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September 27, 2006

Videogames Extra: Nintendo Wii

The system’s minimalist white angles, the controller’s remote-like appearance, and the social name (pronounced “we”) may not seem like much, but come November 18, the Wii is going to drop a bomb on what we used to know as the videogame industry.

That prediction may sound far-fetched for an entertainment genre that has consistently followed up each innovative game with 20 me-toos and Xboxes and Playstations that increase in number and strength but not in fun. With their new motion-sensing system, Nintendo’s going to rock this growing but unmoving boat.

First of all, to bring you up to speed if you missed the announcement back in March, the Wii’s revolutionary component is its motion-sensing controller. Shaped like a remote, it’s meant to be familiar to gamers and non-gamers alike, allowing for one-handed intuitive control. The system can locate and track the movement of the remote, allowing gamers’ movements to be translated into on-screen actions. Up for a game of Tennis, but it’s too cold outside? Pop in the included Wii Sports disc and literally swing your remote around like a racket. If you want to lob, hit low to high. For more power, swing with some gusto.

The implication is clear for all gamers: Not only will games no longer be a chore to learn and translate (lob = A, then B), but they will also offer a new level of immersion. Instead of manipulating small joysticks to redirect your character, point him in the direction you want to aim and fire. With an included speaker and vibration in the remote, gamers will get instant feedback to their on-screen actions.

Though that’s exciting in itself, most traditional gamers will immediately notice the lack of buttons on the remote, which is meant to be accessible to everyone. That’s where the adaptor port on the remote’s bottom comes in. Literally any accessory developed for the Wii can be plugged in there and instantly capture its wireless capabilities. The nunchuk attachment (included with the system) offers a traditional joystick and more motion-sensitive abilities. An instrument add-on could provide an inexpensive, wireless controller for music games.

Lastly, we all remember those classic Nintendo games that brought us into gaming: Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong. The Wii will bring those back offering Nintendo’s entire back catalog for download. Inexpensive, accessible, and fun.

If that whets your appetite, make sure you check back with the Chicago Maroon for a full launch guide in November.

Wii BITS:

• Console released November 18 for $249

• Included motion-sensing remote and nunchuk attachment run wirelessly

• Five-game Wii Sports package will allow you and your family to play each other

• Already 20 launch games announced, including Monkey Ball and Madden