Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
20 November 2006
The Good, the Bad, and the (ugh) Wii
The epic tale of my wait in line for a Wii will be told some other day -- a story of happy chance, of suffering, of corruption, of sacrifice. A story, also, of about an hour total of playing Elite Beat Agents on my DS.

I haven't been able to play it an awful lot since getting it back to the apartment, as I have this pesky term paper to write, but as the Wii-blessed member of Curmudgeon Gamer's crack (as in "cocaine") staff of writers, I felt duty bound to put off working on my paper describe my experience.

  • The controller, for the most part, works without a hitch, and better than I had been expecting. Its use in Wii Sports is almost like magic.
  • Wii Sports is a better game than rumor had it and reviews have let on. Scores have been around the low-to-mid 7 range for it, they deserve to be higher. My roommates were almost fascinated with it when they saw it in action. The depth in the title is in perfecting your movements more than the strategy of the game itself, but the games are not bad. Bowling, in particular, with that controller in hand, is automatically the best console rendition of bowling of all time, because it is actually like bowling.
  • Mii creation is a lot more fun than you might think. While the characters themselves are very simplistic, the creation options are not. They are even used in ingenious ways by Wii Sports, who will automatically fill out baseball teams with random Miis lounging around the console, potentially even those scavenged from friend's system's over the internet.
  • Virtual Console games seem to work well. The two I've gotten so far, Solomon's Key and SimCity, are pretty much exactly like the originals, with one big difference in SimCity: saving took a while on the SNES, but here is instantaneous.
  • If one goes back to the Wii menu before turning off a virtual console game, the next time the player plays it he'll find that his old "console" is exactly at the point where he left it. That is, the Wii actually saves the entire state of the virtual machine, in addition to supporting any built-in save function of the game.
  • The unified, X-box 360-like menu system is cool. All games have a "Wii menu," even disk ones, and the player can end a game and return to the home page at any time, without a reboot.
  • The video report of one website, which showed a video of the system taking over two minutes to copy the tiny NES game Donkey Kong to a SD card, turns out not to be the general case -- SNES SimCity takes maybe 10-20 seconds to copy to my own recently-purchased 512MB card. The age and speed of the card probably plays a role here.
  • There are a number of of cool little things to discover while browsing through the options, like the message board that not only keeps records of how long you've played each game on a calendar-like screen, but even functions as a basic email client. I'm surprised that the big gaming blogs haven't made a big deal over the fact that you can actually send mail to any email address, provided the recipient replies to an initial confirmation message.
  • The pointer hands on the menu screens rotate when you rotate the controller! So cool! There is also an entertaining little animation when a Virtual Console download is going.
  • Zelda is, indeed, great.

  • However, Zelda is not as great as it could have been, and the problem is not the graphics. It is the storytelling. A lot of people have been raving about how the story of this one is darker than the others almost from the start. I do not regard this as a good thing; the high-spirited adventure of the other games (especially Wind Waker) was one of the best things about them. This is just one more way that Zelda is becoming like its copiers (that is to say, practically all other action-adventures).
  • More on Zelda: these games have traditionally been actually rather light on story, leaving the player on his own to do all the things that need to be done. My first three hours of Zelda, on the other hand, were hand-held almost the whole way. Zelda games need to give the player space so he can explore! I've not seen any of that yet, although maybe once I hit Hyrule Field this'll change.
  • Upon initial connection to the internet there are two major system updates, each of which taking quite a while to complete. This may be from Nintendo's servers being slammed, but they should take note, this isn't going to get better in the future. System updates are always a cause for trepidation since an interrupted update may result in a bricked system, and there have been stories of this happening.
  • The email client is an unexpected nicety, true, but it is hampered by the fact that you have to type using the virtual keyboard. It's faster than control pad based solutions, and it has a cell phone-like quick keypad feature, but it's nowhere near as quick as using, say, a USB keyboard.
  • By the way, USB keyboards do not work.
  • I did have one bad moment with the remote. After one particular update, my remote suddenly ceased functioning. I checked my second remote and it wasn't working either! Whenever I pressed a button, the lights on the remote flashed several times then went dark. Turning off and on the console didn't work, there were no bright lights in the room and there was no obvious RF interference. Ultimately I restored their function by guessing that holding in the power button for a few seconds would do a "hard reset." Fortunately I was correct, and upon turning it back on again the controllers worked normally.
  • The Shop Channel is in bad shape. Several times now I've tried accessing it, only to be stuck for several minutes at the "Connecting...." screen. There is no way to cancel the connection early without doing a hard (not a soft) reset in the manner described above. When it does work it is responsive, but one has to get that far first.
  • As is typical for Nintendo, their features that interact with not-made-by-Nintendo data tend to be slapdash. A user can listen to MP3s while looking at photos but there is no standalone MP3 player! That oversight seems malicious enough to be intentional. The viewer channel can display JPEGs and MOVs, full stop. Some of these problems may essentially go away once Opera is released, but probably only in the little world of the browser.
  • Internet features are a bit less developed at launch than I was expecting. No Turbografx games, only one N64 game and two SNES and Genesis titles, and a NES roster padded out by first-generation dreck (although it does have the awesome Solomon's Key). X-box Live Arcade is mostly original stuff with a few recreations so they aren't expected to have a huge number of downloads available, but the stuff in Virtual Console is all emulated! There is little reason that ALL of Nintendo's first party output for their systems isn't available now. The Internet Channel, the Forecast Channel AND the News Channel, basically most of the system's internet support, is MIA for launch as well.
  • Finally, and for me most dishearteningly, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz seems to be a shadow of the first two games. Who the hell's idea was it to drop Challenge Mode?!

