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20 November 2006 @ 11am

Nintendo Wii: First Impressions

After months of waiting, one outrageous name change, and tons of pre-orders that I intentionally ignored, Saturday night was the start of my journey to acquire a Wii.

My brother and I packed up the necessities and drove to the nearby Target, which, according to the Wii Finder, would have 120 Wiis on launch day. At 10 PM, we arrived, set up chairs and blankets, and signed the list to be the 33rd person to get a Wii from Target. The night came and went, and we pulled up the car and slept in it to stay warm. As 6 AM rolled around, the less hardcore began arriving: the dads getting one for their child, the soccer moms with obligatory Starbucks in hand. (Note to all: on launch day, those two individuals pose the most threat to your safety: they will do anything to make sure their “little darlings” get one.)

8 AM came, and the manager stepped out, confirmed that he had 120 Wiis, and began handing out numbers and the list of accessories they had in stock. The line moved into the electronics section, and, quite subdued, waited patiently as they took two numbers at a time to get the console and the games.

For accessories, I bought a second Wiimote and nunchuck, and a Classic Controller. I bought these games: Red Steel, Zelda: Twilight Princess (who didn’t?), and Super Monkey Ball XVIII: Return of the Rotten Bananas (SMB: Banana Blitz, actually, but hey.)

First up, though: Wii Sports. I had guessed that this would be fun, but I underestimated how this would kill off full-feature games. The tennis, golf, and bowling are all great. Boxing and baseball aren’t quite what I wanted, but they’re still fun if you’re a fan of either sport.

The controls for tennis are spot-on: the Wii moves your characters for you, and you simply swing the Wiimote like a tennis racket for a forehand or backhand. If you twist it as you swing, it puts spin on the ball, and the speed of the wrist snap determines the speed and angle of the ball.

Golfing is a bit more art than science on the Wii. You swing the remote like a golf club to control the power. Aiming is much like Mario Golf of years before: up/down on the D‑pad to switch clubs (the club selection is much more limited in this than regular golf games: you only have a driver, an iron, probably a 5–6 iron, a wedge, and a putter), and left/right to aim the ball. It’s got power guides on the aiming line to help you decide how hard to swing. The swinging action is not as easy to master as tennis, however. You swing like a golf club, but it seems like the wrist rotation at the bottom mostly dictates how much power the swing gets. I have to take a few practice swings before each hit to try and dial in the exact motion.

My friend and I used to bowl a lot in high school, and you can imagine our happiness when we played the Wii version. It’s as close as a virtual bowling simulation will ever get to real life, I believe. You line up direction and angle with the D‑pad. You then hold the remote pointing towards the ceiling, and hold down the B button (the one under the remote). You quickly swing your arm back, just like bowling in real life, and then swing the remote forward and release the button near the bottom to throw it. If you mistime the button release, it’ll yell at you and show you throwing the ball into the crowd. To put spin on the ball, you give the remote a twist with your wrist as you release. Within a couple games, my friend and I were throwing 200 point games and picking up spares with ease.

I spent a couple hours of introducing the rest of the family to these games. My mom and sister both had a blast playing tennis and bowling, and my brother and I played a fair amount of golf and baseball. My sister is somewhat videogame aware: she was a big SNES junkie when we had Super Mario Bros. + All-Stars, and played Super Mario Bros. 3 until she beat it. She took to the motion-sensing games with no trouble at all. My mom was less easily taught, but the natural actions for tennis meant that after a few test swings, she did well, beating me in two games.

After playing Wii Sports for much longer than I would have thought, I realized that I still had three more games to try out. First was Super Monkey Ball, and it’s plethora of minigames. Unlike previous SMB I/II, all the minigames are unlocked out of the box, and rightfully so: if I had to earn some of these with single player gameplay, I’d be mad. There are 50 games available, including some of the classic Monkey Sports, Monkey Flight, and the like (I’ll post a complete list in a bit). I had a ton of trouble with the single player levels. I had gotten quite good at the joystick control on the GameCube, and my Wii remote wasn’t level when the game “zeroed” itself, so a level at “neutral” had my remote tilted back a bit.

I later went through all the Super Monkey Ball screens with the controller flat on my table. It still has flat as defaulting to a bit of forward roll, so it must be deliberate. I’ve gotten used to it, and I’m with Erik on this one: the game was waiting for this controller to be invented.

After my initial frustration with Super Monkey Ball was overcome, I moved on to Red Steel. This was a game I bought on faith alone: the impressions online sounded respectable, and there weren’t enough negative reviews or odd descriptions to really convince me to avoid it. I’m quite glad I got it. First, the control scheme. The nunchunk joystick controls strafing and running of your character. The Wiimote is pointed at the screen, represented by a dot, and this shows where your character is aiming. To turn, you point the remote to the far left or right edge of the screen, and the character turns. Aiming is not too difficult, but aiming on the move is one thing I’m still working on. The swordplay sections are exactly what I expected. A flick of the Wiimote in certain directions performs a corresponding sword slash, and the nunchunk controls a parrying action to defend yourself. The shooter part of the control scheme takes a few minutes to work out, and will probably take another few hours of playtime for me to adapt to it, but I think it’ll be worth it in the end.

