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Yes, that’s right, Nintendo have augmented their wobbling wonder-wand with a motion-sensing booster, making possible the 1:1 exact gesture control we’ve dreamt of since we first unwrapped the white plastic super-controller. We’ve cordoned off the science at the end of this preview – leave it lying around and someone will have an eye out – so we’re free to talk about a game that’ll make sense of it all. Welcome to Wii Sports Resort, aka Wii Sports 2 or, if we’re being cynical, ‘Say Hello To Wii MotionPlus’.
So, how do you follow up the only title guaranteed to have been played by every Wii owner in the Western world? You offer greater scope – the event list sits around a rumoured 10 or 11 mark – and a change of location. Nintendo EAD director, Katsuya Eguchi, says his team wanted leisurely activities, choosing a sandy resort as the best place for the relaxation to happen. Apart from the change of scenery, it’s business as usual: Miis, blue skies and the return of a personal trainer.
“The cutest game you’ve ever seen,” cooed Cammie Dunaway about Disc Dog during her big E3 reveal of the first new Wii sport. Presumably she’s not familiar with Dewey’s Adventure, Happy Feet or Manhunt 2 then, because there’s not a lot that’s cute about the creepy spherical pup you send scampering about by flinging a frisbee. The closer virtual Fido grabs the disc to a set marker, the higher the points. Ten throws, a potential 1,000 points – we’re firmly in Wii Play territory here. Forget the puppy workout, the real treat is palming the disc to watch your Mii mimic your wrist action. We’ve all had those motion moments on Wii when everything syncs for a moment of dazzling clarity – we still can’t get enough of Metroid’s rotating door locks – but this is something else entirely. Anything you can do, your Mii can do equally. If anything, it runs the risk of harming the Wii’s back catalogue, revealing older games as the flick-to-activate halfwits they’ve been all along.
So, puppies? Ha! Reggie eats puppies for breakfast and washes them down with a glass of freshly squeezed bar charts. He wants a whirring mechanical beast between his legs, or so he implied when explaining his decision to demo Power Cruising (which might as well be called ‘My First Wave Race’). Contrary to the Regginator’s on-stage demo, you don’t have to pose like a pretend bullfighter to get it to work; all you need do is seize a horizontally held remote and Nunchuk (a plug hides the dongle’s Nunchuk slot) like the grips of a jetski (like the handlebars of a bike, if you’ve not ridden a jetski). Rotate them together and you twist the handlebars, turning your tiny but incredibly cute craft. Simple. The nature of the sport doesn’t allow MotionPlus to really show off, but it’s certainly tighter than the doddery car steering in Alone in the Dark and Call of Duty 3. While holding B accelerates – the normally fun trigger now looks like a crushing bore next to Nintendo’s gyro-gadget – revving the remote gives your vessel extra kick. It’s a totally silly but delightful touch.
Power Cruising’s no Wave Race, more a Wii Play facsimile of the Nintendo classic. A ‘pass the gates to score points’ affair, it at least looks the part, with Nintendo’s patented bumpy wave tech and adorable endorsed lifejackets cosying up to your eyes. Not drowning has never been cuter. Multiplayer races would be a nice addition, but Miyamoto was coy about that. All we know is that while some events feature pass-the-remote play, others may involve multiple controllers (and, in a bad turn of events for our already aching wallets, multiple dongles). Now we come to the big question: dogs or jetskis? We’re surprised that we’ve yet to see it on the Everybody Votes Channel. Reggie and SuperMom couldn’t decide, but ‘luckily’ they had a third event with which to settle matters – Sword Play. You hear that sound? That’s the noise of Force Unleashed and Clone Wars devs Krome gulping as Sword Play wheezes “Luke, I am the game you wish you’d waited to make”.
Can you chop and slice to your heart’s content? Yes. Mostly. Calibration is tight and the occasional jarring swipe is more due to our inexperience than any technical error. The heady rush of power raises the question of whether we’re ready for 1:1 control. When the hits start to connect though, we defy imaginations not to flare. Ours was substituting the onscreen Mii for an elfin green-clad hero, and the pile of wood at his feet for diced Goron. Best tackled dual-handed – at least according to the Nintendo rep who chastised our posey Inigo Montoya one-handed grip – the one-on-one duel is a lot like your typical Wii Sports Boxing match. Your sword blows drive an opponent – AI or human – towards the edge of your aerial platform. Smack ’em enough and down they tumble. Unlike Wii Boxing, where only one in ten hits feels deliberate, this is a more strategic game, with handy B-button blocks offering respite – unless you weave your blade past your opponent’s, of course.
The blades may be skinned to suggest lightsabers, but the ‘strike and defend’ counterbalance reminds us more of samurai encounters than FX-driven whack-a-thons. Imagine a Bushido Blade revival in which you weave your sword in to nick an artery and send your opponent spasming to the floor. Now imagine the ballooning faces of the Upright Citizens Brigade as the Wii churns out a generation of ninja killers. We could write off Resort as ‘just another tech demo’ but we’re tired of that broken record. People said the same of Wii Sports yet it still puts most third-party efforts to shame. Sure, Wii Sports 2 is a little obvious, but MotionPlus is anything but. Just think: we’re on the cusp of a Wii revolution and we get to enjoy it from the beach.
All about Wii MotionPlus
“The more you bite, the more flavour you get.” Those words aren’t Reggie’s tips on eating live parrots; it’s Nintendo’s Katsuya Eguchi explaining the ethos behind Wii MotionPlus. Increased interaction equals greater complexity which, in turn, makes for more satisfaction as you master it. We were going to attempt a scientific breakdown of MotionPlus functionality until we got to the bit in the explanation about “MEMS-based motion-sensing solutions for image stabilisation and dead reckoning navigation” and our face exploded all over the monitor. Luckily, InvenSense (the company developing the add-on) have since explained it in layman’s terms.
Containing three gyroscopes, MotionPlus can track movement across all three axes in 3D space, adding some more rotational data to what was already being pumped out by the remote itself. At a noticeable inch and a bit long, the chunky nubbin locks into the two holes on either side of the base port of the remote for support, although the reps were keen to emphasise that the extended remote skin (which comes packaged with Resort) helps keep the two attached as well. The price doing the rounds on the show floor was $49.99 for Resort, MotionPlus and the skin. A question was also raised about whether or not the tech would one day be permanently integrated into the remote itself. Eguchi said Nintendo were weighing up their options, but for now they’d make do with MotionPlus.
All this raises some interesting questions, namely: will MotionPlus create a massive gap between two generations of Wii games? Will any titles currently in development go back to the drawing board to incorporate the new technology? It’s hard to tell so early on. One thing’s for certain – the Wii gaming scene just got a whole lot more exciting.
Aug 19, 2009