Monday, November 19, 2007

The Wii's first year report card

Yeah, so you've probably already seen a dozen articles like this today. Everyone else was doing it! I JUST WANTED TO BE POPULAR.

So, it was exactly one year ago today I set out on that brisk November morning to grab my brand new Nintendo console. 365 days since I unpacked the brand-new Wii. 52 weeks since I first got my hands on Wii Sports. 12 months to the day since I first experienced The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. But enough chronological mumbo-jumbo. The Wii's been here for a year now. How has it fared? Does it get a passing grade? A respectable score? Or does it get slapped in the face with an F? Here's my report card for the Wii's first year.

First (and most importantly):

The Software

If somebody told you that you could play a brand new game from franchises such as Metroid, Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda all within a year of a console's launch, would you believe them? Personally, I'd call them insane, give them a dunce cap and a swift kick in the butt. But sometimes it's the craziest things that end up true!

Yes, less than a year after the Wii launches, we get The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Three heavy hitters all within twelve months. But it's not just Nintendo that matters here, folks. Since that cold November morning in 2006, we've gotten huge releases from third-parties, including titles such as Rayman Raving Rabbids, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, Trauma Center: Second Opinion and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock! Sure, a few of them may be ports, but they're all amazing titles nonetheless.

Of course, you can't have the good without the bad. For every Super Mario Galaxy and Rayman Raving Rabbids out there, there's just as much Far Cry: Vengeance and Escape From Bug Island waiting in the stands.

In the end, the Wii's software library boasts a pretty decent collection of quality titles, but the amount of crap is quite a worry. Still, I feel the good outweighs the bad, and that's why I give the Wii's software library a...


Online Gaming

Up until 2005's release of Mario Kart DS, Nintendo had never published an online video game. Needless to say, they're kind of new to the whole internet-gaming phenomenon. When the Wii finally went online in July 2007 with Pokemon Battle Revolution, people were a little underwhelmed, to put it gently. Friend codes, lag, lack of player to player interaction... It wasn't exactly a hit with reviewers.

Since then, Nintendo has released two more online games for the Wii: Mario Strikers Charged and Battalion Wars 2. While I've yet to experience Battalion Wars 2 (Damn lack of funds...), I have played Mario Strikers Charged online a few times, and on most occasions, I was faced with quite the inconvenience: Lag, and lots of it. I could hardly take three steps in the game without it freezing. Of course, this led to a whole lot of badly aimed kicks, messed-up dodges and completely screwed Super Strikes. Didn't exactly make the experience very fun.

Furthermore, Nintendo encourages playing online Wii games exclusively with people from the same continent as you. Not exactly the worldwide web any more, is it?

Back to the positive side of things, I've heard nothing but good about Medal of Honor: Heroes 2's online mode, and that's including the insane 32-player deathmatches! As for games such as Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock and Geometry Wars: Galaxies, I really haven't heard anything at all. But people do tend to complain a lot more than they compliment, so perhaps everything has been going so well there's been no need to get angry.

But still, many games that really should be online are released with nothing more than local multiplayer. Need For Speed: ProStreet just came out the other day, and not a single ounce of online functionality is present. There's really no excuse for this to be happening nowadays. If a game is online on the XBox 360, it should damn well be online on the Wii, too. It's things like this that really peeve me off, and that's why I'm only giving the Wii's online functionality a...


Wii Channels

Next to the Wii remote, one of the Wii's most defining features has to be the Wii Channel system. Probably my favorite format for a main menu I've ever seen, Wii Channels offer up near endless amounts of customization. But the most important parts, however, are the Wii Channels that have been released.

At first, we had only the Disc, Mii, Photo and Shop Channels to work with (But since these were here from the start, they don't really count as happening in the last year). Then we saw the release of the News, Forecast and Internet Channels. These three channels added some great functionality to the little console.

The News Channel is a neat little way to catch up with headlines from your own town or from around the world. I personally still check it out once in a while just to see how things are going. If it goes unused for too long, downloading all the updates can be a bit of a pain, though.

The Forecast Channel is nice for checking out how things are going to be looking in the next little while. It's nice to see if it will be raining on Monday so you can remember to bring an umbrella. Sadly, the Forecast Channel is updated far too infrequently, and it's often less accurate than my local news channel's weather segment.

