Tag Archives: geek squad

Geek Squad Gushes Over New Nintendo 3DS

It was 2004 when Nintendo released the original DS and started its campaign to innovate the gaming industry through the ways we interact with games. A touch screen on a handheld? Two screens? Both these things seemed absurd upon first hearing them, but the past seven years have been kind to Nintendo, and sales of the DS and its subsequent revisions have shown that the features of Nintendo’s ambitious dual-screened handheld aren’t just gimmicks. Last year, Nintendo unveiled their newest successor to their long line of handheld systems, the Nintendo 3DS. Offering up 3D visuals without the need for special glasses, Nintendo hopes to once again innovate gaming with the 3DS in the same way it did with the original DS. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to play with the 3DS since its March 27th launch date, I felt it was time to weigh in on what’s hot, what’s not, and if you should be willing to drop $250 on this hot new piece of tech.

Hardware

The 3DS is pretty much the same size as a DS Lite and only a half-ounce heavier. Launch colors are Cosmo Black and Aqua Blue – I went with Aqua Blue since it‘s better at hiding fingerprints.  The 3DS has a front-facing camera and two cameras on the back, which can be used with games or to take 3D pictures. They’re not the best quality, but they get the job done. Just like all the previous versions, the bottom screen of the 3DS has touch capabilities, but the top screen is a brand new beast – a parallax barrier wide screen display that’s able to provide 3D visuals without the glasses. And as far as processing power goes, the 3DS has a new processor under the hood that’s powerful enough to provide some great graphics – seriously, this thing is more powerful than the Nintendo Wii. Of course, all these features come at a fairly high energy cost, which leads to the 3DS’s biggest downfall – its battery life. Depending on how you tweak some settings, you’re looking at a battery life of 3 to 5 hours, which is remarkably low for a handheld. I wouldn’t call it a deal breaker, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re a big fan of gaming on the go.

3D

So how ‘bout that glasses-free 3D? Well, I can tell you that it definitely works for the most part, but it’s the kind of thing you have to try for yourself. 3D may not be for everyone, though – there’s been reports of people getting headaches and the like from prolonged use of the 3D effect, but this doesn’t occur in everyone – I personally have no problem with it. To combat this, the 3DS has an adjustable slider that lets you modify the 3D effect to your preference, allowing you to even turn it off completely. When it’s on, though, it’s a spectacle – elements pop out from the screen, overlap each other naturally, and sink into the screen to create an incredible illusion of depth. The downside comes in the nature of the technology – the way the display works requires you to hold the 3DS in a very specific way, and moving it from this ‘sweet spot’ breaks the 3D effect and makes you just see double. It’s a big concession, but also a fairly manageable one.

Software

A system is nothing without games, and I wouldn’t be the first to admit that the 3DS’s launch lineup – like most of Nintendo’s launch lineups – isn’t so hot. There’s games like Super Street Fighter 4, Nintendogs & Cats, and Pilotwings Resort, but nothing interested me enough to actually buy a game. That’s not a completely bad thing though as it’s given me time to extensively play with the 3DS’s included games, which are great enough in their own right. Face Raiders is a shooter that has you take a picture of someones face then overlays it onto the game’s enemies, utilizing the 3DS’s cameras to make them fly around your surroundings. Then there’s Augmented Reality (probably my favorite thing about the 3DS), which uses special cards to transform any surface into a game of archery, golf, and much more.

While the 3DS’s current gaming offerings is a tad weak, the future is bright with games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising, a 3D remake of Star Fox 64, and a brand-new Paper Mario game all coming down the pipeline. Third-party support is strong as well, with the 3DS seeing entries from major series like Metal Gear Solid, Assassin’s Creed, and Resident Evil.
Wrap-Up

So is this thing worth the $250 you need to plop down to get it? While I don’t regret my decision to purchase one at all, I feel like its release was a little premature – its current game lineup could be much better, and the system is missing core features like an internet browser and game shop until Nintendo releases an update in late May. I don’t think the 3DS will hit its stride until June at the earliest, so I’d say holding off on the 3DS for a while is just fine unless you’ve already got $300 or so to throw around. But give it a little time, and I can see the 3DS shaping up to be a must-have.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta

Scene Editor: Tracey Sidler

Geek Squad

Let’s face it, if you grew up playing video games, chances are that you’ve got an affinity (perhaps deep-seated) for those 8-bit beeps and boops embedded into your childhood. Everybody gets nostalgic when they hear the theme to Super Mario Bros., but the music isn’t normally the first thing that springs to most people’s minds when they think about video games. But the music in many video games has inspired many musicians of varying genres. Here’s a small sampling of some of my favorite geeky artists.

