The Wii Shop Channel is altogether more important and gives you access to Virtual Console games, and eventually new channels when they become available. The shop uses a points system, imaginatively named ‘Wii Points’, and every 100 points represents 75 pence of your hard earned pound. You can buy points on cards at retail, with 2000 points costing £14.99 or you can purchase them online using a credit card with up to 10,000 points allowed at any one time.
Navigating the Shopping Channel is pretty easy and you can view games alphabetically or by console, as well as reviewing all the latest releases. Currently there are classic games from the NES, TurboGrafix16 (PC Engine), SNES, Sega Mega Drive and N64 with prices ranging from 500 points for NES titles, up to 1000 points for N64 titles. Once downloaded, these games can be stored on the internal memory or on an SD card and should you run out of space you can delete and re-download anything you’ve purchased.
Currently, the selection of Virtual Console games is fairly limited, though the numbers are bound to increase with Nintendo’s huge library of retro games joined by many from other platforms. Emulation is generally fine, though it’s a significant disappointment to find Sonic running in the slower 50Hz PAL mode when most modern TV’s support the faster 60Hz NTSC mode.
The final major interface feature is the Wii Message Board, which allows you to add friends, send messages, emails, photos and make short memos. Before you can do any of this, however, you’ll need to trade Wii Codes – made up of 16 digits – with your friends. As part of the system to prevent abuse, it isn’t possible to send messages unless both parties have exchanged and registered these codes on their consoles. Once this takes place you are free to do what you want, while also exchanging Mii’s should you wish to do so.
The Message Board also keeps track of your gaming activities, leaving messages informing you how long you have played on the Wii, what games you’ve played and, in the case of Wii Sports, achievements earned. This is a nice addition, though it’s a little disappointing that information is provided for each individual day only, with no collected record kept for posterity.
One of the more unusual and unique features of Wii is WiiConnect24. When activated, the console will remain in a power saving mode when not in use but maintain a permanent wireless connection to the Internet.
At the moment, this is used to download updates and receive messages on the fly – a nice touch is that the disc drive glows blue each time there’s some kind of new content. It may not seem like a major feature right now, but it makes the Forecast and forthcoming News Channels possible and the potential uses are numerous.
Animal Crossing, well known for the DS edition Wild World as well as the original GameCube version, is one game that will reportedly use this feature extensively; allowing for instantaneous interaction and trading of in-game assets among players.