Wii's online shop finally opened today, so I bought F-Zero and tried out the long-awaited Virtual Console. WiiConnect24 is also on... I think?
Although I've had my Wii for a week now, and it immediately connected to my USB adapter (the same one I use for taking the DS online), the system would not actually do anything through the online connection. It tried to download a firmware update, but the update wasn't available yet, so eventually it would time out and return to the main menu. Today, that update finally went up…and so did the one after that. They enabled the Virtual Console shop as well as WiiConnect24.
After a few minutes of downloading and installing the updates, which was all automatic except when I was asked to review the service agreement, I could finally access the Wii Shop channel. Unfortunately, Nintendo announced a couple days ago that the Weather and News channels will not be up for several weeks. I also learned today that the Opera browser for Wii will go up at a later date, but when it is available, it will be found in the "Wii Ware" section of the shop. This area will also house new software and possibly game demos.
The rest of the shop is devoted to older systems. Currently, there are only two SNES and Genesis games for sale, plus one N64 game, and TurboGrafx is a no-show thus far. Most of the selections at launch are for NES, and the choices are questionable. Soccer? Pinball? Mario Bros. (not Super)? At least you can get the original Legend of Zelda, if you missed out on the GameCube promo discs.
I decided to get F-Zero from the SNES pile and was very happy to see that the shop displays which controllers are compatible with the game, before you pay or download. F-Zero can be played with the Wii classic controller (which I don't have yet) or a GameCube controller. I started with a WaveBird but soon switched to my Hori digital controller, which is almost perfect since it is shaped like the SNES pad and has clicky shoulder buttons, used heavily for cornering in F-Zero.
Of course, I didn't have any Wii Points at first, but you can buy them directly through the shop channel. (The alternative is to buy a card at your local retail store and input some code from it to activate points.) The denominations are 1000 ($10), 2000 ($20), and 5000 ($50). Entering my credit card info was easy with the Wii software keyboard, and the process went quickly and smoothly, which I found to be slightly disturbing.
After the points were purchased, I spent 800 of them on my VC game, and it began downloading immediately. The download took about thirty seconds to complete, and it was tracked by a progress bar that looks like 8-bit Mario running through a line of coins. As the download reaches certain milestones (probably 25%, 50%, and 75% complete), Mario jumps up and hits one of three coin blocks. It's a funny gimmick and the perfect bit of nostalgia to accompany the Virtual Console, which is all about playing old games.
After the download finished, I went back to the channel menu to find F-Zero sitting right there at the next empty space. After selecting it, the screen prompted me to insert a classic controller before I could proceed. I was momentarily worried that the shop had told me wrong, but the game booted immediately when I plugged in a WaveBird receiver. F-Zero is emulated beautifully and controls perfectly, so hopefully games on the other systems will follow suit.
My firmware update also enabled WiiConnect24, but so far it doesn't seem to do anything. It is staying connected after the system is turned off, which is indicated by the power light turning yellow instead of red, and I can see on my computer that the system (under a weird name with strange characters) is periodically connecting to my USB rumordongle. I hate to say it, but on the eve of Wii's launch and with my own system already connected to the service, I still have no idea what Nintendo really plans to do with WiiConnect24. But I do like what it's doing with the Wii Shop, as long as more and better games are added early and often.