My first console was a Sega MegaDrive. My brother got a Game Boy, while my cousin was the one with the SNES. I didn’t get a Nintendo console myself until I was gifted a second-hand N64 and a whole heap of games for one of my birthdays. I can’t say I’ve ever been a Nintendo fan, but that hasn’t stopped me from owning a fair number of their consoles at one point or another. Whilst the selection of games from Nintendo has never been quite as amazing as on other consoles, this only makes the truly excellent titles shine all the brighter. Classics like Ocarina of Time and GoldenEye; modern greats like Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton; hidden gems like Eternal Darkness, Radiant Historia and Elite Beat Agents: all of these are Nintendo console exclusives which made the purchase of their respective console (handheld or otherwise) more than worthwhile. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said of my poor, neglected Nintendo Wii.
I bought the Wii for the same reasons a lot of people did; it basically pioneered the idea of motion controls, it looked awesome, the backwards compatibility with the GameCube and the potential possibilities of the Virtual Console. The various games I bought for the Wii were all titles that I thought I’d love playing, because they looked so good on paper and screen. A new Zelda? Hell yes. Classic Zelda re-releases? Hell yes squared. But after a surprisingly short amount of time, I came to realise that a lot of these games were… strained. Like they were trying too hard. I didn’t notice it immediately, but it soon became evident that they were really pushing this motion control thing. Really trying to sell it as a vital, integral, essential part of the gameplay… which it just wasn’t. For the vast majority of games, it was a gimmick. Which is what the Wii eventually turned out to be for me: just a gimmick.
I played the Wii the most in late 2007 to early 2008. Aside from that, it got minimal use. It always stayed plugged in to my television, occasionally turned on to check if there were any new, classic games available from the Wii Store. Every once in a while I’d try to replay Twilight Princess to see if I could tolerate the controls. A new game might be released at retail that I thought might justify the gimmick of motion control, but nothing appeared. To this day, the only Wii game I’ve played from beginning to end is Resident Evil 4. In the face of my 360 and DS Lite, the Wii just couldn’t hold up. Better games were available for both and neither required flailing around in front of my television with vaguely unresponsive controls to contend with. The Wii was set to gather dust for the remainder of its life, perched atop my PS2 and held steady by the proximity of my 360, looking down at all the action the PS3 was getting scant centimetres away.
Luckily, this wasn’t the end of my Wii. Things started showing signs of life again when they released Xenoblade Chronicles; a Wii-exclusive, critically acclaimed RPG, which is like nectar to me. Even better, it came bundled with a re-designed “classic” controller, meaning I could play the game like a sane person, sat comfortably and motionlessly in my chair. While this was a spark of life, it quickly faltered in the overwhelming tide of other games that I own. Even though Xenoblade Chronicles had the potential of being a better game, most RPGs take a little while to get into. I was surprised at myself when I found that I wasn’t really that interested in investing that time with my Wii. Sadly, I’ve still not played more than a couple of hours of what could be the best game ever released for the Wii.
The worst part is that I know this. I know that I should be giving the Wii more of a chance, because it’s just a console; the machine that’s piping the game to my screen. It shouldn’t matter that it’s not my PS3 or my 360, because the game is excellent. Despite this, I didn’t show the Wii much more attention and it quickly got switched off again.
Then along came another tantalising offer: a bundle of Zelda: Skyward Sword and a gold, Triforce-emblazoned Wii Remote with Wii Motion Plus. I’d heard of the Wii Motion Plus before, first as an add-on for standard Wiimotes and then as a new form of Wiimote altogether, but there had been no adequate reason for me to buy it until now. But a gold Triforce and a new Zelda game combined? Too good an offer to refuse. It was then that I realised that I’d never truly given up hope for the Wii. I had always harboured this secret longing that I’d discover the perfect combination of game and control method that would cause an epiphany, allowing me to see beyond the mediocrity of the console and into the no-doubt excellent games that I’ve been missing out on. But while the Wiimote was put to instant use, Skyward Sword has never even been opened. I have an almost uncontrollable compulsion to play any and all previous entries in a series before I allow myself to play the latest game. You have no idea how hard it was for me to play Saints Row 2 without having played the first instalment. Evidently, the Wii Motion Plus still wasn’t enough to make me fall in love with Twilight Princess and, again, the Wii was turned off… but not for very long.
Recently, I decided that I’ve been overweight for long enough and I’d try being a normal weight for a change. This has happened before, but never with this sort crystalline determination. I’ve got an app for tracking my caloric intake, I’ve changed my eating habits and I’m not stopping. This is new to me, since I tend to get distracted fairly easily when I’m not getting immediate enjoyment from an activity. Given that my goal for weight loss is currently 4 stone (that’s 56 pounds or 25.4kg) over the course of about 5 or 6 months, I remain confused as to what’s going on.