The Internet Channel is probably the application most used on my Wii (Besides the Disc Channel!). Whenever I'm sitting around bored, I like to check out some videos on Youtube, flip through the newest Go Nintendo updates and catch up with some of my webcomics. It's quite a bit slower than browsing the 'net on my computer, but it's still much better than nothing. And with so many sites offering Wii compatible browsing and Flash games, there's never a shortage of things to do!

Since then we've also gotten a preview Channel for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Sure, it was little more than a collection of videos and a partial image gallery, but it was a good way to get the hype train going. I hope we see some more Preview Channels in the future!

And then there's the Everybody Votes Channel. Mainly for the casual crowd, I still find this channel to be sort of fun, and a nice little distraction. It's also neat to see what the popular opinion is across the country and around the world.

Finally, we have the most recent addition, Check Mii Out (Or the Mii Contest Channel in PAL regions). Finally a place to post our favorite Miis for all the world to see! The occasional contests allow us a bit of creativity, as well as a reason to fire up the Mii Channel again. I just hope we start getting contest a little more frequently...

Really, I'm quite happy with how Nintendo's been handling new channel releases. We get something new basically every month, which is alright by me! In light of the high channel release frequency and generally high quality, I'm going to give the Wii Channels a...


Keeping promises

Not everybody can keep every promise they make, especially if they make a lot of promises. Nintendo is one of these "people". They can't but help break one or two of all the promises they've made.

First of all, here's a big one: Nintendo promised that the Wii would search for, download and install new firmware upgrades whenever they were released. The truth is, is rarely tells us when such a thing happens, and when it does, we still have to install it manually. Some of these updates are so minor, it really wouldn't be much of a stretch for the console to do it on it's own. Many updates don't seem to have any visible effects, and it's these little behind-the-scenes enhancements that the Wii should make automatically. If it's something big like a new menu layout or something like that, of course the user will want to approve it first. But if it's merely an invisible upgrade that tweaks some minor aspect, it should just happen. WiiConnect24 doesn't even download messages automatically! It really doesn't live up to what Nintendo promised at all.

Then there's the more recent (And less severe) announcement of Super Smash Bros. Brawl being delayed until next year. They promised it to us in December, but now it'll have to wait until February. I don't think it's much of a deal, and I'm positive Brawl will benefit from the delay, but it's still a broken promise.

Really, though, despite the above, the majority of promises have been kept. From Twilight Princess at launch to the free Internet Channel until July, Nintendo generally keeps its word. But that WiiConnect24 issue is quite the doozy, which is why I'll be giving their promises a...



The Wii has generally performed well these last two months. Its had its ups and downs, and it sure has had its fair share of love and hate. But taking a look at it now, I feel the Wii deserves an overall grade of...


And what about the future?
The Wii has a sunny outlook ahead of it. With many great new games, features and more on the horizon, there's so much going for it. Just in the first part of next year will see the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii and No More Heroes, three of the systems most anticipated titles. We'll also soon see the long-awaited DS Demo Channel, as well as dozens more surprises Nintendo has under wraps. The Wii has done well so far, and it looks to do even better in the future.

The Duck Has Spoken.


WJUK said...

I agree with pretty much all of what you wrote. Except the Mario Strikers Charged ("Football" is at the end over the pond). I got that at launch here (in the UK) and I've played it countless times. I have only experienced lag once, and that was probably because of the other dude.

used cisco said...

Nice writeup, lots of really good points.

I've played the crap out of strikers too. I've only had about 3 laggy games in total.

I've never had any lag so far on BWii, it feels totally local, same with GHIII. I'm really impressed so far with the Wii's online. Sure its late and not every game is taking advantage of it, but it works great and does everything I need it to, for free even. Well done Nintendo.

LipeCau said...

Hmm I agree pretty much with everything, I'd only change a few - to +, like the keeping promises one. Besides what you pointed about the firmware updates, Nintendo is making a good job with the initial objective, I'd give it a B or even A- looking at the future (Wiifit, SSBB & MKWii). The only big problem is the online, I'd give a D for Nintendo, but the other companies kinda make up for the C-. KINDA.
Overall Nintendo is making a very good job, I think the problem is the other companies and their massive party games (like X-Box with FPS). My overall for the Wii is also B though.
But I have to say, all those problems and my country (Brazil) are the reasons I haven't bought it yet. X-mas is just around the corner, let's see how it goes...
BTW, Smash Brothers will make my Wii worth even if I don't buy any other game in the future (which is very unlikely :P).