Nintendo is no stranger to peripheral-justifying pack-ins. And while games like Gyromite and Super Scope 6 may not have ingrained the R.O.B. and Super Scope into the psyche of Nintendo gamers as strongly as Duck Hunt did with the original NES Zapper, Nintendo looks to have made the Wii version of the Zapper already memorable with Link's Crossbow Training. The game, which ships today with the Zapper casing for about $US 20, is a fantastic compliment to the mini-game filled library of the Nintendo Wii, offering a nice variety of shooting gallery games.The premise is fairly simple. Apparently, Link is in need of some crossbow skill honing, with scores of enemies ready to be dispatched by bolt and helpful Goron willing to wear wooden targets on their crotches for the elf-boy to shoot at. Link has limited time to shoot as many targets as possible, with accuracy and tactical score planning rewarding the player.
A total of 27 stages are offered, broken up into 9 levels with 3 stages each. Three types of modes are available, including Score Attack, Multiplayer and Practice. Fairly self-explanatory, yes, but the stages in Score Attack are played in a groups of three at a time. In order to achieve the highest score and acquire the medal of the highest value (platinum, natch), you'll have to perform well in all three events. This is where Link's Crossbow Training can turn from interesting diversion to high scoring obsession.
Securing a bronze medal by scoring 20,000 points in each Score Attack level is fairly simple. It's also necessary, in order to unlock levels beyond the first three initially available. Getting your hands on each level's platinum medals—requiring a rather challenging 80,000 point score—will be where one spends most of his or her time. Link's Crossbow Training may only take an hour or so to beat, but it's in the perfecting of one's score where the extra hours lie.
The key to high scores is in maintaining a long-running score multiplier. If you don't miss a single shot, you can end a stage with a 32X multiplier, sometimes higher. Shoot every target and you'll be rewarded with a bonus triforce piece to the tune of 5,000.
Also key to high scores are bulls-eye accurate shots and speedy shots at non-critical stage items. Things like clay pots, barrels, scarecrows and signposts not only add a point or five here and there, they sometimes contain bonus items. Golden nuggets, for example, that pop out of cow skulls and clay pots are worth up to a thousand points. Some levels contain secrets that are more well-hidden, including the first stage of the game; shoot enough arrows and the front door of a village house and balloons will fly out. Duck Hunt-level depth this is not.
Link has access to three types of crossbow bolts. The standard bolt will be used far more than anything else. An exploding bolt can be fired by holding the B button until the cursor turns orange. It will do splash damage, including hurting Link if fired too closely, and can take out multiple enemies. Players probably won't use it too often, save for the game's boss battles, as it rarely helps in boosting your score. Finally, Link will sometimes have access to an automatic crossbow, which launches rapid fire bolts and is only available from enemies who glow green.
There's much more to the scoring and much of the game's inherent fun is giving it a go just one more time, looking for a way to boost yourself into the platinum range (or beyond).
The game's multiplayer may not be as imminently accessible (or fun) as party staples Wii Sports, ,em>Mario Party 8 or Wario Ware Smooth Moves, but it's serviceable. Only one Zapper is required as players will take turns with the shell in succession.
The only negative aspects of Link's Crossbow Training are in it's very short completion time and the often frustratingly slow menu system. When hunting for a higher score, the long pauses between selecting menu options and getting back into the game can be tiresome. Some stages are simply less fun than others, if only because of their initially confusing goals and varying difficulty. Yes, these are very minor complaints.
For the low buy in, it's hard not to recommend Link's Crossbow Training, as it's worth far more than the molded plastic holder with which it's bundled. With a solid line-up of Zapper-ready games coming over the next few months, it's definitely worth the budget price.