Of course, eating less is only one half of weight loss; exercise is the other. I hate all sports, so that narrowed my options somewhat, but since I did a bit of cycling and walking each day, I thought it would be enough. This was alright for the first week or so, but I knew that I had to do more if I was really serious about this. It’s not in my nature to go out for walks or a cycle just for the hell of it, however, so I was in a bit of a pickle. I bought a pair of dumbbells (mainly so I could say ‘yes’ if anyone asked me if I even lifted) but they don’t see regular use. Short of buying a treadmill to use while I was playing games, I was stumped.
That’s when it hit me: the Wii.
It came to life and attacked me with a nunchuck, screaming “WHY DON’T YOU EVER PLAY ME”. No, I mean metaphorically; I was struck by the notion that I already had a great exercise tool in the comfort of my home. I could play my old copy of Wii Sports and flail around in front of my telly to help burn some of those calories. Finally, my Wii once again had purpose: for the first time in months, it was turned on and the copy of Wii Sports located. Wait, Wiimote batteries are dead, crap. Replaced, great… now wipe the dust off the sensor bar… OK. Wow, this game was made in 2006? That was almost a quarter of my life ago. Never mind, time for bowling, because I remember that being fun.
It really wasn’t. Not at first, anyway. You see, even with the added accuracy of the Wii Motion Plus, the game just wasn’t designed with a massive amount of accuracy in mind. I highly doubt any of the advances made in the new Wiimote tech were even being transferred to the game, so my gameplay was much and such as it was in 2007. While Bowling, I frequently failed to even get my ball to go down the lane due to the game thinking I let go too early in my swing. In Tennis, the ball only seemed to respond vaguely to whatever I did with my racket, with the limitation seeming to be forehand or backhand. Baseball was, ironically, hit or miss; I developed a lasting and unnatural hatred for anyone who bowled underhand as opposed to overhand. I barely had the patience to play a single hole of Golf, due to my Mii’s tendency to thrash the club around wildly even during my backswing and subsequently slice my ball into the ocean. As for Boxing… even to this day, I have miniature rage sessions regarding the motion controls for Boxing. Whoever designed the algorithms responsible for the abysmal responsiveness of the Wiimote and nunchuck in this game should be shot.
But, strangely, I persisted. Perhaps it was because I wanted to lose weight, but I was starting to enjoy my time with the Wii for the first time in ages. I managed to get Pro-ranked in Tennis, to the point that I now only ever play against the two highest-rated AI players in my Best of 5 games. I can now win almost every time, barring any accidental overshooting, and I can serve lightning-fast shots nine times out of ten. I’ve even gone as far as breaking the ranking screen for Boxing, having finally sussed how to win (constant blocking and dodging left and right, counter attack when your opponent misses in slow motion). I’m now somewhere around the 2700 mark, which is literally off the chart. I can really feel the difference it’s making, too, despite it being a poor comparison to actual sporting activity. I never would have thought that the very first game I got for my Wii (it came boxed with the console) would be the one I ended up playing the most all these years later.
What’s more, it’s inspired me to go even further. I’m currently awaiting delivery of a Wii Fit Plus bundle; that’s the Balance Board and the game itself. Due to arrive on Saturday, it has the bonus of offering fairly accurate tracking of calories burned during exercise and doubles up as a set of digital scales. Since the ones I have in my bathroom are of the old, analogue fashion, it can often be difficult to get a definite reading on weight loss with the needle waving back and forth as I crouch down to try and see if it’s on 5 or 6lbs. While the box-like features of my room may present a challenge in terms of available space for all the new sorts of flailing I’ll need to do, I’m sure I can adapt as necessary.
But has this changed how I feel about the Wii? Are motion controls now tolerable for me? The simple answer is that I don’t know yet. Since I fired it up again recently, I’ve not played anything else on my Wii except for Wii Sports. I daren’t take it out and replace it with Twilight Princess, just in case I lose the will to play it once again. But perhaps I could try Mario RPG again, or play some of the classic Donkey Kong Country games that my cousin and I loved so much. That might lead to some Paper Mario or the newer Donkey Kong Country; actual Wii games. Maybe I’ll even get to play Xenoblade Chronicles. For now, my curiosity will have to wait, but for the first time in years, I can see a bright future for my Wii and I.
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A twenty-something gamer from the North-East of Scotland. By day, I’m a Computer Technician at a local IT recycling charity, where I fix and build PCs. Outside of that, most of my time is spent either sleeping or gaming, which I try accomplish in equal amounts.