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In the 80s, kids of my generation cut their teeth on Super Mario Bros.. They went through high school with Mario Kart, and bonded with college friends playing Super Smash Bros. By 1999, though, the N64 had long since proven that Nintendo's dominance in American videogaming was over. The GameCube that followed was largely a disappointment. Nintendo failed to interest third party developers, and frustrated fans with long-delayed chapters of the Mario, Zelda, and Metroid franchises. Coming into this no-longer-next generation of consoles, Nintendo announced they were aiming for a Revolution, and then confused everyone by renaming it Wii. Their actions left a lot of people wondering if the company still had what it took to compete with committed powerhouses like Microsoft and Sony. The launch lineup is kind of tepid, and the controls really do take some getting used to. We've already established that they're not aiming to compete in the graphics race. So what is the console really like? Why is it selling so quickly? What does it have to offer? I've had two weeks to find out. Read on, so that you can get a feel for the system you'll definitely be playing (if not owning) at some point in the future.
Even with a fairly humble collection of launch titles, Nintendo has managed to get gamers and non-gamers alike to drink the kool-aid. The system delivers exactly what the company promised when the 'Revolution' was announced in 2004. It's a system that offers the best of both worlds. Non-gamers have a completely intuitive control scheme that will now allow them to play with their game-loving friends. Hardcore gamers already have more innovative titles to play than they know what to do with. So what if some of them, like Red Steel come up a little short. For every Red Steel, there's a Trauma Center, a Rayman, or a Twilight Princess (whose review grew too large to fit here, and will be addressed tomorrow). Offering the best of new technology and plenty of unearthable retro memories, the Wii is a console that demands attention. I've yet to encounter anyone with a mild opinion of the little white box; you are either going to love this thing, or hate it.
Either way, Nintendo has finally broken free of its 'me too' position, held since the days of the N64. Even if the Wii stays the third-place console, it's no longer possible to think of the company as an also-ran. Sony and Microsoft are in for a hard fight this time around. The only side guaranteed not to lose is our side; whatever happens in this war, it's the gamers who win.
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