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Posted by: jkdmedia

E3 2006 Hands On Preview

The Electronic Entertainment Expo was home to many great new games this year: Just Cause (a new kind of driving/carjacking game), Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (innovative touch screen gameplay in a Zelda universe), and several others that I could talk about for hours. 

As wonderful as great new games are, the biggest most memorable thing to come out of E3 wasn’t one specific title – it was a brand-new console with a plethora of new titles: Wii. 

Wii

Nintendo Wii, the console that was once known as “Revolution,” is fulfilling its destiny as the console that will bring in new players, and build interest in those lost souls who have gotten tired of gaming. (You know who I’m talking about – those crazy people that don’t have a PlayStation 2 or a Nintendo DS. They’re mad, I tell you!) 

Nintendo’s goal for simplistic gaming that’s fun and easy enough for everyone to enjoy is a very risky one. It didn’t work too well for developers that tried it in the past. Of course, they were using old technology. That’s where Wii is different. 

Playing = Believing 

That’s Nintendo’s new slogan, and it couldn’t be more true. I had high hopes for Wii, but there was no way to predict how it’d turn out – not when the games weren’t even unveiled until the day before this year’s E3 started. 

I spent five hours at the Wii exhibit, but it only took 20 minutes to see where our industry will soon be going. It’s no longer going to be about the generic control schemes we’re used to. Those are a thing of the past. Wii’s not even out yet and already PlayStation 3 has jumped on board, adding motion-sensing technology to their PS3 controller. Meanwhile, Microsoft is developing a peripheral that sounds a lot like Sony’s EyeToy. That alone is proof that Nintendo’s ideas are having an effect on developers, causing them to think of new and unique ideas:  

  

Ideas they wouldn’t have been thought of with a conventional controller. With last generation’s crop of game pads, none of these concepts would be possible. 

Under Control 

Wii’s controls come in two pieces: the pointer / wireless remote and the analog attachment. Prior to E3 I wondered how they could pull it off. How can two separate controller pieces feel good in my hand? How can they feel like one seamless piece…? 

As it turns out, they’re not supposed to feel like one piece. They’re separate for a reason: some games just don’t need them both. Racing games, for example, have you turn the controller sideways and tilt it left and right to steer. Different idea, different experience, new challenge. 

I wondered how a game like Tony Hawk could function on Wii, but I was missing the big picture. The whole point of the console is to make the games, whether they’re sequels or original series, as unique as possible. If Tony Hawk on Wii felt exactly like Tony Hawk on GameCube, what would be the point?

 

 

 

Precision 

Not since the first true analog stick was unveiled in 1996 have I been so impressed. The moment was truly magical. I walked through the crowds, picked up the controller, and stood there with this amazing feeling inside. I felt like I was going to play the next generation, not just another game with improved graphics. 

I was right. 

From mind-blowing tech demos to the incredible experience of full-fledged games (Metroid, Mario, Sonic Wild Fire, etc.), Wii is an astonishing game system. 

Beyond the things we know and the games we love are new concepts based on things we enjoy in the real world. This is the area where Wii shines the most.

Music and sports – two genres we thought we knew. Every year developers release sequels that reiterate the same concept. It might be good and it might be polished, but it’s still a standard video game with all the standard parts: you, a controller, and a square TV.

In Wii Sports: Baseball, Nintendo challenges us to get up off our butts and swing the bat. Every move you make is sensed by the Wii remote. Same goes for Wii Sports: Golf. I had assumed that these titles would sense your motions and how much power you put behind them, but I never dreamed that it would pick up my every action. Seeing is believing – watch the screen closely. If you move, the virtual golfer (or baseball player), will sense it and not show your actions on screen. Try to stand still and see what happens. For some games the Wii remote respond to the subtle motions in your hands as you try to stand still.  

  

Wii Remote Initial Impressions: 10/10

Flawless. Not all the games take proper advantage of the technology, but the controller itself (the tool that Nintendo has given to developers) is an absolute dream come true. With the Wii remote we are not merely playing a game – we are starting to become a part of it. 

Classic Controller Initial Impressions: 9.0/10

Featuring four face buttons, three shoulder buttons, two analog sticks, and one D-pad, the Wii Classic Controller looks like the lovechild of the SNES and PSone controllers. The buttons are big, firm, and stylish. The two thumbsticks will make playing GameCube titles on Wii feel a lot more natural. I would’ve preferred that they found a way to keep the Nintendo 64’s layout intact, as its controller was designed with Mario 64 in mind. I didn’t have any problems using the new controller, but being the nostalgic gamer that I am, I’m still partial to the original. 

Wii Design Initial Impressions: 9.5/10

Sleek and sexy, the Wii remote, analog attachment, and Classic Controller are encased in smooth, non-irritating plastic. The controllers are extremely light, making the Wii remote easy to swing, push, pull and tug (among other things!). You don’t have to swing the Classic Controller around, but it’s nice to have something light to hold onto. If controllers had kept going in the direction they had been moving in, the next generation would have been rather heavy. 

Gameplay Potential: 10/10

I suppose this goes for any new console. Regardless, Wii is already taking us to places we’ve never been before. The games aren’t just different, or utilize a new concept, or introduce new worlds and new characters – these games are also truly fun. I’m sold on the system, and that’s without knowing when it will be released, how much it will cost, and which of these wonderful games will be available at launch.

 

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