Format: Optical disc
Controller ports: 4 for GameCube controllers. Supports 4 wireless controllers.
Save capability: internal memory and memory card
Video output: composite/component. No HD support.
Initial price: $250
The Nintendo Wii took the industry by storm in late 2006 with its innovative motion controls and family-friendly games. The Wii effectively leap-frogged Nintendo over both Sony and Microsoft in the console wars. Much as they dominated the portable market with the DS, Nintendo focused on innovation and gameplay over fancy graphics and multi-media. The Wii is actually a modest piece of hardware with graphics more comparable to the GameCube than the Xbox 360. What it had going for it were unique controllers, a low price point, and a killer pack-in game.
The most compelling feature of the Wii is its motion-based controllers. The Wii-mote looks like a simplified television remote. When pointed at the TV it displays a floating hand that lets the player aim with pinpoint precision. It also contains an internal gyroscope that recognizes the orientation of the controller and determines how fast it's being moved. A separate "nun-chuck" attachment offers dual-hand motion control and provides a handy (and familiar) thumbstick.
Doubts about the controls were immediately put to rest by the ultra-popular pack-in game, Wii Sports. Despite its bare-bones graphics and limited options, Wii Sports perfectly demonstrated the capabilities of the system. You could swing a tennis racket, throw a baseball, hit a golf ball, roll a bowling ball, or throw punches in a boxing ring. Enjoyed by young and old alike, Wii Sports single-handedly propelled the system to the top of the console food chain.
The Wii maintained its dominance for several years, but its weaknesses were eventually exposed. The motion controls never quite lived up to their promise, as many game controls felt erratic and imprecise. To address this Nintendo released a "Wii-mote Plus" attachment in 2009, which refined its motion detection capabilities. It was an effective temporary measure, but few publishers properly leveraged it. Even Nintendo games tended to favor simple shaking over elaborate control schemes. Worse yet, many third-party game makers were re-releasing old Playstation 2 games for the Wii, grafting motion controls onto their button schemes. The Wii library started to become known as a dumping ground for cheap, disposable" games.
As the years progressed the lack of high-definition graphics took its toll on the console. Most customers had made the transition to high-definition televisions during this generation, and the Wii graphics began to pale next to the 360 and PS3. With the Wii's popularity fading fast, Nintendo was forced to quickly launch the high-definition Wii U in late 2012.
Appearance: C-. The Wii may be the smallest, most modest console ever conceived. It's a small, white rectangular box that looks more like an external hard drive. A plastic gray base allows the unit to stand tilted and upright, but the base looks cheap and serves little purpose. The front of the Wii has a disk slot which sucks in discs. The slot glows blue when the system is running and a disc has been inserted. There's a small reset button and a power button with a light on it. A panel hides an SD card slot and a controller sync button. On the top of the unit is a larger compartment which opens to reveal four GameCube controller ports. On the back of the system are two USB ports.
Noise: A. The system is practically silent compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Functionality: C. The menu interface is user friendly but requires you to perform some navigation and wade through tedious safety screens before beginning a game. The internal memory is sufficient for saving games but limiting when it comes to downloads. The system is backwards-compatible with GameCube titles. It has built-in wireless network capabilities, which is surprising since Nintendo didn't focus much on on-line play.
Reliability: B. Moderately durable, Wiis seem to break down more often that PS3s but less than Xbox 360s.
Graphics: D. There's really no way around this. The graphic capabilities of the Wii lag far behind the Xbox 360 and PS3. Most games look like previous generation titles. This often prevents many top-notch titles from being ported to the Wii. Graphics aren't everything, but the lack of high definition definitely limited the system's lifespan.
Controllers: B-. They get an A for innovation, but the Wii motion controllers never quite lived up to their promise. They are comfortable to hold, but the pointer can be a little erratic and requires a clear line-of-sight. The motion control is inexact and best suited for simple movements. The wireless aspect of the Wii-mote is great, so why is the nun-chuck tethered to it? That hanging wire really tends to get in the way when playing some of the more frenetic games, such as Wii Sports Boxing. The Wii-motes requires a set of AA batteries.
Media: B. The Wii games come on optical discs similar to DVDs.
Games: B-. The Wii system has a nice selection of family-friendly, multi-player titles you won't find on another system, including Boom Blox, Super Mario Galaxy, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Mario Strikers Charged, and Donkey Kong Country Returns. The best games tend to be made by Nintendo, as few third-party game companies learned to properly harness the unique capabilities of the system. Much of the game library is cheap, recycled PS2 games with motion controls, so may the buyer beware.
Collectibility: B-. While the Xbox 360 and PS3 tend to share a lot of titles, games that appeared on the Wii were very unique. The system boasts a number of timeless classics and family-friendly games you just can't find on any other system. Unfortunately, the system's limited graphics may cause its games to age less gracefully than those on the 360 or PS3.
Pros and Cons:
+ Appeals to all ages
+ Innovative controls
- Substandard graphics
- Erratic controls