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Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006, 15:21 GMT
Wii tries to put the fun back
By Marc Cieslak
Reporter, BBC Click

In the quest to deliver video games with more intense photo realistic graphics, some observers feel that the games industry has lost sight of what video games are all about.

Wii

After all games are not just about whizz-bang graphics, they are also about fun.

Nintendo certainly think they should. They have refused to get involved in Microsoft and Sony's chest beating competition to deliver the most powerful next generation console.

They have taken a step back from their rivals' high-spec, high-end scrap, and taken a simpler tack, focusing on games and most importantly how we play them. The result is the Wii.

The PS3 or Xbox 360 could churn out visuals like the Wii's without even breaking a sweat, but painting pretty pictures is not what the Wii is all about - it is all about how you play the games.

Motion sensing

The best thing about Nintendo's new machine is its motion sensing controller, a simple device with very few buttons on it which looks a lot like a TV remote, but it also comes with a nunchuk attachment for additional control in certain games.

The Wii itself is a relatively straightforward piece of technology, tiny in comparison to its bloated and overfed rivals

Its simplicity belies how much of a difference this controller makes to the experience of playing video games.

The Wii's games have been designed from the ground up to take advantage of this motion sensing device.

Gameplay and controller work seamlessly to create an extremely immersive and interactive gaming experience.

To play tennis you have got to hit, smash and lob the ball over the net, to score a strike in bowling you have got to roll the controller as if you were rolling a ball, and to play golf you have got to swing as if you were on the links.

Competitive pricing

The Wii itself is a relatively straightforward piece of technology, tiny in comparison to its bloated and overfed rivals, it is about the same size as three DVD cases.

It has 512MB of memory for game save data.

Man playing golf on Nintendo Wii
Energetic gameplay could put off some enthusiasts

Graphically this machine's maximum resolution is a feeble sounding 480p, which, compared to the PS3 or the upgraded XBox 360's 1080p visuals, seems a bit last generation.

And forget about using this console to play DVDs or audio CDs - Nintendo believe most households already have those devices so they have omitted them from the Wii.

Taking a back-to-basics approach with technology does have one very positive effect and that is on the price.

Leaving out a DVD player and expensive chip sets that produce amazing visuals means this little unit costs considerably less then the competition.

At $250 in the US and 180 in the UK, the Wii has an attractive price when compared to the $600 premium PS3.

Another big selling point is online connectivity, which will be useful for downloading content for the Wii's virtual console.

It is a neat idea to emulate previous Nintendo consoles and their back catalogue of games.

There is also access to a number of Wii channels, focusing on viewing photos, online multiplayer and messaging.

Gaming verdict

I think that lots of homes will end up being two console households, a PS3 or an XBox 360 for serious gaming, and a Wii for an entirely different type of gaming experience.

When it comes to the Wii's games, while they are fun to play and the new control mechanism is a blast, there is very little depth to the gameplay experience.

Younger gamers will love it, but enthusiasts that prefer to sit down for marathon sessions will probably grow tired of the Wii's more energetic approach to gaming.

And while fan favourite titles like Legend of Zelda will help to address that problem, in my opinion games like this do not really make the best use of the Wii's innovative controller.

A fun game system then, definitely. Better than its rivals? That is debateable.

It is such a different machine it cannot really be compared with them.

But the Wii is priced so competitively and concentrates so heavily on delivering a more interactive physical experience that I think Nintendo's back to basics gamble could just pay off.



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