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Wii WERE INVITED

15 July 2006

Being a freelance journalist for the only Dutch Nintendo magazine [N]Gamer brings along some very interesting perks. And as you know, perks are good.

In this case, I was offered to join in on a trip to Belgium (Vilvoorde, located in the Flanders region which speaks Dutch as well) where Nintendo gave sort of an E3 'wrap-up' party. This was an excellent opportunity to acquaint myself with the Wii and something I had been looking forward to for many weeks. So despite my skin teeming with an unfortunate mould-infection of which I recently related, I packed up, put on an arm-covering blouse (thank god the touring car and convention site were air-conditioned!) and head for Utrecht.

From there, the Nintendo bus brought us to Vilvoorde and in those 2 hours we got the chance to play some new DS games, like Yoshi's Island 2. That is to say; there was a copy on board, which was obviously immediately whisked away by eager reporter hands. So the factual outcome was that we (me and some fellow [N]Gamer freelancers) were stuck with no less than four DS lites holding three copies of Brain Training and one of Big Brain Academy.

Thankfully, we arrived after a short trip and, making our way past the buffet table consisting of cold fish dishes, proceeded directly to a modestly sized hall where about ten Wii's were lined up on the walls, hooked onto resplendent HD-ready flatscreen TV's. It was a tech-nerd's Walhalla. But I am not a tech-nerd, so my interest was completely soaked up by the Wii itself. After waiting for someone else at the unit that was playing WiiMusic; the orchestra game that Miyamoto so vigorously played at the opening of the Nintendo E3 press conference, I finally picked up the controller for the first time ever. The Wiimote. I had never wanted to play any other game first but the Orchestra Game and it finally came true. The Wiimote was in my hands... and it felt completely natural. I had heard reports of people having to adjust their way of thinking, or finding it awkward, but none of this was at all the case. I had the thing in my hand and it immediately became an extension of my body. It felt so natural, so logical; it became an invisible piece of hardware in my hands.

I started playing; pointed and selected the Zelda theme that I so desired to play. A virtual hand appeared on the screen, tapping its wand. The orchestra looked up in anticipation. I began flicking the Wiimote. On my rhythm, the countdown started. 4, 3, 2, 1, and the orchestra burst into the whimsical tones of the Zelda theme. At first I was standing a bit rigid; aware of the many people around me. But my cravings got the better of me, and my second hand shot in the air as I waved around; dancing along to the metre. Before long my knees started bouncing up and down as well, and I was fully preoccupied with guiding the song. The two minutes passed as in a dream and now came that tricky ending where the fanfare burst into the climax. My instinct told me to dance to the music, but that'd mean the song would come to a standstill, so I kept a rhythm, but slowly built it down, making it louder and more triumphant. The final notes burst out of the speakers, my arms made their last tremendous wave and it ended.

Fantastic. Over the course of the evening I played it dozens of time, continuously returning to the game to try out new techniques, but mostly just to enjoy it again, the thrill of directing. My gut feeling had come true; the hunch I had that this would be the most fun to play of the bunch. Which leads me to the somewhat disappointing bits of the evening: there was no Super Mario Galaxy, no Rayman Raving Rabbids, no Twilight Princess and no Red Steel. All there was were the non-games; Wii Sports and Wario Ware: Smooth Moves. And since, like I reported earlier; there was no barrier whatsoever to overcome in handling the controller, the excitement of finally playing with it ebbed away sooner than expected; making the games all the more important. And with only a few sports games present, and a new version of Duck hunt, and only the thrilling Orchestra game showing much replay value; the hall with the Wii's wasn't that busy at all.

The journalists that had seen enough of it swiftly funnelled into a large lounge area with low tables and couches that ate you up where a massive amount of DS lites were anchored to the floor and ready to be played upon. Everything was there: The Phantom Hourglass, Yoshi's Island 2, Elite Beat Agents, The new Pokémon games, Mario 3 on 3 Hoops, Starfox Command, everything. So that gave a DS shot in the arm, let me tell you.

When the end was in sight and it was almost time to leave; I kept replaying the Zelda theme over and over, not wanting it to end. The event may have been a bit disappointing in some respects (the lack of goodies to take home was a noticeable one!), there were things present that would have been worth going for on their own. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of training to do to become a good conductor. I want to be at my best when I meet my special friend again.

Roderick.