Feature: Memories of the Wii and DS Wi-Fi Connection Era
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
When the Nintendo Network was but a twinkle in Iwata-san's eye
It's finally happened, the Wi-Fi connection on the Wii and DS is gone, disconnected on 20th May. The DSi and Wii Shop platforms are still running, but online multiplayer and content in games is now shut down, prompting the end of an era for the last-gen systems. Regardless of the circumstances and debates over whether Nintendo should have migrated some games to new servers, the truth is that it's game over.
The Wii and DS weren't exactly regarded as powerhouses for online gaming, it's fair to say, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't fun to be had online with the systems. With the DS, in particular, it was an exciting and bold step forward, with Mario Kart DS and the Pokemon titles opening new doors for gamers. It's easy to forget in this always-connected era how much online play changed gaming in the last generation of systems, and Nintendo's consoles played their role.
In that spirit of reminiscence a number of the Nintendo Life staff have given their personal memories of Nintendo Wi-Fi gaming for your amusement — some recollections are happy, others less so.
I can still vividly recall the first time I went online with my chunky original DS on Mario Kart DS. At the time I didn't have Wi-Fi installed at home, but I was so keen to experience the revelation that was wireless online multiplayer that I stalked the streets of my town looking for an open hotspot from which I could leech entertainment. A local public house near where I used to work was one of the first places to have such technological wizardry, so one lunch hour I cycled to the venue, switched on my DS and attempted to connect to a game. I was too embarrassed to actually walk into the pub and sit down with my console, so instead I lurked around the back of the boozer, like some kind of data-stealing hoodlum. Predictably, the wireless signal was so weak that my connection dropped out almost instantly, but my appetite for this new way of playing was well and truly stirred.
I made quite a lot of use of Wi-Fi online multiplayer on the Wii, mostly through Mario Kart Wii; it was always a lot of fun to race online, and I'd occasionally get some good friend matches going with my brother. It certainly had its problems, as it'd take an eternity to give up when it was failing to connect — it was possible to make a cup of tea and it'd still be spinning away, with no way to quit --- and I didn't have the fastest home connection in those years. Smash Bros. Brawl was a disappointment online and swiftly abandoned, though I got a bit of fun out of Tatsunoku vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars and GoldenEye 007, which could be laggy but were playable. Happy memories, though the service — despite being free — was never quite good enough compared to its paid and free rivals.
As for DS, the problem was that it only supported the pointless WEP level of encryption, so my router wasn't compatible — this was in an era where bandwidth theft was a problem and (due to usage limits) expensive if you were a victim. I would occasionally, I admit with shame, steal brief access to a neighbour's unprotected 'guest' Wi-Fi to download Professor Layton Daily Puzzles. Not the most scandalous crime ever committed, but I still feel a little guilty.
It makes me incredibly sad to know that I have no more Picross 3D puzzles to download nor fools to shoot online in GoldenEye 007, but it was fun while it lasted.
In my memory, I can't recall a single positive experience that I've had with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Service on Wii or DS. My clearest memories involve connectivity issues for Smash Bros. and countless dropped Mario Kart sessions. I can't say that I'll miss the service in the slightest, but there is a silver lining to all of this. I may have never had the opportunity to appreciate online multiplayer on the Wii or DS, but I recognize that Nintendo has learned from their mistakes. In the past few years, I've had a great time playing games online on both my Wii U and 3DS. The service is still far from perfect, but the new Nintendo Network is a marked improvement over its predecessor, and it's absolutely a positive sign that things are only going to get better!
My first experience of Nintendo's Wi-Fi service involved me trekking into Bath city centre in search of a internet café. It seemed like far too much effort for a lazy student, but it ended up being well worth it; playing Mario Kart DS online for the first time was exhilarating. I was no stranger to online gaming at this point, but being able to specifically enjoy a Nintendo game over the net made it all the more special.
