Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In The News: Wii 2/HD/Stream/Cafe

I don't have anything spectacularly meaningful to say about the recently announced new Nintendo Wii successor, but I think it's always an interesting thing to talk about new hardware. There's quite a bit of "well why would they need that, it sounds like a stupid gimmick" vibe going on with the rumoured features, just as there was with the Wii and the DS. Think of it as the hopes and dreams of unrealized hardware, and what better way to think about it by looking at what happened with the Wii and DS.

Honestly, I can probably be labeled as a closet Nintendo fanboy. I try to keep bias opinions out of most things, but I probably give more leeway to Nintendo when they announce completely insane ideas. (No, I wasn't on board with the Virtual Boy, everyone saw that as a train wreck from a mile away) I was there day 1 for both the Wii and the DS, not necessary because of the launch games, but rather the prospect of the new devices can bring. Both devices have had successes and failures when it comes to living up to promises of the new features, but it's undeniable that there was some really interesting experiments for them. The idea of these "ideas" exist always gets me excited about new hardware.

Let's start with the DS: Yes, the microphone was almost a waste of a time (save Nintendog's use), but the stylus touch screen gameplay has lead to some of the fresher, more original ideas in the last 10 years (Trauma Center's use of pointer for "Operation" like gameplay; Ouendan/Elite Beat Agent's button tapping music mechanic; Brain Training via the "natural input" method, just to name a few). More importantly, over time, developers who have these devices came up with more original uses that was never designed in the first place (Book like holding position for countless games; Tag mode for wi-fi data transmission while system is in sleep mode in games like The World Ends With You). It's fascinating what happens when you have a mature hardware and allow developers and designers to come up with new ideas.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Wii: filled with just as many, if not more potential ideas, but completely squandered because the lack of investment and focus on the platform. The initial rush of content was only followed up by countless cash-ins, party games, and other wasted titles with weak usage of the system's potentials. WiiConnect24 was barely used, motion control was dumped usually in favour of pointless waggle, other accessories were relegated to single game usage with no follow up support. As we reach the end of the Wii's life cycle, we can only say that the hardware never got a proper chance with developers. What happened to using the Balance board in games, or the Wii wheel? Anyone who remember Lucky n Wild should realize that the Wii already has all the parts (light gun, foot pedal, steering via wheel), so why not? What about a dual handed light gun shooter? How about something that uses 4 wiimotes as speakers?

In both cases, the possibilities were there. I'm glad that these rumours of this new Nintendo system is as crazy as they seem, as it gets people thinking about what's possible with new hardware. The Nintendo 3DS, in some ways, was too safe of a system, and I feel that developers just aren't creative with new ideas for it. I hope whatever crazy ideas this new system comes with will inspire people to come up with new and exciting ways to think about the games that we play.

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