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Wii Impressions

Wii Impressions
Official Site:http://wii.nintendo.com/
Release Date:December 8th, 2006 (UK)
Writer:James Barlow (Malis)

The Nintendo Wii has finally hit Europe after exciting both American and Japanese consumers. Initial sales reports have been astonishing, selling out in just about every region available and enjoying healthy figures. In Europe alone, the Nintendo shifted 325,000 Wiis, with the UK itself selling 50,000 in just 12 hours.

Statistically, the Wii has enjoyed huge launch success. But what exactly is the Wii like? Well, I've had mine a week now, and after playing around with it solidly for seven days, I feel well placed to take you on a tour of the Wii and its features.

Out of the box

Wii image 1 Anyone looking at the Wii can tell Nintendo have taken a hefty chunk of inspiration from Apple and their iPod brand. The sleek, compact design and brilliant white features draw inevitable comparisons. It's obvious, but also welcome. My Xbox 360 dominates the room, looking like an off-white ugly brick. My Wii on the other hand, looks sexy - it's small, fits in just about anywhere, and has tiny power brick to die for (360 owners will know what I mean). The Wii is something that transcends traditional gaming stigma, and is immediately appreciated by anybody. It just looks so bloody cool that you can't help but admire it.

You might be surprised by just how small the Wii-mote and Nunchuk are when you get them in your hands. They're small, but comfortable to hold, and reasonably light. The Nunchuk in particular weighs so little you barely register it's there - due to it drawing power off the Wii-mote's batteries. Everything feels sturdy and well made, and buttons seem to be in all the right places.

Wii image 2 Although the Wii is small, it feels remarkably robust. Coupled with a low centre of gravity and a clear see-through stability base, and it's clear that this little console will be resistant to most knocks and scrapes. I was quite happy to pack it up into a rucksack loose and take it to a friend's house. The only slight concern I would have is with the sensor bar, which feels quite flimsy, and has a very thin wire connecting it to the console itself. While I don't foresee anything breaking in the near future, I've made a mental note to treat this part of my Wii with respect.

Turning it on

Jabbing the power button on the Wii causes the disc slot to flash momentarily blue, before launching up the Wii Menu. The noise the Wii makes is practically non-existent - when the disc drive is not in use the sound from the machine is barely noticeable. Certainly a refreshing change from the aircraft carrier rumblings of my 360.

Wii image 3 The Wii Menu is the hub of the console, and it's here that the first magic moment of the Wii occurs. You point at the screen and the cursor goes there. That's it. So simple, but immediately you're filled with a giddy excitement - no calibration needed, no joypads to scroll through options endlessly, no delay and no boring cramped menus. The Wii becomes a revelation instantly - this is how I've wanted to do things for a while now. Options and menus are laid out in the form of large buttons, making easy targets even for the most shambolic of Wii-mote aimers. Critics will argue that the menus look childish - sorry but they're easy and quick to use - and most importantly even someone as technophobic as my mum could navigate the Wii. As you move over each button the Wii gives a soft rumble, much like a playful cat purring away, eager to show its master some tricks.

The Wii features a series of Channels, screens that contain various programs, selected by clicking on. Holding the A+B buttons down and dragging lets you re-arrange them in any order you see fit, ensuring your most popular Channels can always be close at hand. At the base of the screen are the Wii Options and Mail buttons.

Creating Mii & playing with photos

Wii image 4 The Mii channel is where you'll initially head, playing around with the avatar creation system that Nintendo uses for messaging and Wii Sports. It's surprisingly fun creating your friends, though I found the best way to introduce people to the console was to let them make themselves. After creation you have the option of letting your Mii mingle, which allows people on your friend list to watch your Mii parade past, and copy them onto their console. A few more customisation features would be nice, and hopefully Nintendo will find more uses for your Mii as the console's life extends.

The other large channel included is the photo channel. Here you can take photos that are on SD card, or have been emailed to your Wii, and mess around with them. This channel is pure Nintendo. I won't go into too much detail, but some of the stuff you can do here is quite cool, especially making puzzles out of your photos (something which I spent worryingly too much time doing). Sadly the Wii seems to resize imported photos to a much smaller resolution, though I'm not sure why. As such this channel is fun to mess around in, but is nothing that will hold your interest forever.

Wii Connect 24 and Virtual Console

Enabling the Wii's Wi-Fi connection was easy simple, after choosing internet set-up it scanned for all local networks. I simply chose mine and entered the WEP security number and I was off. There's no Ethernet capability out of the box, but Nintendo will be releasing an Ethernet kit early next year I believe. Once you're hooked up, the Wii stays permanently connected to the internet, turn the power off and your Wii is put into a power-saving standby mode that accepts incoming data with new updates or messages signified by the disc slot pulsing blue. Mail and notes are handled pretty well - simply choose to make a note and post to your message board on a specific calendar day (useful if you share the Wii with people who should be doing chores), or write an email and send it off to another Wii console or email address from your address book. Writing itself is easy enough using the Wii-mote, especially when you use the mobile phone layout and turn on predictive text.

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