An Analytical Discussion of the Industry, Culture, Progress and Nature of Video Games.

October 30, 2006

I Touched a Wii:
Vignettes from the Nintendo Fusion Tour

For those of us not connected/rich enough to go to E3, the Nintendo Fusion Tour is perhaps the only place plebeians like myself will be able to get their hands on a Wii (stop snickering, Gary). I had a duty not only to myself, but also to our reader(s) to experience Nintendo’s new system and report my findings. Travel along through the following vignettes and you’ll feel like you were right there with me all night. Right there in the hot, sweaty, poorly lit, smelly, run-down, slanted, fanboy-infused, forgivingly underpopulated back room of Soma – San Diego’s choice venue for lame, one-hit wonder emo bands. Err, I mean, the “Legendary punk and hardcore concert venue in San Diego, CA.”

Scene 1
STEV and ALLY are in their living room.

STEV: Directions?
ALLY: Check.
STEV: Tickets?
ALLY: Check. (STEV pauses) What?
STEV: Do you think I should bring my camera?
ALLY: It’s a concert. They’re not going to let you bring your camera.
STEV: (Disappointedly) Yeah. You’re probably right.

I saw four cameras. Two were huge freaking cannons that were clearly not smuggled in underwear. Let this be a lesson to you out there, future Fusion Tour Attendees: Take the camera.

Scene 2
STEV and ALLY are standing in line for Wii Sports: Tennis. Wario Ware: Smooth Moves is in the next screen over.

ALLY: (Rhetorically) How sexual is Wario Ware?
STEV: Huh? What do you mean?
ALLY: Well, look at it. There’s the one where you paddy-cake a dude to the ground in a field of flowers and then a volcano explodes. And there’s the one where you have to shake a bottle of champagne and spray it on three guys.
STEV: I think they’re racecar drivers.
ALLY: Whatever. And then there’s the gymnast that springs into a prone position when you open his door.
STEV: The driver in The Chauffeur is kinda pervy-lookin’, too.
(ALLY and STEV finally make it to the front of the Wii Tennis line only to have the NINTENDO REP and GUEST cut in)
NINTENDO REP: I have a special guest. We’re just going to cut in for a game.
STEV: That’s bullshit.
(ALLY and STEV wait. NINTENDO REP and GUEST play a game of tennis. GUEST might have won some sort of charity visit. He seems confused by the Wii controller, in a way that suggests that he’s never seen a video game in his life. He doesn’t know whether he should hold it with two hands or one, and PERKY NINTENDO GIRL has to demonstrate, very slowly, how to play what is perhaps the most intuitive video game ever. The game is simple. Almost laughably so, in that you have no real control over your character on screen. He, or she, runs in a the general direction the ball is going, leaving you only to wiggle your wrist to hit the ball at the correct time. It’s all the challenge of Pong, without the bothersome moving. GUEST figures it out quick enough and even hands NINTEDO REP a few aces. The approachability of Wii Tennis solidifies in STEV’s mind the brilliance of packing Wii Sports in with the Wii. It also solidifies in STEV’s mind the grand folly it was to only include one controller. As STEV imagines playing this by himself, he become despondently bored. Only the haphazard gyration of GUEST keeps him alert.)
STEV: I think he’s mentally handicapped. He must’ve won some sort of visit.
ALLY: Or he’s a journalist.

Scene 3
STEV and ALLY are in line for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. They are last in line. They’ve been in line for 30 minutes and haven’t moved more than a few feet. For some reason, however, they’re still last in line. RANDOM GUY, a seemingly well-adjusted man in his late 20s - who ALLY thinks is at least 32 and is NOT well-adjusted - is standing in front of them.

STEV: What did you think of tennis?
ALLY: (Ambivalently) It was alright.
STEV: Did you like it?
ALLY: Meh.
STEV: My wrist hurts.
ALLY: Really? Mine doesn’t.
STEV: I was getting really into it, though… The overhand serve was awesome.
ALLY: It wasn’t any faster than any other serve.
STEV: We had a pretty good game going.
ALLY: Yeah.
STEV: If that was any other kind of game, I would have kicked your ass easily.
ALLY: (pause) Thanks.

