Monday, July 09, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #27: Where do Wii go from here?

It happened so suddenly, I didn't even have time to waffle. I was in Gamestop and they had them on a Thursday during my lunch break. Not with bundles, just on their $249.99 own. It was now or who knew when. So now it's official.

I have a Wii.

"What??", you cry. "The lone wolf Wii hater has given up and joined the sheep?!?"

I'll admit it's a little hard to explain. I have wanted a "new" system, but the idea of dropping $600-$700 for a 360 or a PS3 (after tax and games) just seemed ridiculous. The Wii is a bargain at $200 (if you figure out the pack in game) and it has some features that other's don't, like built-in wireless network support. There have been some games I have wanted (like Super Paper Mario and the Wii version of RE4) plus more on the way - ones that are Nintendo exclusives. I was also attracted to the online concept, admittedly not as robust as Xbox Live, but not as annoying. And some of it might be the continuing hype and lack of availability (even after 8 months, it's still almost impossible to find unless you get lucky like I did). We covet that which we can't have (or something like that).

But even after I bought it, the Wii sat under my desk for 3 weeks before I opened it. I felt that if I broke the invisible seal (it, oddly enough, wasn't actually sealed), I'd be joining what may be a regression in videogame quality and content. This system is becoming so wildly popular that cut rate developers will be falling over each other so fast, trying to get something out on the shelves to sell to unsuspecting "casual gamers", that we could see a recurrence of the Crash of '83. These titles (some of which are already showing up) would be the kind of inoffensive and vacuous tripe that not even the most regular church-going soccer mom could object to. And with an install base in the millions, almost anything that has a hint of consumer awareness with the Walmart crowd should sell enough to make publishers green-light virtually any dreck.

Eventually, it was setup or take back time - I took the red pill and fell down the rabbit hole. It isn't Wonderland, but it's not bad.

Packed like a fancy tea set from Tokyo, you can't escape the aesthetic quality of the system. It has the outward look and feel of expensive Apple components. The console itself feels like no space inside was wasted. Even the external power supply is modest in size and completely encased in a neutral colored plastic to further distance itself from view. Setup, both unit and software was as simple as anything you'd expect from Nintendo - in other words, click, plug, power, go. The much maligned (by me) remote had an almost eerie quality to the way it just slightly vibrated each time I moved to a different key on the on-screen keyboard - not unlike the feel you'd get running your fingertip across a real one. In no time at all, my Wii was communicating with the Nintendo mothership and all was as smooth as Japanese silk.

Unlike the nearly archival quantity of games I have for other systems, I own only 4 so far for the Wii, not counting a game I downloaded. Instead of getting games just because they were cheap, I decided to go with the top titles for the system - something I will try to uphold during what is certain to be a holiday season of quick cash-in shovelware and drastic discounting of titles that didn't do so well at launch. I may make liberal use of Gamestop's return policy to try titles that have questionable control formats, like driving games. (One thing Ninny needs to work on is downloadable demos.)

My game time with the Wii has been extremely enjoyable. The much maligned (by me again) Wii Sports has been lots of fun for me and Ghosty, plus Super Paper Mario, while originally bemoaned as a stolen Gamecube title (by me yet again!) admittedly works better on the Wii. RE4 is taking some getting used to, but I'm working on it. And Wii Play...well, it has it's good and bad points, but I needed the extra remote anyway.

One thing I really like about the Wii is that for the first time in console progression, a technology hasn't just been tossed out the window. By this I mean, the Gamecube was (and still is) a very powerful and competent game console. I think some people forget that during the fight between PS2, Xbox and Gamecube, the 'cube was considered better than the PS2 in overall performance. Gamecube's biggest problem was that it was #3 in a 3 man race - a position once in, it was never able to get out of. It was good to see the little ATI logo on the outside of the Wii, like a symbol that the Gamecube's technology will live on.

I'm not trying to make up for my previous disdain for the system. What was said, is said. But I'm going to keep playing and enjoying the system. I applaud Nintendo for making an affordable system that has maintained a hold on a proven platform and is centered on games. Microsoft and Sony seem to be busier with making their systems into Trojan horses, to be rolled into your living rooms in the hopes of funneling your media budget into their corporate coffers. Now, if they just make a Wii version of the new Burnout, I might not get wooden wheel marks on the carpet this fall.

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