Anamanaguchi -Power Supply

Anamanaguchi is a chiptune band hailing from New York City that, according to their website, “makes loud, fast music with a hacked NES from 1985.” With roaring guitars, blasting drums and lightning-fast 8-bit music, Anamanaguchi merges old and new sounds seamlessly, creating an adrenaline-driven soundtrack that you’d expect to find in a Mega Man game. If you played the recently released Scott Pilgrim vs. the World video game, you’ve already heard their work. If not, I suggest checking out their first EP, Power Supply, the next time you’re working out or blazing down the freeway.

YTCracker -

Nerdrap Entertainment System

For the hip-hop lovers out there, YTCracker’s got you covered. A former Internet hacker that gained notoriety in 1999 when he defaced multiple government pages, Bryce Case Jr. (known under his stage name of YTCracker) is one of the oldest nerdcore artists on the hip-hop scene. His solo album, Nerdrap Entertainment System, is a short but sweet collection of tracks that contain digitally mixed versions of songs from high-profile NES games: Zelda, Mario, and Mega Man. The album’s strongest feature is the lyrics. It is full of references, some so obscure that only the most seasoned geeks can pick up on them.

The ProtomenAct I/Act II

It’s tough for me to write about these guys without babbling on like a fanboy. The Protomen is a rock band from Tennessee that takes the story of Mega Man and fleshes it out into a brilliant tale of dystopian struggle, legacy, betrayal and redemption. Two of their albums of the trilogy are out already and the third is being released soon. The Protomen has created a rock opera in the purist sense by merging hard hitting vocals with a brilliantly crafted set of lyrics that are all backed by instrumentation that straddles the genres of rock and metal with electronic flares. While many of the songs sound great on their own, The Protomen’s primary goal is to tell a story, and the only way you can get that story is by listening to each album sequentially from start to finish. The attention to detail in both albums is amazing and literary and musical themes run rampant. The Protomen’s music isn’t for everyone, but if you give it a try, you just may end up hooked.

If that just isn’t enough, you may also want to look into artists like I Fight Dragons, The Minibosses, MC Chris, or just go straight to the source and download some video game remixes off www.ocremix.org!

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain

Scene Editor: Tamar Kuyumjian

Jailbreaking: Three Steps to Maximize Your iPhone’s Potential

Welcome to Geek Squad, where you’ll receive your own personal guide through the wonderful world of technology and video games. This week I’d like to take a look at something that falls into that latter half: “jailbreaking” your iPhone.

Are you tired of Apple telling you what apps you can and can’t download through their app store? If so, then jailbreaking may be for you! For those not in the know, jailbreaking is the term used to describe the act of unlocking your iPhone’s operating system and allowing root access. This means once your phone is jailbroken, you have the ability to manipulate your phone in any way, provided you have the proper knowledge and tools. The primary reason that people jailbreak their iPhones is to gain the ability to install apps not found in Apple’s app store.

“But wait,” you may be saying, “Isn’t jailbreaking your iPhone illegal?” If you asked this question a month ago you would have been correct. At the end of July, the Library of Congress added an exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allowed the act of jailbreaking or rooting (the non-iPhone equivalent to jailbreaking) your phone. To quote it directly, this exception allows “computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset”. Of course pirating apps (something that’s possible with a jailbroken iPhone) is still illegal, but now Apple has no authority to take legal action against jailbreaking.

“But wait,” you may be saying a second time, “Isn’t jailbreaking your iPhone difficult and dangerous?” Au contraire, mon frère! When done properly, jailbreaking your iPhone poses minimal risks and is absurdly simple. In fact, it’s so simple that I’m going to tell you how to do it right now!

