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Wiggle It

I haven't been a games-console person for a while now - I passed on my PS2 a few years back, but recently the Wii has caught my eye. So I decided to get one whilst away in Wales.

Once I'd taken the decision to buy one, I was surprised to find that the shop concerned (a branch of Gamestation) had one in stock - they've been selling like the proverbial hot-cake since release and I've previously tried without success. Most shops are still quoting a wait-time of about a week.

But the big question is, is it any good?

Well firstly, the unit is pretty small. You'd be surprised. It's about the size of a large book or half of a laptop (disclaimer: I don't accept responsibility for those who chop their laptops in half for comparison). It's white, comes with its own little stand and all the ports are discretely hidden. It just looks like a small white box. Here's a picture below - it's like someone has gone to the iPod school of console-styling.



Switching it on, there's the usual configuration thing - screen, internet and controllers. You get one set of controllers with the console(a remote plus nunchuk), so if you're going to play any games in groups you'll need to buy at least another - but that's pretty standard fare for consoles anyway.

Before we start going into the gaming bit, I need to explain how the Wii organises everything. The main display is like looking at several televisions. Each sub-screen is a channel, with it's own little bit of activity. The Wii has a weather and news channel, which once the internet settings are configured will happily update at regular intervals with content. When you switch the console on, you'll never be more than an hour or two out of sync. There's probably some sort of future intention for Nintendo to turn the device into an information appliance - I guess we'll see as future software updates become available.

The internet connection is wireless. I think it's possible to get a network adapter if that's no good for you.

As for the games, well, they're exactly like I said - fun. The Wii remote controller doesn't look too dissimilar to a TV remote control. To interact with the Wii menu screen you simple point it, a bit like using a mouse. During games, everything becomes very gesture related. In Wii sports, the remote turns into a tennis racket, gold club or baseball bat. In Zelda, it's a sword, which you can swing in different ways at your enemies. In Sonic, you tilt it around corners, flap it up and down to fly and rotate it backwards to walk in reverse. It's all quite intuitive and for that reason you'll probably get more into the game - well, apart from RSI.

As with all consoles, games come in varying quality and the Wii appears not to have been short of some absolute turkeys. That said, Wii Sports is great fun if there are several of you to play together (tennis doubles is a personal favourite). Zelda is an absolute classic with hours and hours of playability. Many speak of Resident Evil 4 also being amazing, but that one will have to wait for me. Luckily, Wii Sports is bundled with the console anyway.

Summing things up, the Wii is what a console should be - fun. The simplicity of the system and degree of interaction with games such as Wii Sports means that it will have a broad appeal. The console market in the last couple of years seems to have lost the plot. Nobody with a sane, rational mind should have to pay £425 for a piece of gaming hardware. The great part about the Wii is that apart from just its own software titles, it allows you to play Gamecube, N64 and SNES games, meaning that there's a whole library of stuff to play from the start - hurrah for what is called the "Virtual Console".

In the next month or so, sales of the Wii apparently will overtake the XBox 360, which was previously the leader. With a good-sized catalogue of games already, a fun control method and a (relatively) low-price, Nintendo deserves to do well. My only niggle is that the drive in the Wii can't double up as a music or DVD layer - but maybe a future software update might sort that out.

If you're looking to buy a next-generation console, I can recommend the Wii - I just would be careful of recommending it to younger children. Chances are they'll get too carried away with swinging the remote and it'll fly through the window (or the TV) at some point!
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