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The Nintendo Wii

Nintendo

The Nintendo Wii – serious gaming, or taking the piss?


There she is – The Nintendo Wii – and the impressive disc levitation feature

April 27th, and Nintendo officially announced the renaming of their next-next-generation console. For years now we’ve been talking about Nintendo’s “Revolution” console, the work-in-progress title given to the project, and it would seem that we’re edging closer to the release of this impressive sounding piece of kit. Nintendo Wii is the official name, then. The explanation for such a funny sounding word is as follows, from the Nintendo website;

“Wii sounds like ‘we,’ which emphasizes that the console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii.”

However, “Wii” also sounds like, you’ve guessed it, “wee”, as in urinating (on the opposition perhaps?). Then again, it’s also the same sound cried out when having fun (admittedly, in rather posh and upper-class residential areas) “Wheeeee”, which is probably how Nintendo would like us to think of it. They’ve obviously done their homework; sounding like “Yes” in French (oui), “Good” in Japanese (ii) and “Top” (as in “The top console” or our current favourite, “Top Banana”) in Korean. All the words are related to fun, something that Nintendo has been keen to emphasise with each and every one of its consoles and handhelds. For the sake of this argument, we’ll cast aside the German translation of Wii which is infact “How”. Like “How the **** did they come up with Wii?”


The Wii is available in a variety of colours, sadly none of which have the disc levitation feature

Living in the Northern Shires of England, “Wee” means “small”. Further north and into Scotland, the phrase is used far more commonly, and with the Wii being the smallest of the next-next-generation consoles, it makes much more sense to call the wee-ist console the Wii as we’d all be calling it the wee console anyhow. There, glad we could clear things up for you.


The impressive wireless controller – You talkin’ to me?

Slightly longer than a standard DVD case, and as thick as 3 of them, the Wii will have the option to stand either vertically or horizontally, such is this crazy new “in” thing created by Sony’s PS2, and featuring in both the Wii’s competitors, the PS3 and Xbox 360. The alluring blue light is the “self loading” media drive (I’m guessing it strips off the cellophane, opens the case and inserts the game disc for you), which accept both 8cm Gamecube discs (more on this later) and the new fangled 12cm Wii discs (though not as wee as the wee Gamecube discs, you understand).


The impressive wireless controller

As you can above, Nintendo has taken a strong step away from the standard two-handed controller and instead designed something that resembles a TV remote. It’s operated like one when used in conjunction with the plug-in analogue stick, but staying true to their roots you can rotate the controller 90 degrees clock-wise and have a NES-style pad.

Forget about simply sitting in your chair for a quiet game, because besides a motion sensor that sits on top of your TV the controller houses further sensors that detect tilt and yaw positions. What does this mean? Well, all those hours spent shaking pads at the screen when beating someone down with a sword or club, jumping about firing guns or playing air drums (on all those drum games you play – ahem) will be put to some use, because rather like a light gun, the controller becomes that sword, that gun and that drumstick. Slashing motions with move the sword, guns need to be aimed and drums need to be hit. Forget simply hitting buttons during timed sequences, this time you’ll be one step closer to the action by imitating the on-screen play.

For those that don’t want to jump around like John Wayne or David Caradeen, there’s also a controller “shell” that’ll house the remote control and allow you to play using the standard, conventional controller that we’ve all grown up with, only without wires. And despite light guns only being compatible with standard-definition cathode ray tube televisions, our main man Shigsy promised the controller would work for all sets, including projectors, before adding that there were still many more secrets to come out about the controller.

Ooh, you tease, you.


This wee beast packs a punch, as well as 4 Gamecube controller ports and 2 memory cards slots.

As was previously mentioned, the Wii is backwards compatible with all Gamecube games and most Gamecube peripherals. Opening up the top (or side, depending on the consoles position) reveals the ports for 4 Gamecube controller and 2 memory cards for some yesteryear goodness. The Nintendo Microphone is also supported.

Revealed at E3 2005, a small internal attachment will be sold separately to enable DVD playback, and you’ll also have the full support of the free WiFi internet service currently being used by the DS.


Front and side views of the Wii

For the boffins, a full technical list to slobber over. Nintendo haven’t, and probably never will release a full specification list, so we’ve scampered numerous dark corners of forums and the interweb (i.e., Wikipedia) to compile a decent and believable list.

Processors

IBM “Broadway” CPU
ATI “Hollywood” GPU

Memory

Unknown amount of RAM
512 MB built-in flash memory

Ports and Peripherals

Two USB 2.0 ports.
Support for wireless controllers.
4 Nintendo GameCube controller ports and 2 Nintendo GameCube memory card ports (for backward compatibility).
Optional USB PC-compatible 802.11b (Wi-Fi) wireless attachment. (see Connectivity)

Media

Slot-loading optical disc drive compatible with both 12 cm Wii optical discs and 8.0 cm GameCube optical discs (1.5 GB) as well as standard DVD discs.
2 Front-loading SD memory card slots.

Built-in content ratings system:

PEGI 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+, 18+
ESRB EC, E, E10+, T, M, and AO.
CERO All Ages, 12+, 15+ 18+.
OFLC G, PG, M, MA15+
Networking
Wi-Fi by Broadcom

Video:

Up to 480p and will work with a computer monitor as well as any TV or projector.

Audio:

Unknown

Understand any of that? Nope, us neither.

The Virtual Console is perhaps what most of us are interested in. Despite reports of the contrary, VC is the final name of the service, and gamers will be able to download and then play most of the huge catalogue of games from the NES (Famicom), SNES (Super Famicom) and N64 eras for a small charge. Some games will offer retro downloads free as a bonus for purchasing the game or getting to certain parts, while the news that most of SEGA’s title for its MegaDrive (Genesis) and TurboGrafx 16 (had a very limited PAL release) consoles will be available will delight many. And there’s more, too. Besides Nintendo and SEGA offering games for download, various other companies have taken interest in the service. And whilst the gameplay won’t differ from the original games, some may benefit more than others with sharper graphics and better framerates. Gamers will be able to download titles not previously available for purchase in their respective territories, and taking a leaf from Xbox Live’s Arcade Marketplace, some games will offer multiplayer matches online.

Nintendo has also stated that they’re interested in offering new and fresh content to download as well as this humungous catalogue of retro goodness. Stored on the built-in 512 MB flash memory, downloaded games will feature a proprietary DRM system to prevent illegal copying.

So that’s the news, and whether old or new to you, it’s all pretty exciting. To answer the question posted at the top of the feature, based on this evidence, Nintendo are serious contenders with the Wii and we’re very much excited here at Thunderbolt Games to see what else there is to offer.

We’ll let you grab a drink and recover from this huge influx of exciting news, and leave you with shots of the newly-named Nintendo Wii from 2006’s Game Developers Conference.



The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

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