The Wii Has Landed

In a spur-of-the-moment thing (almost despite my better judgement), we bought a Wii. Apparently the second shipment reached Portugal this week, and since I had already resolved that I would not be buying any expensive gadgets next year, grabbing a fun, family-friendly game console before 2006 was out seemed like a sensible way to bend the rules.

Remember, I'm the guy who's recently upgraded from a G3 iBook I got in 2002, and I've already started saving up for the Apple ultra-slim tablet in 2010...

Plus, in much the same way as many other gaming geeks that are now finding themselves being trounced at Wii Sports by their elderly grandparents or their four-year-old nephew, I wasn't the only one involved in the buying decision. Go figure.

My original "big box" PlayStation 2 (complete with Ethernet/IDE adapter, two controllers, a few games and the DVD remote) is now retired, and I expect that in a year all that will be left of it is a couple of favorite games in a drawer someplace.

After all, there is always the off-chance that the PS3 won't turn out to be a complete loss for Sony, and that they'll see the light and re-spin the thing in a cheaper, more "open" media-friendly format...

Some random thoughts on the machine, since it's already been reviewed in a million places:

  • I have a DVD burner that is bigger than this box.
  • The controllers and games are expensive as hell. I'll probably get another nunchuck sometime, but I will be very choosy about games (and will continue my tradition of waiting until they're re-spun as half-price "last year's stuff" and getting them at clearance sales).
  • The controllers work much better than I expected. They are also much heavier than what I expected.
  • Nintendo's servers are disgracefully slow. Browsing is relatively speedy, but updating the console and trying to download the browser in the first place took several tries, and there's no way I'm going to take their online strategy seriously if this is the user experience they are delivering (remember, I have two ISP connections at home - three if I count 3G access).
  • The disc drive is a bit on the noisy side. And it not playing DVDs is, well, dumb.
  • The browser trial is pretty limited. Flash support is great, but reading options and the overall experience leave a lot to be desired. Browsing on a TV is of dubious interest anyway, but having a black bar on top and an idiotically large button bar at the bottom doesn't help. At least it's usable - it took me next to no time to tweak my RSS front-end and this site's photo album to work with the browser (dumb as it is), but a full-screen mode would go a long way to make it truly usable for many things.
  • Wiiconnect 24 doesn't seem that interesting, nor do I like to have appliances with two kinds of standby modes (a real off switch would be preferable).
  • I keep wondering if there will be any use for the USB ports.
  • Where's the Quake port? This thing has more than enough horsepower and connectivity to be the first console to do FPS right (never mind "next-gen" graphics, what people want is playability and decent aiming).

Wii Play is great fun, especially when played with someone else. Haven't tried Wii Sports yet, but right now my main focus is on experiencing the thing - the games are simple, straightforward, and extremely fun for casual gamers like myself, and the physicality of the thing just feels right.

Which reminds me, throwing cows around in Raging Rabbids is hilarious - and romping through a cartoon Western town firing plungers at bunnies is a great taste of FPS experiences to come. And no, I didn't get Zelda - I'm not really sold on that kind of thing.

So, all in all, the balance is positive right off the bat. Despite the teething troubles and the relative lack of sophistication, it's great fun - and I haven't even started playing around with the remotes yet (I'd like to see if it's feasible to emulate the "beacon bar" by flashing screen corners or something that can be duplicated on any display).