We were writing our review of Kirby's Epic Yarn and mentioned we were glad that this game was getting ported out of Wii Hell. We went to go to explain this, and realized that, to really explain it, we'd need a whole other article. So here we are.
For those who weren't there for the whole Wii hullaballoo, let us explain: the Wii was initially very popular because it had a unique control scheme and was very focused on party games or otherwise social games. People that didn't necessarily like video games would play the then-brandy-new Wii Sports at a family get-together, and be really happy about it. Denise's cousins had gotten a Wii for Christmas, and when her family was visiting, everyone was playing Wii Sports together. Denise's dad, who is usually indifferent about playing video games, loved the Wii Bowling, and was maybe not that far away from going out and getting himself a Wii. Denise's roommate went out and bought a Wii just to be able to play Wii Sports, even though she wasn't that much into video games. This is how the Wii was, for a while, the top console of that generation.
Problem was, when the novelty wore off and you'd played enough Wii Bowling, you'd be left with this console and nothing to really play on it.
Culprit number one: the very controls that make the Wii a novelty. The Wii uses a controller called the Wiimote (yep, that's the name), which is like a TV remote crossed with an NES controller. It can point at the screen with infrared, which lets you use a mouse-like cursor, or it can be turned sideways to be held more like a standard controller. If you've seen these controllers in use, nothing seems amiss, although they look like strange dildos made of soap. The moment you try to use one, however, you will understand immediately what is the problem with the Wiimote.
For starters, this long rectangle houses two AA batteries, so it's heavy and unbalanced. Your average remote controller may also have two AA batteries and be of a similar weight, but the difference is that, with a TV remote, you pick it up, you point in the general direction of the TV, you press a button, and you put it down. The Wii expects you to continue holding this remote at the TV and do all sorts of fine motor control actions while you're lifting a brick. Your hands will get tired. Your arm will get tired. And, yes, you had no choice but to fill this remote with AAs. At the same time as the Wii, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 had USB-rechargeable wireless controllers, but the Wiimote was still there guzzling batteries like a Game Boy and just being embarrassingly outdated.
Everyone agreed that this pointing at the screen was annoying for games that you'll play for more than 15 minutes, so many of the better Wii games would instead use the control scheme where you turn the Wiimote sideways, making it more like a normal controller. However, it's not like the weight disappears when you turn it sideways - it's just distributed across two hands, but you're still holding this long, heavy rectangle. Whoever designed the Wiimote was asleep in middle school when they were learning about levers and fulcrums and whatnot, because the Wiimote is a lopsided lever, having the batteries only on one side and being very horizontal. But even if it was completely weightless, this controller must be one of the least ergonomic things in existence. There is no consideration for the shape of your hand whatsoever. Most scissors come with grooves for your fingers. The Wiimote is content to have corners that will poke into your hands and leave strange marks inside your thumbs.
To make up for that, another more-standard-looking controller was made for the Wii: the so-called Classic Controller. They must have heard that the rectangle was annoying, so they made it round. Very round. As round as possible. Now it's too round. It will slip in your hands. It looks sorta like the GameCube controller, but after having gone through a rock tumbler. Or maybe like the controller of a medical machine. To be fair, it is miles above holding a rectangle, but... after the GameCube controller, which was so much more ergonomic, you give us a rectangle or a circle?
However, to use the Classic Controller, you have to plug it into the Wiimote, which will serve as its power supply. So, now you have to play with this Wiimote sitting next to you somewhere, wired to your controller. The imagery of this evokes a ball and chain.
Luckily, the Wii, being a refurbished GameCube and backwards-compatible, retained the four slots to plug GameCube controllers in it, and even new Wii games often supported the GameCube controller, so, you could use that, if you had one. If you had been there at the end of the life of the GameCube and got the wireless GameCube controller that was produced only in that time, that would make the best controller for the Wii. Later in the Wii's life they also re-released GameCube-style controllers for the Wii, but with wires, so, once again, a step backwards.
But anyway, consider this: all-new console... where the best course of action was to use last-gen's controller. You'd get all your dorm together to play Smash Bros. on the Wii, and everyone would rush to get the GameCube controllers, and you didn't want to be the loser left using the Wii-specific controls. (Denise was that loser).
And then, there's the Nunchuck.
Take this rectangle, and attach this... glue gun... fishing pole reel... analog stick on a... the Wiimote looks plenty sex toy, but the Nunchuck manages to look more like a sex toy than some sex toys. Anyway, you attach this corded dildo to your other dildo. Now you have this two-handed dildo-based control scheme where one hand holds the Wiimote as a pointing device, with all the problems of holding a brick from before, and the other has to handle the analog stick. Between the two, don't forget, there's a wire, so you have to mind the wire, which will inevitably get tangled on your lap or onto your cat or whatever.
There's a motion sensor in the Wiimote for more gimmickry. So, then there's games that expect you to fling your Wiimote around and shake it and do all sorts of humiliating actions to play a video game. They had to sell straps to help hold the Wiimote in your hand, and start all games with warnings not to kill your mom or break the vase by accidentally slipping.
So, here's your setup: you have a rectangular sex toy chained to your wrist, and another sex toy daisy-chained to the first, in your other hand, with a wire in between. Now bend over.