IMG_0093-1 The current method used to jailbreak your iPhone, JailbreakMe 2.0, accommodates well for hardware and software differences. For hardware, you can use this method to jailbreak your iPhone on a device as new as the iPhone 4 or as old as the iPhone 3G. As for software (or firmware), the requirements vary a little bit. You can consult the chart on JailbreakMe’s Wikipedia page to find out if your specific device’s firmware is compatible with the jailbreak. For the sake of this article, let’s assume you have an iPhone 4. The oldest firmware you can use this method with is 4.0 and the newest is the first update Apple put out, 4.0.1. The most recent update, 4.0.2, fixes the exploit that JailbreakMe uses, so if you’re on firmware 4.0.2 or later you are out of luck until a new exploit is discovered. If your hardware and firmware fall within the parameters to use JailbreakMe and you’ve got a burning desire to jailbreak your iPhone, then hold on tight and read carefully! Oh yeah, and we hold no responsibility for any damage inflicted upon your phone by following these instructions, yadda yadda yadda, you know the drill.

BACK UP YOUR IPHONE! I cannot stress this enough. Although it is true enough that jailbreaking is a safe process, there is always that possibility of something going wrong. In the event that disaster strikes, you can revive and restore it through iTunes. Not only that, but if you’ve had your fun with jailbreaking and want to revert your iPhone back to its original self, restoring will do that, too. To create a backup, just hook up your iPhone to your computer, go into iTunes, right click on your iPhone’s icon, and hit “Back Up.”
With your iPhone, open up Safari and navigate to http://www.jailbreakme.com. You will be presented with a screen that has a slider at the bottom saying “slide to jailbreak.”
Slide it! Once your slide the button over, the jailbreak will begin to download and install itself automatically. After a few minutes, your iPhone will have been freshly jailbroken! If something goes wrong at this point and it doesn’t work, try restarting your iPhone and running the jailbreak again.

And that’s it! Once you jailbreak your iPhone, you’ll notice that a new app has been added to your springboard: Cydia. Think of this as the jailbroken equivalent to the app store,

where you can discover a multitude of apps that increase your iPhone’s functionality. Here’s a few of my favorites:

Winterboard (free): Customize the look of your iPhone’s springboard, lock screen, and more.

Infinifolders ($2): Get past iOS’s ridiculous “12 apps per folder” limit.

Frash (free): Tired of Apple telling you that Flash has no future? Show them what’s what and enable Flash content just by touching it!

Five-Column Springboard (free): Take advantage of all that extra real estate on your springboard by squeezing an extra column of apps onto it! You can do the same thing to your dock with Five Icon Dock.

SBSettings (free): A customizable settings window that you can open up in any app for changing your settings on the fly.

MyWi ($10): Turn your iPhone into a WiFi hotspot!

So if you’ve got an iPhone and 10 minutes to spare, free yourself from Apple’s hold and use your phone the way you want to.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain

Geek Squad: iPad? iPass

For months on end, rumors of the fabled Apple tablet had pulsed through the waves of technological news and hearsay, and while no details were given, everyone knew it was coming. This all came to a head on January 27, when Steve Jobs took to the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and debuted to an anxious audience what everyone was aware of but didn’t know what to expect: the iPad. After seeing what Apple has to offer in the iPad, I can’t help but find myself stuck in the latter camp. I just can’t say that the iPad is something I can ever see myself buying,  here’s why you shouldn’t either.

Before I go any further, I feel that I should go outright and say that my viewpoint is inherently biased against Apple and many of its products. I tend to look down on some of Apple’s philosophies and more so their questionable business practices, such as the drastic overpricing of hardware in comparison to the market standard. That doesn’t mean I can’t keep an open mind toward Apple’s new products and that’s just what I did as I watched the debut of the iPad.

