Fans Are Reviving (And Improving) Nintendo's Old Online Network
One of the sad realities of life in the 21st century is that, sometimes, you'll buy a video game because of a specific feature, and then that feature is taken away. Not even the most pessimistic sci-fi author could have predicted this hellish dystopia. For instance, one of the big selling points of Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii was that you could now get your ass kicked by players from all over the world, not just your smug 5-year-old nephew.
Tragically, these incredible ads were rendered inaccurate in 2014, when the company that handled the online multiplayer services for the Wii and DS shut down, and Nintendo didn't bother finding a new one. Hundreds of games were taken offline forever -- or so it seemed. Enter a hero only known as Wiimm, a software engineer who had been analyzing Mario Kart Wii online traffic since 2012 in anticipation of this day ... and also to find cheaters, since Nintendo didn't seem very interested in doing that. If you ever played or tried to play Mario Kart Wii online during that period, you probably still wake up in the middle of the night to the haunting memory of hackers hitting you with 12 blue shells before the race even started.
The average MKW lobby looked like this:
So when the official Nintendo servers shut down, Wiimm and others decided they wouldn't just revive them -- they'd improve them. The result was a new, free service called Wiimmfi, which not only keeps hundreds of games online but also adds extra functionalities, like a website where you can check who is playing what (two people played Guinness World Records: The Game online in August!), Discord bot integration, security updates, and, yes, anti-hacker protection. Finally, you can have the peace of mind that you lost at MKW or Super Smash Bros. Brawl because you suck, not because someone else was cheating.
The fact that this project isn't affiliated with Nintendo has its advantages, like the ability to load hundreds of fan-made MKW tracks and character skins (from Sonic to Big Chungus to a giant Game Boy on a bike) through a popular mod called CTGP Revolution. Here's a nearly 14-hour video going through all the tracks that were online as of March of this year:
Once upon a time, only the most dedicated of nerds had access to these goodies, but the people behind CTGP-R have simplified the process considerably -- you don't even need a hacked console anymore. A totally virginal one will do. They've also gone out of their way to add new anti-piracy measures to ensure you can only play this mod if you own an official game disc. This is partly because they don't want to be murdered by Nintendo's lawyers in their sleep, but it's also further evidence that these people legitimately love the Nintendo Wii and want to preserve the "official" experience as much as possible.
Accessing the Wiimmfi service is currently as easy as entering a number on the Wii's internet settings. Going online from a DS is a little more complicated (it turns out 2005 internet connection protocols aren't so safe anymore), but if hundreds of teenage Pokemon Black/White and Mario Kart DS players on YouTube have figured this out, you probably can too. Wii believe in you!
Maxwell Yezpitelok co-runs a Nintendo-centric YouTube channel, NintendoDuo.
Top image: Nintendo