The Wii? Totally, totally worth it.
I will say this straight up: if it’s top-of-the-line graphics and abilities you want, the Wii doesn’t cut the mustard. Its sole non-game feature that makes pretentions at being something more than a simple console is the internet access, and even that’s flaky and needlessly slow – for one, where did Nintendo manage to find a 802.11b only chip in 2008? Everything else is focused on the game, and in some ways, that’s what you want from a console, despite everything the Playstations and Xboxen are being sold for.
Negative points out of the way, the good: the Wii is possibly the most fun you’ve had with a console since you blew the dust out of a Super Mario Bros. cart and carefully loaded it into the NES. There’s any number of factors contributing, but chief among them is most certainly the Wiimote and the software developers’ execution of it. It’s one thing to push buttons at the right time to get things to happen on screen – it’s quite another to throw your whole body into that forehand smash, or tire yourself out completely from three bouts of virtual boxing.
The Wiimote and Nintendo’s first-party games have paved the way for a different type of game on the Wii, one which must be easy to pick up and explainable in a few short pictures or instructions. Party games previously would require a (mental) remapping of buttons essentally every time you switch a minigame, but with the Wiimote’s ability to imitate or at least provide a good proxy for physical actions, it becomes something far more intuitive and easy to pick up.
Wii Sports and Wii Play, bundled with the console and extra controller respectively, are almost tech-demos from Nintendo to show what the system is capable of, but end up being immense fun and the easiest to pick up and play any time. Rayman Raving Rabbids is minigames packaged up in a semi-structured format, and while creative and enjoyable, is so out there that it’s a little worrying. Mario Party 8 is sort of Monopoly with minigames, and while it can be fun with a bunch of friends, it amounts to little when you have less than 4 to play, and its play mechanics are unbalanced, IMO. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz on the other hand has a massive collection of minigames that are pretty easy to pick up and fun to play even on your own, along with the main single player Monkey Ball format.
Finally Mario Kart Wii. One thing you know is that Nintendo haven’t mucked with the formula here – this is the same game you played on the N64, or the SNES, with some bumps to the graphics and a few more weapons and tracks. One formula I wish they’d mucked with though is the “balance” given to the pickups makes it a very… socialist game, shall we say. Weighted randomness might make it occasionally punishing to be behind, but there’s definitely some fun in that – as opposed to knowing what to expect and having to work to maintain the lead while getting constantly bombarded in seemingly arbitrary ways (blue shells being the bane of the leader’s existance). The Battle Mode is also sorely lacking, the forced AI players determining the game far more than any human factor. Racing however stays fun and simple, though I recommend using the Wiimote-nunchuck combination rather than the wheel, for precision alone if nothing else.
Back-asswards though this review may have been, the Wii is immense fun. I have yet to pick up more lengthy and challenging games, admittedly, but the fun of the console seems to really lie in the creativity of minigames and the intuitive control mechanism that makes it instantly likeable by many. If you haven’t played it yet, you’re really missing out on what gaming should be – pure and simple fun.