While Sony failed to impress with their lack of innovation and effort, Nintendo came out swinging and left me with a huge smile on my face. Even though the majority of the games they’ve been showcasing don’t appeal to me in the least, I’m still extremely stoked on the Nintendo Wii and the direction Nintendo is headed in the next generation of console gaming. It didn’t take long to get over the name (Wii) and even less time to convince me that the Wiimote/nunchaku controller is the way to go. It’s apparent that Nintendo has a clear vision of where they’re going and they’re serious about changing the way we game.
The press conference opened with Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo GM, creator of Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, etc.) conducting a faux-symphony of some very Nintendo-esque characters on a giant screen behind him. This continued while various people would take focus while they played games using the Wiimote. Right off the bat, Nintendo addresses what everyone has wanted to know since last year’s Tokyo Game Show – how do you use the controller? After a short spiel, they cut to some game footage showing people using the controller to play new games which haven’t yet been announced, including a new 3D Super Mario game called Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3, a handful of kiddy-looking sports games, a first person action game called Red Steel and wrapping up with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. This is a perfect example of why Nintendo knows exactly what they’re doing. They realize the gaming industry isn’t about sales figures and how many units you’ve shipped. It’s not a big dick contest as some who have you believe (Sony, I’m looking in your direction). It’s about playing games, having fun and innovation. Within the first 10 minutes of the conference, Nintendo demonstrated this and reminded us all why we love gaming and furthermore, how important Nintendo as a company and a leader in the industry, really is.
To clear something up right off the top, the Wii is not competing directly with the PS3 and Xbox 360. It outputs a 480p signal while the Xbox 360’s native resolution is 720p and the PS3 is supposedly 1280p. Don’t even bother comparing specs as there really is no comparison. Nintendo is the underdog when it comes to hardware once again. They’ve made it perfectly clear that the next generation for them is not about just making things look better, but adding a new dimension to the game play experience and truly changing the way we play games.
The Wii has been referred to as a virtual console. Not a whole lot has been explained about their online service. But we do know that the Wii will be able to play GameCube games (disc required) and there will be downloadable games from the NES, SNES, N64, Sega Genesis and Turbo Grafx 16 consoles. That in itself, is extremely exciting for those that have been gaming for years and miss those old games and even more exciting for the younger gamers who will have a library of hundreds, maybe even thousands of games at their fingertips. It should be mentioned that there will be a generic controller available for the retro-games, so you don’t have to worry about trying to play Super Mario World with the new controller.
The release date and price hasn’t yet been announced. But they did mention the Will will be available this year – so Q4 most likely. The new Zelda game will be a launch title, and will also be released for the GameCube the same day. So even those who can’t get a Wii at launch still have something to look forward to.
When it came time to see the games in action and hear people’s reactions to the controller’s unique functionality, I was totally skeptical. I just didn’t see myself sitting on my couch, waving a remote around in front of my TV. A lot of the games they’ve showed look very gimmicky. Red Steel looks like one of those old arcade shooters where you literally held an over-sized plastic gun and shot dudes that popped out around corners and from behind objects. There’s a tennis game that up to four people can play, but how realistic is that? Four people in one room swinging remotes around – don’t tell me you’re not gonna get back-handed playing that game. But then I saw how the controller and nunchaku were used for Zelda and Metroid Prime 3 and it all started to make sense. I’m sure we will see some games designed specifically to make use of the controller. But for games like Metroid Prime, that have suffered from poor control schemes in previously installments, the Wiimote will be a saviour.
The basic idea behind the controller is that you use the nunchaku in your left hand to control movement. It has an analog thumbstick and a couple buttons. The Wiimote is used to look, point and aim. I’m sure with a little practice, this will be a deadly combination for first person shooters and I’m ridiculously excited to try this out with Metroid Prime 3. One thing I didn’t realize about the nunchaku is that is also has motion sensing capabilities. I saw a video of a dude playing Metroid Prime 3 and he locked on to a dude with the Wiimote, then with a quick jolt of the nunchaku he had pulled a shield away from an enemy. That, is just cool!
I really think this console is going to be one you’ll have to get your hands on to be sold on it. So hopefully Nintendo sets up some good demo kiosks for people to try it out. There’s still lots of unknowns and plenty for us to look forward to in the coming months. Q4 is shaping up to be an exciting time for games in 2006!