Long Live the Wii

I probably haven’t booted the system to play anything in about six years. After I graduated from undergrad, I became too busy with other things like work, my dog, and my home, and it had been too difficult to set aside the time to start a new game. But when I saw the announcement for Super Mario Odyssey, I was intrigued with its potential to be a spiritual successor to Super Mario 64. I then remembered I never played Super Mario Galaxy for Wii.

Galaxy garnered amazing reviews and many believe it to be the best game on the system. I went looking for a copy and realized not much has happened in the world of the Wii since 2013. In fact, nothing at all. The firmware on the system hasn’t been updated and the homebrew tools and community forums were largely abandoned about four years ago. Nintendo has even shut down all the services to the system. Wait, really? Is the system already that dated?

Out with the Old

My brother and I previously took a break from Nintendo to give Sony a shot with the Playstation 2. Tempted by better graphics and access to Final Fantasy and other RPGs, we had a blast with the PS2 for years. A few games stick out in my mind: Final Fantasy X, Dance Dance Revolution 2 Max¹, Shadow of the Colossus, Need for Speed, Time Splitters. But in the early fall of 2006, the seventh-generation systems by Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo were all announced and ready to shake up the consumer electronic industry. It was time to think about upgrading, which meant reviewing our collective gaming assets to generate cash.

I was a little nervous about selling our PlayStation 2, though the sentimentality couldn’t compare to that of our Nintendo 64. Resting peacefully in the TV cabinet², the ’64 was an elegant system for a more civilized age. A healthy film of hand grease and control stick powder still coats the buttons on the controllers and attests to countless hours of Mario 64 and GoldenEye 007. This was the defining system of our childhood. Treasured. Venerated. And although the system wouldn’t fetch high-dollar in the used system market of 2006, our beloved ’64 was priceless.

The Playstation 2, on the other hand, offered a little less sentimental value and garnered quite a bit more market value. So with new systems on the way and reports of PS2 disk drive failures, the time to part ways with our PS2 was nigh. Listed on Craigslist for $140 with ten games, two controllers, and our two Red Octane DDR mats, it sold about two weeks later for asking price.

In with the New

Sony would go on to hold the crown for graphics, with Microsoft promising new titles for the Halo franchise and teasing Windows users with multimedia center abilities. But these features, in our eyes, didn’t hold a candle to the novelty of the radically different controllers Nintendo would be including with the Wii. Accelerometers, speakers, and screen pointers offered new possibilities for developers and changed the way players engaged with games. We were hooked with the body-movement capture in Wii Sports and Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess and, with the nostalgic layout of the NES controller and the promise of NES and SNES games, my brother and I decided on the Wii. We would do whatever it took to have it.

Limited quantities meant we would have to camp out for the Wii if we wanted it on launch day. Word on the street was that Wal-Mart would have the most inventory, and we strategized that our chances of success would be highest if we camped at a Wal-Mart in a small town rather than a big city. On November 18, 2006 we drove to the Wal-Mart in Smithfield, NC and arrived at 8pm. A line of folks was already forming outside the store, and we were number 12. At 11:30pm we were herded into the electronics section of the store to wait and at midnight they sold 15 systems. We were only allotted one additional game from the handful of games available to purchase, so we picked up Legend of Zelda. Filled with excitement and giddiness, we raced home to play. We didn’t see the back of our eyelids until about 3am.

11 Years Later

We played the system frequently over the years following it’s release, and in subsequent years traded the system back and forth playing new titles as we acquired them, but dust has since accumulated on my end since 2012. About four months ago, eager to play Super Mario Galaxy, I booted the Wii and attempted to send Joe France a message. Instead of a successful transmission, I received a Termination of Service notice back from Nintendo. WiiConnect24 was shutdown when Nintendo released the Wii-U, subsequently cutting support for the Wii. All internet services associated with it have since been disabled: Messaging, Mii Sharing, Forecast Channel, News Channel, Nobody Votes, everything. Additionally, while some games allowed for console-to-console connections in-game, with the abandonment of WiiConnect24 that’s gone as well.

I can understand that a lack of users may not have justified server upkeep, and Nintendo certainly and understandably had a desire to move on to bigger and better things and support their newer systems. But on the other hand, I’m filled with disappointment and uncertainty for future consoles. This was the first system we owned that took advantage of internet connectivity. Nintendo advertised these services as a major feature but subsequently shut them down less than eight years later, rather uncharted territory in the history of Nintendo consoles. If I boot up any prior Nintendo game system, I can rest assured I will receive the exact same experience the system offered on day one. But henceforth, all gaming systems must be purchased under the pretense that there’s an expiration date on full functionality.

In a sense, it’s ironic. Nintendo branded the system the “Wii” to encourage the idea that you’re playing with others. You’re connected, enjoying the system together. Now it’s just “Mii”— disconnected from the world. Alone. Gone are the days of the blinking blue light. There will never be another message sent to the console from anyone else. There will never be another weather forecast. The Mii characters we created will live out their immortal digital lives confined to their system of origin. But I was able to play through Super Mario Galaxy and, for now at least, I have a few more games I can play before it hits the dust bin for another decade.

  1. My friends and I hosted DDR2 parties in high school. I remember having a pair of Red Octane mats— renowned for their quality, they were highly coveted in my circle. Band geeks, gotta love ’em.
  2. Remember these?

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