Nov 20, 2006

The "Wii" Report - Day 2

So after at least a good 6-7 hours of near-straight game playing, tweaking, wire-juggling and general fekkin' around, I can give an initial report on how the Wii measures up to expectations.

It certainly hasn't been without it's fair share of hiccups, at least in my experience, and to mitigate some of the challenges I've had, I should mention that after spending a bit of time on the Wii-user forums, there are a tonne of people out there who haven't had any trouble getting their system to work properly at all.

Mine, on the other hand, has crashed a total of three times since I bought it yesterday. This is basically the equivalent to the old "reset-requiring freezes" the old school Nintendo would experience from time to time. Every console is basically a little computer, (even the old Ataris) and from time to time... computers will crash for any number of reasons. As computers get more complicated, there are infinitely more ways in which they can crash.

The Wii handles a crash very similar to how a computer would. Ideally, if it hasn't had a complete meltdown, an error screen will pop up with instructions on how to deal with the situation, in my case... it's told me to pull the damned game out, and turn the machine off and on.
I know that in at least two of the three crashes so far, the system failed when trying to load my new Zelda disc after I had already been playing around with some of the other channel features on the Wii. It seems to have trouble switching gears from online related stuff... directly over to a game. Don't know yet whether this is specific to the Zelda disc... or if it's a system related problem.

The majority of my headaches so far, have been in getting the online features configured. Nintendo doesn't have as much online-capability experience as the other two big-competitors, and it shows somewhat with Wii online compatibility... which is a bit picky for my liking.

I've attempted a few different ways of getting my Wii online. The first was the most common... through the existing wireless network in my apartment. This proved more difficult than I had hoped, as the Wii failed to pick-up on the network. I was hesitant to blame this on the Wii right away, however, as I've had trouble in the past with receivers recognizing my wireless router, I suspected the culprit may in fact be my foreign-language speaking wireless Belkin router. I say foreign language speaking... because I'm yet to find a non-Belkin product that can communicate with it.

My assumption ended up being correct, since after checking the Nintendo support page, it turns out that my router is in fact incompatible with the Wii.

Plan B entailed heading out to Future Shop to purchase Nintendo's USB WiFi adapter, which was initially developed for the Nintendo DS handheld system, but is said by Nintendo to be able to convert your PC's internet signal into a wireless wave for the Wii as well.

After having no trouble installing the adapter's software, I was devastated to see that my Wii failed to recognize its signal as well. Perhaps I'm giving Nintendo too much benefit of the doubt here... but I'm still attributing the problem to my router, which I suspect is somehow impeding the USB adapter's ability to send out a readable signal. The only solution I've been able to come up with is to go out and get a new router which is listed on Nintendo's compatibility chart.

All was not lost on the online front however... as one of my more generous anonymous neighbours was unknowingly kind enough to provide a wireless connection which my Wii was able to recognize. After many untimely disconnections, and a series of Wii-generated error codes, I was finally able to scrape the mandatory system updates off the Nintendo server, only to find out that two of their Wii services, (the News and Weather broadcasters) are not yet in operation... and that the third online service, (Opera-based Internet browsing) will not be available until next year... and even then, not without a one-time fee for the software! Not something I was delighted to hear.

As for the games... I've played through the included "Wii Sports," as well as my copy of "Zelda: Twilight Princess." The sports game is pretty much as enjoyable as one would have expected. At least until the novelty of the controller wears off... if ever.

But if one positive thing can be said about the Wii hardware... it should definitely be said about the controllers. I was absolutely amazed at how forgiving their operation is. I had expected a fairly tight range of movement, with lots of hiccups in their performance. Though they certainly aren't flawless, (golf clubs swinging while you're on the back-swing, etc) I was amazed at their responsiveness. Especially considering that I didn't have them operating in the most ideal of conditions.

We've got a digital projector beaming the Wii's image on one of our blank white walls. Makes for a great display, but makes it impossible to stand directly in front of the screen while playing without blacking out the picture with your shadow. Mounting the projector to the ceiling would solve the problem were we willing to shell out the dough for a contraption that would enable it to hang properly off our slanted vaulted ceiling surface. So we've had to devise a method of standing a little off center. This creates a problem with the Wii motion detector which is allowed to be either above or below your display, but certainly meant to be positioned directly in it's center, and pointed out forward. It's also suppose to attach directly to the display. Our display, of course, has no mass to connect to, and it's on a shelf below the bottom of the picture, and tilted to the left to catch our off-centre movements - two absolute no-no's in the Wii setup book... but so far, we've had very little problem with accuracy or responsiveness. A testament to their design to be sure.

In all the Wii sports games save boxing, the controls are well mapped out and intuitive. The golf makes sense... the tennis is fun, the baseball swing is amazingly accurate, and bowling is an absolute gas. Boxing, as the reviews said in advance, really is just a jumble of unresponsive punches, and poorly timed flailings. Probably not a formula that can't be fixed with more time in a follow-up version, however... and let's hope they get to that. A good Boxing game could very well be one of the most adaptable and rewarding applications for the Wii.

More after Day 3.

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