Whee, a Wii(tm)

Happy New Year everyone!

Karin and I did manage to blip over to Valley Fair Mall to check out the "Wii Tour" that Tony had mentioned in my previous post complaining about Wii playable kiosks. I'm still unimpressed overall with the demo experience and the final consensus was "Meh."

At Valley Fair they have six kiosks - one running Excite Truck, one running Wii Sports Boxing (and ONLY Boxing), one running Rayman Raving Rabbids (but only one game - a western shootout thing that uses the "nunchuk" attachment), two running Wii Sports (no nunchuks so you can't play Boxing, but you can play Golf, Tennis, or Bowling), and one running Zelda. The Zelda station was monopolized by a couple of pre-teens the whole time I was there, and I didn't feel like arguing with them about it. Karin played some Bowling and the Raving Rabbids game, I played a few frames of Bowling, a match of Tennis, and the same Rabbids game.

The kiosk has tethers on the controllers (naturally enough) but they are far too short. Karin complained about it on both games, and it was visibily screwing up her bowling follow-through. I had a couple of shots on Tennis where it pulled my swing short. That's just poor execution, but I guess it's a relatively minor point. I don't really think that Karin would have enjoyed it MUCH more with a longer tether, but it's difficult to say for certain.

I noticed one thing about Wii Bowling - Karin kept doing something that caused it to stop the game and give her a tutorial screen about how to bowl. (I think she may have been not releasing the trigger in time, but I'm not certain.) Anyway, when it happened the game would stop, pop up an entirely static screen and wait for her to push 'A' to continue. The only clue as to what was needed was a little A button icon in the lower right corner. As a gamer I understood it, but it was a far cry from the whole "everyone loves the Wii" angle that Nintendo is pushing (and the media for the most part regurgitates). The kiosk staff were quick to come over and tell her what to do, which indicates to me it was a fairly regular problem. I watched after that and saw two other people do the exact same thing in just 5-6 minutes of watching. It's a remarkably poor UI decision on Nintendo's part and I think it really hurts in a game that is so focused on an immersive experience.

The end result was that it didn't change my Wii analysis any. Karin enjoyed it, but not enough to play it regularly if we had one. I was underwhelmed by the single-player experience on Wii Sports - it's an interesting novelty, but it wouldn't last a week before I was tired of it. The Raving Rabbids demo was just poor - I didn't find the game demoed that interesting and there was something definitely wrong with the tracking. I don't know if it was bad lighting, or some sort of calibration issue or what but I wasn't pointing the remote where the aiming cursor was. It was playable, but it felt like driving a mouse cursor around, not like I was "really" aiming a reticule. Frankly I'd vastly prefer dual analog sticks (or a mouse and keyboard natch) for FPS controls. Maybe it works better in a home situation, and maybe Raving Rabbids has a bunch of other mini-games that are more entertaining than the one I played. Still, it was a poor showing.

It still comes down to you either feel paying $300 for Zelda is a good deal, or you have enough interest in setting up a party system (in which case the cost drives up pretty quickly as you buy more controllers) to warrant it. Neither describes me. If the WarioWare game gets really good reviews I might reconsider the system (Karin really liked the first WarioWare), but man - after that it's a wasteland. Name the next good Wii title coming out. People will say Mario Galaxy or Metroid - but I'd bet we aren't going to see those until Q4 2007 (say September or later - and I'd be willing to put money on one of those two titles slipping out of 2007 altogether).

At the end of the day, I'm still unconvinced that third parties are going to support it with quality stuff, and frankly Nintendo's first party support for the Cube was so erratic as to call into question whether they still have "the touch" that used to make picking up a Nintendo console a no-brainer.

If Karin had walked out wanting one I would have started looking for one. But she didn't, and it didn't push me any further towards wanting one. If Zelda is the biggest draw than I'll go ahead and just rent the Gamecube version.

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