The Wizard and Wii

As I was flipping through my various cable channels I came upon it. Some of you might remember it. It was ground breaking. It was prophetic. It had a cast of stars both young and old. The critics thumbed their noses at it. Some call it “just” a 100 minute infomercial. Others call if a rip-off of The Who’s Tommy. I just call it amazing, and you may call it The Wizard.

That’s right, Beau Bridges, Christian Slater, Fred Savage, Jenny Lewis, Will Seltzer and that boy from Newsies, Little Big league and appearing as an extra in American Pie 2, Luke Edwards! Oh yeah, don’t forget Tobey Maguire. With a cast like that, just how can a movie go wrong. This is not even to mention the true star of this movie, Nintendo and the not even released at the time of the movie, Super Mario Brothers 3!!!

To refresh your memories, a quick rundown. Trust me, I couldn’t do the movie more justice. I tried.

Okay, I’ll admit it, this movie really is just one giant commercial for Nintendo. Is that a bad thing? I mean this was back when Nintendo was video games. This was their height, their pinnacle. Within a year they would release Super Mario Brothers 3, which would become the highest grossing individual video game ever.

While we’re at it, we can also admit that movies featuring video games are far more popular than movies about video games, like Super Mario Brothers, Wing Commander or Final Fantasy.

With all the games, with all the stars, with all the drama it is still not hard to overlook the single most important scene in the move. No, it’s not, “He touched my breast!” Though that is a quality scene. No, I refer to bad ass Lucas, “I love the power glove. It’s so bad” Let that sink in. Ignore the fact that the no-name Jackey Vinson was given the single best line in the entire movie, while Wonder Boy, Fred Savage was given, “Yeah well, just keep your Power Gloves off her, huh?” I wonder which writer he pissed off. Though “huh” did become a staple of his dialog on the Wonder Years.

Back to the power glove. Let’s just see that whole scene from the beginning. So intense. Yep, Lucas keeps the glove in a hard metal suit case, as if it was the nuclear launch codes. Well, it is the power glove.

By now you might be wondering why exactly I mentioned the Wii in that there title up there. It was while I was watching this astonishing piece of cinema history that I starting thinking of all the gaming innovations that Nintendo attempted in the past. Almost all of these innovations were with the user experience, better control of and controls for the games. They didn’t care about the graphics. Give us sprites! Just as long as we can shoot a duck with an actual light gun rather than some stupid controller.

By the way, that light gun doesn’t actually work on LCD monitors or televisions. It has to do with how the different screens refresh the picture on the screen. If you want to enjoy old school Duck Hunt, make sure you own a tube.

Nintendo was not satisfied with just the boring stand controller. In addition to the light gun, and the power glove, Nintendo also introduced the light bazooka, I mean super scope, the power pad and the Robotic Operating Buddy or R.O.B.

So many innovations, some more popular than others. But then the dark ages came. Sony introduced the Playstation, which brought along with it some advanced graphics, optical disks and memory cards. Sega attempted to compete directly and failed miserably. Microsoft joined the foray and brought with them a hard drive and on-line play.

Nintendo fell to the background, reserved themselves to a younger audience and the portable market. Recently, Sony and Microsoft raised the stakes again with yet another console generation, with hardware and graphics capabilities that are mind boggling. The systems are priced at over $300 for the XBOX 360 and $500 for the Playstation 3 and yet both companies will lose money with each sale.

Nintendo saw this escalation in the graphics wars and said no thanks. They designed a sleek, innovative system, that may pack a little less power under the hood, but is operated by a remote control. A remote con-what? Yea, Nintendo threw the D-pad and thumb-stick right out the door. They are going back to the days of light guns and power gloves and innovative controllers.

Maybe, I’m stretching a little bit there, the Wii may be getting a light gun to call its own, but so far no power glove. Though there will be a nunchuk controller as well!

If The Wizard was remade today, would that killer line by Lucas be rewritten to, “I love the Wii nunchuk. It’s so bad.” While, we can all hope for the Wii to eventually sport a power glove, it is safe to say that Nintendo is back to innovative controller design. Just how realistic is a game if it has life-like graphics but you control it by a D-pad anyway? Nintendo has no interest in finding out.

Yes, this entire article was one giant excuse to talk about The Wizard as if it was actually relevant to today.