I’ve been a PC gamer for nearly thirty years. (I started as a young boy on an Apple II.) Recently I’ve grown away from gaming (except for World of Warcraft). I owned a Nintendo Gamecube for a while, but traded it on craigslist for a digital camera. But ever since I first heard reports about the Nintendo Wii last May, I’ve coveted one. I saved some money explicitly to purchase a system on the day it was released.
Last Saturday, after our college reunion, I drove to the Oregon City Fred Meyer to buy a Wii at midnight. I didn’t get one. I was 77th in line and the store only had 75 units. So I got out of bed on Sunday morning at 4:30 to stand in line at the Oak Grove Fred Meyer. This time I was 9th — I got one.
I only played for a few hours yesterday, but that was enough for me to fall in love with the Wii. I think Kris even liked it. Here are the four games I own and my initial impression of each:
- Wii Sports — This game is included with the system, and does a fine job of showcasing the revolutionary controllers. The sports themselves are crude representations, but it doesn’t matter because Wii Sports is all about the gameplay. Here’s how you serve a ball in Wii tennis: you flick the controller up to toss the ball, and then you swing the controller over your head like a tennis racket. You don’t press any buttons. To bowl, you perform a bowling motion. For boxing, you attach a secondary controller and you throw punches, just as in real life. It’s actually quite a workout.
- Super Monkey Ball — This is primarily meant to be a “party game”. I only played it in single-player mode. Have you ever played one of those “marble in a maze” type games, where you have to tilt a board to get a marble or BB to travel through it? That’s what Super Monkey Ball is like, except you’re tilting your Wii controller to guide a monkey in a ball to collect bananas. This has potential.
- Zelda — Zelda is an ongoing Nintendo franchise about a young man in a mystical kingdom who has many adventures. This game is getting rave reviews, and it intrigues me, but it’s a little overwhelming. It’s almost too freeform for me. I’m taking it in bite-size chunks, but I’m worried that it’s not going to be as fun as Zeldas of former years. (Plus, I can’t get the darned horse to jump over fences!)
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance — The only true dud so far. Maybe I need to give it more of a chance. You’d think I’d be eager to control my favorite superheroes, but I have no idea what I’m doing to make Thor fight or the Human Torch shoot fire. My presence seems superfluous except to move the characters around the screen. They all fight (and win) without me. I’ve already posted to craigslist hoping to trade this game for something else.
So far, the Nintendo Wii is a lot of fun, especially Wii Sports. Here’s a system that doesn’t emphasize graphics or technology or shooting and killing. It emphasizes fun. The wireless controllers look like remote controls and contain built-in motion sensors. This opens up an entire new world for gameplay. I’m eager to see how other games take advantage of this unique control system.
Nintendo is marketing the Wii as a gaming system for people who don’t play games, and I think they’re onto something. Kris has never been much of a gamer, but she agreed to play a round of tennis with me yesterday. She beat me, and had fun doing it. Later she beat me at boxing (which kind of bruised my ego). Later still, she killed me at bowling — she scored 180 and I only scored 88. Yikes! (Tonight, just before I posted this entry, I beat her at baseball twice in a row, so I’m not completely inept.)
One final note is that playing a game on the Wii requires a lot more activity than playing a game on another system. For Wii Sports, you need a clear space in front of the television so that you have freedom to move around, to swing your controller. (I’m not sure we’re going to have enough room for four people to play doubles tennis.) A few rounds of boxing is actually enough to get my heart rate up. This might be the first videogame system that helps kids lose weight instead of gain it.