Scene 4
STEV and ALLY are still in line for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. They’ve been in line for 30 minutes and haven’t moved more than a few feet. For some reason, however, they’re still last in line. RANDOM GUY is standing in front of them.

RANDOM GUY: (to STEV) Are you going to get a Wii when it comes out?
STEV: I’m sure I will, but I may not get one right away. Fundage. You know.
RANDOM GUY: Yeah. I’m kinda leaning toward a 360 right now. But this game is going to make my mind up for me (nods to the kiosk for Zelda).
ALLY: It looks great! A lot better graphics than the other four games.
STEV: It has a Resident Evil 4 quality to it.
RANDOM GUY: Which games have you played here?
STEV: Just tennis.
RANDOM GUY: What did you think?
STEV: It was fun. Kinda simple. The controller was smaller than I thought it was going to be. The pictures on the internet make it look bigger. And it’s wireless, right?
RANDOM GUY: Yeah, it’s just wired to keep people from stealing it.
ALLY: “Is that a Wii in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”
RANDOM GUY: Yeah. Never heard that one before. (This comment pushes ALLY from having a boring time to a shitty time).

Scene 5
STEV and ALLY are still in line for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. They’ve been in line for an hour and haven’t moved more than a few feet. They’re no longer last in line. RANDOM GUY is still standing in front of them.

STEV: You know how I mentioned fanboys in the car on the way over?
ALLY: Yeah.
STEV: That’s one of them. (STEV points to a kid around 16, who is wearing a Wii t-shirt (God only knows where he got it), playing  Metroid Hunters on the DS. He’s playing someone a few people ahead. His face is about 7 inches away from the screen.)
ALLY: Right.
STEV: (looks at the line) This is ridiculous. Hold my spot; I’m going to play Wii Shooting – which basically looks like Duck Hunt.
(STEV exits, returns in 10 minutes)
RANDOM GUY: What did you think?
STEV: Honestly, not as responsive as I would have hoped. In a perfect world, I would want it to be responsive as a laser pointer. Anything less would be a deal breaker – especially for games that need pinpoint accuracy done quickly. Wario Ware, not so much. But shooting? Something like Red Steel or Metroid? It’s going to be a problem.
RANDOM GUY: Really? I thought it was okay…
STEV: It feels like swinging a fishing pole. Move it slow, the end is responsive. No problem. Swing it fast, the end lags a bit, causing chronic overshooting. Just look at the people playing right now (Turns to the Wii Shooting kiosk). Everyone moving from right to left or left to right is overshooting the target. Requiring a small correction when the aiming reticule finally catches up with where the Wiimote is pointing. In fact, the people getting the best scores are not the ones with the best aim, but the ones that are shooting as much as possible anywhere on the screen. Why? Because aim is a non-issue. It can’t be done. For tennis and Wario, and even Excite Truck, where gross movements are required, it’s not as noticeable. But I’d hate to play something that needs fast accuracy – like Trauma Center. It makes me sad to say, but the technology just isn’t there yet. And I remember the Gamecube launch party in Chicago: I came out of that place pumped as hell for the launch. That feeling is not coursing through my veins right now.
ALLY: And it doesn’t have DDR on it.
STEV: And it doesn’t have DDR on it.

Scene 6
STEV and ALLY are still in line for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. They’ve been in line for two hours, there are still 15 people in front of them, and it’s nearing the end of the concert. RANDOM GUY is still standing in front of them.

NINTENDO REP: We will be shutting the Wiis off in 30 minutes. If you are waiting in the Zelda line and just want to experience Wii – not just Zelda – we suggest you get out of line. You will not get to play Zelda.
STEV: (to ALLY) Let’s bail. Wanna go play Wario Ware?
ALLY: Sure.

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