The Nintendo Wii is my reason for living and may well be my reason for dying.
I braved the cold of early January in a line outside of my local Circuit City in order to pick up one of these things. I figured, why not invite a little joy into my life when I'm surrounded by soul-sucking social work classes during the week. I am not a social person. My idea of volunteering is carrying boxes, preferably under the influence of my iPod all the while. Talking to people--whether it be children, the elderly, you name it: that's not my scene. And I'm not being elitist or discriminatory. I don't like talking to people my age either. I like quiet.
Anyway, I was talking about the Wii. In addition to the system, I attained two games. However, they'll be receiving separate reviews in the near future. Right now, I'm talkin' hardware, and I'm talkin' built-in software.
The first thing that struck me about the Wii is its size--or, more to the point, its lack thereof. Imagine one of those thick TV-on-DVD box sets, such as 24 or Alias. Now make it a little taller. That's the size of the Wii. The thing is tiny. How is this accomplished? Well, graphically, the system isn't all that much better than a GameCube. As opposed to the graphics/physics improvements of the other Next Generation systems, the true revolution of this system is in the gameplay. What makes it so special?
The controller. This was my biggest sticking point with the system. Every time I looked at a system with a slightly more innovative or intuitive style--the Nintendo DS being the other that jumps immediately to mind--I'm turned off. What happens if I spend three hundred dollars, only to find that I'm too daft or uncoordinated to use it? That's a little more than a drop in the bucket for the Poor College Student. The Wii Remote (popularly known as the Wiimote) is a wireless "wand" that functions onscreen more like a computer mouse than a regular gaming controller.
At first it didn't really work for me. Naturally, my hand wanted to hold the Wiimote in an upright position, pointed at the ceiling instead of the screen. The good news is, this typically won't affect the games on the system; it will only screw with the menu navigation. Otherwise, you can hold your Wiimote any way you damn well please. Which is good, because I still can't stop myself from holding it upright.
Assuming you have a means of doing it (high speed cable and some sort of wireless hook-up), your Wii will always be connected to the Intertnet--even when it's not on. This allows for you to constantly receive messages from other users and from Nintendo. When you get a new message, your Wii will glow blue, which is especially handy on those days when you don't plan on playing, but when your buddy had something to tell you.
The Wii holds its own sort of media center. Besides gameplay (of which you can play both Wii and GameCube discs), there are a number of "channels" that include special, built-in features. The Mii Channel allows you to create your own avatars which can both be used in games and sent to friends. I made my entire family, and then I went on to make the cast of the original Star Wars trilogy (Chewbacca for the win!), Elliott Smith, and a few characters from Heroes and The Office. I'd show you, but I don't have a good camera and I'm not sure there's a better way yet.
There is a Picture Channel as well, which has a similar function: you can upload and design your own pictures, and you can send them to friends. I don't have a memory card (which costs a hell of a lot), so I haven't used this feature. I probably won't, either, because I don't deal with pictures. My iPod Photo is photo free, for instance.
The Wii Store is a real treat--it's the place you can buy old games from other systems. I haven't picked anything up yet, but I'm specifically interested in Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, and the hopeful future releases of Goldeneye and the NES Maniac Mansion. You can play these in a number of ways, including GameCube controllers (so don't trash those just yet).
The Weather Channel is just that. If you're too lazy to look out the window, you can flick on your Wii and see what it's like outside. The News Channel is (also) just that, although slightly more useful. While I don't use these particular channels much, their existence proves hopeful for other future additions that could be better for me.
Finally, the Opera Web Browser is available (and is currently free in the Wii Store, although not for long). When you browse the Internet on your Wii, it's awkward. Really awkward. The text is usually too small to read. The only use I've gotten out of it was browsing YouTube, playing the videos on my TV as opposed to my small computer monitor. Some websites are making Wii-compatible versions, but the browser is kind of wasted at this point.
You can make friends from Wii to Wii (assuming you know anybody else that managed to find one). It's a little difficult to do (everybody has a sixteen-digit number as opposed to a user name, and you both need to add one another to be friends). Still, you can send messages, pictures, and Miis to one another once you're buddies.
The navigation and features leave a little something to be desired, but the potential is great. As such, one must look at the gameplay potential (and the games themselves) to make a final decision relating to the system. And I'll do just that...in a shortly.