Nintendo Wii Buyer's Guide
Welcome to the bandwagon. You've just purchased what's far and away the most popular system of this console generation, with over 45 million systems sold worldwide.
Why has it been such a success? Simple: Nintendo designed the Wii not just for the stereotypical core gamer demographic (teenaged to middle-aged males), but for everybody -- parents, grandparents, your little sister, your Uncle Ralph who still thinks Pong is the bee's knees (he really says stuff like that!) -- everybody! The key is the intuitive Wii Remote, which acts as a pointer to select from menus and also as a motion-sensitive controller to make in-game characters mimic your actions. So hold on tight to that Remote, and let's look at what the Nintendo Wii has to offer.
- Low cost
- Innovative controller
- Nintendo franchises (Mario, Zelda, etc.)
- Downloadable classic games
- Nice, simple Web browser and Internet "Channels"
- No high-definition graphics
- Limited on-board storage space
- Connection issues in online gameplay
- Lots of crappy games
- Can't play DVDs
Nintendo's fifth home videogame console, the Wii was released in North America on Nov. 19, 2006. The system (originally called the "Revolution" during development) is the long-anticipated follow-up to the Nintendo GameCube, which struggled to carve out significant market share against Sony's PlayStation 2. The controller technology was a closely guarded secret until the 2005 Tokyo Game Show, where it was revealed to mixed reviews. Also receiving mixed reviews: the system's new name of "Wii," which induced many chuckles when it was revealed just before the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo. These days, most Wii owners can refer to the system with a straight face after only a few weeks of practice, so don't worry if you're a new owner -- it does get easier.
The Wii is by far the smallest of the current generation of systems, with a sleek, white rectangular body. The front is marred only by a few buttons, a single power indicator light and a front-loading disc slot that can glow an eerie blue when the system receives a message. A grey holder keeps the system upright at a distinctive angle, but the system can also be placed horizontally, in which case it resembles a small DVD player more than anything else.
Nunchuk Controller for Nintendo Wii
The Wii Remote (sometimes called the Wiimote by people who enjoy getting punched by me). This revolutionary controller eschewed the increasing number of buttons and joysticks on other console controllers for a straightforward design with only a few buttons and a simple directional pad. The Remote still allows for a wide variety of inputs, though, via a motion-sensing internal accelerometer that can detect how the Remote is being tilted and moved through space and an infrared sensor bar that detects where on the screen the Remote is pointing. These two control methods make for a genuinely unique control scheme that is hard -- if not impossible -- to replicate well on other systems. For more traditional games, an optional Nunchuk attachment to the Remote adds additional buttons and a standard thumbstick.
The mini-game collections. For every truly classic Wii game, there are at least five other releases that are overly simple, cheap collections of mini-games that won't hold most players' attention for more than a few minutes. These games are almost always released at a bargain-basement price with a simple unifying conceit apparent from the title (see: Carnival Games, EA Playground and Ninja Reflex). Almost without exception, these mini-game collections are shoddily made and don't offer anything original or even worthwhile as a means of fun. Stay away.
The Virtual Console
Of course, disc-based Wii games are only a part of the system's library. Owners with a high-speed Internet connection can purchase and download classic games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis and more with the flick of the Remote. Sure, they might not be the prettiest games to look at or listen to anymore, but many of these classic games still pack the same enjoyable gameplay punch that they did when they first came out. (You can also download original games for the Wii, using a feature called WiiWare, but to tell you the truth, most of them aren't worth the money.)
Wii MotionPlus ($20).
These small, lightweight dongles, which attach to the bottom of the Wii Remote, helps the system detect your motions more accurately in certain recent games. One such dongle comes with the excellent Wii Sports Resort, but you'll want to drop $20 on another if you want to play multiplayer modes in this or other Wii Motion Plus games, like Virtua Tennis 2009.
Remote Controller for Nintendo Wii
Extra controllers ($40). The Wii comes with one Wii Remote and one Nunchuk, but you'll want to buy at least one more of each to take advantage of the system's many multiplayer games. Also keep an eye out for Wii Play, a selection of a few relatively simple two-player games that comes with an extra Remote for $50.
Nyko Charge Station
A controller charger ($30). While the Wii's wireless Remote is revolutionary and everything, it's also quite the battery hog. If you don't want to take out a second mortgage just to support your AA battery purchases, get a rechargeable battery pack to keep your Remotes juiced. Might I recommend Nyko's Wii Charge Station, which comes with a snazzy base to show off two to four Remotes as they charge.
2GB SD Gaming Memory Card for Nintendo Wii
SD Card ($25). The Wii's wimpy 512 MB of on-board storage can fill up quickly, especially if you're a fan of downloadable games. An SD card lets you increase the storage space. Shop around and you can probably find a 2 GB card -- more than enough for most users -- for about $25.
System fans ($10). These accessories are marketed as a way to guard against overheating systems by circulating air away from the hardware. In reality, the Wii puts out very little heat and should be fine if it's in a generally well-ventilated area. Save your money and put it towards an extra controller instead.
Plastic Remote Attachments ($5 - $20). There is a surprisingly large number of these cheap, plastic attachments, which clip onto the Remote to make it look like a tennis racquet, sword, pool cue, saxophone, pom-poms or dozens of other in-game objects. Besides throwing off the Remote's careful balance, they often obscure the pointer function, making menus harder to use. Plus, they just look tacky. Stay away!
Ten must-buy games for your library
Ten must-download Virtual Console games
Mega Man 2
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Super Mario 64
Super Mario Bros. 3
Super Mario World
Super Castlevania IV
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
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