The Wii gets a bad rap. Waggle is stupid. The system’s full of shovelware aimed at the lowest common denominator. It allowed Metroid: Other M to exist. It probably didn’t help that E3 after E3 was filled with shlock made for your grandma, or that Nintendo insisted on promoting bullshit like this:
Nintendo did an awful lot wrong with the system, but somehow, the Wii still kicks ass – you just have to dig a little deeper. By the end of the system’s lifespan, it amassed a shockingly robust lineup of games. The Wii saw some of the best platformers ever created, like the Mario Galaxy series, the Klonoa remake, and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Hell, it even got a good Sonic game in the form of Sonic Colors. The system also had some fantastic action games aimed squarely at hardcore gamers. No More Heroes, Sin & Punishment 2, and Madworld didn’t give a shit about how much fun your mom had playing them – those games were made for you. Sure, they sold terribly, but who cares? You can’t play sales figures.
We had to fight tooth and nail to get them, but thanks to Operation Rainfall, the Wii eventually saw US releases of Xenoblade (arguably one of the greatest RPGs ever), The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower. Games like those had all but disappeared from the PS3 and 360. Even 2D games were well-represented, whether it was through the old-school bliss of Konami’s Rebirth series or WayForward’s lovingly-crafted A Boy and His Blob.
But really, what made the Wii great was that it was a place where off-the-wall, crazy Japanese games could still exist. There was no other console where oddities like Zack & Wiki, Rhythm Heaven Fever, the Trauma Center series, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Shiren the Wanderer, and Ivy the Kiwi could consistently see the light of day. The library felt like a continuation of the PS2 era where, instead of focusing on bigger, open worlds and cinematic experiences like the PS3 and 360, games were still trying to be games.
So, maybe you dismissed the Wii while it was still alive and kicking. That’s OK. Those were trying times, and Nintendo sure as hell wasn’t doing anything to help. But give the system another look. There’s a shocking number of great games on the platform, and a lot of cool stuff that most people never had a chance to discover. Plus, almost all of it is dirt cheap these days. It might just be the coolest system you have sitting in your closet.
But, uh… yeah, let’s keep pretending Other M didn’t happen.
The Wii’s hardware consists of two Gamecubes, duct taped together. More specifically:
- CPU: PowerPC-based Broadway processor, made with a 90 nm SOI CMOS process, reportedly clocked at 729 MHz
- GPU: ATI Hollywood GPU made with a 90 nm CMOS process, reportedly clocked at 243 MHz
- 88 MB main memory (24 MB internal 1T-SRAM integrated into graphics package, 64 MB external GDDR3 SDRAM)
- 3 MB embedded GPU texture memory and framebuffer
- Custom “AV Multi Out” port supporting composite video, YPBPR component video, S-Video (NTSC consoles only) and RGB SCART (PAL consoles only)
- 480p (PAL/NTSC), 480i (PAL/NTSC) or 576i (PAL/SECAM), standard 4:3 and 16:9 anamorphic widescreen
- Main: Stereo – Dolby Pro Logic II-capable
- Controller: Built-in speaker
- 512 MB built-in NAND flash memory
- Expanded storage via SD and SDHC card memory (up to 32 GB)
- Nintendo GameCube memory card (required for GameCube game saves)
- Slot-loading disc drive, compatible with 8 cm Nintendo GameCube Game Disc and 12 cm Wii Optical Disc
- Mask ROM by Macronix
Ports and peripheral capabilities:
- Up to 16 Wii Remote controllers (10 in standard mode, 6 in one-time mode, connected wirelessly via Bluetooth)
- Nintendo GameCube controller ports (4)
- Nintendo GameCube memory-card slots (2)
- SD memory-card slot (supports SDHC cards, as of system menu 4.0)
- USB 2.0 ports (2)
- Sensor Bar power port
- Accessory port on bottom of Wii Remote
- Optional USB keyboard input in message board, Wii Shop and Internet channels (as of 3.0 and 3.1 firmware update)
- Mitsumi DWM-W004 WiFi 802.11b/g wireless module
- Compatible with optional USB 2.0 to Ethernet LAN adapter
-" AV Multi Out" port
The first variant of the Wii was produced from the system’s 2006 launch through late 2011. It’s the only version of the system that’s backwards compatible with Gamecube games, and that includes Gamecube controller and memory card ports. That’s the biggest reason to buy this version of the system over the others. The original model also includes the vertical stand for the system, which was removed from later units.