Let’s start with the facts – or more specifically, with the technical details. A tablet-esque system, the iPad has a 9.7 inch backlit LCD display with capacitive touch properties and a resolution of 1024×768. It runs off a 1 gigahertz processor created by Apple themselves and uses iPhone OS 3.2 as its operating system, allowing the system to run most if not all the apps available for the iPhone. As far as connectivity goes, all iPads come with wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities along with the standard Apple dock connector, while some models also come with 3G capabilities with the cost of a non-contract monthly data plan with AT&T. For these models, AT&T offers two different price points – $15 a month for a maximum of 250 megabytes of data transferred through its 3G network, or $30 a month for unlimited data. Lastly, different iPad models come with different storage sizes – either 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes of flash storage are available. In total, there will be 6 different models of the iPad, with storage size and 3G capabilities being the only differences between models. The least expensive model will run you $499, whereas the most expensive goes as high as $829. The iPad is expected to launch models lacking 3G in March and those models with the capabilities in April.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, we can dissect the iPad and look at it some of its flaws. What’s probably the biggest, in my eyes, is its which characterizes the entire feel of the iPad: its operating system. What Apple basically did was take the iPhone’s operating system, barely tweak it, and stick it on a machine whose hardware capabilities call for much more. iPhone OS works great for the iPhone because its interface is simple and easy to navigate to accommodate for the iPhone’s small screen. Jobs toted the iPad’s larger screen as one of its main advantages, but iPhone OS’s features simply don’t do it justice. As far as I know, the only addition Apple made to the iPad version of the OS is the ability to double-up pixels when running iPhone apps, allowing the apps to stretch to the iPad’s larger screen size but making them appear more pixilated.

The inclusion of iPhone OS 3.2 brings another huge problem to the iPad: the lack of multi-tasking. In other words, you can only run one single app at a time, meaning that opening a new app closes the old one. Want to listen to your iTunes music while surfing the internet or writing a document? Too bad. In his keynote, Jobs described the iPad’s processor as a ‘screamer’, however, with a core feature like multi-tasking missing from the picture, iPad owners will never get a chance to see just how loud it can scream. While the use of iPhone OS 3.2 means a high level of connectivity and compatibility between the iPad and Apple’s other products, it also comes off as a great deal of laziness on the part of Apple for not programming a new operating system for this machine that desperately needs it. A modified version of OS X would have been spectacular, but instead the iPad is left to underperform.

Oh, and did I mention the lack of Flash? Just like the iPhone, the iPad is incapable of playing content that requires Adobe Flash Player. And in this day and age, that’s a lot of content. For shame, Apple.

Looking at the hardware, the iPad is missing one key device and one that would have made the package all the more sweet. First, where on Earth are the USB ports? Nowhere to be found. This means that all interaction between the iPad and other devices has to be done either wirelessly or through the dock connector. The iPad can be connected to an external keyboard, but most keyboards nowadays connect via USB, forcing you to either buy the currently unpriced iPad keyboard dock or one of Apple’s wireless keyboards that communicates via Bluetooth, a $70 investment. The iPad also doesn’t come with a built-in camera, an aspect that puts it below the iPhone. You can connect your own external webcam, but that’s kind of tough with no USB ports. To combat this, Apple will offer a webcam connection kit… for a price, of course. It’s a bit sickening to see Apple exclude a piece of hardware as standard as a USB port and then reap the benefits of selling its own alternatives.

With the way it was presented, it seems that Steve Jobs intended for the iPad to be in direct competition with three different pieces of technology – tablets, e-book readers, and netbooks. But when you look at all the faults of the iPad, it’s tough to recommend it as a viable alternative for any one of those three.

Two of the biggest draws to owning a tablet are in its note-taking capabilities and its drawing capabilities. But with no software for either of these two, the iPad is useless as a conventional tablet. And even if such software was released in the future, the iPad’s capacitive touch screen means that styluses won’t work with the device, severely hindering the precision of such input.

The iPad seems to have the most chance in trumping e-book readers out of anything else, though that’s not saying much. I can see some e-book users flocking to the iPad for its color screen and other features, but true reading aficionados will stick to their e-book readers for two main reasons. The iPad’s LCD screen means that reading prolonged reading sessions will be much more tiring on your eyes than the natural-looking e-ink technology used in today’s e-book readers. If anything, iPad may snatch up some people who were on the fence about getting an e-book reader, but devices like the Kindle and Nook have an established niche community that aren’t likely to throw away their investment in favor of an iPad.

