Nintendo’s download station for original games for the Wii has gone live in Japan (comes to America on May 12th). IGN has explored the Japanese WiiWare section fully and here are their first impressions.

There is no WiiWare Channel on the Wii’s main interface. Rather, players access WiiWare titles through the Wii Shop Channel. Prior to the launch of WiiWare, the Wii Shop Channel housed both Virtual Console and Wii Channel download sections. Now, a WiiWare option appears in the middle of the two. After clicking on the WiiWare icon, gamers are treated to several different browsing avenues, including the ability to sort games by the newest released, by company and by genre, among others. It is also possible to search for specific titles by entering their names. Wii owners intimately familiar with the inner-workings of the Wii Shop interface will find WiiWare’s to be a logical extension and not a departure.

Nine WiiWare games are available for the Japanese launch, of which only two (technically, only one) have been created by Nintendo: Dr. Mario & Virus Buster and Pokemon Ranch, the latter handled by the Pokemon Company, to be specific. The remaining seven titles come from third-parties, all Japanese, such as Square Enix, Genki, Gmode, Arc System Works, Bandai Namco and Hudson. The cheapest WiiWare game, Okiraku Ping Pong, costs 500 Wii Points or $5, while the most expensive, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, will set customers back 1,500 Wii Points, or $15. Given the incredibly shallow nature of many of the launch titles – many of which ignore the Wii remote’s infrared pointer and accelerometer altogether – we feel that some of the titles are grossly overpriced.

The full list of WiiWare launch titles includes the aforementioned Final Fantasy, Dr. Mario, Pokemon Ranch and Okiraku Ping Pong, but also the shooter Star Solder R, Word Puzzle Mojipittan Wii, Tenshi no Solitaire and Lonpos. Neither Solitaire nor Lonpos use the Wii remote IR despite the fact that they are card and board games respectively and therefore inherently suited to such control. Kind of takes the Wii out of WiiWare, in our experience. Also, omissions like these demonstrate the lack of care that went into designing many of these efforts for WiiWare’s launch.