Hands on the Wii

reporter's notebook CNET News.com takes Nintendo's forthcoming Wii video game console for a test spin. And likes it.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

reporter's notebookSAN FRANCISCO--I'm sitting in a conference room here at CNET Networks' headquarters, playing a baseball game on a Nintendo Wii in which the players look like little more than rudimentary Lego people.

Still, I'm having a good time, swinging (and mostly missing, I'll admit) at pitches, but once in awhile smacking a hit.

Mostly, I'm having fun because the mood of the game, thanks to the Lego figure players, is silly. And I'll admit it: The Wii's innovative new motion-sensitive remote controller and secondary nunchuck (an ancillary controller specific to the Wii) is easy to use, especially for someone like me who has always had a little trouble with traditional console joysticks.


Thanks to Nintendo product testing supervisor Sean Egan, I've have about 90 minutes of solo time on the Wii as part of a road show Nintendo's putting on for the console in advance of its Nov. 19 release.

My test has cemented the feeling I had at the E3 game show in May, where I got about five minutes of Wii play time, that for players like me who aren't hard-core gamers but enjoy good game play, Nintendo's next-generation console will be a lot more fun than Microsoft's Xbox 360 or Sony's PlayStation 3.

Egan and I begin the road test with some mini game demos that are part of "Wario Ware."

The idea behind these very, very simple games is to teach players how to use the controller. For example, players jump rope by simply moving the controller up and down in time with the rope onscreen. Swinging the controller like a hammer hammers in a nail.


And sure, even with that level of complexity, I still manage to screw up a few times. But Egan humors me and keeps telling me I'm doing a good job, even when it's obvious I'm looking foolish. Ah, flattery.

The thing is, the mini games, no matter how simple or pointless they are in their own right, do just what they're supposed to: teach players what the heck is going on with these newfangled controllers. And that's important, because as easy as they are to use, they are unfamiliar.

Even so, by the time we move on to the next demo, a fishing task built into "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," I'm already feeling like a Wii pro.

To fish, Egan explains, you pull back on the pole--the remote controller--and cast off by throwing your hand forward. Happily, the nunchuck makes a satisfying fishing reel noise as the "fishing line" feeds out. Then, when you hook a fish and are pulling it back in, the built-in speaker makes just the clicking sound a reel would make if it was real. I enjoy the feedback.

Each demo Egan gives me is aimed at furthering my Wii controller education. Each game works on a slightly different element of the controller's functions, and fortunately, one or two false starts each time aside, the demos do their job: By the end, I feel like I have a handle on what I'm doing.

One thing that does occur to me, however, is that being in a room with another person who is casting "a "fishing rod" with this controller might look a little silly. It may take some time and some really good friends for me to not feel that way. After all, the controllers are rather small in your hand and it looks a bit like you're just gesticulating wildly.

I think it's something I would get over eventually, though. And Egan doesn't appear to be too self-conscious about it.


Correction: This story gave an incorrect price for the premium version of the Xbox 360. That version of the console is priced at $399.
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