Finally, after a couple hours of yakuza slaughtering and general violence, I moved on to Zelda: Twilight Princess. The game looks great, and is certainly in line with my expectations for a cheaper system that I bought for “the gameplay, not the graphics”. They’re high quality, and the Wii can do a lot of things that they never tried on the Gamecube, either for lack of desire or lack of hardware.

The controls are different. The nunchunk joystick controls Link, as you would guess, but instead of a button for his sword, you simply flick the Wiimote around. The spin attack is done with a back-and-forth on the nunchuck, followed by a regular sword slash. The items all sit on the D‑pad and B button of the Wiimote, and you hit the direction on the D‑pad of the item to move it to the B button, then hit B to use it. Slightly different than old games. Z‑targeting works as always, but I haven’t figured out how to “get info” on characters like we used to with that fairy thing in Ocarina and in Wind Waker. When you use the slingshot, you aim on-screen with the Wiimote. Fishing is about what you’d expect: cast with a flick forward, let it sit, and when you think a fish is biting, yank up and keep yanking to “reel it in”. The manual says, later on, you’ll use the nunchuck like a crank, reeling the fish in.

I rented Call of Duty 3 from Blockbuster to try it out. The controls are very similar to Red Steel, with one important tweak. The “pointing box” for Red Steel is large. The “pointing box” is anyplace on screen where your character will aim his weapon instead of turning to look at. In Call of Duty, the box is 4 pixels in the middle of the screen. I liked the Call of Duty setup better, as it made rotating the character a much more easy thing to do. However, the lack of any real “pointing box” meant that your character is constantly turning or drifting in some direction. I’ve heard that Metroid Prime 3 will be somewhere in between: a small “pointing box”, and Samus will rotate if you point outside that. Sounds like MP3 will have the ideal control scheme.

I have a question to all those Wii owners out there: how long is the light surrounding the disc slot on normally? Mine flashes on briefly when I turn it on. It doesn’t come on when I put a disc in, and it’s never on when there’s no disc in the system. I just set up the emailing with my Wii, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen it glow (it’s pulsing slowly because I’ve got an email from myself), but as soon as I turn it on, the light goes out. I guess my question is this: is anyone’s on when the unit is on with no disc in? I get the impression it’s supposed to be. (Sidenote: I am running the latest “update”, whatever that is. Firmware update, I assume?)

All in all, the Wii is wonderful. Zelda is promising, Red Steel is better than I ever expected, and Super Monkey Ball is enjoyable, although a bit easy. Wii Sports alone is enough to keep someone occupied who is playing it casually. I personally believe the controller capabilities will enable games people haven’t even dreamed of yet: there’s so many things you can do with more information about motion and position.

As for a friend code: mine is 0141–4176-1669–5221. If you add me, leave a comment with yours so we can swap Miis.


Posted by
Ben Bleything
21 November 2006 @ 3pm

regarding the light, apparently Nintendo decided that we wouldn’t want it on while playing, so they disabled that. Rumor was that it would be on while waiting for a disc, but popping into the disc channel with nothing inserted only made mine briefly flash and then stay off.

It does come on when you’ve got waiting messages. That’s the only thing I’ve figured out. Too bad, though.

Posted by
26 November 2006 @ 3am

Added ya…

6678 3626 7310 2625

Posted by
Christopher Bowns
26 November 2006 @ 10am

Added you back. Thanks!

I’ve updated it with sections about golf, bowling, and Call of Duty 3.

Posted by
26 November 2006 @ 11am

email me with your wii friend code when u add me

so i will add u is simple my wii friend code is “1341–3323-9302–1434” and my nick is ” eliezer ”

email me thanks!

Posted by
27 November 2006 @ 12am

I added you.

heres mine: 8699 2612 8685 4558

Posted by
Joachim Bengtsson
8 December 2006 @ 6pm

Nice review :) Kind of regret that I didn’t get Red Steel…

Anyhow, for some Mii parading, my friend code is 7127 0320 0245 3442 (and I’m

Posted by
Christopher Bowns
8 December 2006 @ 7pm

Red Steel is a fun game, but the controls are driving me insane. It’s so “loose”: while Call of Duty has your character physically rotating if you point anywhere but dead center, Red Steel makes you go to nearly the edge of the screen before they start turning. Once your character starts turning, it’s at a breakneck pace, making it even worse. Game designers doing that control setup should take notes from both those games.

Posted by
9 December 2006 @ 2pm


6750 8975 2364 2156

Posted by
11 December 2006 @ 1am

please add my WII # to you WII# AND THEN E‑MAIL so i can put you on my WII my # is 3907–5914-5852–0661 my e‑mail

Posted by
14 December 2006 @ 9pm

add my e‑mail then we will exchange mii #

Posted by
3 January 2007 @ 6pm

whenever i try to register my wii on the part where you can write down addresses and do memos it says my wii cant be registered. how do i do it?

Posted by
22 February 2007 @ 1am

mine is 0251–3242-1924–0160 email me ur @ plz and thank u

Posted by
7 April 2007 @ 1pm

added ya 9640 9600 1447 8311

Posted by
4 August 2007 @ 4pm

Added you also

Mine is 4901–1941-5874–7183

Posted by
28 November 2007 @ 11am

Hi. Good design, who make it?