The best thing to do when thinking about the Wii’s online system is to cast your mind back to 2006 when we first heard details of what the system would be able to do. Not only would there be a revolutionary new Virtual Console market and the ability to play games online at a level of networked quality that rivalled Xbox Live, there would be countless extras, such as Weather Forecasts, Newspapers and the good ol’ internet streamed straight to your TV. There was surely no way it could possibly go wrong...
The reason that’s the best thing to do is because that was when these ideas still seemed incredible. The Wii’s online was pretty state-of-the-art in 2006. However, the fundamental flaw in the consoles design was something Nintendo hid away, few knowing, even now. When you update your Wii Console with the latest hardware, you don’t replace the old stuff, instead simply adding to what was already there. Going with Nintendo’s old fridge image, imagine you’ve just restocked it with new cheese, new butter, new everything... But you leave the old stuff in as well. This not only prevents updates such as the NXE and the start of Playstation Live, but lowers the already minimal space available on your Wii’s internal memory. The Wii is living in the past as far as online play is concerned.
There was another big issue in Friend Codes as well. While the system could potentially work if it was just a central telephone number-esque figure that linked up all of your games, having a separate code for each game is an absolute nightmare. Not only does it make memorising them almost literally impossible, but just annoying to have to type in a real of new codes for everyone when you get a new game. And that’s only after you ask them if they play it. This is a problem that is slowly but surely being fixed, with big-name titles such as FIFA and Monster Hunter Tri abandoning the numbers in favour of individual monikers for each player. Nintendo has admitted this is an issue, just as they have that Wii Speak isn’t really very good. There were three games brought out that supported it. Why don’t Nintendo just implement an Xbox Live style voice chat system? Oh yeah, the fridge system.
However, things on the Wi-Fi front are beginning to slowly improve. While some developers are still saying “Wii can’t do online” and leaving it out, (We’re looking at you, NBA Jam) others are putting the effort in and managing to pull off fantastic networked efforts. GoldenEye 007 in particular is a title that has taken the system by storm, and has been the most-played online game since its release, seemingly the first game since Smash Bros that has pulled off the near-impossible feat of overtaking Mario Kart Wii.
We recently tried getting online on some games released before this year. The first internet-supportive title, Mario Strikers, is now totally baron, with only three people online when we connected, the other two having swapped friend codes and taking part in a match between themselves. We gave NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams a few goes and found absolutely nobody was online, although there was only about 50 people on it at launch, so that’s tpo be expected. Battalion Wars 2 is dead, as is Wii Chess while Bomberman Blast isn’t getting any attention from people interested in playing strangers. Obviously Mario Kart is the Wii’s real big online success story, lag-free and popular, although when we checked Super Smash Bros Brawl had a few online, (Despite the horrible slowdown, a few still brave it) as did (Rather surprisingly) FIFA ’10, where we could consistently get a different real human being whom to thrash as Newcastle United and at a decent speed, too. (Well, once you overlooked the vapour trail-tastic slo-mo shots)
Sadly, though, games seem to die quicker on Wii than anywhere else. Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom was a brief fave here during the start of the year, with editor and Vs Capcom virgin TR frequently sneaking off to get himself thrashed by an American with too much practise time on their hands. Unfortunately, he can’t get that experience anymore, as the game is solely packed with absolute ninjas at the game who kill you in seconds. That’s not gaming. Gaming is supposed to be fun.
While titles such as GoldenEye show that there is some of that joy available somewhere with your Wii hooked up, the fact of the matter is that the Wii does split-screen like no other format, and that’s something to be celebrated. While we’re against labelling it a “Party Console” we can’t help but feel it doesn’t compete with the other two when it comes to playing online. There are 5 or 6 regularly-played internet-enabled Wii titles. There must be around 20 on the other two. Yet the best way to show how far Nintendo have come with their online is to cast your mind back to 2006, just after launch. There were none. A step in the right direction, Nintendo, but you’ll need to break into a brisk jog in order to catch up with any of the pack.