It’s hard to believe that three years ago found Nintendo in a distant third place in that generation’s console war. Not only was the GameCube being trounced by the stalwart PS2 and the up-and-coming Xbox, some were actually predicting the very end of Nintendo’s hardware run, following in the footsteps of former competitor, Sega. Oh, if only I could somehow manifest in the year 2006; a prophet lamenting Nintendo’s coming revival. Many would call out to me, curious of my claims, asking if it will be plumber, swordsman, or bounty hunter that returns Nintendo to its previous power. Arms stretched out before me, I would say nothing but one word: “Bowling.”
Yes, Wii Sports is, without a doubt, one of gaming’s greatest saving throws. The Wii’s pack-in title had the system out of stores as if the shelves were made of lava. Unfortunately, while Wii Sports had us all sold on motion control, little else followed in its wake to build upon that original experience. Whether cheap Sports knock-offs or more traditional games with “waggle” tacked on, it seemed no developer, Nintendo included, could do much better than what those five little mini games gave us.
Now, Nintendo is ready to raise the bar it set for itself with the very first Wii game released. Wii Sports Resort features not only more to do, but also more accurate controls thanks to the MotionPlus attachment. However, does this deeper, more complex approach to Wii Sports act in opposition to the original’s simple “everyone can play games” attitude?
Right away, Wii Sports Resort works to shed the “tech demo” label of its forebearer. A rather clever MotionPlus tutorial allows the player to take in the entirety of the island resort as their Mii is parachuted in. Though you may not notice it the first time, if you pay close enough attention, you will actually spot all the different areas that the events take place in. While not necessary for this type of game, it’s an interesting move that helps create a sense of location. Rather than a simple list of mini games, Nintendo has created an entire virtual space for these activities to play out. Kudos for that.
Speaking of the mini games, Resort features 12 of them, each with several different variants themselves. Though, sadly, they aren’t all new. Bowling and Golf return from Wii Sports, and Tennis is revamped and presented as Table Tennis. Joining the old faithful, we have Swordplay, Wakeboarding, Frisbee, Archery, Basketball, Power Cruising, Canoeing, Cycling, and Air Sports. Not exactly a list you’d expect to find at any actual island resort, but an impressive collection nonetheless. Quantity doesn’t mean quality however, and much like the original Wii Sports, players will quickly pick out the cream of the crop.
I’ve never given much respect to the sitcom-ian argument that instead of investing time in a game, one should be practicing these skills in real life. Playing a sports game and actually participating in a sport are very different experiences. Yet, Wii Sports Resort and the MotionPlus attachment begin to blur that defined line between a button press and throwing a football. For example, the Frisbee mini game requires as much precision as throwing an actual Frisbee. The bend of your wrist, the velocity of your arm movement, the point at which you release the disc; all of this factors into whether or not your adorable dog is going to catch your Frisbee.
If you are salivating at this thought, I can make one assumption about you: you know how to throw a Frisbee. I, however, do not, which means I had to spend a significant amount of time practicing my throw before I was able to score anything higher than 10 points at a time (10 points are given for a bad throw, 25 for a decent throw, and 50 for one where the dog is able to actually jump into the air and grab it). Of course, that’s not to say this reality-mirroring experience is a bad thing. I haven’t tried, but I feel quite sure that I can throw an actual Frisbee now. Perhaps it’s a good thing, but now I can’t help but to think of that previously mentioned argument. If I now have the skill to throw a Frisbee, why aren’t my friends and I in the front yard actually doing so?
That’s not to say all the games in Wii Sports Resort require talent in the authentic sport, but there is certainly a learning curve. I can guarantee that Mom and Dad won’t be able to enjoy the 3-Point Contest as easily as they did Bowling in the previous game, which is a shame because once you get the hang of it, the 3-Point Contest is one of the most fun and addictive games available on the disc.
On that same note, my friend Adam, who you might recall from my article concerning gaming with disabilities, has Muscular Dystrophy. Shooting the basketball requires lifting the controller above your head and giving it a flick, which the game compares to “ringing a bell.” Well, Adam was not able to lift the controller up all the way, and while he used to get away with general motions in Wii Sports, the MotionPlus accessory ensures that motions are full and carried through. In the end, Adam wasn’t able to participate in this mini game, which was a bit of a disappointment.
I know I sound down on the game, but really it has its fun moments. The previously mentioned 3-Point Challenge is a blast and the Archery is incredibly fun, providing a glimpse into what the bow and arrow might be like in the next Zelda game. I just mention these things to prove a point. Since the Wii’s launch, people have been clamoring for 1:1 controls, and now that Nintendo has obliged, it becomes apparent that more accurate motion control isn’t necessarily a good thing. Canoeing with that kind of precision means you are actually canoeing which, big surprise, is rather tiring and uninteresting. Yes, if you plan to practice and master the game, then you will enjoy it. But when you have your friends and family over, don’t be surprised if you are winning all the events and everyone else isn’t having that much fun.
Things We Liked: 3-Point Challenge and Archery. Rewarding if time is invested.
Things We Disliked: Without practice or natural talent, don’t expect much success. Some just plain bad events (I’m looking at you Canoeing and Cycling!)
Target Audience: Someone with a core group of friends/family who will play frequently.