Over the three days of E3, I was fortunate enough to spend almost 2 and a half hours in the Wii area of the Nintendo booth. Now keep in mind, an incredible majority of this time was spent waiting in line for games, namely Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. I will deal with that game in a completely separate article, as I was able to delve the furthest into it. Though that only translates into about 10 minutes total, it was by far the most complex game I played.
I hope you have seen our Wii Line video by now. It is not that I spent a lot of time in the line waiting to get into the Wii area. In fact, I was incredibly lucky in that regard. Thursday, Features Editor Scotteh and I jumped into an impressively short Wii Line. We learned it was short because Nintendo was going to close the booth for a private function. The video game goddess smiled upon us though, and a few more people were allowed to join the line. After about only a 45 minute wait, we were in the back booth. On Friday, I was able to enter the Wii area without waiting in line at all as a result of the kindness of our Nintendo contact.
The Wii area was incredibly spacious. Of course, tons of people filled this area. There was a central exhibit where a rotating platform had 3 tvs each showing different games. One tv had a rep playing MP3: Corruption. A second tv had a tech demo where the rep acted as a conductor to a virtual orchestra. The third tv had two reps playing doubles tennis. There were monitors surrounding this exhibit area rolling game trailers. Super Smash Bros Brawl was the most notable game as it gave brief introductions to the new characters in the game: Solid Snake, Metaknight, Pit, Wario, and Power suit-less Samus.
After walking out of this exhibit area, there was a glass case showing the Wii and a few peripherals. There was the standard controller along with the nunchuck attachment. They also showcased the upgraded SNES type controller with dual analog sticks. And finally they had a light gun prototype, where the standard remote fits into a gun-like shell.
Moving beyond the case, there were a few living room mockups with a couch and tv showing some of the bigger titles. I opted for passing these setups by as almost all of the games shown in these mockups could be played elsewhere. Along the outer wall of the circular Wii area were numerous tvs and an impressive number of Wii demonstrations.
On Thursday, I played a few of the tech demos and about 80% of the Corruptions demo. The tech demos I played were Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, Wii Sports: Tennis, Wii Sports: Golf and a shooting demo. Wario Ware consisted of several brief minigames that were designed to give the player a feel for the different ways to hold and manipulate the standard remote. No buttons were pressed. In the demo, I could only play a handful of the minigames. One game had me holding the remote like a pointer, and I was moving a puzzle piece forward into its proper place. I physically moved the remote forward to accomplish this task. Another configuration involved holding the remote like a dumbbell and doing bicep curls. This action turned a crank on screen. A third example had me holding the remote flat in my hand, and I tried to balance a broom onscreen. These short games were fun and provided an interesting perspective on some of the possibilities of the Wii.
Wii Sports: Tennis had me playing both characters on one side of a doubles match. I held the remote like the handle of a tennis racquet. Again, no buttons were pressed. The game controlled the movements of the players across the court. I was only providing the racquet swings. The controller responded well to forehand, backhand, and overhand smashes. I could not really get a good handle on how the speed of your swing affected the velocity of the ball. To serve, you flipped the controller straight up in a quick motion and then performed an overhand swing. One thing I did notice is that my shots had a tendency to go out wide. As I played the short demo, I got better at volleying with the computer controlled opponents. Even though you were pointing the remote away from the screen as you swung, the game seemed to respond fine. This response did not help me win though, and I lost the two games to 3 points. I did actually score in the second game though.
Wii Sports: Golf showcased the driving and putting aspects of a golf game. To perform the swing, I held the remote as I would the handle of a club. Moving the remote in a backswing would have the virtual player mimicking my move. Rushing the remote forward would simulate the swing. The game had a power bar that measured the velocity of your swing. The game marked an optimal point on the bar for your swing. Simply holding the remote allowed me to perform practice swings to gage how my remote speed was measuring on the power bar. Holding the primary A button on top and the trigger B button moved my golfer up to the ball. The demo gave me three drives. My first and third drives were long, while my second was a good deal short. I had some difficulties getting a feel for the timing.
The second portion of the demo put me on the putting green. The mechanics for putting were almost identical to performing the action in real life. Though the remote was pretty much pointing at the ground, you could move your arms exactly as if you were putting. Again, the putting mechanic showed a power bar that measured your velocity. On the screen, there was a straight, segmented line emanating from the putter. This line showed the direction you were going to putt. The power meter was segmented as well. The pin placement fell within one of these regions along the directional line. This region corresponded to one on the power meter giving the player an idea of how hard to swing the putter. Hitting either the right or left button on the control pad moved the line on the green. I was able to try three puts and miracle upon miracle I actually made two of them. If only my golf game in real life were like that.
The shooting demo was like a revamped version of Duckhunt for the NES. Furthermore, this game was 2 player, and we were competing for the high score based on number of targets hit. This game also only used the standard remote controller. The game progressed through shooting target circles, clay pigeons, and even ducks. Each controller had a targeting reticule onscreen and you simply pointed the controller to aim and pressed the A button to shoot. It was all very natural. I defeated my opponent by a narrow margin as he seemed to hit all of the bonus point targets.
Overall, it was very exciting to see some of the new possibilities the Wii controller has to offer. Though each game was very simple, there was something inherently fun about using the controller in a realistic manner. I am looking forward to the other creative ways developers will discover to apply this new approach.