The Family Edition
This version of the system replaced the original in late 2011. It was designed to sit horizontally, and no longer included the stand (though the system will still fit in the Wii stand.) This version also removed Gamecube backwards compatibility, along with the Gamecube controller and memory card ports. As far as actual Wii games go, this most severely affects Super Smash Bros. Brawl, REmake, Resident Evil 0, and Resident Evil 4.
Nintendo claims this version of the system was a little smaller than the original, but… I don’t buy it. They basically just flipped the system on its side and called it a redesign.
Don’t be fooled by its kinda cool, kinda Famicom-y looks. This box is a piece of shit. It removes component and s-video output, so games are guaranteed to look like trash. It removes the online connectivity, so you won’t be able to buy any WiiWare or Virtual console games. And naturally, it still lacks the Gamecube ports and the like. It was released at a $99 price point, which still makes it kind of a rip-off. It’s probably fine if you’re very old, very young, or very dumb; but if you’re reading this, there’s no reason for you to use it.
Unquestionably the most divisive aspect of the Wii, the controller was also what immediately set the system apart from the competition. Rather than engage Sony and Microsoft in another war over who had the highest tech, Nintendo opted to rethink the way people played games. What they came up with was the Wii-mote and nunchuck combo, which brought motion controls to the gaming forefront.
As we all know, though, this supposed revolution in control boiled down to “wave your arm in the air like an idiot and watch stuff happen.” It was a hit with the mainstream, leading to a massive spike in popularity for the system and - more notably - for the packed-in copy of WiiSports. It also lead to a lot of people accidentally throwing their Wiimotes at the TV, forcing Nintendo to release a rubberized cover for the controller that looked like a condom.
After the more casual crowd began to lose interest in the Wiimote, Nintendo attempted to revitalize the Wiimote with the Motion Plus attachment for the Wiimote. This gave the controller considerably more precision, and allowed it to capture movements other than simple vertical and horizontal swipes in compatible games. It was only used in a few major titles, the most noteworthy of which were The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Red Steel 2. Nintendo later built the Motion Plus attachment into newer versions of the Wiimote.
The Wiimote and nunchuck were released in a variety of colors, including black, red, and gold.
In addition to the nunchuck, Nintendo also released the Classic Controller, which also plugged into the Wiimote. The controller was supported in a number of Wii games, and was the standard for Virtual Console titles, as well. The original version of the Classic Controller was a good first attempt, and a solid choice for SNES games, but the later-released Classic Controller Pro was a far better-designed implement. The Classic Controller Pro was also released in black, red, and gold.
The Wii Balance Board shipped alongside Wii Fit, and wasn’t used for much else. The board was capable of detecting how much pressure was being placed on each side of the board, and could do so fairly accurately. The board was also compatible with We Ski and (very strangely) Punch-Out!!, but despite a lot of talk about how the device could be utilized in all sorts of novel ways, almost nothing actually came of it.
The Wii Wheel was a controller shell distributed alongside Mario Kart Wii. It was just a hunk of plastic for playing Mario Kart with motion controls, which was a terrible, moronic way to play. All of these eventually found their ways into landfills, and it’s all Miyamoto’s fault.
Alright, this one never came to fruition, but it’s still worth talking about. The idea behind the device was that it would gauge players’ pulse and compatible games would respond accordingly. Or it’d just send your health info to the NSA. I dunno. This thing was off the charts stupid. Somewhat amusingly, at E3 a year later, the Vitality Sensor was nowhere to be seen, but EA cooked up a beta of their own Vitality Sensor equivalent in an attempt to cash in on Nintendo’s kooky idea. Nice try, guys.