And as a netbook… well, there’s simply no comparison. The lack of an open operating system with multi-tasking capabilities severely hinders the potential for productivity on the iPad. Anything that can be done on an iPad can be done on a netbook – and for cheaper, too. If you’re allured by the features of the iPad, I suggest checking out the variety of tablet netbooks available. My current favorite is the Asus Eee PC T91MT. For roughly the same price as the cheapest iPad model (sometimes cheaper), you get a faster processor, a keyboard, a multi-touch touch screen with handwriting recognition, double the storage of the cheapest iPad model, a webcam, Windows 7 Home Premium, and more. When such a device exists at a similar or cheaper price point than the iPad, the choice is pretty clear.

Apple really could have changed the game with the iPad, but instead they took the safe route. For what it is, the iPad is overpriced, underperforming, and an unqualified competitor. Apple may rectify the iPad’s problems with future generations, but for now, I pass.

Geek Squad: Gifts for Your Gamer

Season’s greetings! The holidays are in full force and, as previous years have shown, it’s a great time to be a gamer. Developers have been known to save many of their top titles for the end-of-the-year shopping splurges brought on thanks to holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever else you happen to celebrate, and this year is no exception. So for this final edition of Geek Squad for the year, let’s delve into five games that have come out in the past few months that will act as the perfect stocking stuffers for any gamer you give them to.

Borderlands (360, PS3, PC)

If you’re a fan of the “Diablo” series or any other dungeon crawler for that matter, “Borderlands” is right up your alley. A hybrid of sorts, “Borderlands” is a first-person shooter that incorporates many role-playing game elements, which should already get you interested. You take control of one of four different characters, each with his or her own unique abilities and strengths to aid you as you explore the barren planet of Pandora, completing quests, shooting down enemies, collecting loot, and searching for a cache of valuable alien artifacts known as “The Vault.” Completing quests and defeating enemies reward you experience to level up, which makes your character stronger and gives you skill points to allocate between three different skill trees, augmenting the abilities of your character and specializing them even further. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game are the items you can acquire – “Borderlands” contains a system that procedurally generates the attributes of all obtainable weapons, resulting in a total of over 17 million possible weapon variations. And with a level cap of 50 that will span you through roughly two playthroughs, “Borderlands” has enough going for it to keep you glued to the screen this holiday season.

Assassin’s Creed 2 (360, PS3, PC)

The original “Assassin’s Creed” made splashes when it hit the scene in November of 2007, and its sequel is seemingly doing the same two years later. I won’t go too deep into the story for the sake of spoiling the original, but “Assassin’s Creed 2” primarily puts you in the role of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an Italian man in the 15th century who resorts to the ways of the assassin in order to get revenge on those who sent his family to their death. While the original was a great game, various flaws held it back from realizing its full potential. “Assassin’s Creed 2” pretty much takes all these flaws and does away with them while adding on enough to make the game more than a worthy successor. Remember how falling into water used to be instant death? Well, this time around you can swim. Repetitive combat? New moves and new weapons. Same old boring missions? Much more variety in missions, and a whole lot of them to go through. An upgradeable villa that serves as your base of operations, hidden locations to explore, a fame system, and so much more – “Assassin’s Creed 2” is sure to give you your fill of raw, unfiltered stealth action.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)

It’s been more than just a while since we’ve seen the last 2D “Mario” platformer grace a home console, and “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” serves as a welcome reminder to what we’ve been missing out on. The sequel to “New Super Mario Bros.” on the DS, “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” represents a return to form for the series and stands as a testament to the fact that the same old formula is just as captivating as it used to be since the days of the NES. Nintendo has spiced things up, however, with a few new additions. First-time powerups include an ice suit that lets Mario shoot ice balls to freeze enemies, a propeller suit that launches Mario into the sky when you shake the Wii remote, and a penguin suit that allows you to slide on surfaces, shoot ice balls, and maneuver effortlessly through the water. Collecting star coins hidden within each level gives you the option of unlocking videos that reveal secrets, teach tricks, or show off some serious skills. Oh, and then there’s the best part of the game – multiplayer. For the first time ever, up to four players can go through the game either cooperatively or competitively. I personally prefer the latter due to how frantic it gets, but both options are brilliant additions. Bottom line, if you’ve got a Wii, “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” is the way to go.

