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Review: Nintendo Wii - Fun for Mac Lovers!

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After all of the hype from the console Christmas wars is over, I thought it would be appropriate to see how the Nintendo Wii holds up to the hype. We had a review unit for a couple of weeks in January, which gave us ample time to explore many of the exciting features of the Nintendo Wii. Mac users will love it's simplicity, innovation, and style. This product is so cool, you'd think Apple made it.

First Impressions:

The Wii is a small attractive unit that can be placed horizontally or vertically, with an enclosed base. It comes with 1 wireless remote control, 1 Nunchuk (which connects via a cable to the wireless controller), sensor bar, power adapter, standard A/V cables, and Wii Sports (more on that later). It's incredibly small (8.5 inches long, 6 inches thick, and less than 2 inches thick). Wii Console Setup is very easy. A quick setup guide gets you up and running in no time. You are stepped through a menu on the console to quickly setup the software. Software setup consists of configuring the remote controls, Wi-Fi setup (if you have it), and configuring your personal avatar -- a Mii. You can spend lots of time playing around with the Mii configuration, and I found that it was one of the most popular things to do -- at least with the kids 11 and under roaming through our house. You can customize everything about them - from hair color to clothing. One of the best selling point of the Wii is the ability to playback Nintendo GameCube games. If you already have a small fortune invested in them, there is no need to worry about losing compatibility. This a big pro for Nintendo, since the other new consoles [ps3 & xbox 360] only offer limited compatibility with their previous game libraries. There are ports for 4 Game Cube controllers & two GC memory cards, which is fantastic, since you can also use your existing equipment. Wii also offers internet connectivity via Wi-Fi. There are Wii channels and a new Wii internet browser. Also, if you have some photos on an SD memory card, you can stick it into your Wii and view them.

Revolutionary Control:

The whole gaming experience has changed with the Wii. It's transcended from static to interactive. That type of change is why why kids and adults are spending hours on end in front of the TV with their Wii remote in their hand. It adds an element of interactivity that current gaming platforms simply don't offer. wii remote For example, in the included Wii Sports, one of the game choices is Boxing. You connect the Wii remote to the Nunchuk and start punching, bobbing, and weaving.. and watch your actions happen on-screen. Not only is it incredibly cool to be off the couch and punching at something, it adds an element of game play that absolutely kills squashing the 'A' button over and over. It's so much fun to see friends and family doing these movements in front of you, it makes a great ice-breaker at a party. Things people would normally be self-conscience about they want to come out of their shells and give it a try. The ideas are limitless on how you can use the game controllers. For example, in The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you use your Wii remote as a fishing rod, sword, slingshot, bow and arrow and more! This versatility adds depth to the games that pressing buttons over and over on our old fashioned controllers simply can't offer. While there is a potential fitness element (depending on the game), I don't think that it's an open license to have your child play games more frequently. A conservative amount of time per day certainly should be enforced. Using the Wii remote is unlike any gaming experience you have previously encountered. The remote is motion sensing with the help of the sensor bar that you put on top of your TV. You point the remote to an area on the screen and move the pointer around to navigate through the windows. It's very intuitive, and will only take a short time before you become completely proficient with it. Inside the Wii remote is a small speaker, and it provides some additional sound components which add more realism to the games you are playing. Also, to provide you with some feedback, the remote also has a 'rumble' feature, found on most standard controllers.It provides a nice tactile feedback that makes using the remote more intuitive. After using the Wii remote, I found myself wishing all remotes worked this way. I was trying to point my regular TV remote just like I did with my Wii controller. It's downright addictive! Controller Note: make sure you have the sensor-bar in the middle of your set, or you may get some erratic results when playing. I tested it on top of the tv and below it, and had the same results with both.

