The Wii mini took everyone by surprise and surprised precisely no one at the same time. There were rumours swirling about this thing about a week before Nintendo’s announcement, but no one really believed them. Then, when the official announcement actually came, Nintendo made mention that the console would only be available in Canada through the holiday season.
Regardless of availability, the Wii mini marks the second console launch for Nintendo in a scant two week period, at least in our Great White North. Of course, the Wii mini is not exactly the same kind of launch we saw with the Wii U, but this is an entirely new hardware product from Nintendo, for better or worse.
We’re actually leaning towards worse. That’s a first for a piece of hardware from Nintendo in a long while, but we think there’s some merit to it.
The Wii mini is not as mini as its name would suggest. As we saw in the Eggplante unboxing of the new console, the console is about an inch and a half shorter than the original Wii when positioned vertically. The new console is about the same width and depth, however, making this console a tad bit smaller, but certainly not mini.
The aesthetic of the console is up for personal opinion, but our first one was indifference. We kind of see the retro styling of the angular edges and the red and black nodding back to the original NES and its controller, but to us, the Wii mini looks like an awkwardly designed first aid kit. It’s got this two-tone plastic exterior that’s textured in some areas and smooth in others, and just doesn’t feel like a very quality-built machine.
The slot-loading optical reader has been replaced with a top-loading design in this revision, a change we don’t mind at all. In fact, the lack of a slot-loading drive completes the retro aesthetic somewhat, which is a nice design choice. The trouble with this design, however, is that the flip-up door that protects the disk is flimsy and the spring not tight enough to keep it from waving under the slightest breeze.
When console companies miniaturize their hardware, they do so by adding features or at the very least, keeping everything the same in that respect. However, Nintendo went in a different direction. The Wii mini is a Wii designed strictly for gaming. And Wii gaming at that. It will not play GameCube games nor Virtual Console titles, the latter of which likely only because it doesn’t have any internet connectivity as opposed to an inability to actually play them. Should the console be hacked somehow, we see no reason why Virtual Console games wouldn’t run.
Nintendo has left out all semblance of internet connectivity in this console which, to many who like to poke fun at big-N for their internet woes, might not sound like an issue, it’s a big issue. The lack of connectivity means no game downloads or online play, a deal-breaker for a lot of people.
There is, for some strange reason, a USB port on the Wii mini, and while we can only fathom that it is for extra storage, we can’t fathom why that storage would ever be necessary. Did Nintendo begin producing these units with the intention of having wireless connectivity and scrapped it last minute after the motherboards were already made? We’ll probably never know, but it’s safe to say you won’t need to use the USB port on the Wii mini.
The price point of Nintendo’s Canadian-only mini console has also come under fire lately, and rightfully so. Why would anyone spend $100 on a product that has approximately one-third the functionality of a full-fledged machine (internet and GameCube games are the other two-thirds in that equation) when, for $50 more, they could get a fully-functional unit with a copy of New Super Mario Bros. Wii thrown in for good measure?
Still on price, the best part of Wii mini is getting the beautiful red Wii Remote and Nunchuk in the box. However, consider that the price for a new set of these is about $69 and for $30 more, you can get a console included, and you might understand that Nintendo couldn’t just make the Wii mini’s price under $80 or no one would be buying accessories anymore.
We were (and still are) super excited about the Wii mini, but that has everything to do with its Canadian exclusivity and almost nothing to do with the console itself. And that’s a shame, because with internet capabilities and GameCube support, this would be a perfect gift for anyone looking for a simple little game console. Unfortunately, Nintendo missed the mark with Wii mini.