Please educate Luddite Mom about Wii

OK, so seriously, the last gaming system I owned displayed two paddles and let you bounce a ball between them on your TV. It was the deluxe version, so you could speed it up when you got really good, and switch from orange to green when your retinas began to burn out.

Since then I’ve played Pac Man a few times, and made a short foray into The Sims until Medieval killed my crappy laptop.

So, while I’m not stupid, I’m really terribly ignorant about what’s out there and what’s awesome and why.

My five-year-old daughter wants a Wii system for Christmas. I’m fairly certain that we don’t need the new Wii U (and if we do, forget it, because the price is out of the question!) but what should I know about buying a gaming system?

I’d like to be able to use some of the exercise/dance type games, and I love the idea of the guitar and singing stuff. She played a game with Mario in a go-cart racing around the Mall, and really wants that one.

We don’t have hi-def TV, so there’s no point paying for a super-beautiful video product.

What should I be considering? Is Wii the right answer? Why?

What does it come with? I gather that the fancy controllers are half the point, how far will it set me back to be able to play guitar or steer a car? Do they come with the game or is it an additional cost?

What games are age-appropriate for a super-smart five year old who loves to learn? are there any foreign language games available? Where can I look for reliable reviews?

Thanks for any advice/input/links you can provide!

If you get the original Wii, it is most certainly not hi-def so no worries there. You may want to check your tv though for compatible inputs, may just need to buy some cables. This wiki article lists the included hardware: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wii#Hardware. It does come with one controller, which is enough to get you going. You need nothing else besides a game to play racing games. Mario Kart is probably available very cheaply used, and used is fine so long as the disc isn’t scratched. You can get the steering wheel thing, but it does nothing other than hold the controller. The rock band and other games of that type need controllers depending on the game, but there are packages available.

The Wii Mini for $99 has been released in Canada, no word on its release elsewhere. It is fully functional, just in a smaller package.

“What should I be considering? Is Wii the right answer? Why?”

Wii is the right answer because it’s for casual and/or young gamers. Nintendo has more of a kid’s audience both in gameplay and theme. Looking at the best selling games, I have to go all the way down to the 33rd best selling game to find one that may not be suitable for young kids (Resident Evil 4). You could rent a bunch of games and, based on how much the two of you like each and how much replayability there is, buy them, perhaps on Ebay.

A good place to start is the best selling Wii games: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_Wii_video_games

The fact that they’re best selling doesn’t insure you’ll like them but it gives you good odds, especially those which were not bundled with the console or an accessory. You can go to Youtube and type in “GAMENAME gameplay” to see how promising it a particular game is.

If you go to Wikipedia, you’ll see that the vast majority of games have a “Reception” section which lists several reviewing scores and links. I personally prefer Eurogamer as a reviewing site but perhaps that is a question of taste, mine being likely rather different from a 5 year old girl’s.

There are probably packaged deals for the holidays so I can’t speak for all of them but generally you get:

1 Wii Remote Plus controller
1 Nunchuck (required to play some, but not majority of games)

If your kid is anything like mine, they will beg you to pick up a 2nd Wii Remote to play with them. This can be an extra $40 to $50 for a brand new one, but you might be able to find one used. There are also some (weak) games available that come packed with a “free” Wii Remote Plus like Fling Smash or Wii Play Motion.

Most of the plastic junk that goes with the games are useless and only adds to your own personal delusion that you actually have a wheel or golf club or tennis racket. The exception is that any fake music instruments like a guitar or drum set has extra button inputs and must to be purchased for Rock Band or Guitar Hero games. A lot of the exercise games do not need extra equipment, but some of them use a balance board called (drumroll) the Wii Balance Boardwhich runs about $100. One nice thing about the Wii accessories, if you decide to upgrade to the Wii U in a few years, you can still transfer the Wii accessories to the new system.

Some games that my kid likes:

Just Dance Kids
Mario Party 9
Wii Sports Resort
Mario Kart

The best thing you can do when choosing games for a kid is to visit the local library and take out a couple of games and try them at home. If she really likes it, you can think about buying it later. If she just enjoys it a little, you can always take it out from the library again.

When I bought extra controllers a few months ago, they were 29.99 at Target and if you’re paying 100 bucks for the balance board, wii fit is included, so it’s more like 40 bucks for wii fit and 60 for the balance board.

The Wii Mini lacks online capabilities which means no using it to stream Netflix, YouTube, weather, news, etc nor can you use the Wii store (buying new songs for dance/band games) or download game/firmware updates. That doesn’t make it useless but it’s not the same product as the standard Wii.

I’d look on eBay or Craigslist for guitar/band games. Those seem to be the first to wind up in a corner collecting dust (next to the Wii Fit board). You can probably score a decent price below retail.

Dollar Tree often has a variety of wii controller addons in stock. For a dollar. The only one that’s really fun to use IMHO is the wheel - Mario Kart just doesn’t feel right without the wheel.

Nintendogs. I packed away my wii because those little pixelated puppies made me feel guilty if I didn’t pay attention to them. I gave the wii and games to my niece and nephew who love it.