Nintendo's sequel to a game nobody thought needed a sequel is out next month, is impressive and could be the best thing for hardcore gamers on the Wii since, what, Metroid?
Away from the chaos of E3, we've gotten a chance to swing a MotionPlus-appended Wii Remote to control Wii Sports Resort, the showcase game for Nintendo's latest controller add-on. Yes, the chaos of the big show was absent, but present were guys from Nintendo. And here's the thing: the more one spends time chatting with guys from Nintendo of America, the more one feels that that parts of their headquarters must feel like a gamer variation of a varsity locker room, where the jocks walk around with swelled chest bragging not about how much they can bench press but how many more times they can return a serve in Wii Sports Resort table tennis.
With meager skills and a willing attitude, Kotaku took a swing.
What Is It? Wii Sports Resort is the sequel to Wii Sports, which is, Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft notwithstanding, the most-discussed game of the last five years. The original Wii Sports was packed in with every Wii sold in North America. The new Wii Sports comes bundled with MotionPlus, the required add-on that enables a more direct relationship between a player's hand movements and those rendered on-screen. Wii Sports had four sports. Wii Sports Resort has 12 — well, more than 12 given some of the unlockable variations of the core dozen.
What We Saw We binged and played five sports: archery, basketball, table tennis, swordplay and skydiving.
How Far Along Is It? Wii Sports Resort is out in mere weeks. It's done.
What Needs Improvement? Uh, nothing? This game's quite good. Maybe we should complain about how simple these Miis look. Or about how there's no online play. Or how some of the sports, like bowling, are built upon (or recycled) from what was in Wii Sports. Or how the game would be cooler if it came bundled with two MotionPlusses instead of one to more easily enable multiplayer gaming. But such criticisms would be like yelling at a cute puppy to put on a hat: an ineffectual recommendation and one hardly guaranteed to improve something that's already plenty capable of providing delight.
What Should Stay The Same?
Archery: Seen at E3, previewed by many. Hold the Wii Remote vertical as one would hold a bow and yank back with the nunchuck to pull back the arrow. Hold steady. Account for wind and how gravity will tug on a long-flying arrow. Release. After the easy levels, a batch of new areas and harder difficulty options open up.
Basketball: Select three-point contest (other variations are offered). Hold the remote sideways. Tap the b-button to grab a ball from a rack. Make a flicking motion. Put some spring in your toes. Work through racks all around the half court, just like the pros. It feels perfect, though somewhere a Sony designer is growling that they already did this with Sixaxis for the first NBA game on PS3. Sorry, dude.
Table Tennis: It controls like Wii Sports tennis but plays faster. The variation on head-to-head is a challenge to return serves. Kotaku army, try to beat Nintendo man Melvin's 352 points. That's an order. And don't call the Achievement-like things in this game Achievements. They're Accomplishments. It's unclear, though, whether the times one hits the computer character on the other side of the table with a ball to the head is an Accomplishment or not.
Swordplay: One on one? Played it at E3 last year. Alternate mode involving chopping stalks of bamboo? It's probably dandy. But if there's a trophy for Mini-Game Of The Year, polish it for whatever Nintendo is calling Wii Sports Resort's light variation of Gears of War Horde. You are your Mii. You're holding a sword. And those waves of Miis coming down that rope bridge toward you need to be whacked. Batter them off the bridge and a balloon lifts them to some sort of Wii Sports Resort heaven. Boss Miis with extra health hearts and better blocking abilities await. By the way, imagine if those Miis rushing at you resemble your friends, family and favourite celebrity Miis.
Skydiving: Hold the Wii Remote like it's a small doll and tilt it to make him dive. Shades of the Pilotwings sequel we behaved so well to get but Nintendo never made. Points are taken for linking the diver to other divers, which sends a photographer down to snap a shot. Parachutes open automatically to prevent that Pilotwings pastime of planting skydiver into ground. The unlockable modes for this one include an aeroplane dogfighting mode, stretching the definition of sport in a manner few will protest.
Final Thoughts What originally could have been accused as a cash-in or pointless sequel instead appears to boast more depth than any game Nintendo's internal teams have made in a couple of years. There's little to complain about from last night's preview session. In short bursts these games control splendidly.
This is one of those Nintendo games that, when you play early, feels like it's going to both intimidate and inspire game creators. For gamers it will need to prove its depth is equaled by longevity. A healthy sampling of what's on the game's menu suggests that it will. Things are looking up for this one.