Now that I've had more time to spend with the Wii, I'm prepared to offer some additional thoughts on the subject. Gather the children for lo I am about to speak!
I can't say which company will end out on top when this latest generation's battle is over, however I can say that playing games on the Wii is probably the most fun I've had playing video games in some time. There's something joyous about doing simple movements and then seeing those movements replicated on screen that can't be experienced on the other consoles. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy playing Gears of War, and Uno and sneaking around as a corporate whore, both on and off of the 360, however playing Zelda on the Wii is just way more fun.
Now, it could be that it's because I'm playing Zelda and Zelda has always had a special place in my heart. Before we adopted my son, I bought Wind Waker for the Gamecube and told myself that if I could just play a little Zelda before I went on a continent spanning journey to obtain an heir, I'd be happy. At the time, I thought that once I came home with a child, all video game playing would cease, so even a little Zelda would be better than no Zelda at all. Foolish, I know, but you try preparing to go halfway around the world and become a parent at the same time and see how rational your thinking is. I remember playing Zelda downstairs while my wife and her parents waited upstairs for me to finish so that we could go to the airport. Something about riding in my little red boat, searching for sunken chests and the next island to explore gave me great calm before my own trip. Besides, if this little dude in a green tunic can rescue an entire world from evil, surely I can handle a 7 month old child. When we were in Russia, I spent the time in the Wan (not a typo) playing A Link to the Past on my GBA SP, and again, were it not for Zelda all I would have had were my thoughts of potential parental failures and a slight case of nausea brought on by the infernal smell of that place.
Based on this, I can recognize that I'm not entirely objective when it comes to Zelda, however at the same time, these games kick a tremendous amount of ass, regardless of the personal baggage you bring with you on your journey. The game's art direction is something to behold, with the Twilight portions being particularly impressive. When in the Twilight Lands, or whatever they're called, everything has a somewhat blurred, intangible look, with washed out colors and pieces of ash constantly floating up from the ground to the sky. Once you return the light to whatever area you're in, the colors are strong and vibrant and each person has a distinct personality that comes through in their character design. This is particularly important given that there's no voice acting to portray personality. Zelda games have always had somewhat goofy yet completely endearing character design for the various folks you meet along the way and this game is spot on in that regard.
The control scheme works very well. I took a short break from Zelda to play Gears of War the other night and was surprised to see how much I missed being able to control my character with a flick of the wrist, or a shake of the controller. I also missed the ability to use my controller as a pointer of sorts for shooting, as once you have the ability to do that with the Wii, you'll hate going back to the dual stick mode of aiming. Locking on to multiple targets with Link's boomerang is so much easier than it used to be with the Gamecube's klugy C-stick. It's unfortunate that the current crop of shooters for the Wii have been knocked for not having enough content (Call of Duty 3) or just being generally mediocre (Red Steel) because the limited time I've spend shooting things in Zelda has opened my eyes to how much a shooter would kick ass on this platform. I have high hopes for Metroid Prime Corruption as I seriously doubt that Nintendo would allow one of their premiere franchises fail on their shiny new console. That and Retro Studio's talents are such that they could coax life from the cold, unforgiving rock of a barren planet.
Everything isn't perfect with Zelda as I find that in wolf form, attacking is a somewhat haphazard affair filled with me spazzing out and barking like some sort of enraged rottweiler. The speaker on the Wiimote is not quite up to the task, so while it's cute to hear the various Zelda sounds that designate progress coming from your controller, the speaker makes it sound like your Wiimote is calling you from a third world payphone. These are minor problems and in no way reduce your enjoyment of the game but they are "growth points" for the next game in the series.
Wii Sports continues to mock my lack of fitness by giving me an ever increasing Fitness Age. At the rate I'm going, I'm afraid Nintendo is going to disable my Wii remotely for fear that my heart will explode under the stress of trying to hit multiple home runs. The wife and I played some Super Monkey Ball, but because of the shortage of controllers, we were limited to the mini games that had alternating play. The Hammer Throw mini game is an inspired piece of game design. Darts is a mockery of all that is good and pure in the world. With 50+ mini games some are going to be great, and some will be less that great. I'm dissappointed that Monkey Target is a simultaneous play game as the original Monkey Target from Super Monkey Ball was one of the greatest minigames of all time, and it was alternating. Why they had to mess with perfection is beyond me. The single player game is a great deal of fun, and the Wiimote works beautifully for controlling your monkey. The single player game now has boss battles, which seems out of place for a puzzle game. I've only encountered one of these bosses, and quickly dispatched him by using my monkey's protective shell to cave in the boss's skull. Rated E for everyone!
I'm hoping that Nintendo has arranged for a steady stream of titles for this console, as I'd hate to see it go the way of the 'Cube with it's thrice yearly releases. So far it appears that there's plenty on the horizon for it, but I would like to see some more meaty offerings to counter the minigame collections. Don't get me wrong, I love minigames, but sometimes I want a story to go along with my gameplay. I'm funny that way.
As I said before, I have no idea who will win this console war, but I'm having more fun than ever playing games, and when that happens, we all win. Well, at least I win, and really, that's all I'm concerned with.