The Wiimote also uses a set of infrared sensors to determine the remote's orientation in regard to the television. A set of infrared diodes in the Wiimote communicate with the Wii's sensor bar to serve as a pointer for navigating menus and aiming weapons in first-person shooters. Again, this control system takes some getting used to, but once you adapt to the control, pointing with the Wiimote feels much more natural than using an analogue stick. It doesn't quite replace the beloved mouse-and-keyboard combination for FPS games, but -- after acclimatising to it -- we found it worked better than traditional console controllers.
While the new control system is both fun and innovative, the pointer gets occasionally jerky or twitchy, and the tilt controls require a light and subtle touch. Part of this can be attributed to the Wii's learning curve, and after a few hours we barely noticed those quirks. Unfortunately, the Wii doesn't currently have a way to manually calibrate the Wiimote's controls -- you're forced to trust the Wii's generally accurate automatic calibration.
The remote's stand-alone abilities are impressive enough, but it also has a device port so that accessories can be plugged directly into it. The Wii comes with a nunchuk attachment, a small device that plugs into the remote and contains an analogue stick and two additional buttons. The nunchuk augments the Wiimote in many games, such as controlling characters' movements in Twilight Princess or Red Steel. The nunchuk also contains motion-sensing equipment, so it can be shaken and rocked to perform additional actions. For example, shaking the nunchuk in Twilight Princess executes a spinning slash attack.
The nunchuk will probably be the most commonly used Wiimote accessory, but others will also be available. Currently, the only other confirmed accessory is the Virtual Console controller, a conventional gamepad with dual analogue sticks. The VC controller will most likely be used with the Wii's Virtual Console to play older games, though some Wii games will support the pad's more conventional controls. We also saw at E3 2006 a pistol grip accessory that the Wiimote slides into to offer more controls with shooter games. The pistol grip hasn't been confirmed for retail release, but it offers an example of the flexibility and potential the control configuration offers.
This wireless, motion-sensing goodness doesn't come without a price. The Wiimote uses two AA batteries, which must power the remote's accelerometers, IR sensors, Bluetooth radio, speaker, rumble module, and any attachments you plug in (the batteryless nunchuk draws its power from the Wiimote). The Wii doesn't come with any sort of charger, so you'll almost certainly want to pick up a set of at least four rechargeable AA batteries and a battery charger.
Gameplay and graphics
The Wii's biggest and most obvious appeal is the ability to use its motion-sensing controller to play Wii-specific games. The Wii's release lineup includes the highly anticipated Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and the addictive pack-in party game Wii Sports, as well as a variety of more traditional third-party titles (many of which have been enhanced to use the Wiimote control). But while you're waiting for some more innovative Wii titles to arrive, there will still be plenty of games to play. The Wii is fully backwards-compatible with the Nintendo GameCube and includes four built-in GameCube controller ports and two GameCube memory card slots for gamers who want to enjoy their last-gen games.
If Wii and GameCube games aren't enough, the Wii also features Nintendo's Virtual Console, a library of games from the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super NES, Nintendo 64, Sega Megadrive and TurboGrafx-16 systems. Games can be purchased and downloaded over Nintendo's online Wii Store, where they are stored on the Wii's system memory or SD card. Virtual Console game purchases are tied to the Wii's network ID, so you can't pop your Virtual Console games on to an SD card and take them over to play them on a friend's Wii. On the bright side, Nintendo is pledging that already purchased games can be downloaded again for free if you accidentally lose or delete your data.
Games are purchased with Wii Points, which can be purchased via credit card or gift card (2000 Wii Points will cost around £15) -- the system is essentially identical to Microsoft's tried-and-trusted Xbox Live Marketplace (Sony's fledgling PlayStation store will denominate purchases in real currency, but is functionally the same). NES games will cost the equivalent of £3.75 (500 points), Turbografix-16 games £4.50, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games £6, and Nintendo 64 games £7.50.
While the Wii's controller is very advanced and innovative, its processing power is not. The system uses a more powerful version of the Nintendo GameCube's processor, and it doesn't have nearly as much polygon-pushing power as the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. While Microsoft's and Sony's consoles support high-definition outputs of up to 1080p, the Wii can hit only the GameCube's ceiling of 576p, and even that mode can't be used with the Wii's included composite AV cables. (Most if not all of the Wii's games will, however, be optimised for wide-screen TVs.)
The Wii also lacks advanced surround sound, instead sticking with the GameCube's Dolby Pro-Logic II matrixed surround (based on a stereo signal, not native 5.1). In other words, if you're looking for state-of-the-art eye candy, you're going to want to opt for the PS3 or the Xbox 360 -- either of which will take a significantly larger chunk of your bank account.
Is the Wii worth picking up? It all depends on what you're looking for. If you've been clamouring for an all-purpose next-generation multimedia box with blinding hi-def graphics, the Wii will be a disappointment. But Nintendo was never competing in that arena anyway: the Wii is focused squarely on delivering fun and innovative gameplay, leaving Sony and Microsoft to battle it out at the high end.
The Wiimote and its motion-sensing, pseudo-virtual-reality controls are the biggest draws of the console, and its online capabilities, Wii Channels, Virtual Console and GameCube backwards-compatibility are just a thick, sweet layer of icing on an already tasty cake. With a price tag of just £180 -- far less than those of its competitors -- and the included Wii Sports disc that provides mindless fun out of the box, the Nintendo Wii won't disappoint. Whether it will be merely a short-lived novelty or a sea-change in videogaming, only time will tell.
Edited by John P. Falcone
Additional editing by Nick Hide