Of Wiis and PS3s

I have neglected to mention here, except via sly inference (specifically, mentioning Ridge Racer 7), that I have a PS3. I also have a Wii.

I’m most proud of the fact that I was able to acquire both, at launch, without waiting in line for more than half an hour each. The internet is a powerful information distributor, if you know where to look—and when you combine that with stores (like, say, EB Games and Toys R Us) that sometimes decide to do last-minute pre-orders, you can get lucky.

I’ll jump to the punchline: I think the PS3 will best the Wii. It seems like I’m going against almost everyone online by holding that opinion—but, then again, you don’t get the chance to look like a genius if you vote with the crowd. (ha)

The Wii is, almost as literally as you can get, a DS made for your TV. By far the most fun game I’ve played on the Wii is Trauma Center: Second Opinionsecond opinion because it’s a remake of the DS game of the same name. Yes, the Wii is a DS that can tell how you’re moving your stylus even without touching the touchscreen—but it’s not as good at that as you would hope. Wii Boxing is an exercise in frustration: to get your character to do something other than a regular face punch, you have to make wild, unnatural motions. An uppercut takes a swift flick of your wrist up—not an uppercut motion. The latter will—at least, for me—result in a face punch. Good luck landing a body blow without dropping your hands well below your waist.

[And, actually, looking at my DS game collection… only Kirby Canvas Curse and Elite Beat Agents use the touch-screen in a way that would be impossible with a traditional controller. The rest are traditional games, that use the touch screen mostly because it’s there. Take Contact, an RPG, that allows you to move your character by touching where you want him to head—is that really a revolution over the D-pad? Even my beloved Phoenix Wright games were originally found on the Gameboy Advance in Japan.]

Where the Wii succeeds is in the same area that the GameCube succeeded: party games. To leave it at that, though, is akin to arguing that the sun is hotter than an ice cube: the Wii completely obliterates the GameCube when it comes to party games. As I’m sure you all are aware, people love the Wii. Not just gamers—people who have never touched a controller in their life love the Wii.

But. The Wii accomplishes this feat by shedding the shackles of most traditional game genres. I happen to like action, adventure, RPG, and shoot-’em-up games. The Wiimote absolutely sucks as a traditional game controller. (I’ve tried, with Gunstar Heroes.)

Yes, you can attach a Classic Controller for your traditional games. Stripped of its controller, though, the Wii isn’t a compelling next-gen* game machine—its graphics are decidedly inferior to the other consoles, and it’s not like Nintendo owns the idea of fun games.

[*When do we start calling them current-generation systems?]

On the other side, the PS3 isn’t the end-all-be-all of consoles. It costs a hell of a lot, and has a woefully mediocre lineup of games at the moment. Since I get motion sick with FPS games, the only PS3 game I own is Ridge Racer 7. I love the game—Brian and I play it darn near every Thursday, after our traditional visit to the Beanery—but, then again, I’ve never played a Ridge Racer game before. Until recently the PS3 managed to make most PS2 games look like garbage; the PS3 still refuses to upscale its picture for older HDTVs that don’t support a resolution of 720p.

I’m not bit by that last issue, though, and Ridge Racer 7 is by far the prettiest game I’ve ever played—the scenery is actually reflected, in real time, in the sheen of your car. Coming from my console-gaming roots, it’s mind-boggling. It’s totally useless, but it’s a level of realism that was totally unheard-of with the PS2 or GameCube. (I don’t play games on my PC, nor have I ever used an XBox or a 360; I understand this sort of thing isn’t so mind-blowing from those perspectives.)

So why do I think the PS3 will eventually triumph over the Wii, when the market says the PS3 is weak and the Wii is strong? A gut feeling, mostly: I sense untapped potential in the PS3, and I can’t shake the feeling that the Wiimote is, at the end of the day, a gimmick. The PS3 still has some cards up its sleeve; the Wii has played its best cards out of the gate.

Could I be wrong? Certainly.

Nintendo’s hope is that the PS3 fails to deliver fun games, while the Wii actually does. It’s happened before, between the DS and the PSP, and it could happen again. But the PS3, unlike the PSP, doesn’t live under the shadow of being “a portable PS2”; the Wii, unlike the DS, doesn’t have a set of traditional controls out of the box to back up the new control scheme.

Lastly: why did I buy a PS3, and not a 360? A major reason is because the 360 mostly features FPS games… and first-person shooters, as I mentioned above, make me physically ill. My primary reason, though, is a bet: the games I tend to be the most interested in—mostly RPGs—come from Japan… and Japan, historically, has strongly favored Sony over Microsoft.

 

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