We came, we saw, and I…well I was a little disappointed. Not in Nintendo or the Wii, but more in the presentation and just a bit with myself. Fellow GN staffer Ben Berry already gave great impressions
of the games available for play, so I won’t waste time reiterating what he said, because I basically agree, and because I didn’t play all that much.
See, I made the grievous mistake of misinterpreting the surroundings. I played Wii Sports Bowling and loved it (more on that later), but then went for the Duck Hunt and Metroid kiosks. It might have been annoying at E3 to have gotten so little time with the Wii, but now I understand why. At the Fusion Tour, I must have stood in line for an hour and moved twelve paces. Basically, the time management could have been better and the lines weren’t very well regulated.
Those complaints aside, the event was a good showing, if a little minimalist. The bands were, of course, the main draw. I won’t give my opinions of the artists playing because either way I’ll make someone angry, so let me just say the music was a blaring cacophony that kept me from fully enjoying the gaming part of the tour. Other than that, I have no comment on the music.
The Wii portion was rather under-represented in my opinion. They had at most twelve kiosks, and while the ones on the bottom floor had lines that moved at a pretty good pace, the ones on the balcony dragged on in a jumbled crush of people shuffling back and forth. The games present were mostly the introductory sort—lots of Wii Sports, some Tony Hawk, Metroid Prime 3 and Excite Truck. I would’ve dearly liked to see Zelda or even Red Steel, but I suppose the point of the event was to get the message across, and Wii Sports does that incredibly well.
You could see it on the faces of the people playing baseball or tennis. It just works. They all seemed a tad astonished that their movements were what mattered, not the continuous hammering of candy-colored buttons. As I played Wii Bowling, the subtle brilliance of the concept dawned on me. This was the kind of fun I had back before gaming was like work, where I just picked up a controller and played. I realized that I could easily play Wii Bowling for an hour, working on my technique or competing with a friend. Using my own fluid movements to adjust the ball’s trajectory felt so good. For once I was putting a little English into the roll, not turning a stick and pressing a button. No longer is it a basic, natural concept mapped to an abstract selection of keys. My mind almost told me I was bowling.
And that made me want to try out the classics all the more. The Duck Hunt game called out to me, much as it did back in the days of the NES, its simplistic concept and aggravating depth as real as before. Strike that—it was better than before, and not just from a graphical standpoint—it was that controller that made it look so addicting. The original point-and-shoot was back, improved exponentially. Once they get that zapper gun shell done for the Wiimote, I’ll be there with my twenty clams. Metroid was also cruelly tantalizing. Regular readers of Gaming Nexus know I have an unhealthy fixation on the series, and having played it at E3 I wanted so badly to try it again. After all, the official word from Nintendo is that they’ve refined the controls to almost PC FPS precision.
But that’s when it started to go downhill. The line struggled lethargically as people spent too much time with each game, and when I asked one of the demo staff “how long,” he said it was mostly luck at that point. It was then I understood that the 7 minute limit at E3 had indeed served a purpose besides ticking me off at the time. At the Fusion Tour, such clockwork efficiency was not in effect; the event was more lax, per se. So, I could muscle my way through a crowd of fans while deafening music blared in the background, or leave. Reluctantly, I chose the latter—it just didn’t seem worth it, with the release coming up in a month and a half.
But I did get some juicy info before I bailed. A quick disclaimer before I continue:
The information I am about to present came from show staff and not official Nintendo Public Relations employees. Therefore it cannot be considered true at this time, and reasonable doubt should still be maintained.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what I learned. While playing Wii Bowling, I commented about the Mii avatars. The demo guy told me that the one I was using was pre-fabricated for the show, but in the final version of the game I could customize my own. I already knew that, but he told me that I could store no less than 10, that’s one-zero Mii’s on my personal Wiimote. For 6KB of non-volatile memory, that’s a lot.
When I asked about what games would be included in the “Wii Play” compilation, I found out something else. Wii Play, for those who don’t know, is another introductory collection like Wii Sports. It includes the Duck Hunt game (Wii Shooting), Billiards, and a couple other classics. In Japan and Europe Wii Play is slated to arrive on each region’s respective launch date, and come bundled with the first Wiimote you go out and buy separately. There hasn’t been any official word yet from the Nintendo brass, but the demo guy told me that it would indeed be released at launch in America, packed in with the controller. I thought it was odd that Nintendo had confirmed the title for UK and JPN launch, but not for the states, as it just makes sense as a US launch title. The fact that they had it demoed at two kiosks at the Fusion Tour gives me more confidence that it’ll see a US release.
My last little tidbit came from some casual observation. On multiple occasions, the Metroid and Wii Play kiosks locked up. This was probably caused by several factors. The poor demo units were being played to death, nonstop, reset time after time, and there were also the relentless, organ-jarring peals of vibration coming from the stage below. A crash was inevitable, and I heard that similar freeze-ups happened at Nintendo’s New York show a few weeks ago.
Then an interesting thing happened. The demo staff milled about for a few seconds, conversing with each other, and then one proceeded to reach inside the glass case containing the Wii, and reboot the console with a press of the power button. There was an actual, working production Wii console wired to each of those displays. It seems that Nintendo is no longer issuing modded GameCubes for public events, like the rather unsightly black boxes hidden behind the kiosks at E3. I know it’s been several months since E3, but the presence of Wii consoles at this event tells me that they have enough Wii units to go around.
At first I thought maybe they had developer kits in the back, with empty, blue LED-lit Wii shells there to look good for the audience. That button-press reboot confirms that the Wii is far into production and I have high hopes for a solid, if not excessive release. There will be shortages I’m sure, but if they have real units for the Fusion Tour, then there will be enough to go around come November 19th.
So, I left the 2006 Nintendo Fusion Tour with temporarily deflated enthusiasm. It wasn’t the gaming high I experienced at E3, and while I know the Fusion Tour wasn’t supposed to be on that scale at all, I didn’t get enough of a Nintendo vibe. I guess I was expecting a cleaner, less intimidating presentation. I suppose emotive hardcore does not lend itself well to such aesthetics. I’m still excited for the Wii, I just felt that the music and the gaming didn’t blend well into one enjoyable event. Would I go again next year? Well, not unless we get some media access next time. I don’t want to be treated like a VIP, but I would like some honest time with the upcoming products so I can give decent impressions. As it is, I left with sustained hopes for Wii, some suitable swag (Wii guitar picks!) and a minor headache.