My normal Saturdays usually start with a catch up of my favorite blogs and sites, followed by a blog entry or two. Yesterday's passed without this. Today, my arms are sore as I type this. The reason for both? We are now the proud owners of a Wii, thanks to Charles' serendipity. See, on Friday, as he took the day off with his family, he was wandering around Berkeley and saw a store that not only had the Wii in stock, but at it's list price! He frantically tried to get a hold of me to see if he should pick it up, and I gladly agreed. Forget the iPhone; this thing is sold out everywhere, months after its release! He delivered it Friday night, and my weekend was officially shot.
It's rare when a device's performance lives up to the hype, but the Wii is one of those that absolutely blew me away.I know, you're thinking, "Oh God, another geeky videogame rant," but trust me, it ain't. Hardcore gaming performance wise, the Wii is the weakest of the 3 "next gen" consoles; the PS3 has way more horsepower than all of them, and the XBox 360 is not only far more advanced, it integrates so much more. But the Wii has one thing all other consoles lack: fun. I'm sure you've heard about the motion sensitive controls, but let me be clear: that's just the tip of the iceberg. This is not a videogame system with lots of button combinations and complex moves; it's a total immersive experience.
Let's start with the controllers. No strange boomerangs, bristling with buttons. Instead, a simple remote control, like you'd use for your TV. There is a directional pad on the top, and 3 buttons, 2 of which are hardly used. Underneath, a trigger. That's it. You want to play baseball? Face the TV and hold it like a bat: there's the pitch, and you swing. It's highly accurate. But the motion control is just the start: the remote has 2 other pieces. First, a small speaker in the remote itself, makes noises when appropriate. The crack of the bat as it connects to the ball; the thwack of the racket as you return a serve in tennis. Second, force feedback in the remote conveys a vibration as you interact. Catch a pop fly, and you feel the ball hit your glove. Poke a jab at your opponent in boxing, and feel the glove connect. Again, none of this is earth shattering, but the unique combination of movement, sound, and feel makes you forget this is a game.
The Wii comes with Wii Sports, which includes Tennis, Golf, Basesball, Bowling, Boxing, and more. For one player, it's a hell of a workout; I boxed for 20 minutes and was completely winded. My arm and shoulder are still killing me from tennis and baseball. In addition, the Wii comes with built in WiFi, so it connects to our network and 24x7 can connect to deliver news (complete with a slide show of images overlaid on a rotating globe representing each story location), or weather (same interface), along with other "channels." For instance, in the Wii Shop channel, you can buy credits to spend on classic videogames from Sega Genesis and the NES. Slick! And the console itself is tiny: it's elegant, and powerful. Hardly looks like a game console, more like a stylish small DVD player (yes, it plays DVD's, movies, music and more).
The other major surprise is that the console is graphically great. Even in Wii Sports, golf courses look amazing. For instance, check out Madden 2008 on the Wii:
Now, for comparison, here it is on the PS2 (not 3):
I have to say, although the shading on the PS2 looks better, the Wii's no slouch. I expected far worse. Plus, with the Wii, in Madden, you use the same great controllers I talked about to hike the ball, pass, catch, stiff arm, juke, and tackle. Now THAT'S a workout I never get with the PS2!
I'm so pleased with the Wii, and look forward to trying more games. The fact that Amy likes it too, is more fun, as finally, she'll play a videogame! Now, if I could only get my arm to stop hurting...