Sure, the service may not have been clunky with its excessive friend code system and limited communication options, but once you were set up games such as Mario Kart Wii and Animal Crossing: Wild World provided a wealth of fun. Part of Nintendo's online service may be now gone, but it's evolved along the way and continues to get better all the time, making me feel very positive about the future - well, so long as the upcoming Super Smash Bros. games don't suffer from the same lag as Super Smash Bros. Brawl did!
Brawl was the bread and butter of my Nintendo Wi-Fi experience. My cousin and I would often sit locally, with one or two friends coming in from afar. We'd all talk over Skype as we battled for fun, and when someone had to leave, the last battle would always be the same: 4 Jigglypuffs on the Bridge of Eldin.
It wasn't until our second-to-last session on the Wi-Fi service that I discovered why my friend always wanted us to do this. I was using Jigglypuff's ballooning Final Smash, when suddenly the bridge reappeared and she fell over, still at her massive size. I then almost immediately got sucked off the screen, but apparently I had hit the holy grail; the giant Jigglypuff glitch! And just in time before closure of the service, too. The fun will continue in the new Smash Bros., of course, but I sure hope Jigglypuff will be available to join in the new chaos there.
As a longtime Metroid fanatic, the Nintendo Wi-Fi game I played the most was definitely Metroid Prime Hunters; it was a well-designed game and showed off the horsepower of the DS, but the fast-paced deathmatches never really felt like a Metroid game… or a Nintendo game at all. To me, Nintendo multiplayer will always be about local play, whether it's four-way split-screen in GoldenEye 007, or complaining that your friends always want to play Final Destination with no items in Super Smash Bros. Melee, or passing around the Wii Remote for shenanigans in WarioWare: Smooth Moves. Nintendo has always lagged behind its competitors when it comes to online play, but that's fine with me: it forces Nintendo to keep pushing the local multiplayer envelope.
While it wasn't my very first foray into the world of online gaming - I was one of the three people who bought the PlayStation 2 Network Adapter - Mario Kart DS's online multiplayer blew my 11-year-old mind.
At that time, we didn't have a wireless router. Hell, I didn't even know what Wi-Fi was until Nintendo started harping on about it, but being able to remotely blast someone's face off in Metroid Prime: Hunters and then go fishing with a friend in Animal Crossing: Wild World was a proper revelation, all in the palm of your hand. Magic.
Mario Kart Wii may not be the most popular game in the series, but it was my personal favourite due to its online mode. All of the rubber-banding accusations directed at the game fall by the wayside when playing online, and I became obsessed enough with the tracks to get up to a score near the maximum of 9,999 points - and earned a golden Wii Wheel icon by my racer as well.
Unfortunately, the way the game ranked you online was a double-edged sword - the higher your point count soared, the more points you would lose if you came in any position below 1st place. What ensued was a desperate struggle to come in first every race. I stopped playing the game after I realised that I would eventually stumble and lose my top score - it was a surprisingly brutal experience for a game aimed at all ages. I enjoyed every single fuel-burning moment of it, though - and there was something perversely satisfying about taking out a high-ranking player and watching their score tally squeal.
As someone who played Mario Kart DS religiously back in the day, I revelled in showing off my 3-star rank and awesome Lakitu avatar in the online mode. I like to think I was an honourable racer; I never 'snaked' unless my opponent did. Snaking rightly gets a lot of hate from Mario Kart community, but I have to admit some of the most intense and rewarding races I ever participated in were those against good snakers because you needed absolute precision to stay in the lead. Though - despite these fond memories - I am glad the technique has been altered beyond recognition in the Mario Kart games that followed.
Another Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection highlight has to be the Pokémon Global Trade Station, introduced in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. You were finally able to trade Pokémon with people across the globe! Well, you could once you'd sifted through the countless Lv.100 shiny Pokémon that were up for impossible offers, courtesy of Action Replay devices. Every once in a while you'd get an awesome deal though; I still can't get over the fact someone gave me a (legitimate) Groudon for my Lv.5 Azurill.
Those are some of our Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection memories; share yours in the comments below — they're just memories now.