tyler butler

Nintendo Wii

I managed to snag a Wii this past weekend at Target. It was a bit of a chore. I spent seven hours in 30 degree weather with 20 other brave souls who dared tochallenge the elements. I brought my heavy coat, a couple of blankets, a folding chair, and some reading material, and settled in with the other friendly members of the line around 1 am on a Saturday night. I was 10th in line, and at about 3am the night shift manager walked out and told us that they’d “probably” have 21 Wii’s. The info was accurate, and at 8:30am, a very tired, cold Tyler walked out of the store with a bundle of Japanese electronic awesomeness.

When I got home I plugged it in and got everything wired up. It was pretty straightforward. I didn’t have component cables yet, so I had to use the composite cable. My gosh, does 480i suck. Ever since I got my new 50" plasma last month I haven’t been able to watch low quality signals for long. I had initially planned to wait to get the component cable, but I ordered one from Nintendo the very next day. They must have shipped from Redmond, too, because I got it the following day, which was awesome. 480p makes the picture less nauseatingly bad.

Anyway, the Wiimote is surprisingly easy to set up and use. Just put the sensor bar in the appropriate location, and you’re pretty much done. I expected to have to do some sort of calibration like you do on a PDA touch screen, but there wasn’t any. Mnoving it around to select things on the screen is easy, and it has a very mouse-like feel. One of the coolest things is that it can detect the orientation of your hand, so if you hold the Wiimote upside down, the pointer icon on the screen goes upside down as well. This capability is important in games too, most notably in Wii Sports Bowling. Pretty cool stuff from a technological perspective.

I had a ton of problems getting my Wii on the internet, though. I still haven’t gotten it working with my own network. I’m mooching off a neighbor’s until I get mine figured out. I keep getting random errors when testing the connection. The Wii of course just gives you an error code, and then you have to look it up on their support website to try and figure out what it is. And then, you have to type in the error code and hit search, because they don’t just have a flat list of the codes and what they mean. And to add insult to injury, they have ranges of error codes that all have the same recommendation. Change the wireless channel to 1 or 11. Check your SSID, blah blah blah. None of it has worked for me. This is one area where I think Microsoft really has it down when you compare the 360 experience to the Wii.

Once I got it online, updating it was painfully slow. It took about a half hour to get all the updates downloaded and installed. Compare this to the 360, which has taken less than 3 minutes for every update I’ve ever applied.

The Wii UI is very minimalistic. There’s not a lot of color, just grey, black, and white, and the occasional blue. And it has this annoying pinging sound that it makes whenever you’re applying an update or testing a wireless connection. It gets to you after awhile. And the Wii Store has this background music that is fun at first, but you get sick of it real quickly.

After all of the fooling around with getting it online and updated, I was pretty frustrated. It took me the better part of the day to get it up and running. So when I finally decided it was time to play Wii Sports, I was in a kind of bad mood. But within 5 minutes of standing in front of my TV, gesticulating wildly, my attitude had changed. Wii Sports is just freaking fun! I majorly suck at baseball and tennis, but I bowl pretty well, and I find boxing pretty fun. It took me awhile to figure out that I could use both hands while boxing. Yeah, I’m an idiot.

I also got Zelda, but I haven’t played it yet. I also have a ton of GameCube games that I haven’t tried yet. That is one really cool thing – my Wavebirds are still useable, as are my memory cards with all my save games. I could fully retire my GameCube if it weren’t for the Gameboy Player, which I use to play Gameboy games on the big screen.

I still have a lot of stuff to check out. I added Patrick to my address book (seriously, this is a painful experience compared to the Xbox Live accounts and friends list. A 16 digit number? Come on! I can’t remember that to tell my friends!), so hopefully we’ll be exchanging Mii’s soon. Not sure what that means, but no doubt it will be a cultural experience.

It’s clear that this console was designed by a Japanese company. The design and focus are very different from something like the 360. And that is awesome! Variety is good. I look forward to better online experiences as they roll out new services and channels. There’s a lot of potential, and just like Xbox Live, it’s going to take some time to really grow.

Until then, anybody up for a round of Wii Bowling?