Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Finally, Wii Can Play

Okay sorry, Wii puns are old. I didn't mean to remind everyone of something that was popular, and overused, over two years ago. It's just that, I live under a rock and have only just recently gotten my hands on a Wii so I hope you'll forgive me for not being able to resist the temptation to use a pun on the console's name. It won't happen again, I promise.

Yes it's true, I got my hands on Nintendo's popular console this week, completing my current generation collection and allowing me access to games that I have been wanting for a few years now. These include the expected titles like Mario Kart and Super Mario Galaxy, but it also includes the lesser known gems that I've had my eye on after reading about them such as de Blob and World Of Goo. The most important game I want to get my hands on though is Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, a game I have been craving ever since it was announced. I have no shame in admitting that I am a massive Metroid fanboy and as such, playing through another of Samus' adventures is one hell of an enticing prospect. Surprisingly, I have been able to contain my desire to play it quite well, mostly because I viewed the game as irrelevant to me while I didn't own the console. I do now, so as soon as I can afford it you can guarantee the game will have another purchase.

Moving along, my impressions of the console are brief. Including Wii Sports with the console is a no-brainer and I'm glad Nintendo chose to, as it is the best introduction to the Wii Remote and how to use it. Wii Sports demonstrates to you how fun it can be to mimic the on-screen action using motion, but more importantly it hints towards the potential that the Wii Remote can be used for -- some of which people have already seen, some of which is on the horizon using peripherals like Wii MotionPlus. For me, I get to start at the beginning, experiencing things that others have already forgotten about for the first time and finally getting to understand where and why they have gained their views on the various games out there. I look forward to it.

The most important thing to come from my short time with the console, I think, is something that doesn't involve me. The simplicity that the motion controls, coupled with a game like Wii Sports can provide means it's very easy for anyone to pick up and play the Wii. Everyone knows this already, but even so I found it very exciting to watch other people play it. One person in particular, my four year old sister, was very interesting to watch. As she is such a young age, she has no history with the medium like I do -- she doesn't know the difference between a PS3 or Wii and she certainly doesn't know the difference between 'normal' controls and motion controls. Naturally, her view is going to be different to mine and won't be influenced by the history and knowledge of the medium that I have, and so it was when she played it for the first time. Her reaction? A simple "WOW!" as she realised she was in control of the pointer on the screen and then subsequently the tennis racquet, baseball bat, bowling ball and golf club. Her elation as she experimented with the motion and hit the ball back across the court in tennis is something that I can't even describe. Instead of analyzing the experience like her older brother would (and did), she was instead just simply content to enjoy Wii Sports for what it was, a simple and fun video game.

Watching that right there, was what showed me what the Wii is about and I instantly understood why Nintendo chose to pursue the direction they have. While I was right to assume that motion controls or the direction they took wasn't going to interest me for too long, I am very glad that Nintendo chose to pursue it anyway. The result is, as we've now seen, an expanded audience but more importantly it is also a console that really can be played by anyone. How is that not a brilliant thing for this industry?


Matthew Kaplan said...

Everyone... except the paraplegic. ;)

Joseph Rositano said...

I honestly believe a lot of people don't give the Wii enough credit. Before I got my Xbox 360 I was fully content on playing the system all day long as the games were just a lot of fun.

The 360 offers me different experiences, I will not deny that, but the Wii was simple and didn't take games so seriously. Also, people make fun of the Wii for not having "good software". Honestly, the Wii has more exclusives than the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC that are all brilliant games. Endless Ocean, Disaster Day of Crisis, de Blob, Deadly Creatures, Zack and Wiki, Boom Blox... the list goes on and on, and notice how I didn't focus on that fat-ass plumber Mario.

Having said this, the Wii isn't all it's cracked up to be. Motion controls get old real fast, and I'm not even confident on Wii MotionPlus or Sony and Microsoft's answer to motion (I forget the names). The Wii remote's best feature is using it as an IR pointer. Using it to focus on the area of view, to select items, to counter enemy attacks, that is what I want to see more games do. Even generic games such as Heatseeker seemed to get it right in that area. Developers need to learn to not overuse the waggle, and to focus on design more than anything else.

As for the argument that the Wii’s most prized feature – waggle support – is no longer a seller point, I’d disagree. The Wii was the first console to implement it, and for that reason alone it has become a household name. The industry, regardless if we like it or not, is not full of knowledgeable people who sit around reading gaming blogs (no offense Steven) and talking about the things to come. It’s full of children who are just interested in playing games, it’s full of adults who are curious if that Brain Training thing works, and it’s full of people who just want to play games for fun and not concern themselves over the “complete experience” it provides.

In the end, Nintendo has gotten where it is by taking a risk, by focusing on an untapped area of the industry (well, that’s debatable) and by marketing the Wii towards the right audience. Things like Zelda and curiosity grabbed the attention of the hardcore audience, imagery of the aged and youth playing games together is what caught the attention of those who use to once screw their noses up at the industry. Like the PS2 in the generation before, the Wii captured the imaginations of people and the attention of publishers.

Steven O'Dell said...

@Matthew -- Precisely why Nintendo are developing that Kind Code thing. ;) (not really but hey, let's pretend yeah?)

@Joseph -- I'm glad this post allowed you to have your little mini-rant, one that seems to have been on your mind for quite some time now. I don't really have a response to it though as obviously it wasn't really relating to the (brief) things I said in my post, plus, we've discussed Nintendo and stuff like that countless times before anyway so you know how I feel.

What I will say though, just to have it said, is that I am very happy Nintendo took that risk. Even if the games that direction involves don't end up being interesting to me (we don't know yet, obviously), the very fact they're bringing in new people to our industry is all the justification that is needed. We've reached a point where there should be a game for everyone and you know what? I think there is, now. That's a great thing and I can't wait to see it continue in the future.