Transform a Wii Into the Ultimate Dorm-Friendly Entertainment Machine (Part 2)
Note – if you missed Monday’s Part 1 guide to unlocking your Wii’s potential, you’ll need to catch up here for this post to make any sense.
By now you’ve had a few days to unlock your Wii and install the Homebrew Channel and Homebrew Browser, so now it’s time to stop working and start having fun! So start by firing up the Homebrew Browser and I’ll show you what to download.
DVD’s once looked like they were on a spiral towards extinction, but Redbox kiosks with $1 nightly rentals have made them a great option for students on a budget. Though Nintendo disabled DVD functionality in the Wii (likely due to licensing costs), the disc drive is perfectly capable of reading the discs like any other DVD player. Unfortunately, this hack will only work on older Wiis, as Nintendo recently switched to a different optical drive, so keep that in mind when making your purchasing decision.
If your Wii is capable of DVD playback, the first thing you should look for is mPlayer CE. This fully-featured media center comes with DVD support out of the box. If your Wii is compatible, the DVD should play like a dream. Even if you can’t play a DVD though, that doesn’t mean your out of luck for consuming media.
Even if your Wii can’t play DVDs, any version of the system can handle a surprising number of video formats from an SD card or USB drive. Previously-mentioned mPlayer CE is probably the most capable and stable media center software available for the Wii, but if you appreciate a nicer interface and slightly wider file support, then I would definitely recommend WiiMC.
I’ve never personally tried this, but WiiMC includes the option to stream media wirelessly to the Wii over SMB, FTP, or HTTP, so with a little know-how you could be magically beaming videos straight to your TV. It should be noted though that if you want to use a USB flash drive or hard drive to load your media, you’ll need to be on Wii System Menu version 4.3, or you’ll need to do a little extra work.1
Of course, the Wii doesn’t support HD video output, though WiiMC can actually decode certain 720p files, even if it only shows up on your TV as 480p. It’s not a media powerhouse by any stretch, but if you don’t have a better option available in your dorm, the Wii is a great choice for most situations.
Old School Emulation
While DVD playback and media streaming is nice, odds are you have some other devices laying around that can do the same thing. I would be shocked though to find out that someone brought every old-school Nintendo console with them to school, from the NES all the way to the N64. A hacked Wii can behave like all of these systems put together, allowing you to relive gaming’s glory days and play just about any Nintendo game ever released.
A quick note about emulation: a lot of emulators don’t support the Wiimote and Nunchuck that come with the system, so you’ll want to pick up a Classic Controller attachment or some Gamecube controllers from Nintendo.
As for the games themselves, they exist all over the internet as files called ROMs. I won’t link to any sources here, but you should have no trouble finding what you’re looking for. For installation instructions, you can check out each emulator’s WiiBrew page, but it’s usually self-explanatory matter of dropping the ROM file into a certain folder of your SD card.
- N64 – Wii64 is really the only way to go for N64 emulation on the Wii. It has handled most games I’ve tried with aplomb, though it chokes a bit on a few titles, notably StarFox 64. Wii64 features tons of tweaks and options I don’t fully understand, but play around with different settings and you should get most things running well.
- Super Nintendo – The SNES was probably the first video game system for a lot of HackCollege readers, and I know many of us grew up on Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country. Snes9x GS is the cream of the crop for SNES emulation, and I’ve never seen a ROM perform poorly.
- NES – I’ve never actually tried running NES games on the Wii, but logically, it shouldn’t cause problems. FCE Ultra GX seems to be the way to go here. Who needs to drop $60 on Madden 11 when you can play TecmoBowl?
- Others – Of course, these Nintendo consoles aren’t the only things you can emulate. You can play old Gameboy games (hello Pokemon!) on the big screen with Gnuboy, try your luck with Playstation games with WiiSX (though I hear it doesn’t work very well), or even emulate an old Apple II computer with WiiApple. There are plenty of other emulators out there to play with, so just browse the Homebrew Browser until you find something you like.
Though they don’t all run perfectly, these emulators can turn your Wii into a versatile gaming time machine, and that was reason enough for me to hack it.
The Homebrew scene is still active after all these years, and my posts have only scratched the surface of what the Wii is capable of. With a little more work, you can play Wii games off of a hard drive, use the system as a home FTP server, play original arcade games, and more. Though this walkthrough is over, your experimentation with Homebrew apps has only just begun.
What’s your favorite feature of a hacked Wii? Let us know in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter.