By Eli Green
June 26, 2009 - 16:55
People got their first look at Wii Sports Resort, the follow up to the original Wii Sports game bundled with Wii consoles, last year, at E3 2008. This year, at E3 2009, Nintendo gave a more thorough demonstration of the game, showed off more of the sports that would be available and announced that it would be releasing next month, on July 26th to be exact. And while most journalists were able to get their hands on the game on the show floor, I was, unfortunately, relegated to another year of sitting at home and watching all the goings on from my desk. Thankfully, as it did last year, Nintendo brought its upcoming offerings up North for another E3 review, this Tuesday, so I got a full look at Wii Sports Resort for myself.
The big difference between Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort is improved motion capture accurary. This is Nintendo's first first party title to use its new Wii MotionPlus accessory, which means that, unlike the original Wii Sports, you actually have to perform the full movements if you want your Mii to actually play properly. Actions aren't brought down to simple flicks of the wrist anymore and, moreover, you can now be more accurate with your timing, because Wii MotionPlus doesn't just track your movements on a 1:1 scale, it also tracks them in real time.
Of course, the best motion tracking in the world doesn't really matter if the games you're playing suck. So I guess it's a good thing that the sports in Wii Sports Resort don't suck. The gameincludes a large number of new sports to take on and introduce you to Wii MotionPlus. In all, I believe there are about a dozen activities you can play, including basketball, archery, table tennis, canoeing, skydiving and more. Graphically speaking, there isn't very much new stuff to speak about. The styling is still very Mii-centric, so the bright colours and lush, but not particularly impressive environments are instantly recognizable and happily familiar, at least if you've already played any of the Wii titled games, like Wii Sports, Wii Fit or Wii Music.
What the development team did manage to do this time round though, is improve the player immersion. The entire game is set on an island, and all the sports are played at different spots either on or across it. Creating an open play space like this also allowed the team to add in other sports like skydiving, cycling and airplane acrobatics. With these sports, you can either see or travel around the whole island and take in the sights. In fact, in the airplane, you can head to different locations on the island and get information on those spots, should you be interested to do so.
During my demo time with Wii Sports Resort, I took the time to try out a few of the different sports to try to get a good idea not only of the quality of the games, but the accuracy of Wii MotionPlus as well (especially because it was the first time I had laid my hands on the accessory). Upon suggestion from the Nintendo representatives, I started out with wakeboarding. I can certainly see why they would suggest it as the first game to try. It's simple to pick up and fun. You just try to lean out as far as you can, then come back in, hit the jumps and make sure you're holding the Wii Remote straight when you land.
Next, I gave archery a shot (man, I've got to stop with these puns). Archery essentially gives you an instant and complete introduction to the accuracy level of Wii MotionPlus. It doesn't just track your movements relative to where you're pointing at the screen anymore, but it can also tell where you are in actual space now, compared to the spot where you calibrated the Wii Remote's sensors, sort of like Ubisoft's Jason Vadenberg talked about in his walkthrough of the E3 2009 Red Steel 2 Demo.
In archery, the Wii Remote acts as the bow, while the Nunchuck acts as the arrow. You begin by holding the Wii Remote straight up, trying to keep it as stable as possible, and then bring the Nunchuck up to it. You then press the A Button on the Wii Remote to focus on the target and pull back on the Nunchuck while holding the Z Button. Once you're ready, all you have to do is let go of the Z Button and let the arrow fly. While the game is quite simple, it's pretty fun. Depending on the level you're playing on, it can be pretty challenging, as you'll have to compensate more for wind and distance. The only issue I found with this game was that it felt rather slow, like the arrow wasn't really flying anywhere close to normal speed. Even when shooting closer targets, it still felt a little slower than I would expect an arrow to fly from a bow.