A Lot of Junk
As far as accessories go, the thing the Wii was probably best known for was all the ridiculous third party add-ons. Some highlights:
Xenoblade, The Last Story, Pandora’s Tower
Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Trauma Team
Resident Evil 4, Klonoa, Punch-Out!!
Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth, Ivy the Kiwi?, Contra Rebirth
Sin & Punishment 2, No More Heroes 2, Madworld
Wario Land: Shake It, A Boy and His Blob, New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Zangeki no Reginleiv, Fatal Frame 2, Rhythm Heaven Fever
Super Mario Galaxy 2, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Tenchu 4
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Donkey Kong Country Returns
Shiren the Wanderer, Sonic Colors, Zack & Wiki
Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Trauma Center: Second Opinion
Endless Ocean, LostWinds, No More Heroes
Dead Space: Extraction, Red Steel 2, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
Castle of Shikigami III, Disaster: Day of Crisis, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland
Muramasa, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Little King’s Story
One of Nintendo’s biggest innovations when the Wii was first released was the Virtual Console – a service that would allow players to buy and play games from old Nintendo systems on their Wii. The service initially rolled out with a catalog of NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis games, though the Virtual Console later expanded to support the Turbografx-16, Neo Geo, and Commodore 64, among others. Emulation on the VC was generally very good, and some titles, notably the N64 releases, even had a few perks over the originals, like rendering at a higher resolution.
Of course, the biggest problem that plagued the Wii’s Virtual Console was the painfully slow rate at which games were released. Some weeks saw the release of three games, two of which were probably crap. Those were the good times. Eventually, Nintendo started releasing a stingy one game per week, and even then, it wasn’t guaranteed to be a quality title. Even so, the platform gradually built up a respectable library of games, and most of the all-time classics from these bygone eras were represented at some point.
The original Wii’s Virtual Console is still accessible on the WiiU, from the Wii portion of the system.
In an attempt to replicate the success of Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade, Nintendo introduced WiiWare in 2008. Titles under the WiiWare banner were smaller, digitally distributed games. Naturally, Nintendo completely bungled this effort by releasing almost no titles of their own, doing nothing to encourage third parties to support the initiative, and stubbornly refusing to add obvious nicities like an account system to manage users’ content. Even so, WiiWare did see the release of a number of excellent titles, namely Konami’s Rebirth series (developed by M2), the LostWinds series, and Mega Man 9 and 10.
There’s no indication as to when Nintendo plans to shut down WiiWare, but it’ll be a damn shame when these titles are no longer obtainable by legitimate means since most of the good titles were never released elsewhere.
Recommended Waggle-Free Games:
A Boy and His Blob
Castle of Shikigami III
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
The Last Story
Mega Man 9
Mega Man 10
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
No More Heroes 2
Resident Evil 0
Resident Evil 4
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom
Another Code: R (UK)
Bleach Versus Crusade
Disaster: Day of Crisis (UK)
Project Zero 2 (UK)
Rhythm Heaven Fever (UK version - includes Japanese voice option, which was removed from the US version)
Zangeki no Regenleiv
As it turns out, most of the Wii’s interesting imports got English language releases. NOA just never bothered to bring them stateside. Don’t let that stop you!
The Japanese Wii also had a dramatically different lineup of games available on the Virtual Console. A lot of classics came out on the Japanese store years before we got them in the US, and plenty of other games never made the trip over. Naturally, the language barrier made bringing over games like the Super Famicom Fire Emblem titles impractical, but it sure would have been cool.
When your games make it to the endcaps of grocery stores’ checkout lanes, you know that your system has made it. The Wii had a fucking deathgrip on this market.