The Beatles: Rock Band (360, PS3, Wii)

I’m not going to bother reciting the same sappy speech that’s been heard a million times about how great The Beatles are and how their music transcends generations – I’m simply going to say that “The Beatles: Rock Band” is the perfect purchase for any fan of their music. The game features 45 playable tracks by The Beatles featured in a story mode that takes you through their career, stopping at all the big venues along the way. High scores unlock pictures and videos from the band’s past, adding into the historical aspect of the game. Unlike other games in the series, “The Beatles: Rock Band” features the ability to have three separate inputs for vocalists as opposed to the usual one, allowing for three-part harmonies. And with downloadable songs to expand on the game’s already hefty library, “The Beatles: Rock Band” is both a worthwhile party game and an exemplary chronicle to one of the historic bands of our time.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360, PS3, PC)

Once upon a time, Infinity Ward created a game within the “Call of Duty” series known as “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” Little did they know just how popular the game would become, and it was soon decided a sequel would be made, cutting the game off from the original series and setting it up as the first of a new spin-off series. Now, after much anticipation, the sequel is out and it seems to have lived up to the hype. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” is divided into three sections: Special Ops, Campaign, and Multiplayer. As you would expect, Campaign is the game’s single-player story mode, which definitely kicks things up a notch compared to the original. New to this version is Special Ops, which contains 23 independent missions that can be completed by yourself or with a friend, each with three varying difficulty levels. But the mode that most people have their eyes on is Multiplayer – going online, gunning down other players, and gaining upgrades. “Modern Warfare 2’s” multiplayer mode features more game types than the original, more perks, more weapons, more levels, more everything. A new system is in place that rewards players for getting certain kinds of kills – headshots, revenge kills, and more. Players are also now able to edit what kinds of rewards they can get through kill streaks, leading up end-all-be-all: a nuclear missile that ends the game and awards your team a victory, obtainable at 25 consecutive kills. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” is the game that everyone is talking about, and for good reason.

No matter what kind of game you’re into, there’s sure to be something that will tickle your fancy this holiday season. In closing, happy holidays, have a great winter break, and game on!

Wii Want Change

It doesn’t take an expert analyst, or even a hardcore gamer, to see that Nintendo’s latest system, the Wii, has been selling like hotcakes. But as we all know, popularity doesn’t always directly correlate to quality. Wii basically turned the gaming world upside down by integrating motion sensing as a core component to a system, but it has missed the mark in a few regards. This begged the question – if I could design Nintendo’s next system, what would I change? Well, here’s a few things that I believe would make the Wii’s successor a dream machine.

High-definition output (or, “Please make your system more powerful!”)

Gotta start off with what is quite possibly the biggest complaint with the Wii – its graphics. Take a look at any screenshot from a Wii game and compare it to its 360/PS3 counterpart and you’ll find that there’s a world of difference. The Wii isn’t powerful enough to compete on the same level. And while the technical specifications show that the Wii is about 1.5x as powerful as the GameCube, a good portion of this processing power is devoted to the system’s motion-sensing technology and its overarching operating system (the main menu and the little menu that pops up when you hit the ‘Home’ button on your Wii remote). When all is said and done, developers aren’t left with much to work with. In order to ensure that a game runs smoothly, the visuals department takes the biggest hit. The Wii is only capable of outputting a maximum resolution of 480p, which is only a minor step up from standard definition. With its competitors able to output at full 1080p, Wii doesn’t cut it, especially in the next generation. There are examples of great-looking games with beautiful art on the Wii, but there are just as many titles that fell short due to the Wii’s lack of processing power.