Labels: ,

--John Harris at 23:05
Comment [ 13 ]

Comments on this post:

Thanks for the write-up! Oddly, this is possibly the third or fourth time I've read a report of the Wiimote ceasing to function, requiring a reset (or several) to get it back.

By Blogger Dan-o, at 21 November, 2006 01:16  

Wii Sports may suffer in reviews because it is very hit-and-miss on which games people like, as well as a seeming general believe that it might not have lasting power.

Most online opinions I've read say that Wii Baseball is just bad. Then you find one person that likes it. Bowling is pretty split. Boxing has people that like it, and people that complain about how poorly it controls. Tennis has people that think it is great four player fun, and people that don't like it because you don't move yourself. Golf seems to be popular, but then you get people that complain the controls are too twitchy.

As for Zelda... When was the last time Zelda was light on story and let the player do what need to be done? Wind Waker starts relatively restrictive. Majora's Mask may give you freedom, but there is so much you have to do before you can even save the first time. Ocarina has the whole Deku Village section. Even Link to the Past has the whole castle intrusion stuff you have to go through before you are really allowed to play the game.

And if you don't like the long intro, you might be able to blame the Wii control scheme. An interview said the starting village was originally a much shorter section, but they decided to extended it (from one day to three?) to teach all the controller functionality at the start of the game.

By Anonymous Baines, at 21 November, 2006 02:03  

As for Zelda... When was the last time Zelda was light on story and let the player do what need to be done?

I may just be anticipating what reviews have said about the game, that there are many plot advancing elements between the dungeons this time out. But anyway, the opening village section *is* quite long, and of those three hours I've played so far, at least one of them was spent trying to figure out how to hit that damn monkey with the cradle. It seems like one needs to hit the monkey with the slingshot, but one cannot get the slingshot without getting the cat a fish, but one can't get the fish without a fishing pole, which cannot be obtained without hitting the monkey....

By Blogger JohnH, at 21 November, 2006 13:16  

I'll agree with pretty much everything you said. I had the Wiimote problem too, and I attributed it to ejecting a game while playing it. I think I funked it up somehow, but after realizing that I could reset it, it was fixed.

Wii Sports is definitely an awesome game. My only annoyance is that in Baseball, they don't actually PLAY, they just run after the ball, and in Tennis, you can only play in 4 player mode.

Zelda - amazing
Rayman - hilarious

That is all.

JohnH, how long did it take you to figure out fishing in Zelda? Because it took me forever.

By Blogger Bigelow, at 21 November, 2006 15:02  

For fishing, I reasoned that, if they were giving me the rod as an inventory item this time, and if a character is depressed that her cat wanted a fish and the cat was actually there by the water, that I should be able to fish there. (This was after a number of false starts however.)

I still am not sure how to cast right, but reeling the fish in I had expected would probably work something as how it is. (It seems, to me, that one spins the Nunchuk control stick to pull in the fish.) It took a few minutes to piece this together but didn't take long, not nearly as long as figuring out how to get that damn cradle back from the monkey.

By Blogger JohnH, at 21 November, 2006 15:29  

It's nice to hear these reports from 'early adopters'. I now get more pleasure from new systems and their games once they've been in the wild for a period of time and the hype has diminished.