One of the most prolific developers of high-quality trash was Data Design Interactive: a British company behind Billy the Wizard (totally not Harry Potter), Anubus II (there was no Anubis 1), and Hamster Heroes. The company also produced the Kidz Sports series of games, all three of which received a 1.0/10 from IGN. Chicken Shoot was another small hit among mainstream audiences, though it was universally reviled among critics. Midway also threw their hat in the shovelware ring with Cruis’n: a racing game that actually kinda looks worse than the original Cruis’n USA on the N64.
So yeah, these games are all complete horse shit, and are a big part of the reason why nobody took the Wii seriously when it came to real games. It’s kind of funny to look at some of this crap now and laugh, but man was it an embarrassing system when this stuff was in vogue.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What’s the best way to play Wii games today?
You have three options. First, you can play games on an actual Wii system. This grants you 100% compatibility, and will allow you to use Gamecube controllers with the Wii games that support it.
The second option is to play Wii games on the WiiU. The WiiU also has 100% compatibility, though it doesn’t, on its own, support Gamecube controllers.
The third option is to use Dolphin to play Wii games. Dolphin lets you run Wii games at higher resolutions, and with much more aggressive anti-aliasing. Naturally, this means that games can look worlds better on Dolphin. However, the emulator still has a number of glitches, and compatibility is far from perfect as of right now. Even so, more casual players are unlikely to care much about these deficiencies.
Q: Why does the actual Wii look so bad on my TV?
Because Nintendo cheaped out on the video hardware. Even when you have the Wii hooked up via component video cables, the system still spits out a rather blurry picture. Even with the unimpressive component output, though, you should still definitely use component cables. Five minutes of composite or S-video, and you’re liable to go blind.
Q: Do Wii games look better on a WiiU?
Not really. They might look slightly better on a WiiU, depending on the quality of your TV’s scaler, but all the WiiU is going to do is upconvert the image. Some have found that the WiiU also adds a slight green tint to the picture, while others (myself included) have noticed that the WiiU seems to introduce ringing artifacts into the picture.
Q: If I want to play Gamecube games, should I use the Wii to play my GC games, seeing as how it’s backwards compatible?
Gamecube games don’t look as sharp on a Wii as they do on a real Gamecube, but seeing as how Gamecube component cables are stupid expensive these days, nobody’s going to judge you for playing them on a GC.
Q: Can I transfer my downloaded games from one Wii to another, or from the Wii to the WiiU?
If you’re trying to transfer games from your old, beat-up Wii to a newer Wii, you’re SOL. You can transfer games to an SD card, but you can’t play those games on another system, nor can you transfer the rights to play those games to another system. The only way to do this is to send your system to Nintendo, and even then, they’re not likely to help you do this. It’s possible that if you call them and tell them your system broke and you need to transfer the games over, they might help you out, but don’t count on it.
If you want to migrate your games from the Wii to the WiiU, though, there is a process in place that lets you transfer all your games over. Be sure you want to do this, though, because once you transfer your content over, there’s no going back to the old system.
Q: I don’t like Japanese games. Are there any good western games?
If you don’t like Japanese games, then you’re barking up the wrong tree here. The system did see a few decent western titles, like Red Steel 2, Dead Space: Extraction, World of Goo, and de Blob; but Japanese output is frankly the only real reason the Wii is still worth caring about.
Q: How do I play imports on the Wii?
Look up the Homebrew Channel. I dunno if it’s something I can explain on GAF, because it enables piracy, but uh… yeah. It also depends on what version of the Wii you have, so it’d take more of an explanation than I’d really care to go into in the OP.
Q: I’m a 1%-er and I don’t like playing these cheap games for riffraff. What titles are expensive enough for a man and/or woman of my caliber?
Most games on the Wii are dirt cheap, but a few titles have shot up in price over the years. Some of the notable titles include Xenoblade (which was much more expensive, but got a reprint), Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, and Arc Rise Fantasia. Others, like Klonoa, are starting to creep up in price, particularly for new copies.
But for the most part, this is still a poor man’s dream system. And don’t think prices will always be this way. Gamecube games were in the same boat a few years ago, and just look at the prices on that sonbitch now.
Q: Why did you write all this?
Christ, I dunno.