Blu-ray playback (or, “Hell, DVD playback will do”)

What year is this? 2009? And a video game system that uses a disc-based medium still can’t play standard DVD movies? For shame, Nintendo. Sony and Microsoft managed to pull off DVD playback last generation. Unlike the first point, this one isn’t a hardware issue – in fact, the Wii uses DVDs as its storage medium. Any gamer knowledgeable in the Wii’s homebrew scene can tell you that the Wii can play DVDs through the proper methods. Wii uses DVD storage at a medium. For the general public, however, this isn’t the case – why? In order to cut costs, Nintendo decided to not obtain the license required to play DVDs on its system. This isn’t actually a problem when you think about how cheap and easy it is to obtain a DVD player of some sort, but next generation I’d like to see Nintendo go the extra mile. Now that the dust has settled from the format war and Blu-ray is the clear winner, why not allow the ability to play Blu-ray movies on the system? And if they were to use Blu-ray discs as the official storage medium for the system, it would also allow more data to be crammed onto a game disc, which goes hand-in-hand with all the extra processing power the system would be getting.

Better online infrastructure (or, “You want me to put in how many numbers?”)

When it comes to online play, Nintendo’s a tad behind the curve. It’s somewhat understandable if you think about how console online play didn’t really pop up until last generation, but Nintendo had a chance to rectify its problems before the Wii. After the release of the Nintendo DS, the company created an online system for it known as “Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection,” allowing you to either play random people online or play with your friends through the use of ‘friend codes’. A friend code is a 12-digit code that your game gives you to give to other people so that they may register you onto their friend list. Having to input a 12-digit code for each of your friends would only be a minor annoyance if not for the fact that every game requires a different code. So let’s say that you have 5 different friends all with the 5 same DS games that you want to play online with – you’d have to input 25 different codes (300 characters) just to do so. That’s only just a basic example, and it only gets worse the more friends and games you have. The Wii could have put a stop to this by instituting either universal friend codes or even a username system, but such is not the case. Next generation, I’d like to see Nintendo utilize a system like Xbox Live, which ties all data to a specific username.

Hard drive for storage (or, “I’d buy more games but I ran out of space”)

This one’s fairly straightforward. The Wii contains 512 megabytes of on-board storage, paltry in comparison to the storage options of its competitors, which top out somewhere around 250 gigabytes. Such storage for the Wii goes to save data and downloadable games, but a greater amount could enable so much more. Combined with a better online infrastructure, more hard drive space would allow players to download and watch trailers, try out new games in the form of downloadable demos, and purchase downloadable content for already-owned games, which is practically nonexistent on the Wii. Taking a page from the 360, a bigger hard drive opens up the possibility of ripping the data from a game’s DVD and placing it on the system, resulting in faster load times and better performance. It’s a simple request, and with the low prices for storage these days, it’s pretty much guaranteed for the next generation.

Less peripherals (or, “I don’t have enough closet or wallet space for all this crap”)

The standard Wii remote is $40. It’s nice, but if you want analog stick functionality and a couple of extra buttons, you’re going to need a nunchuk attachment ($20). But wait, if you want to take advantage of some of the newer games’ more advanced motion-sensing features, you’ll also need a Wii Motion Plus attachment ($25). And if you’re hankering to play some SNES games off the Virtual Console, you’ll need either a GameCube controller or a Classic Controller attachment ($20). The Wii Speak attachment ($30) for voice chat capabilities, the Wii Balance Board (~$50) for foot integration, the Wii Wheel ($15) and Wii Zapper ($25) attachments that merely serve as encasements for the actual controller… and all of these are first-party products created and licensed by Nintendo. All of a sudden the $250 (now $200) price tag of the Wii doesn’t seem so measly. What’s worse is that I didn’t even bother mentioning all the third-party peripherals – the cases, the mats, the plastic instruments and sports equipment look-alikes. It would be wrong to say that Nintendo started this recent peripheral craze, but I’m dead right in saying that they’re not helping. Shouldn’t some of these features be already included with the system itself? The Wii comes with one remote and one nunchuk, but after that you’re on your own. Stuff like Wii Speak and the Classic Controller should have been included from the get-go, and stuff like the Wii Wheel and Wii Zapper shouldn’t even exist. Next generation, I’d like to see more functionality with less extras.

Of course, these are not what I believe to be the steps Nintendo should take to succeed next generation – they seem to be doing well enough with what they’ve got right now. This is all simply what I would like to see out of Nintendo in a perfect world. But alas, profit too often gets in the way of logic, and all a gamer can do in the end is hope for the best.