It's worth going back and playing the original Wii Sportsbefore you play Wii Sports Resort, in order to give the new game some context. Wii Sports came packed with the hardware in the United States, and did more to sell the system than any commercial ever could. It felt like Nintendo was bringing in a new era of gaming, complete with a brand-new way to interact with our games; the possibilities seemed nearly limitless, and we waited for the flood of games that would take advantage of the Wiimote technology.
The competition-crushing sales numbers sure came, but the games didn't. I can name a dozen great Wii games with no effort, but if you asked me to name six games that showed off what the system could do as well as Wii Sports, I would have to stop and think. I'm not sure if there are six. Nintendo sits on a hollow throne: the company may have won this generation, but the revolution never came. Not in the way we had hoped.
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The problem is that in too many cases a left to right or up and down swipe was simply a replacement for a button press. The term "waggle" rose to prominence to describe the lazy games where shaking the Wiimote replaced a standard button-press. Many of the best games worked better with a classic controller than the Wiimote/Nunchuk combination. Rail shooters were given a boost on the system, but what else did the Wii actually deliver on, other than lowered graphical expectations and a love of bright colors?
At E3 in 2008, and again in 2009, Nintendo wanted us to know that the Wii would be changed with the $20 MotionPlus, a peripheral that would turn the Nintendo Wii into the system we thought we were buying at launch. To usher in this update to the hardware we have... well, we actually had the rather excellent Tiger Wood PGA Tour 10, but now Nintendo has finally stepped up to the plate with the sequel to the game that arguable made the system what it is today. Is this another empty promise from Nintendo? Is this an answer to the disappointment many of the early believers now feel when they look at the Wii's game library?
We've been playing the game for hours and hours each day, and here is our verdict: this is the work of a lazy god. It's also worth your money, although you'll have to be ready for a rising sense of frustration the longer you play. Welcome to the re-launch of motion controls. Now let's play.
I am born again
Wii Sports Resort begins with your Mii skydiving into Wuhu Island, the background that houses the game's events. This gives you a brief glimpse into how precise the MotionPlus-enabled Wiimote has become, and also makes you want a new Pilotwings title right the hell NOW. This intro is fun and attractive, and feels like something of a challenge: dive in, and get ready for an adventure.
Also be aware that you need to have a finely developed sense of play to really appreciate Wii Sports Resort. The events don't link together in any way, and the only thing to keep you playing is beating your own score and the fun of participation. This doesn't feel like a cohesive product as much as a series of tech demos, although the inclusion of the island itself as a framing device allows Nintendo to hide this fact somewhat better than it did in the first Wii Sports. The good news is that the events are, by and large, fun. They're also incredibly uneven.
In Archery, you'll be holding the Wiimote in your left hand and pulling back with the nunchuk in your right hand to simulate a real bow and arrow. It sounds goofy on paper, but it works very well, and it's one of the most immediately impressive uses of the hardware in the game. You can play against your friends, and the different difficulty levels cause the target to be farther away, or with added movement, but the basic mechanic stays the same throughout each level. The doors opened for archery sections in games are exciting—imagine this sort of thing in a Zelda title!
My personal conspiracy theory is that even though Wii Sports Resort will likely be a success, the point of the game isn't to amaze us gamers. Each of these events seems like Nintendo giving pointers to third-party developers. There are so many times during the course of gameplay where you'll wish an event or challenge were stretched into an entire game with a story, characters, or even online play. As it stands, you'll play something, be amazed at the clever controls, be disappointed that the overall experience is so thin, and then come back and continue playing to show your friends or fight for a higher score.
Let's take a look at what works... and what doesn't, in Wii Sports Resort.
What we lovedSwordPlay
This is the mode you'll use to show of the technology, because your virtual sword moves perfectly in sync with your actual hand motions. The problem is that in Duel and Showdown modes you're still dealing with cleverly hidden waggle: a sword held vertically will block a side strike, and a horizontal sword will block a vertical slash. This is pretty obvious in Duel, but Showdown—where you face off, classic-Ninja-movie-style, against a horde of Miis—is incredibly fun. Long, broad strokes can take down multiple enemies at once, while body-armor-clad "bosses" turn into mini-duels.
We have decided that the only way to play Showdown is with the sound muted and The Crystal Method's "The Name of the Game" playing instead. We will also accept "Battle without Honor or Humanity" for your Mii-slaying sessions.
The third game is perhaps the most interesting of the bunch: Speed Slice. The referee drops different objects in front of you and your opponent, and you have to slice them from different sides or angles. Slice a diamond in two from the upper left-hand corner. Cut a cupcake in two from left to right. It's a test of your arm movement's reaction time, and if you play with another person this is simply a blast.
Duel may be the mode that was hyped the most in Swordplay, but Speed Slice and Showdown are the stronger entries here.Power Cruising...
...Or as we like to call it "Let's go ahead and make another Wave Race." You hold both parts of the controller out in front of you like the controls of a jet ski, and lean into turns as you cruise through the gates, going as fast as you can. Twisting your right hand like a throttle will get you a speed boost.
The trick is to make gentle, sweeping turns and not overcorrect, and I'll be damned if you don't feel like you're on a jet ski. The number one enemy in the game—if you're not playing multiplayer—is the wave-physics. You'll have to constantly be aware of where the waves are coming from and correct for them.Golf and Bowling
These two sports make a comeback from the first game, and both of them are improved by the addition of the MotionPlus hardware. If you haven't played Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, you'll be amazed at how natural your golf swing now feels, and how tricky it can be to hit that perfect, straight drive. Putting is also a joy with the peripheral.
Bowling has been updated to take advantage of the MotionPlus, but it's more of an evolution; it's easy now to add spin to the ball, and in fact there is an entire game mode dedicated to getting you to add spin in order to avoid obstacles in the alley. Both of these games remain fun, and once you get used to the controls of Sports Resort it's hard to go back to the originals.Airsports
This section will divide fans. I enjoyed Island Flyover, where you control your plane by holding the Wiimote like a paper airplane, exploring the islands and collecting points of interest. It's relaxing, fun, and a good way to explore the island and see all the locations from the other sports. Some may find this pointless, but I found it worth spending some time with; it felt like play, although very unstructured play.
SkyDiving works well, and again makes you long for Pilotwings, but there isn't much to it. You fly around, grab onto other Miis, and try to face the camera before your picture is taken. Dogfight takes the planes from Island Flyover, adds balloons to them, and has you shooting at each other.
While these events are fun for a little while, the real draw is imagining what these concepts would be like in the hands of a talented developer creating an entire suite of flying experiences.