It’s a good thing I didn’t base my opinion of the Nintendo Wii on the quality of the bands playing at last nights kick off of the 2006 edition of the Nintendo Fusion Tour. If I had, this wouldn’t be the article you’ll see it’s going to be. Of course, I’m 32, so my idea of the pop-punk/rock scene was at least 15 years ago, when the acts making up the tour would have likely been of the grunge variety.
Anyways, Enough about the “music”, or whatever was really happening on the stage (The sounds of two cats fighting on a dumpster may not be far off from what I heard, except cats can’t swear). I was there to get my first hands on experience with the Wii. At E3 2006, the line was far too long, and frankly, I’m not a Nintendo fanboy. In fact, the only Nintendo product I’ve ever owned was a N64 back in the day when GoldenEye was the best game on the market. To me, Nintendo has always been the gaming platform of choice for children and aside from their 3 major platformers (Mario, Zelda, and Metroid). I felt there was little reason for me to buy any Nintendo console, even the handhelds, as I could get most of the same games on higher end hardware that my friends were buying.
After last night, and my experience with the Wii, that’s about to change.
If you’ve read any of my prior articles on my time at E3, or my desires for improvement in the gaming industry, revolutionizing controllers has always been at the top of my list. Before last night, the closest I’d seen to a real change in the way people think about the how to of playing games were 3D mice and head mounted LCD’s. The few gyroscopic based controllers were awkward and bulky, and the manufacturers could never figure out how to go wireless without giving up on reliable connectivity and maintain good game play. Until the Wii, that is, because after just half an hour using the Wii remote, it’s clear that Nintendo got it right.
At the tour, Nintendo had 10 Wii units with large LCD displays. Available for play were Wii Sports, Wii Play, Excite Truck, WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, and Metroid prime 3: Corruption. As you can guess by the predominant age range of the attendees, the lines for Tony Hawk and Metroid were quite long, so I made the decision to get more hands on time as the expense of playing the hotter titles.
Wii Sports is comprised of Tennis, Baseball, Golf, Bowling, and Boxing. All of the sports except Golf were available to play. The games themselves are not high-end titles; in fact they are basically cleaned-up “proof of concept” games intended for the user to learn how to work the Wii remote in a 3D space. Making learning fun is a concept popular with educators, and it seems to work on gamers as well, as the sports games made for a short learning curve on how to use the remote.
The first game I played was Bowling. It was simple enough. With the remote in hand, you squeeze the trigger, and then swing your arm back and forward like you’re throwing an actual bowling ball. You release the trigger to release the ball. Using the buttons on the remote, you can adjust for line and natural curve on the ball as the gyros in the remote capture the arc of your arm swing, and a minute left hook will carry the ball slight left across the lane. After just a few tries, I was making adjustments and throwing strikes. There was a slight disconnect with reality in that to add speed to the throw, you flick your wrist right before release.
One think you notice right away is that the playing experience seems very pliable. Moving between games doesn’t require a new controller; it simply requires different use of the same controller. My next game was Tennis, and you use move the remote left and right to move back and forth on the court, and a simple flick of the wrist to hit the ball. It actually felt very much like playing ping-pong standing still, which I think is an excellent approximation of what each sport game felt like; playing a miniaturized version of a real game.
Next was Boxing, which after only two rounds of playing, it was easy to predict that several companies will be launching exercise titles exclusively for the Wii. For boxing, you actually use two remotes, one in each hand, which approximate gloves. You raise and lower the remotes to block, move them side to side to dodge, and punching with either hand has the same effect on screen. Much like in bowling, the angle of the punching motion was interpreted into different types of punches and where on the body they landed. This is the first boxing simulator I’ve played where I actually came away feeling like I’d done some boxing.
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