Nintendo press event--Sean Colleli's Wii impressions

by: Sean Colleli -
It was a big week for Nintendo with the October 2nd press conference dropping a number of big announcements.  The DSi was the most prominent surprise but I'd like to talk about the Wii announcements first, as they're just as significant if not as exciting.

Nintendo fans finally have some decent software to live for, with the reveal of several new games that don't have "Wii" or "music" in the title.  First off is the new Punch Out!, a retro revival if there ever was one.  The original game was one of the NES's runaway hits, and from the teaser videos it looks like Nintendo understands what made the original game great.  There were a lot of familiar faces and the gameplay looks solid and nostalgic.  I was just hoping for something completely different--Kid Icarus.  They've been hinting at it for over a year and while Punch Out is great, Nintendo should really stop torturing the fans.

Sin and Punishment came right out of left field, and I'm delighted to see a sequel to the Japan-only N64 cult hit.  The first game apparently had very good Virtual Console numbers, and that's what prompted Nintendo to make a sequel.  They might have been astonished that an audience besides grandparents and soccer moms play the Wii but at least they're paying attention.

Square finally deigned to allow Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time to be shown, and I can see why it's been taking them so damn long.  Wii to DS play was expected but considering everyone and their dog owns a DS, it should be easier to play than the GameCube one.  The lack of a link cable will really ease things up--the GBA to GCN play was innovative but clunky and expensive.

Some of the lesser titles, like Dynasty Warriors and Trace Memory were great to see, especially with the possibility of WiiMotionPlus compatibility in the former.  It's always great to see The Conduit and the brilliant guys from High Voltage, and I'm happy to see that they're still pushing the living tar out of the Wii's processors.  With the magic they are working with that machine, I wouldn't be surprised if they discover that the Wii can cure cancer if you push it hard enough.

What's intriguing me, though, is the "Let's Play on Wii" series.  Nintendo is basically retrofitting GameCube titles with Wii features--one example was Pikmin.  This sounds kind of like double-dipping to me, but for people who missed the games on the Cube this could be like an enhanced "Player's Choice" series.  As long as they're budget priced I think it'll be fine, and this also lends credence to the rumored Metroid Prime Trilogy.  I for one would love to see Prime 1 and 2 remade with Wii controls, and possibly online multiplayer.  I just hope Miyamoto's hinted Pikmin 3 isn't simply a remake of one of the first two games in the series.

The biggest announcement for me, though, was the storage solution.  This has been one of the Wii's biggest problems since it was released, and WiiWare made it about 100 times worse.  Nintendo isn't giving us a hard drive but they are finally opening the SD card slot.  Now you'll be able to save, access and play games from an SD card, instead of having to copy them over to Wii system memory.  Nintendo has a long and bitter hatred of software piracy, and I'm betting they kept the SD slot locked up tight for so long for fear of pirates and homebrew coders.  It seems they finally got their minds right and realized that the slot was going to waste; the Wii's piddling 512 internal MB was never enough. 

Now we can finally download VC and WiiWare games without deleting everything on the internal memory.  I'll certainly be buying more VC games now that I can store more than a handful of them at a time.  The only problem is that the firmware update for the SD use won't be coming until next spring.  It's great that they're addressing the storage solution but it's been a huge problem for a long time, and they shouldn't make us wait any longer.

"It's about damn time" was the whole feeling I got from this conference.  Most of the announcements were like water in the scorching desert--finally, some good games and a lot of other things we've been asking for.  My problem is that we should have seen some of this stuff at E3, and other things, like the storage solution, should have been available at launch or shortly thereafter.  Again, it shows that Nintendo is a very reactionary company.  They'll take as little effort as possible to make a disproportionately large amount of money, and they won't fix a problem until people complain vocally, and for a long time.
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