The Wii's got a nasty SD problem
For many, the standard definition graphics of the Nintendo Wii can be an ugly, disappointing turnoff — especially in an era of high definition televisions and eye-retina displays. In fact, if it wasn’t for television broadcasts — most of which now offer a high definition channel alternative — would any of us choose to watch or experience our media in blurry, undefined standard definition? Of course we wouldn’t. However, whenever we get the urge to blow off the dust and boot up our Nintendo Wii (and yes there is plenty of good reasons to do so Mr. heckler at the back), that’s exactly the predicament we end up in. Good old standard definition, oh how we haven’t missed you.
Nintendo’s decision not to provide the Wii with high definition capabilities has always been an obvious stigma, one which has gradually resulted in a massive technological chasm forming between the Wii and its more powerful rivals.
Obviously the Wii isn’t anywhere near as technically gifted as Microsoft and Sony’s consoles. In fact, I’m pretty confident that it can’t even perform any form of anti-aliasing which, for the less geeky among us, deals with those notorious “jaggies.” However, the technologically crippling decision not to include any form of HD goodness has grown more and more apparent as the years have rolled by.
Let’s be bluntly honest about this. If you’ve played any one of the thousands of high definition games, or even a game off your iPhone in the last five years, returning to the Wii’s muddy textures and muted colours is a jarring, unpleasant experience to say the least. Yes, we all ran out and purchased the “component cable” — a cable which adds insult to injury as our other component cables are gateways to high definition visuals — but alas, our Wii games still look horrid.
I’m sure most of you have toiled away for hours, desperately searching for that magic television setting, only to realise that although our shiny LCDs are great with high-definition content, they’re almost useless at producing a pleasing SD picture. And suddenly, we end up returning to that million dollar question, “Why didn’t they make the Wii HD!?”
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Naturally, we’ve all come to appreciate that Nintendo astutely operates within their means, and to great financial success. However, with the current wave of HD remakes gracing the more powerful consoles, it begs the question as to how well the Wii would have fared had it been able to at least match this level of seemingly attainable quality. Gamers have lapped up Sony’s remakes of some of the PS2’s finest games with Capcom, Konami and Ubisoft all proving that with the right resolution, we’re more than happy to stomach less graphically impressive games.
The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword looks remarkable considering the Wii’s almost prehistoric hardware, but can you imagine just how much better it would look with a boost in resolution? The already beautiful art style would be done justice, and the environments would benefit greatly from improved texture clarity. And what about Super Mario Galaxy? We can all agree that Galaxy is a masterpiece in visual design, but are you convinced you wouldn’t enjoy it even more in crystal clear HD? Wipe the drool from your mouth, I’m not finished. If a high definition version of Smash Bros Brawl was available, could people honestly say that they wouldn’t be interested due to the Wii’s lack of graphical prowess? If you answered no, then, quite frankly sir, you’re a dirty goomba.
Display Your Power
You see, when you truly think about the Wii’s dated hardware, the omission of shader models, anti-aliasing and other technical features, these design decisions are almost potentially moot. It’s the fact that Nintendo’s mini white box is trapped a whole definition behind everyone else (two if you consider 3D). Let’s not forget that from the NES to the PS2, television definitions have never really changed. Yes, the graphics improved but you never needed to specifically fork out for a new tele just to experience a dramatic upgrade. And that’s why when you hook up your SEGA Genesis for a game of Streets Of Rage, it looks just the same as it did then.
So, not only has the Wii had to compete with being the weakest guy at the gym, he’s also been wearing the baggiest clothes to hide what little muscle he has. Try playing your HD consoles in SD and you’ll soon see that resolution can almost matter as much as raw power in this day and age. Imagine if the PS3 wasn’t HD capable? Would Uncharted 3 still be the best looking game out there?
And that brings us nicely to the Wii U. Nobody knows exactly how powerful Nintendo’s next hardware will be. But what we do know is that the Nintendo Wii U will be in high definition, and, unless Sony or Microsoft plan on releasing their consoles in a better resolution than what we have now, suddenly, that technological gap isn’t as big as it once was.
Display capabilities are becoming more important than raw power. Even the latest iPad has improved its hardware, but what’s its main selling feature? Yes, it’s that beautiful eye-retina display. The Sony PSVita's screen drew in universal praise.
You can have all the power in the world, but if you can’t showcase it properly, then what’s the point?
Wii See U
If there’s one thing that will never change it's that Nintendo creates some of the finest games available, and it's likely that this trend will continue for their next home console. However, this time the competition isn’t a million miles away, at least not resolution wise, and soon enough, we’ll finally have a Zelda game in HD. Perhaps that was Nintendo’s plan all along, starve of us what we desired most so we eventually came crawling back when they deem we were worthy. Or maybe, they made a massive mistake not including HD in the first place. Without a doubt, it’s the latter.
If you’d like a glimpse of what the Nintendo Wii could have been like check out the Dolphin emulator which blesses Wii games with high definition visuals.