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Wii: The Beginning
Written by James Hobbs

Monkey Ball
We like controls

I donít normally like the kind of retrospective buffoonery that you tend to find on websites at this time of year.
Thereís prevalence for the kind of horrible ĎBest ofí compilations that Channel 4 seem to pump out on a weekly basis that I find entirely disagreeable. Despite this, Iím going to do it anyway, which does make me a bit of a hypocrite Ė in my defense, however, Iím going to limit it to one thing. Wii.

Wii didnít really have a much of a look-in during 2006, with the emergence of the console coming at the beginning of December. Itís certainly made an impact, however Ė the sales figures weíve seen so far indicate itís been snapped up with a degree of rapidity that rivals any other desirable goods this Christmas. Whilst this is a positive sign for Nintendo, Iím not entirely convinced that 2007 is going to be quite the easy ride that Nintendo may hope it will be. Put simply, Iím not entirely convinced about Wii.

That might sound horribly pessimistic, but I feel entirely justified in my opinion that, whilst Wii is certainly fun in a highly ridiculous manner that is nothing short of splendid, itís not quite there yet. The first time I played Wii, at the BBC Good Food Show in London, I did feel slightly let down. Some of the titles we played there were demos, such as Twilight Princess, but even playing the final version of Wii Sports wasnít quite the experience that Iíd somehow built it up to be. Months and months of hype may have created an unfulfillable degree of expectance, but even disregarding that, there doesnít seem to be quite the level of convergence between movement and on-screen representation that I want.

Obviously Nintendo have gone out of their way to keep things simple Ė Wii Sports is a good example of their philosophy for the more mainstream titles. However, as good as Wii Sports is, it still doesnít seem quite right. Thereís something of a haphazard nature to the control systems employed, a vague feeling that somehow youíre not fully in control. This feeling extends to even the more complex games like Twilight Princess Ė whilst the aiming for projectile weapons is very good, simple tasks like moving Link around, riding the horse, and even equipping weapons can result in entirely the wrong action being performed. These are but brief examples, but if youíve played Wii for any length of time and youíre capable of ignoring the sheer novelty and excitement of the damn thing, youíll understand what I mean.

The games themselves have some way to go before they can scale the heights that the potential of the console hints towards. Twilight Princess, whilst undoubtedly an epic beast, is easily one of the most flawed games Iíve played recently Ė it is only thanks to the cinematic genius and elusive charm possessed by the title that it manages to escape itís many problems. It certainly isnít a Ďperfect game,í if such a thing exists, and anybody suggesting that it is clearly hasnít played it enough. Itís repetitive, it doesnít challenge Ďthe formulaí often enough, and I think that Zelda needs to be taken in more of a new direction before the series becomes utterly stagnant. Some parts of the game are gloriously refreshing, and it is these areas that should be focussed on.

Controls and games aside, Wii lets down in other areas too. The Virtual Console, a potentially essential component of the Wii experience, has been so far underwhelming. There are some Ďclassicí titles on there, but nothing truly essential. Super Mario 64 is far more enjoyable when played with an N64 pad, and more tempting N64 titles have been so far neglected. Many of the games run in 50hz with borders, which is quite frankly disgusting in this day and age Ė European gamers havenít had to put up with such nonsense for many years. We want our games running at full speed, on a full screen. Itís utter laziness. This, combined with the fairly slow trickle of games thus far, means that instead of being essential, the Virtual Console is a novelty that isnít really worth the money.

Obviously the console is still very young, and as such Nintendo have a chance to address all of these issues and present a console worthy of the Nintendo label. Wireless internet means that they can deliver console updates to amend or implement features, and hopefully they will capitalise on this capability and offer downloadable gaming content. The Virtual Console, if treated as the stand-alone experience that it should be, could become a major part of the Wii experience Ė enough third party games released frequently should ensure this.

Ulimately, though, the developers need to really get to grips with the console and itís control system, and find ways to make it really work. So far most of the controls weíve seen are little more than functional, and all too often I find myself wishing for a D-Pad option.

The controls need to be so good that you forget youíre even using a controller.

Thatís a tall order.

I hope it gets fulfilled.

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