Nintendo's new, smaller version of its popular Wii console, the Wii Mini, has been out in the Canadian wilds for about a month now, but Joystiq has only just now had the chance to see what the refreshed hardware can and cannot do compared to a standard Wii. As it turns out, the Wii Mini offers a seriously diminished experience. Don't expect any extra capabilities when dealing with one.
In a common price-reducing measure dating back to Sega CD, the slot-loading disc drive has been replaced by a top-loading drive with a mechanical eject button to pop the door open. That means the disc drive no longer lights up and blinks when you get a message.
No message will ever come in to a Wii Mini anyway, because the Wii Mini lacks Internet connectivity. And without Internet, the Wii Menu is strangely empty: no Weather Channel, no Everybody Votes Channel, no Wii Shop Channel, and, in fact, no way to add any more channels for the life of the system. You get the Disc Channel, Mii Maker, and Wii Manual, and a screen full of empty boxes, forever. The menu can never fulfill its purpose. For just $99, a lifetime of existential despair.
Who would have thought that removing the device's Internet connection would take so many features and options away? Perhaps the Wii had more going for it in the online space than we thought. The Wii Mini also cannot play (or recognize) GameCube games, nor does it support component output or offer a SD card slot. Chalet market or not, I really don't see why this version of the Wii exists when for a few dollars more, one could buy an Internet-capable Wii that sports the SD card slot and can output 480p visuals with the right cable. The previous Wii model is still available new at retail in Canada, right? As of this writing, a quick search of the Canadian websites for Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart shows that all of those stores only offer new Wii Minis with the other Wii models apparently discontinued. Nintendo didn't phase out the older, better Wii in favor of this cost-effective model, did it?