Video systems top list of gifts

Game On

Posted: Thursday, November 30, 2006


  Brian "Hawk" Hawkins throws out a virtual pitch while demonstrating a baseball game that comes bundled with the Nintendo Wii. The new video game uses a handheld controller and the player's body motions to operate. M. Scott Moon

Brian "Hawk" Hawkins throws out a virtual pitch while demonstrating a baseball game that comes bundled with the Nintendo Wii. The new video game uses a handheld controller and the player's body motions to operate.

M. Scott Moon

Young Hannah Hawkins steps to the plate, winds up and swings. A cheer goes up.

“Oh! I got a home run!” said the 8-year old.

Hannah is not on vacation in Florida. Nor is she playing baseball in front of a crowd at Oilers’ Park in Kenai in three inches of snow. She is standing in Hawk’s Games in Soldotna playing the Nintendo Wii system (pronounced “wee”). Bowling is actually her favorite on the Wii Sports menu.

“What I like the most about it it’s actually like you’re bowling,” she said.

And it is. Hannah holds a white controller, stands in front of the screen and appears to throw a ball down a lane. She then watches as the ball on the screen corresponds to her aim.

Pat Hawkins, Hannah’s father and co-owner of Hawk’s, said this is one of the things that makes the Wii game system unique. Of the two newest systems to hit the market — the Wii from Nintendo and PlayStation 3 from Sony — the Wii would be his preference.

“It’s family interactive,” he said. According to Hawkins, there aren’t very many titles out yet for the system, but most of the ones that are out have an “E” or a “T” rating. That means the games are for everyone or for teens.

“It’s got a wireless controller. The controller is run by motion. You can see, she’s jumping around here, getting exercise,” he said.

Hannah agrees.

“It’s easier, too, your hands don’t get sore.”

The downside of Wii as compared to PlayStation 3, he said, is it doesn’t have such impressive graphics in high definition. Both debuted in the last three weeks, and there aren’t many game titles available for either yet. As for price, Hawkins has the Wii system for less than half of PlayStation 3.

Before heading out to purchase one, though, holiday shoppers should be aware that Wii and PlayStation 3 are going to be difficult to find.

“It’s on allocation. I had eight of the Wii systems when it came out two weeks ago. They all went within 15 minutes, Hawkins said.

Hawk’s gets its shipments on Wednesdays and Fridays, so shoppers can call in to see what’s available. Hawkins also suggests checking at Fred Meyer, but no store will have an unlimited supply.

As an alternative, Hawkins suggests the PlayStation 2, or the Xbox 360 from Microsoft. They have about an 18-month lifespan as the newer systems won’t become more easily available until April or May.

The advantage of both these systems is they have much larger catalogs of compatible game titles. For PlayStation 2, the top titles leaving Hawk’s are “Final Fantasy 12” and “Guitar Hero II,” both rated for teens. The system is set up at Hawk’s, and you can try out the unique guitar controller for “Guitar Hero II” in the store. This follow-up to the original and includes covers of rock bands in a variety of genres and styles, such as Nirvana, The Police, Van Halen and The Pretenders. There also are a couple of original master tracks from Primus and Jane’s Addiction.

“You can play with the rock stars. It’s like being in a concert,” Hawkins said.

Mike Hawkins, 17, was working in the store Monday. He’s got the Xbox 360 and likes this system because it’s got “Gears of War.” The online gamer Web site gives “Gears of War” a 9.6 rating out of 10.

“It’s different than most games I’ve ever played. You have to find cover, not just run around shooting. It’s more strategic,” Mike said.

“Gears of War” is rated “M” for mature.

Buyer beware, when choosing a Christmas gift for a gamer, especially a young person, as there are thousands of titles to choose from, which have ratings according to content.

The ratings range from “EC” for early childhood, appropriate for ages 3 and up; to “AO” for adults only, 18-plus, which may include graphic depictions of sex and/or violence.

At Hawk’s, Pat Hawkins is conscientious about ratings. If a 12-year-old walks in to buy a game rated “M” without a parent, he’ll make a phone call home for parental permission.

“The United States is a shooter nation, and what I mean is that the shooter game genre is most popular,” he said.

Hawkins gave three tips for checking out a title before you buy a Christmas gift:

“Look at the rating of the game. If you’re in a game store, ask the person what they’ve heard or think about it. Go to or and read the reader reviews. There you get an unbiased review.

“What’s really unique,” he said, “is how this universe is expanding. You can go to and download a demo. PS3 and Wii are going to have that next year, is what I’ve been told.”

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