[Game Impressions] The New Nintendo Channel

nintendochannelA new update was released for the Nintendo Channel today, and what an update it is. After installing the new version of the channel and booting it up, I was literally taken aback by how much of an overhaul actually occurred. But before we get into my impressions, here’s Nintendo’s official statement regarding the Updated Nintendo Channel.

NEW-AND-IMPROVED NINTENDO CHANNEL GETS UPDATED FEATURES AND WEEKLY SHOW

Sept. 14, 2009

The Wii™ console’s Nintendo Channel is getting a makeover. On Sept. 14, the channel, which provides users with videos and information about current and upcoming Nintendo products, re-launches with a new look and feel. Some of the upgrades include higher-quality streaming videos, lists of top games that other viewers recommend and a new ability to rate and recommend Nintendo DS™ games.

Current features of the Nintendo Channel will remain, including Nintendo DS demo downloads and an extensive lineup of videos about Wii and Nintendo DS games.

As part of the update, Nintendo Channel will also premiere Nintendo Week, a weekly, hosted series about what’s happening in the world of Nintendo. The premiere episode includes an in-depth look at Mario and Luigi™: Bowser’s Inside Story, an interview with the developers behind the Wii version of Guitar Hero 5, plus coverage of the new Nintendo DSi colors, Nintendo DSiWare games and other surprises.

Nintendo Channel is available free of charge to Wii owners, and can be downloaded by going to the Wii Shop Channel and following the on-screen instructions. For more information about the Nintendo Channel, please visit www.NintendoChannel.com.

After the update was finally completed and ready to run, the first thing I noticed was a new gray logo that matched the cold, corporate design of the new gray Nintendo logo itself. Despite the channel’s new thumbnail design, the splash screen shown when booting up is the same as before, which lead me to believe that this update when be another under-the-hood enhancement.

Man, was I ever wrong! This update can’t be described as anything short of a complete overhaul, and everything is changed for the better.

At start up, you’ll make your way through a series of options and settings which include options to opt in or out of having Nintendo send commercials for products directly to your message board. The first enhancement you’ll run into actually occurs during this initiation sequence when you are asked your preference on having videos play back in High or Normal quality. The High quality videos do look much better but may not run too smoothly on your internet connection, in which case you can simply switch your settings to Normal.

After that’s out of the way, you’ll get to see how much of a drastic change has actually been implemented with this update. The center of the screen displays six videos at once, with three on each half. When you hover over a video with the Wiimote’s pointer the slide will expand to show the full video name (if necessary) and the video’s length. This new design is very impressive, exceptionally sleek, and works surprisingly well.

At the bottom of the screen you have access to six different tabs, each one pops up and turns from gray to a different color when you hover over it. Every feature in the old Channel is now here, as well as a few new ones.

The first tab, labeled with a star, is the New Arrivals Tab. Here you can easily see not only the newest games to be released across all current Nintendo platforms, but you can also see a list of the newest videos added to the channel.

Next up is the Find Titles For You Tab, which lets you find titles for you. Duh. Once inside you have the option to Search by Category, with search criteria ranging from everything from Platform to Genre to other gamers’ Recommendations, or alternately, you can search by a game’s name.

Third on the list is the good ol’ DS Download Service, where gamers with any Nintendo DS model can download free demos of select Nintendo DS games. This feature has always been one of, if not the strongest points to the Nintendo Channel, and it works here just as flawlessly as it did before.

The fourth tab is the Recommend Titles Tab. In the previous version of the Nintendo Channel, gamers were able to fill out brief surveys, called Recommendations, on Nintendo Wii games they had played for at least one hour total. That feature remains, of course, but now you can also make recommendations for Nintendo DS games as well. To do this you simply let your Wii and DS connect while the handheld game you want to recommend is in the system, and follow the simple instructions. I was addicted to recommending all games from my massive collection of Wii titles, and it looks like I’m going to be spending a load of time doing the same for my DS games. Joy.

Following that is the Everyone’s Recommendations Tab, which is broken down in to three separate categories: Recent Recommendations, All Recommendations, Video Rankings. In the Recent Recommendations section, you’ll be able to see the rank of recently released software according to other players’ suggestions. In All Recommendations you’ll be able to see all highly recommended Wii titles. Both of these features also let you see a plethora of information including videos, recommendation stats, and how long a title has been played and how many times it has been booted by all Wii owners, which is really neat. Lastly, the Video Rankings section simply shows a list of 30 popular videos.

Last but not least is the Records Tab, were you can view all kinds of information. You can see your complete Game-Play Records, which shows how many times you’ve played a certain game and for how long you’ve played it. Your Recommendation Records show your history of Recommendations you’ve made, along with the ability to delete all recommendations. The last section of the Records Tab is Favorites, which offers quick links to games you’ve deemed your to be your favorites so you can monitor any new content that might be added to the Nintendo Channel.

This week also yielded the first ever hosted episode of Nintendo Week, a weekly installment that keeps you up-to-date on all things Nintendo. The concept is awesome, as is the content, but the hosts deliver the show in a style that is more than slightly reminiscent of the Disney Channel, and the end product is a slightly awkward, cleverly written, informative and somewhat funny show that I’ll watch and enjoy every week, despite the hosts’ childish enthusiasm.

All in all, this update is mind-blowingly impressive. It’s a complete overhaul in features and interface, and the end product is a sleek program that lets you track all kinds of stats. I’ve already spent hours and hours browsing stats, watching videos, and checking out recommendations, and this new update is going to make my fetish with Nintinformation much more enjoyable.

A highly recommended download.

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