Monday, May 5, 2008

My Wii number is 6476 1454 1227 5966

It really is everything I'd imagined.

Sure, I played "Super Mario Galaxy" at the Best Buy display this winter. Kirby and I even kicked ass at "Smash Brothers Brawl" at a console in Lansing.

But unless you see it in action, and see it sitting in your living room, there's no judging a Nintendo Wii. You must hold it and play it and experience everything for yourself.

And it all happened by pure, dumb luck. Saturday I was out testing Canon point-and-shoot cameras (deciding between the SD1000 and SD750), because (a) I take forever to purchase something and (b) I like to get the feel of the thing before I plunk down $200. I made up my mind (the SD750) and was about to walk out of Best Buy when I almost ran into a table at the front of the store. They had a Wii dispaly set up, with the new "Mario Kart Wii" everywhere, and I saw the Wii boxes sitting there.

Now, before, I've seen Wii boxes, and everytime I lifted one up in hopes that This Was The Time I was disappointed because the box was empty. "For display only," it would taunt me.

Saturday, though, the box had heft. I lifted it, and gravity told me This Time Was Different. I shook it, and even carried it up to the sales clerk.

"Am I dreaming?" I asked. "Is this for real?"

"Yes," she said. "We've had a few all week long."

Well no shit. I immediately hugged the box in my arms, and went back to the table to start grabbing games. "Mario Kart" was the obvious choice, but - having been out of the video game arena since...well, since the original Playstation - I was a virtual rookie. What cables do I buy? What controllers would I need? Did I need to buy it dinner before I took it home?

Thankfully the helpful guy in the video game section steered me toward Nintendo-shaded bliss. Yes, the one controller and nunchuck was in the box; no, I wouldn't need those component cables; yes, "Mario Kart" would replace family and friends in due time.

This is what I bought: a rechargeable battery station, a copy of "Mario Kart Wii," and the gleaming-white Wii. It cost $350, all-together.

I didn't want to spend anymore than that because I knew I wasn't thinking clearly. I called Don and told him the good news, and walked out of the store a changed man. But I knew I'd be back. "Mario Galaxy" is still out there, unclaimed, and those classic controllers to play the old standards (you can play the original "Mario Bros." and "Donkey Kong Country" - my old NES and SNES favorites!) have to be purchased.

All in due time. I got the thing home and, as luck would have it, left for Kalamazoo for the night. Sunday, however, I was back and carefully unpacking and hooking up the Wii and its sensor bar and charging the controllers. Getting online was a snap, making my Mii was a hoot, and watching the disc slot glow and throb like my iBook's sleep light was a true joy.

Now I'm planning on taking the Wii to my grandma's (I'd love to punch her legally sometimes - now's my chance) and my dad's (he'll love the golf and baseball), and to hold the First Invitational Alpine Lake Apartments Mario Kart Wii Tournament (entry fee: one beer).

My teenage years were spent either working or playing video games, but from college on I strayed from the world of Mario and Mortal Kombat. There's too much life to live, even though I sometimes will pop "NCAA Football" in and rush for a few hundred yards. Life is still too short to waste it on video games. That doesn't mean a few hours a week can't be spent racing my little brother Andrew, who lives clear out in California, and enjoying a tennis match or two with friends. That's what I like about the Wii: instead of the stanard controller/game combo the new Playstation and XBox platforms offer, with Nintendo you get a whole new experience. It's social. And it's fun.

And the search is finally over. Game on.

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