Nintendo Wii Mini review: Mini in all the wrong ways

Also, the Wii Mini only comes bundled with an RCA, or, composite video cable. I haven't seen one of those in person in years. That's one step below component, the old alternative to HDMI. Yellow, red, white: that means video output with the included cable, while it will work on a TV dating back to 1987, is guaranteed to look terrible. The original Wii can output 480p-quality video, if you invest in a component video cable; but, hold off on that plan here, because the Wii Mini only works with the included RCA cable (the manual itself warns about this in small print.) I tried an off-brand Wii-to-HDMI adapter we bought online, but it didn't work. Having no video output other than RCA is a bigger problem than no Wi-Fi, at least to me: on most modern TVs, RCA video signals look fuzzy and awful.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There are other design annoyances and quirks, too. The included AC power brick is still oddly large, approaching half the size of the actual system. And, the Wii Mini's build quality is bordering on cheap-feeling. There's a pop-open disc tray rather than slot-loading design of the original Wii -- oddly, it also conjures up memories of older NES systems past, and at least should be easier to clean. And did we even need a Wii redesign? Nothing's really "mini" here physically -- the original Wii's still very small, although heavier. But you're not holding the Wii in your hands, anyway: you're tucking it next to your TV. This has nearly the same footprint, and unlike the original Wii, it can't be stacked on its side.

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The Wii has tons of great games under its belt: Zeldas, Marios, Metroids, Wii Sports, and many, many more. But odds are, whoever was interested in a Wii already owns one, and it's sitting in a closet somewhere collecting dust. If your Wii burned in a fire and you have tons of games but no Wii, buy a used one for $70 at GameStop. If you always wanted Mario Kart and need a new controller and have an old TV and prefer never to go online ever, ever again, get the Wii Mini.

Nintendo's approach to low cost is a lot different with the Nintendo 2DS: similarly clad in red and black plastic, it's budget done right. The 2DS has all the features of the 3DS, minus 3D, and can play all the games, even downloaded ones. The Wii Mini's the same size, roughly, as the Wii, but comes with fewer features. It's mini in all the wrong ways.

The Wii next to the Wii Mini. Not very Mini. Sarah Tew/CNET

Now, what if this Wii Mini came preinstalled with games, like one of those retro consoles you find at Urban Outfitters? Ten classic NES games, and maybe even Wii Sports. Then, suddenly, this Wii Mini would be a kitschy treat, a stocking stuffer with a lot of fun already packed in. Mario Kart is nice, but the Wii Mini doesn't do enough otherwise to justify being cut off from online forever.

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You can't play DVDs on a Wii Mini. You can't use Netflix. You can't download games. You can't play online. And you certainly can't play old GameCube games. If I were you, I'd apply that $100 toward a Wii U, which can play old Wii games and also a lot of newer, better ones. Or, you could get a Nintendo 2DS. Either one will give you more bang for your nostalgic gaming buck.

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