Nintendo Wii Game Console

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, November 2006
Manufactured by: Nintendo
Requires: Almost any television will do
MSRP: US$249.99

The price point . . . ah, that perfect price point. Nintendo does it again. Has the company that spawned the Nintendo DS portable game device—and owns the portable gaming market because of it—managed to trump the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3? The answer is, maybe—but it doesn't matter. In fact, Nintendo isn't actually competing with Microsoft and Sony. Believe it or not, Nintendo cares about what Mom thinks. Nintendo cares about the 6-12 year old crowd (and a big crowd it is). Nintendo cares about a large segment of the teenage crowd. Nintendo cares about being itself, marching to the beat of its own drum and sticking to what it does best.

The Nintendo Wii is a small device. Sitting next to an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, the Wii looks positively diminutive. Don't be fooled by size though, because the little white Wii is as big as it has to be. Case construction is sturdy and even the flip-up top covers which provide access to legacy ports feel substantial enough to tolerate a bit of abuse and accidental knocking and bending. The Wii is backward-compatible with almost all Nintendo GameCube and Super NES games and includes four ports for old controllers and two slots for memory cards. This is all in addition to the remarkable, system integrated, 3D motion sensitive, rumble pack-equipped wireless remote (Wii-mote) and the Nunchuk motion sensitive controller (which plugs into the Wii-mote for use with specific games). The oblong Wii-mote also houses a small speaker which produces various sorts of audible feedback.

The small form factor of the Wii doesn't in any way reduce the impression of excellent value as soon as you open the box. Unlike Sony, which supplies a Blu-ray movie disc instead of a game title with the PlayStation 3, Nintendo supplies the delightful Wii Sports Game Suite with its console. The top of the unit has two flip-up doors—one for GameCube controllers, the other for GameCube and Super NES game cartridges. The front of the Wii has a slot loading disc drive for native Wii games (and only game discs—the drive does not recognize CD or DVD discs). WiFi connectivity is built in and is used for game updates, system updates and online game play. The package also includes composite cables which will only provide low resolution output to a TV. Considering the Wii's 480p output resolution limit you'll want to take advantage of all of it by purchasing a Wii component cable set before leaving the store. The curious, standalone IR remote receiver is also in the box. It's a stick-like thing which you set up on top of the TV you've connected to the Wii. The receiver does an excellent of job of picking up the wireless signals from the Wii-mote and Nunchuk, but it will be a bit of a hindrance if you plan on regularly transporting your Wii to different locations. Although the Wii contains 512MB of internal memory, you can augment it by using the SD card slot on the front of the console.

Internet connectivity is accomplished through a WiFi wireless connection which can be securely encrypted using standard WEP or WPA settings. At this time, Nintendo is not offering a wired ethernet adapter of any kind (a USB-type ethernet adapter might prove useful for people who can't install a wireless router because of local interference). Once a network connection is established, the Wii is always online waiting for notifications from Nintendo's WiiConnect service. This provides you with access to Nintendo's WiiChannels which supply all sorts of information through the console including news, messages, weather and dozens of other selections. The system is not fully operational as of this writing, but more and more of it should be showing up each week.


We needed a bit of time to get used to the Wii-mote and Nunchuk. Initially, a half hour familiarization session left us a bit sweaty but extremely satisfied and giddy with laughter after some really funny attempts at Wii Sports Baseball. In fact, the controller learning curve is short because the Nintendo engineers who perfected the controllers are really, really smart and managed to figure out the biomechanical relationship between typical human physical coordination and its logical interaction with the controllers. The face-forward orientation demanded by most games tends to correctly orient the IR transceivers in the controllers, which in turn makes lag almost non-existent in most games. Make note though that some people with really quick muscle speed will be able to get slightly ahead of the controller resulting in some screen delay. In Wii Sports Baseball some of you will have to start your swing early but slow down the speed of movement through the swing; in Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess you'll have to moderate sword movement in order to improve the accuracy and timing of thrusts and slashes.

The Wii-mote is obviously light in weight which demands a light touch and some sensitivity on your part when playing certain games (especially ones which involve steering—or maybe it's just me?). Swing speed in Wii Sports Bowling is satisfyingly realistic. However, the rumble/force feedback device and speaker inside the Wii-mote supply lots of useful environmental clues as you move through action sequences.

Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess provides an engrossing environment that really has to be experienced to be fully understood. The game designers working with Nintendo just seem to continually come up with unrelentingly playable games. No matter what you choose from the new crop of Wii games, you're likely to have a good experience and in many cases something really satisfying, not in the least because of the amazing controllers. The high voltage mayhem surrounding the release of this console is not misplaced.

Call of Duty 3 was a new and somewhat difficult challenge to play with the Wii-mote and Nunchuk. The movement of the Nunchuk actually controls the camera. There are other issues. Dedicated CoD3 players will adapt quickly, but casual players may find the experience frustrating. If you persevere though, the reward will be a gaming experience significantly superior to playing CoD3 with a keyboard and mouse.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is a lot of fun with the new controllers. The game is well-conceived on its own, but the addition of the new controllers and the depth to which their unique characteristics have been integrated in the game play is amazing.

Cons: The wireless controller will eat cheap batteries very quickly. We recommend spending some money on 2800 MaH NiMH rechargeable AA batteries—the high load ones sold for digital cameras—along with an appropriate charger. The reasonably heavy duty cable connecting the Wii-mote and the Nunchuk should be long enough for most people, but until you get used to active motion sensing while they're connected (most notably during hand-to-hand combat and martial arts games), be careful with your arm and hand movements in order to avoid flipping the cable behind your head, snagging a nearby lamp and so on. I have a nicely bruised knuckle from hitting a side table during an early swing in Wii Sports Bowling; the motion sensing controllers will turn you into a believer in no time, but you'll have to position yourself carefully for some games. No CD or DVD playback. At this price point, we really don't have a lot of complaints. Considering how well the Wii works and how much fun it is, we really shouldn't be complaining at all.

Pros: You will not pry the Nintendo DS out of my 9 year old nephew's hands with anything less than a thermonuclear blast. I suspect the same thing is going to happen after he gets his paws on the Nintendo Wii. What a fun experience it is. Mind you, my wife is unlikely to let go of the Wii-mote any time too soon either. The Wii does not offer high definition video output, but you'll nonetheless find that it's all a huge step up from the GameCube. Nintendo has worked closely with graphics hardware superstar ATI to come up with a wonderful graphics processor for the Wii. The new processor and the fancy NAND flash memory also make the Wii much faster than the GameCube. The overall visual experience is rich, satisfying and amazingly detailed. The 3D rendering, cool textures, strangely realistic surfaces, characters and colorful situations are innately intriguing. The combined Wii-mote and Nunchuk can be held in either hand to fully accommodate left-handed and right-handed people. The large number of excellent new game titles which take advantage of the Wii design, the delightful wireless controller technology, and the wonderful selection of games clearly stand out as the main reason to choose the Nintendo Wii over an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3. Fancy that—dropping a new game console onto the market along with a matching raftload of hot titles. Makes sense to me. The large number of Wii-optimized game titles are terrific with dozens and dozens more in the pipeline. Graphics output works perfectly with both 4:3 and 16:9 television aspect ratios. The 480p output is clean and remarkably detailed, which is a tribute to both the hardware makers and the game designers. The bundled Wii Sports should provide a lot of fun for every member of your family; in our view it's the best family or group sports game suite ever released. Designed for kids and adults alike, even some jaded teens. Nintendo has hit a home run. Highly recommended.

Looking for cool games for your Wii? Then check this out:

Top Wii Games!
KSN Product Rating:





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