We Canadians are a proud people. The butt of many an American joke, we know our value to this world and we’re quite happy to let others boast while we enjoy a humble tone and tip our cap to those around us.
When it comes to hockey, Canada is almost always first, so we’ve got that. And there was one other time when The Great White North was the first to experience something no other nation got the wonderful opportunity to enjoy.
The Nintendo Wii…Mini.
Released in Canada three months before Europe and almost a full year prior to the United States, Canadian gamers and consumers alike were quite intrigued when they heard a new version of the Wii was being made available in their home country first.
Was this a new, themed Wii? Was it exclusively for Canadians and our mukluk wearing brethren?
Sadly, no. And perhaps even more sadly, that was just the beginning of the disappointment. Not just for Canada, but for the entire gaming community.
Released on December 7th, 2012, the timing for the release of new Nintendo hardware was a little bizarre. Just one month prior, Nintendo had released the Wii U to mixed reviews (though in my opinion, it’s a lovely console). It’s not totally uncommon, however, for Nintendo to release new iterations of previous generation hardware after their latest and greatest gets trotted out.
When the Super Nintendo was released in November of 1990, Nintendo continued to push its popular Entertainment System and library of games by releasing the ‘Top Loader’ in late 1993. This console is considered an improvement over the original, with SNES-style ‘dog bone’ controllers which many feel are more comfortable than the original ‘rectangle’ controllers. One version of the Top Loader also featured AV multi-out, which meant for better picture quality. Needless to say, a slight improvement over the original NES ‘toaster’.
The Super Nintendo also received a bit of a cosmetic release, albeit a little later on in the lifecycle of the console. Nintendo released a the ‘SNES 101’ in 1997, a full seven years after the original console’s release. The 101 was a cheaper, slightly redesigned version of the original and was lighter and smaller. Was it better? Well, it didn’t have S-Video and RGB output like the original, but it was a cheaper alternative to the original SNES.
As the Wii U looked to surpass the Wii into the next generation of gaming consoles, it should’ve come as no surprise that Nintendo would look to release a cheaper version of the Wii to help keep software sales going and to allow people to jump on board the ‘Wii train’ for a more affordable price.
That was the point of the Wii Mini. Unfortunately, it struck out in so many ways.
Like the NES and SNES ‘upgrades’ before them, the Wii Mini was released as a smaller console than the original and was slightly redesigned. Gone was the slot-loading optical drive and in its place was a Playstation-style top-loading disc drive. As far as changes go, nothing too radical there.
But it’s downhill from there.
With the advent of high definition television, one would think that Nintendo would release a new console with improved video capabilities, even on last generation hardware. In the case of the Mini, it was the complete opposite. It wasn’t a big deal that the Mini didn’t host HDMI outputs. The original didn’t so it was a stretch to think the Mini would receive the upgrade. Keep in mind that the whole point of releasing new ‘old’ hardware was to keep costs down and introduce the system at an affordable price.
The problem was that in order to keep costs down (one would assume) the Mini ditched any other way to connect to a television, outside of composite cables.
Yup. Retro gaming.
The Mini lacks component video and S-Video, which the original previously hosted. For PAL players, RGBSCART was ditched as well. So, if you wanted to enjoy Wii software with the Mini, you’d better hope you have an older TV. Otherwise, these games aren’t going to look very good.
And that’s just the start of where the gutting takes place.
The Wii Mini continued to strip away features from its predecessor. The GameCube controller ports were omitted (again, not a big deal since later releases of the Wii ditched them as well), but so was the ability to play GameCube games. The SD card slot was also taken out, so…that takes away another peripheral asset. Also removed as one of the USB ports, leaving the console with just one.
But the biggest issue? No online connectivity.
That’s right. The Wii Mini has no online capability whatsoever. There’s no WiFi support and no Ethernet port either. You can guess what the eliminates as well, right? Forget the ability to go global in a world dominated by online multiplayer (though most Wii games don’t take advantage of this like they should). Without WiFi or online capability, there’s no ability to access any type of Virtual Console, so that’s gone too.
Forget any third party apps, like Netflix. Not on this machine. And the weather channel? NOPE. You’ll have to use your damn smartphone if you want to check the weather, or watch TV or listen to the radio. Your day will NOT enjoy the benefit of checking the forecast through a Nintendo app. Sorry. But you’ll have to make due without it.
Sure, I’m making light of something small, but the Wii Mini is exactly that. While it’s not necessarily that much smaller than the original Wii, it certainly lacks in features. The Wii Mini is as close to a retro console than anything else that came before it. From specific ‘feature’ standpoint (not tech or specs) it’s about on par with the original Playstation.
The console was released with Mario Kart Wii, which is funny because it was one of few Wii games that actually provided a solid online multiplayer experience. The console had a suggested retail price of $99.99 and fell in line (for the most part) with the strategy employed by Nintendo in comparison to the NES and SNES 101 editions.
So, with its complete lack in features and capabilities, what was the point of releasing this perceived hunk o’ junk?
Nintendo saw the Wii Mini as the console to best promote Wii gaming on-the-cheap, and promoted it alongside its Nintendo Selects game series. This red and black pancake did include a Wii Remote Plus and a Ninchuk so…yay?
In hindsight, there really isn’t any point for you to own one of these consoles, is there? If you already own a Wii, there’s REALLY no incentive. This may appeal to you for one of two reasons:
One, you don’t own a Wii, and don’t care about missing any online features. You have Netflix on your phone and you can check the forecast by looking out the window. Perfect. The Wii Mini is already a good deal. Also…you aren’t bothered by playing video games through composite cables on an HDTV, or, you plan to play this on a good ol’ fashioned CRT. If that’s the case, the Wii Mini is perfect for you.
The only other reason you might want to own this? You’re a collector and a sucker for alternate systems and various releases. In that case, you need to buy this.
So why do I bring this up? I was in a drug store the other day while shopping and I noticed they have one of these BRAND NEW on the shelf. I thought about picking it up, but then wondered, what would be the damn point? I won’t ever open it and I won’t need to hook it up.
I walked away. And I wrote this instead.
I won’t be buying the Nintendo Wii Mini. There’s no point.