventional directional controls and button pushing.
You may have heard it before, but there are claims that the physical activity you must exert while playing the Wii will help to keep game players active and counteract the effects of sitting around watching TV or playing another game system. While the Wii does get you up and moving, at no point was my heart rate elevated, so I'm doubtful about how much benefit this may have. I did find, however, that after a while of playing Wii Sports that my shoulder and bicep began to be a bit sore. And as I write this a day later, they are still sore. I fear that I may develop a little Wii muscle on one arm while continuing to maintain the Wee little muscle on my other arm. I wish I had more coordination in my left hand so I could switch back and forth, but this certainly isn't the case.
The Virtual Console feature of the Wii is pretty cool, and honestly, one of the main reasons I bought the Wii. It allows you to download games developed for vintage Nintendo, Sega, and TurboGrafx consoles directly from Nintendo for a small fee. Most games are between $5 and $10, depending primarily on their sophistication. I purchased Super Mario from the original NES for $5 and Mario Kart from the Nintendo 64 for $10. These games are 100% faithful to their original versions, and actually appear to be the original games running under emulation. They have even made sure that any glitches in the original game are included in the Virtual Console versions. The game selection at this point isn't huge, but this will change with time, and most of the all-time favorites are already there.
Playing Nintendo 64 titles requires either an add-on Classic controller or a GameCube controller.
A few negatives
Despite the fact that the Wii is quite fun to play, there are a few negatives. For example, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, the graphics on the Wii just don't quite measure up to expectations despite the alleged potential of the hardware. I won't hold that against the machine too much though because I know the hardware is capable of more and game developers are just now learning how to take advantage of the system.
Another is due to the innovative control system itself. Most games on the Wii use the Wiimote controller, but many also require use of the Nunchuk controller, and these are not included when you purchase a Wiimote. So you should spend an extra $20 to add a Nunchuck to each Wiimote, bringing the total for each Wii to the order of $60 per person. And if you play Virtual Console games, you may also need a Classic controller for each player as well, for another $20. So potentially you will be paying up to $80 for controllers per player if you fully equip the console.
The Wii is a fun console, no doubt about it. But it is, above all, just a game console. It shifts the game console paradigm slightly, but only slightly. What Nintendo has done is a brilliant job of marketing their product, and they are able to get it into the hands of people who might not otherwise buy a game console, by making it easier to learn to play, and keeping the price down below the other options out there.
I don't think that having the Wii will take me away from playing games on my Xbox 360 at all, as it certainly doesn't replace the 360 (nor would it take away from or replace a PlayStation), but rather it adds a new type of experience. The Wii is different enough that it compliments owning one of the other consoles rather than taking their place. It does things just differently enough that I can recommend a Wii to anyone even remotely interested in one.