- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The name Wii ($249.99) does little to accurately describe Nintendo’s groundbreaking entertainment console as it offers an irresistible experience for anyone who has never played a video game and physically challenges today’s pudgy youth. Wow Wii might have been a better option.

The home of the Mario brothers decided not to compete against the high-definition, heavy-duty processing power of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 and instead created the most interactive and cool video-game machine in the history of the medium.

Shaped like a multidisc DVD package, the simple white optical disc reader turns a room into a magical multimedia center through wireless Bluetooth technology, a sensor bar placed on top of a television and a pair of multifunctional, motion-sensing controllers.

The first is shaped like a television remote and has an embedded speaker and rumble feature along with a directional pad and eight buttons. The other is called the nunchuk. Shaped to fit comfortably in a fist, it attaches to the remote via a cord and offers an analog stick and a pair of buttons.

The remote also has a strap that needs to be wrapped around a wrist, as the experience can combine frenzied sessions of hand, arm and body manipulation while the sensor technology interacts with the games and will exhaust the body and brain. I am eager to learn the durability of the devices after a couple of months of play. They both get a major workout.

Up to four sets of controllers can be used by the Wii. The system comes with one set, and parents definitely will want to buy at least another remote ($39.99) and nunchuk ($19.99) I have no idea why Nintendo is not selling them as a pair.

Included with the Wii is also a sports title with five simulations to demonstrate the controller’s capabilities. Bowling requires holding the remote just like a ball and using a swinging motion to throw it down the alley. Or in baseball, one player goes through the motion of pitching, and another swings his remote like a bat.

Additionally, one of the clever options to the system has owners select and personalize avatars of themselves that can enter games and move to other Wiis via the remote.

It is backward-compatible with GameCube discs, uses SD memory cards (in addition to 512k internal flash memory), and it can connect to the Internet via a Wi-Fi hot spot in the home. Once online, owners can check the weather and news and access the Virtual Console, where tykes can spend Wii Points ($20 per 2,000 points, cards are sold separately) to download classic NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis and TuboGraphx 16 games.

As a chubby parent, I cannot express how thrilled I was to see my offspring and his pals shake off their couch-potato personas, stand up and actually break a sweat while they virtually played tennis, boxed and hit the golf course. Just a few minutes of observation made me realize that the Wii is a requirement for every family entertainment center.

Of course, the ultimate key to Wii’s sustained success will come from what games third-party developers, and the folks at Nintendo, make to take maximum advantage of the system’s unique features. It could be a herculean task, as developers will need to clear their brains of current gaming structures and rethink the universe to bring the Wii to life.

Here are just a few of the best titles available with the release of the Wii.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (from Nintendo, rated Teen, $49.99).

A single player returns to the land of Hyrule, where he controls the character Link, who must free his land from evil. The fantasy, classic role-playing adventure uses the Wii controllers for the hero to sword-fight, ride a horse, fish, shoot, swing a lantern and shoot an arrow. It is the best-looking and best-sounding of the entire set of current titles.

Rayman Raving Rabbids (from Ubisoft, rated Everyone, $49.99).

This crazy minigame challenge easily takes the most intense advantage of the Wii controllers (make sure those straps are tightly secured) and has up to a pair of players take part in more than 70 bizarre challenges. After the hero Rayman is captured by vicious bunnies, he must perform gladiatorial style to survive.

Carefully draw outlines around food to satisfy a rabbit captor. Pluck nasty worms out of teeth and shoot plungers at crazed Leporidae. Warning: The effort involved in shot-putting a cow could cause damage to nearby humans and seriously strain a rotator cuff.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (from Activision, rated Teen, $49.99).

Ever wonder what it would feel like to wing Captain America’s shield at an enemy? Players get their chance in this fantastic third-person adventure, which allows up to four players to control comic-book stars such as Thor, Spider-Man, the Thing and Ghost Rider as they battle the forces of Dr. Doom.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (from Sega, rated Everyone, $49.99).

Primates stuck in bubbles collect bananas through an assortment of mazes and 50 party games that will captivate the entire family.

First a solo player uses the Wii remote to tilt a playing field and guide an enclosed monkey through harrowing courses. Next, others can join in for a collection of minigames that include Frisbee golf, darts, bowling, Simon Says and snowboarding. Even budding musicians can have some fun as they play a trombone with help from the Wii controllers.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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