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E3 2006
E3 Hands On: The Nintendo Wii
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on May 18, 2006   |   Episode 19 (Show Archive)  


This is what some random E3- goer looks like when they are using the Nintendo Wii (trust me, you don't want to see the pictures of the Defunct Games staff using it)!
Although there were two big hardware unveilings at this year's E3 at the end of the day there was only one that mattered. Nintendo managed to upstage every other company with their next generation console, bizarrely titled Wii. Just about everything Nintendo had announced up to E3 had flown in the face of the modern day video game industry. The Wii wasn't going to be the most powerful console on the block, they weren't going to focus on next generation DVDs, the unit wasn't going to support the highest definition TVs, and so on so forth. The Wii was going to be different in every way, from the way you controlled the games to the games themselves.

Going down to E3 I had some reservations about Nintendo's extreme design, I worried that the control wouldn't be good for all types of games and that it may limit what you can do in the long run. My past experiences with motion devices has been poor at best. I own the U-Force and the Power Glove, I've played with Sega's Activator, I've used the EyeToy ... I'm no fan of moving around to control your character. Obviously I don't speak for everybody, but if I'm going to give you my full thoughts I have to be completely honest.

I was impressed with the Nintendo Wii. My time with Nintendo's newest console went a long way to relieve my fears; all of a sudden I can't wait for this year to be over with so I can take this console home and have my way with it. There are still a few problems, but ultimately I have to say that the Nintendo Wii has won me over.

Before I had a chance to play the Nintendo Wii I had to stand in line ... a very long line. On the first day of E3 the media was granted a two hour head start, but even with that lead on everybody else the line was several hours long. The choice was simple, we could waste our two hour head start standing in line for the Wii or go off and enjoy the rest of E3. We chose to head out and explore the rest of the show, which was extremely quiet since everybody else was waiting in that Wii line.

By the time we got to the Wii on day three the line was well over five hours in length, with interviews scheduled we simply could not fit in on day two. Besides, waiting in line for five hours is tantamount to insanity!

Day three came and we knew it was now or never. Patrick staked out his spot in line early by getting to the show at 8 (an hour before the gates open). Once E3 was opened he (and just about other loser at the show) ran as fast as they could to secure their place in line. Patrick ran, and he got real close. I walked, there's no need for both of us to run like the bulls are behind us. Patrick's persistence paid off, our wait in line wasn't more than 40 minute.

While standing in that line we spoke with a group of E3 goers, who were, according to their badges, Guests of LACC. Guests of LACC?? What does that even mean? We asked them and one suggested that they work for the convention center; the others were high school students and not employed by the LACC. The rest of the day I wrestled with whether or not I felt they should be allowed in, especially with so many mom and pop stores (and online journalists) left out. I don't fault these young gamers for getting in, I merely wonder if they should have been allowed.

Here the Nintendo rep instructs Patrick on how to use the Wii remote, too bad it's for the fifth time!
Like my boring tangent, the line finally ended. We were let in to see what had to be the most enthusiastic drummer I have ever seen. He was so upbeat and excited that I almost asked him to share some of the drugs he was taking, because by day three my feet hurt, my back ached, and my blisters had blisters. Anyway, Mr. Enthusiasm demoed the Wii's drum capabilities. That is, he used the remote like a drum stick, keeping the rhythm going. It was a neat demonstration ... it was no Guitar Hero, but it was neat nonetheless.

From there we moved on through what seemed like thousands of smelly gamers. We saw glimpses of the new Metroid Prime game (which looks fantastic), an odd orchestra conductor simulator (which brought terrible flashbacks of my time playing violin in high school), and a bunch of silly third party fare (Sonic, Dragon Ball Z, etc.).

The line finally emptied out to a few televisions allowing you to play basic tech demos that would help you understand the purpose of the Wii's remote. First up was a two player demo that had you guiding your character through a strange 2D maze. This demonstration was about more than just showing off the point and move game play, it also made you turn your wrist to flip the characters around (and ultimately fit them through the maze). This demo was fun ... for about thirty seconds. The sensitivity of the remote was too high and it was very difficult to control at first. Both Patrick and I eventually got the hang of it, but the remote was far from precise.

Next up was a tech demo of Duck Hunt, the game that introduced 8-Bit games to the NES Zapper. Although Nintendo featured a brand new Wii Zapper this demo of Duck Hunt used the remote and only the

Yes, I know this picture is not exciting at all ... but it represents what we played at E3. This is a real Wii screen shot!
remote. This demo shot out a few ducks and had you point at the screen and pull the trigger. This set up worked a lot better than the earlier demo, but this was far from the next step in gaming.

From Duck Hunt we hit the sports line, such as the Wii Sports: Tennis. It was here that I started to understand the potential of the Wii's remote. You hold the remote like you would a tennis racket; the way your wrist is tilted will ultimately change how you hit the ball. Serving and swinging is no problem, controlling the swing was easy ... although the remote did seem a bit touchy. I'm not sure how easy this will be for multiple people to play; the demo I played wasn't as easy to pick up as I would have hoped. But once you've figured out what you can and cannot do you will find this Tennis game to be unique, it really was a great experience. Hopefully by the time the game is released Nintendo will allow the player to control their character (and not just the swing), I would hate for this Tennis game to feel like a rail shooter.

From there we moved on to Zelda, Super Mario Galaxy, Sonic, and a whole bunch of other games ... but we're not going to cover them in this Hands-On. This article is about my initial reaction to the Wii, those other games came after I had a chance to get comfortable with the idea. Look for articles about those games to pop up in the near future.

Back to the Wii's control, the device is quite small and comfortable. It was heavier than I thought it was going to be, but not by much. With the wide range of control configurations it looks like you will be able to play just about every type of game on the Nintendo system without hurting your hand. The traditional control (which is a cross between the PlayStation 2 control and the Super NES pad) feels good for the classic games (and hopefully fighting games). Just about every fear I had about Nintendo's control has been answered, gamers of all types should be excited by what this system will be able to do.

I have a hunch this will not be the last time we talk about the Nintendo Wii, but those are my initial thoughts. I came away from this E3 impressed with what Nintendo was able to do. I like the control (along with its many attachments), I like the games, I like the potential, and although the graphics couldn't compare to what Microsoft and Sony was showing off, I even liked the look of the games. I still have a few legitimate concerns about the system, but as of now you can color me impressed.

But How Good is It? It's about 32 flavors of good! Nintendo managed to take all of the attention away from Sony and Microsoft with this quirky little system. The Wii was the talk of the show and the games delivered. I did have some problems with the sensitivity of the control, but I'm sure those problems can be ironed out in the options screen. Nintendo has made a believer out of me and just about everybody else that waited in line to play this machine. It's far too early to announce a winner of the next generation war, but if this first public showing is any indication then Sony and Microsoft better start worrying!


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