Moving on, I tried out table tennis next. This is yet another game where you can really see Wii MotionPlus in action, as you can watch your Mii's hand precisely follow the movements you make. Actually, to be honest, all the games show it off quite sufficiently, as Wii Sports Resort, like Wii Sports was designed to introduce you to a new way to play, which in this case is Wii MotionPlus. Playing table tennis on my own was certainly enjoyable, but it was far more fun against a real opponent. Switching up between slow backspin shots, curve shots, slams and high speed topspin shots is a lot of fun when the person you're playing against is actually there, reacting to your attempts to throw them off their guard. I had a couple of great moments when playing against Got Game's Zack Cooper when I barely won thanks to the ball hitting right at the edge of the table. The show's Bryan Calhoun though, gave me a run for my money in the jet ski game. I'll get you next time Calhoun, next time.
Unfortunately, the table tennis in Wii Sports Resort suffers from a similar issue as the archery. It just feels too slow. Even those high speed topspin I mentioned before. Maybe it's just because this game is meant to be an introduction to Wii MotionPlus and was mainly designed for casual gamers. I'm not really 100% sure at this point. I suppose in the hands of a company like Rockstar Games, we could see some serious, fast-paced table tennis action, just with 1:1, real time motion capture this time around.
I tried canoeing next. It was definitely interesting and demonstrated the motion control quite well, but I wasn't particularly impressed. I think I would have to spend a bit more time with it, getting to the more challenging levels and lengthier tracks, before I pass a more definitive judgement on it. I will say this though. If you're playing tandem canoeing with a friend and want to perform very well, you'd both better know what you're doing and not be afraid to tell one another to row on a different side. Also, I have a feeling this is one of those sports that just makes more sense doing in the real world. It's just too different, especially with the severely reduced weight of the Wii Remote when compared to an actual oar.
I gave the three point basketball challenge a shot next. It's a lot of fun. Not much else needs to be said really. I found myself making the general movements of picking up and shooting the ball. The weight difference between the Wii Remote and a real basketball didn't feel too significant.
After watching Matt Ryan play around with the skydiving game, I decided to give it a shot. It turns out there's a lot more to it than I originally thought when I watched Nintendo's Media Briefing at E3 this year. Add that to my list of complaints about all the stuff they didn't, but should have shown. That said, during the skydiving game, you can group, or “catch”, your Mii together with other skydiving Miis and take photos midair. It becomes a whole game of trying to get together an entire group of Miis and then have them all turn toward the camera and smile in time. This all culminates with one massive formation before you all pull your parachutes. It's simple, but fun, and it's a feature that they really should have shown off at the Briefing.
The Swordplay games are pretty simple as well. The one I tried was basically a “winner slashes first” competition in which objects are thrown in front of you and you have to slice in the proper direction. There is also an “adventure” mode which lets you run around a track slamming Miis in the head (don't worry, they're wearing protective gear) with a foam sword, as well as a vs. mode, which is pretty similar to the “adventure” mode, except your goal is to knock your opponent off of the combat platform.
Finally, I took the airplane out for a spin around the island. Aside from taking in the sights, you can also do some in air acrobatics. It's pretty nice, but not all that impressive. Though I was happy to see that the game has an eco-friendly spin to it (there are windmills on the island that “power” it).
I enjoyed Wii Sports Resort. It's a fun game, with lots to do. Compared to the original Wii Sports, it is a full featured game that will be able to stand out on its own, at the right price. Thankfully, that right price will be more fair either way, because the game will launch with one Wii MotionPlus accessory in the box. The only issue for me is that, even though it's a full featured game when compared to Wii Sports, it only feels like it will be worth it for casual gamers to purchase. More dedicated gamers may find it amusing for a little while, but will likely grow bored with it rather quickly, cracking it open every once in a while when non-gamer friends are over. Dedicated gamers looking to pick up a Wii MotionPlus compatible game already have the option of picking up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, and other compatible games will be launching over the next year, including Red Steel 2, which will be releasing this holiday. Each of these games comes, or will be coming, bundled with Wii MotionPlus. So the only other reason I can see dedicated gamers wanting to pick up Wii Sports Resort is because it means you get another Wii MotionPlus unit, plus another game. For casual gamers though, this is a must have for your collection. It's a fun, family friendly social gaming experience.
Wii Sports Resort will be releasing exclusively for Wii on July 26th for $49.99 USD/$59.99 CAD and is rated E for Everyone.