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Nintendo Wii first impressions

As you know, Virtuoso picked up a Nintendo Wii at the local Best Buy launch. I had a chance to play with the console for a bit, and this is the impression I got from it.

Graphics

The Wii uses a version of ATi’s “Flipper” GPU, the same one that powered the GameCube. So as you can expect, the Wii is certainly no PS3 or Xbox 360, and the graphics don’t look anywhere near as advanced as those consoles in terms of pushing polygons or netting high frame rates.

However, before you decide not to buy the Wii based on graphics, I must say that the games do in fact look very good even with the console’s limited horsepower. For example, despite what certain Wii haters may say about it, the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a great looking game, despite not even coming anywhere close to the Wii’s hardware capabilities. If you can get past the fact that you are playing at 480p using old graphics hardware, the Wii will definitely be more than enough graphically.

The Controller

The Wii’s major innovation is the new controller. This is where the console really shines, and it alone is probably the reason to buy the console over anything else. For the uninitiated, the Wii is controlled using a remote controller with your digital control pad and the majority of the buttons, which is typically held in the right hand, as well as an attachment called the “nunchuck”, which features the analog stick and some triggers, and is typically is held using the left hand. Both controllers are motion sensitive, and depending on the game the motion sensitivity could be responsible for anywhere between 0 and 100 percent of the control for the entire game.

One of the games I played was Wii Sports, which is included with the console. Wii Sports is controlled predominantly using the motion sensitivity of the Wii remote, and uses all of the axes of motion sensitivity the controller supports. For example, one of the games featured in Wii Sports is Wii bowling, in which the speed of the ball and direction of the ball is determined by the speed and direction at which you “bowl” the remote toward the screen, and the hook of the ball is determined by the positioning of the wrist when you do the bowling action. To be more blunt, Wii Sports bowling feels a lot like real bowling because of how intuitive the control scheme is.

In terms of learning curve, the new control scheme does have one. In fact, I might go so far as to call it an “unlearning curve”. The motion sensor is actually extremely sensitive, and at first it’s too easy to overexert your actions. People that have little prior experience with gaming don’t seem to notice this. As such, don’t be surprised if you initially end up losing to people that are terrible at video games. After you get over the initial learning curve, the control is actually very solid. And for games like first person shooters and real time strategy that were traditionally difficult to play with consoles at the same precision as the PC, the innovative Wii control scheme opens up new possibilities.

Overall Impression

If you are interested in a completely new innovative gameplay experience, buy the Wii. If you are interested in a fun console that people can get into with minimal effort even without prior gameplay experience, get the Wii. If you want a party console, get the Wii. If you want a console that won’t break the bank, the Wii is it. If you want more of the same old presentation over gameplay trend going on these days, then by all means, buy the 360 or the PS3, the Wii is not for you.


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