Given that any game that would come for the Wii would be confined to these gimmicky controls, and that, in terms of raw computing power, the Wii was essentially still a GameCube and not really next-gen... serious developers saw the Wii as the gimmick it was, and didn't want to make games for it. But since the Wii had its initial spurt of popularity, instead, there was a flood of cheaply-produced cash-grab games targeting the perceived "casual" gamers who accidentally bought a Wii. If you went to a video game store in that age, you would find the aisle with the Xbox 360 games, alright, here's Oblivion, here's Mirror's Edge, here's Assassin's Creed, all excellent AAA games worth your time and money, good. And here's the PS3 aisle, usually smaller, but hey, Valkyria Chronicles, that game looks good, right? Demon's Souls. Oh, and Ni no Kuni...
And then there would be the Wii aisle, featuring masterpieces such as Calvin Tucker's Redneck Jamboree and Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked, and no, we didn't make those up. It would be this wall of white boxes, and all of them were absolute garbage except for maybe one or two games. We would grab any box and laugh at it. And the game store employees would be laughing, too.
The few good Wii games fell in one of four categories:
- Made by first-party developers for Nintendo, so of course they're on the Wii, and they're putting all their money to make them be good (Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Super Mario Galaxy...)
- Underfeatured side games of a bigger series on better platforms, because the developers wouldn't dare to put their featured hard work on the Wii, but could maybe experiment (Dead Space: Extraction, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories)
- Ports of older games that might benefit from the gimmickry (The House of the Dead, Samba de Amigo)
- Extra projects tentatively made for the Wii that ended up being surprisingly good (A Boy and His Blob, Ivy the Kiwi)
But all of these games still had to deal with the fact that they were for the Wii, so they were forced by Nintendo to have some level of gimmicky controls, so there was no way out of that.
And then let's talk about the console itself. It's a white box. It's designed to either stand up like a tower, or lie horizontal like an old computer box. However, it is recommended that you keep it horizontal to help the disc reader not screw up as the Wii ages. What's with the Wii and needing to be sideways? Anyway, you're stuck with it horizontal. You plug it into the power cord with a big box in the middle. Next, you have to plug the Wii into the TV. This means you have an RCA cable, which has three prongs on the end. We sprung for component cable to have slightly higher video quality. That has five prongs on the end that all need to go into the right ports on the back of the TV.
Alright, now the sensor bar. Because it's not the Wii itself that has a receiver for the Wiimote; to be able to know where you're pointing at the TV screen, the sensor needs to be near the TV screen. Nintendo's way to do this was to make a separate rectangle of plastic that connects to the Wii with a long, delicate wire. This wire gives us anxiety. We've never seen anything else having a wire that thin. It looks fake, it doesn't even look like it has anything inside. It might just snap if you look at it funny. And it will get tangled. And then you have to delicately untangle it. Have a cat? Good luck.
Even if your intention is to play a GameCube game, which won't need the Wiimote, you still need to set up this sensor, because the only way to start the game is to aim at it with the Wiimote and press the button. This can't be done with the GameCube controller, and no, you can't just put the disc in and the system understands that since you just put something in, it's presumably the game you want to play. What if you wanted to check the weather instead? Especially now that the Wii Internet system is permanently offline.
If that wire ever breaks, our Wii will become unusable. It won't even be able to play GameCube games. Preserving that unnecessarily thin, long wire is our mission for keeping the Wii functional. The Wii is nothing but design flaws, but this is ridiculous. And the target audience of the Wii was young children or random dumbasses, and you expect them to be careful with this hair-thin wire? How did this get approved? We know that, previously, Nintendo went all out with the GameCube, which led to it being high-quality but way too expensive, so the Wii was made in response to that and so it was lower quality and more affordable, but could they have made this wire a little bit stronger? How expensive is a good wire anyway?
But alright, we got the Wii plugged in and connected to the TV, and the sensor bar is set up, and the Wiimote has new batteries to click the game to start the game. Now we connect the two GameCube controllers (with wires) to play Brawl. Now you get to play Brawl while you're surrounded by a squid of wires. Have a cat? Good luck!
Speaking of Brawl and TV screens, did you know that the Wii was made to function best on a cathode ray TV, even though the Wii came out in 2007, by which point those were almost extinct? Not only the games would look better on a cathode ray TV, but the refresh rate would be better, too. People who care about split-second reaction times in Brawl would be dumpster diving for ancient TVs. Rosy's friend Cerca once serendipitously walked past an electronics store as they were disposing of their old stock, including a small cathode ray TV, perfectly functional, but no longer sellable, as it had been there in the store catching dust for like ten years. Cerca, the Smash player, saw the opportunity to get that TV for free, and he kept it in the trunk of his car to be always handy for impromptu Smash tournaments.
Anyway, the Wii was such that a lot of stuff that originally came out exclusively for it was later released on other platforms, so the final library of good Wii-exclusive games only got narrower. Hopefully more games will exit Wii Hell and be available on other platforms, so that we can stop worrying about that wire the next time we want to replay A Boy and his Blob, and we can put the rectangle into permanent storage.