Wii Sports is a reminder of a bygone era when video game consoles came packaged with one killer, must-have application capable of luring in new addicts with a sniff of its success. To this day, there is no better or well-rounded example of using the Nintendo Wii’s remote and nunchuk motion-sensitive controllers than in Wii Sports, even over a half year after the console’s debut. In fact, two of the five Wii Sports games are so fun, they would have flown off store shelves packaged as full-price standalone games. Their inclusion in the Wii console package is a large part of its unforeseen dominant early success in the highly competitive next-generation gaming console wars.
In addition to introducing motion-controlled gameplay, Wii Sports imports caricature player icons from the Wii dashboard, Mii’s, as the on-screen players used in each of the five games. Unlike Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Vegas that takes a snapshot of a player’s face and pastes it on top of a pre-defined body, the Mii’s are fully customizable from shirt color to height to face shape to eyewear. The result is a highly personalized on-screen representation of each person playing, or in the case of Baseball, up to 18 unique Mii’s plucked from the Wii and put into the game.
The five sports packaged into Wii Sports include Boxing, Golf, Tennis, Baseball and Bowling. Each has been designed specifically for motion-sensitive gameplay with varying degrees of success.
Wii Sports Boxing
Boxing is the only game in “Wii Sports” requiring the use of both the remote and nunchuk controllers, but it. The set-up is basic enough: each controller represents a hand and moving them towards the screen combined with button combinations throws different punches. Likewise, moving them side-to-side moves the boxer in the ring. Unfortunately the results don’t always translate to a smooth fight on-screen. On many occasions both fighters, whether the second boxer is controlled by the CPU or not, are seen whaling away landing nothing but air. This lack of contact can grow both frustrating and tiring as the lightweight controllers aren’t hefty enough to counterbalance the arm’s force of flinging them forward. If the blocking and dodge system weren’t as effective as they are, maybe swinging would result in more landed blows.
Wii Sports Golf
Golf ups the fun factor ante over boxing by allowing up to four players to play together, either by sharing a single remote or each using their own. Playing a round is simple: each player selects the best club for the distance remaining, lines up their shot with the D-pad, grips the remote controller like a club, and then takes a practice or real swing at the speed desired based on an on-screen power bar. Unlimited practice swings are a big help to get a feel for how hard a physical swing translates to the power bar, though overly sensitive motion controls ” especially when putting ” put a damper on the physical swing always effectively matching the results on-screen. Randomly generated wind speeds do help shake up gameplay a little despite a lack of multiple courses which are missed more and more with each round completed.
On the surface, Tennis appears to be the most simplistic game offered in Wii Sports. Players simply have to swing the remote at the screen when the ball approaches and the CPU takes care of the rest, including moving towards the ball. Serves are almost impossible to mess up and the ball rarely is hit into the net or sails out of bounds. Underneath and awaiting more experienced players is a strategic game of forehand, backhand and ball spin that transforms a simple match of glorified pong into a heated battle of interactive tennis. Twists and turns of the remote will send the ball skidding either left or right when it hits the ground.
This gameplay can grow a bit stale playing against the CPU and its predictable tendencies, but that monotony changes in a heartbeat when a second, third or fourth player partakes in a doubles match featuring a combination of blistering baseline shots and net stuffs, all masterfully controlled with a variety of ball spins. It’s so fun and easy that the only fear is clubbing your opponent or teammate upside the head with the remote.
Swinging a bat at a virtual ball in arcades has always been a coin-op favorite of mine, so to have the opportunity to play something similar at home is a nostalgic high. As in a real-life game, the Wii version of baseball breaks gameplay into two distinct areas: batting and pitching. Batting is as simple as swinging the remote at the screen as the ball approaches, while pitching makes use of the remote buttons to select pitch type and location. Batting is inherently more fun, whether playing against the CPU or a friend. There’s no greater joy than connecting on a pitch and watching it sail out of the park. Pitching isn’t quite as engrossing as the remote isn’t sensitive enough to allow for precise pitch location control based on where the remote is aimed. As the CPU batters get tougher, the lack of control is sorely missed.
Control of the outfielders is handled entirely by the CPU, errors and all. While it is nice to not have to worry about making a fielding play after physically throwing a pitch, it can be frustrating watching the Mii’s not take the best path to a ball, resulting in an extra base hit instead of an out. Any small glitches like this baseball throws up are trumped by the insanely addictive good time that commences when stepping into the batter’s box.
While the previous four games share some qualities with playing the sport in real-life, bowling blurs the line between virtual game and reality. It’s as if the remote was designed specifically to accommodate the rules of the game; pull back for a wind-up, then throw forward at the speed desired and let go of the Z-Trigger to release. Like tennis, the remote can be turned left or right for desired spin, adding another layer of intricacy on top of an already enveloping experience. Unlike tennis, a forward toss at an angle will send the ball shooting off in that direction and likely into the gutter. This game requires practice and the ability to repeatedly throw with the same controlled motion, much like the real sport does. All that’s missing is different weighted balls, oil slickness on the lane, and a snack bar serving up greasy food.
Nintendo even wants you to see how out of shape you may be by offering a Challenge mode requiring playing through a set of challenges from each game. At the conclusion of the mode, an estimated player age is offered based on how well the challenges were completed. The result can be scary, but that’s what Nintendo wants you to see. There’s always a reason to pick up the controller and give each game another shot.
Wii Sports is the perfect Nintendo Wii pack-in title for its full use of the remote and nunchuk, and ability to get players off the couch and physically playing. The games are overly simple, though, at the same time, easily accessible by anyone of any age. A sequel with expanded options, more stats, and even deeper gameplay should be a foregone conclusion and an instant best seller. For now, this little gem is the pride of the Wii console. And, best of all, it comes packed in.
– Dan Bradley