Games:

With each Nintendo Wii you receive one demo DVD, 'Wii Sports'. These games are aimed at getting you familiar with the controls of the Wii and having fun. Wii Sports consists of 5 games: Golf, Baseball, Boxing, Bowling, and Tennis. It's fun for all of your family and friends. They aren't the best graphics, but they aren't supposed to be. The games are made to get you involved into the game and become familiar with the whole motion-based activities. Wii Baseball The Wii also has a full library of games to choose from -- all specific to the Wii. Sonic, Mario, Zelda, Madden.. they are all in the catalog of available Wii Games. If you are in the mood for classics, the Wii has an online store available if you have an internet connection. I connected through the Wi-Fi connection in my house, and opened up the Wii Game channel. It features many of the classic old school games from the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, NEC TurboGrafx, and even the Sega Genesis. Note: Some of these games require the classic controller (sold separately). Wii Classic

Get Online:

The Wii doesn't have an ethernet port, but if you have the Wi-Fi DS dongle, it will work OK with your Wii too. Luckily I already have Wi-Fi in my house, so the Wii picked it right up. It works with the standard encryptions -- WEP & WPA, or no encryption at all. Online you can access several 'Channels'. During my testing you could access the Wii Shop and purchase some of the classic games. I didn't buy any, since I had to give the Wii back, but it seemed like a very cool option. You buy Wii points, which in the USA, equated to $1 per 100 points. You buy games based on points, and most of the games seemed to be 500 points or greater. Not everything costs money. They had just launched the Wii internet browser, in a beta form. Of course, I quickly browsed to 'www.thinkmac.net' on my Wii screen. You enter the website via an on-screen keyboard entry. Once you are used to the navigating with the Wii remote, you can quickly enter in URLs. The web browser channel is cool, but parents are already complaining about it. They are concerned about their kids viewing inappropriate material on the Wii. This is a possibility -- but they should be monitoring what their kids are doing anyway, and should have the Wii in a public area. During our testing, the Wii browser was still in beta, and at that time, there were no options for any type of internet filtering. Also fun was a Wii 'Weather channel'. I punched in my zip code and up came the weather forecast reminiscent of my Weather widget on my Mac dashboard. They plan on adding more channels in the immediate future, and I see this being a very expandable and useful feature. Nintendo is also offering WiiConnect24. Essentially, it's a way your Nintendo Wii can get online and download any software updates, even when your Wii Power is off.

The Cons:

Well, the Wii has to have some limitations to come in at it's very reasonable $250 price point. Let's go down the list. - No HDTV. It offers 480p if you have the Component cable. I wasn't able to test this, since the Component cable is extra, and at the time of our review, none were available anywhere. I have heard from others, that it makes the games look substantially better, but not 1080i or 720p HDTV resolution. The Wii ships with an old school composite cable, which in my opinion, is unacceptable. At least ship an S-Video cable with it... come on!. - Graphics are still on par, but slightly better than the GameCube. It's nothing revolutionary, but they look good if you aren't comparing them to a PS3 or XBox 360. They are definitely last-gen. - No DVD Playback. It has a standard drive that does accept DVDs, but unfortunately, DVD playback isn't offered. Rumors say that this may be a future feature in next gen Wiis, but only time will tell. While it would be nice to have, most people already have DVD players, so it's far from a deal breaker. - Online content is still fairly limited. It is evolving and continuing to grow, which is great. The bad part is you need to have a high speed wireless internet connection to take advantage of it.

The Good:

- GameCube compatible. You can sell you old GameCube and defray the cost of your new Wii. One more idea to make it affordable!. - Built in USB, Wi-Fi, and GameCube Slots. - You can save your Mii in your controller, and take your Wii remote with you and use your own character at a friend's place. - What the Wii lacks in graphics and HDTV support, it more than makes up for with fun. - You can stick in an SD memory card with your photos on it and browse them in the Photo Channel. - The price is extremely affordable and competitive. When most consoles are running $399 - $699, the Wii is a great alternative. Conclusion: If you don't care about having HDTV resolution graphics and are seeking something different from a gaming console, the Wii is unequivocally the best choice. Nintendo really changed the game with this system. The graphics aren't revolutionary, but the way you play the games is. With it's online connectivity & huge catalog of new Wii games and older GameCube games, the Wii will provide you with hours and hours of fun for the whole family. There is a reason there are PS3s on every game store shelf and no Nintendo Wiis' to be found. People want more than HDTV resolutions -- they want FUN. 4.5 out of 5