Good news, everyone! (Wii impressions)

The 360 made it back, safe and sound, after three weeks of being out for repair. More correctly, a replacement unit made it back... And the unit that showed up is defective. It crashes frequently, the DVD drive is inoperable while the unit stands upright, and the DVD drive also makes terrible thunking sounds preceding hardware crashes. After a particularly scathing email to the support team, which I have no doubts will be met with an automated response, I feel a bit better. Alas, it looks like I'm still out of "The Game".

I took advantage of the crippling snowstorm a while back and called some nearby stores hoping to find a Wii in stock... Sure enough, they were in stock, but nobody could actually get to them on account of the snow. So off I went, facing the treacherous two to four inches of snow, all for a Wii! My grizzled Alaskan mountain man self was able to successfully navigate the snow... so by the time I arrived at the store, there were still plenty of Wii units on the shelf. The Factoria Target received roughly 50 units on the day I arrived, and the Redmond Target received somewhere in the range of 120. Accessories are almost more difficult to find at this point, but the good news is I made off with a Wii console while demand was still high :)

If you read my earlier post on the Wii AILive SDK demo, you can see that I had reservations going in on the Wii. My primary concerns were that the control set would be completely gimmicky, feeling tacked on in games that they had no right to, and being used in a way that doesn't add anything to the gameplay (mapping gestures to buttons). The good news is that Wii Sports puts these fears to rest! Motions with the controller map very well to what is happening in the game. Bowling has become one of my favorite past times; being able to hold the wiimote in one hand and a beer in the other makes it an excellent party system :) I feel confident that gamers and non-gamers alike will play Wii Sports and leave, pleased with the experience they just had.

The bad news is that, of the 20-something launch titles, most of them are multiplatform titles. Let me emphasize: Games that are not designed from the ground up for the Wii will not have control sets that make sense on the Wii. Wii Sports is an excellent use of the controller; golf swings, bat swings, throwing a bowling ball, and even boxing feel completely intuitive and can be picked up and played by anyone. However, Wii Sports is one of a sea of launch titles. Because it is a first party game, it is designed with the Wiimote control scheme and it completely makes sense. It feels intuitive to the non-gamer, and has the finesse to add lasting appeal. Other games? Not so much.

Even Zelda: Twilight Princess has the tacked on control set feeling, and I'd be much happier with the game if I could play from the couch using a wireless gamepad. Flailing the nunchuk madly, trying to execute the "Special Move" that could just as easily be done by pressing the X button on the Gamecube "port" is not an ideal experience. Nunchuk flailing was added for the sake of utilizing an accelerometer, not because it made sense in the context of gameplay.

This creates an interesting dilemma. The Wii has a reasonable launch library, far better than the 360 at launch. However, if given the choice between a game available on multiple platforms, I would never make the purchase for the Wii if the same option were available for the 360. Unless the game is designed from the ground up for use on the Wii, it will be guaranteed to not "feel right" when played on the Wii. Additionally, opportunities for network play become extremely limited, visuals get kicked down several notches, etc.

The Wii and the 360 don't come close to occupying the same space. I believe the Wii will be the party game system with a handful of excellent first party titles. The library today is large, but first-party games that are designed to use the Wiimote will become the only "worthy" purchases. The number of worthy purchases will be a miniscule fraction of the total number of games available. The 360 still offers a different and unique experience, with big budget flashy titles and the best online implementation of The Three.

 If you have a say in the matter, go Wii60 :)