In retrospect I have found Nintendo to be the most satisfying gaming experience and I believe this is going to remain so with the Wii.

Nintendo are right in refraining from partaking in the technology war. The focus must be on gameplay, not on graphical realism. Graphical realism is a substitute for innovation and that convenient 'fix' is coming to an end.

By Anonymous BankClerk, at 21 November, 2006 16:24  

Haha, I didn't even realize what I was doing at the time when I got the cradle back, I was just fidgeting with the bird whistle thing and saw something in the distance, so I threw the bird that way, thinking it would at least allow me to see what was over there, then it came back with the cradle. Problem solved.

How far are you now? I just completed the forest temple.

By Blogger Bigelow, at 21 November, 2006 19:11  

Ah, I'm still where I was before, I've gotten in no Zelda time since two days ago. I've been working on an essay most of the time since then, one I don't even think, now that it's turned in, I did any good with.

I might get some more play in tonight, but I'm not holding my breath. Tomorrow should be better though.

By Blogger JohnH, at 21 November, 2006 21:12  

You may want to check the shop again, I just noticed tonight that the TurboGrafx 16 games are finally up (albeit, just Bomberman 93 and Bonk's Adventure).

By Anonymous Joe, at 21 November, 2006 23:54  

Microsoft has leveraged its emulation/ports (Doom, SF2, etc) to generate interest in its system and marketplace. I expect the dearth of titles on the Virtual Console is for similar reasons.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 22 November, 2006 01:30  

Thanks for the info Joe, unfortunately I don't yet know if I'll be able to get to Wii this week, either! I went to my Dad's place for the holiday, but left the power supply back home. Ouch!

Anonymous, you're going to have to explain it better than that, I'm afraid.

By Blogger JohnH, at 22 November, 2006 03:50  

I think that saying that Microsoft is leveraging things based on their arcade release schedule is mostly baseless.

Clearly, they don't want to saturate genres, and they've been quite clear about that. But they're leaving money on the table every week that there isn't a release, and there have been many of those. My assumption is that there are genuine technical issues with the games in process that have either delayed their release, or the initial schedules were wildly ambitious.

Nintendo on the other hand ... the games do have to be recertified, and they have to be submitted to the ratings boards before release. But Nintendo hasn't ever had much of a rep for quality assurance (the gold seal might as well have been a tax stamp) on third party titles.

I recently realized that Raving Rabbids was a cross platform title, so I'm going to wait on the Wii. Right now it's a freaking field day in the 360 world. Gears of War, Viva Pinata, Rainbow Six Vegas...

I'm still working on Dead Rising.

Today Small Arms in the arcade, and Knights of the Nine just released today too. It's a good holiday to have your entire family take off to another state. Today's my birthday, and it feels like someone's paying attention on marketplace (yeah, I know they aren't). I'm almost torn between just going home and heading out for dinner with my girlfriend tonight.

Well, no, that was a lie. There's no tearing at all. Girlfriends trump games.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 22 November, 2006 07:49  

I guess "leverage" is too strong of a word. These ports just come off as PR stunts to me, meant to generate headlines and introduce people to online distribution systems. From a long term perspective, creating this market/interest is this industry's way of trying to replicate the obscene profits of other entertainment media (particularly film and broadcast media).

The release of some pimp glasses or whatever in Saints Row barely registers compared to some "classic" like SF2 or Doom. I found the Doom announcement particularly laughable since its source code is freely available. Maybe its art and sound assets aren't, but I doubt it.

Joe Siegelr's second post on
this page
implies Microsoft is being choosy about what they release and when they release it.

I was just making the point that they aren't dumping a bunch of games on VC because:

A) It could dilute the overall sales of individual titles and/or confuse consumers. In other words it saturates the market like a previous commenter said.

B) If they dumped the entire NES (for example) library online over a short period of time, people would be exposed to lots of shit. This would sour them on the online distribution system.

C) Announcements of "classics" generate headlines for and interest in the online distribution system. By spacing out these releases (even though they may be of different genres) they extend the amount of time their system/company receives media attention. Though you could argue that all of these emulated ports fall under the same genre, nostalgia.

How "nefarious" you find this (particularly C, but also a bit of A) really depends on your temperament. I wasn't making the claim that Microsoft was using these to combat particular competitors announcements or product releases. Though I do think Doom was announced the day of or the day before Nintendo's Fusion Tour launched. heh.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 November, 2006 19:08  

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