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Nintendo's New Wii Mini: Worth Importing?

Even though the buzz surrounding Wii U is high, Nintendo is still putting an effort into its original Wii console with yet another redesign.
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Even though the buzz surrounding Wii U is high, Nintendo is still putting an effort into its original Wii console with yet another redesign.

The red-and-black Wii Mini, about three-quarters the size of the original system, eliminates a few features, such as Wi-Fi and the ability to play old GameCube games, to bring its price to $100 (down from the usual $130). It does include a matching red Nunchuk and Wii Remote Plus, however. (This is actually the second downsized model, following last year's "Family Edition," which sold for $130 back when the standard Wii was still $150.)

But there's a catch: It's available only in Canada — at least for now.

Best Buy's Canadian website has already set up a pre-order page for the system, where users can drop their cash to get one on the day of release, either for in-store pickup or shipment. Unfortunately, our multiple attempts to order a system for a U.S. delivery failed, due to the site not being able to accept a U.S. postal code.

Nintendo has remained mum on a possible U.S. release for the system, probably because it's looking to focus more on the Wii U system.

Best Buy of Canada is the only site with an open pre-order setup, though other stores may offer the Wii Mini once it's widely released. And, of course, there's also eBay, where sellers will try to make a quick buck selling a system that's in hand — perhaps to U.S. customers, as well.

Importing systems isn't uncommon. For years, avid gaming fans and casual users alike have ordered systems from dedicated shops like Play-Asia and NCSX just for those "must-have" collectibles.

Well before this generation of console gaming, several people jumped at the chance to buy special-edition versions of Sega's Saturn game system. While the only model available in the States was solid black, in Japan you could track down a "skeletal" blue "Derby Stallion" system, with a nifty see-through skin showing the inner workings. These systems were set to play only Japanese games, though clever users could easily "mod" them to play U.S. releases as well. [See also: 7 Futuristic Asian Gadgets You Can't Get in the United States ]

This generation of consoles has seen a multitude of special systems as well. In Japan, devoted fans of PlayStation 3 could pick up redesigned systems with artwork from games such as "Yakuza 5" (featuring Japanese writing and logos) and "Final Fantasy XIII" (with an embossed pink image of one of the characters on top). These systems are region-free, so they play all games with no problem. (However, they are region-locked when it comes to playing U.S. DVDs and Blu-Rays.)

Importing the Wii Mini shouldn't be a problem, as most systems sold in Canada run on the same NTSC video technology as U.S. ones. However, you may want to hold off hunting one down.

There are some important limitations to note — mainly the lack of an Internet connection. That means that you can't download games through Nintendo's online eShop or play games like "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" and "Mario Kart Wii" with friends overseas. It's offline or nothing.

Furthermore, Nintendo of America may well release it in the States. After all, it has made last-minute announcements in the past.