As a follow up to all the information about my Wii, I would like to continue the shock and awe campaign on the doldrums of your gaming life. What with the Wii being the youngest console of the current generation, it has the smallest gaming library. But if you bought your Wii outside of Japan, you have Wii Sports and that's all you need.
Wii Be Jammin'
The Wii consoles were packaged with a Wiimote, Nunchuk and Wii Sports to really show things off. Boxing is the only game that makes use of the Nunchuk, but it's still a great mechanism to show off the potential of the input mechanisms. All of the games are amazingly intuitive to play, so don't worry if you can't figure out how to use an Xbox 360 controller with it's array of 14 buttons. You'll do fine. And grab some friends while you're at it, because all the games have some multiplayer function.
And even though I may be quite critical of the games, rest assured that I do love them all. Wii Sports is effectively a tech demo just made to explore the facets of Wii inputs and interactions. The games are supposed to be fun to pick up and play, but they do not have very in depth gameplay. Wait for the major developers to release their own sports games before you get put off of Wii gaming in general just because you don't like how one of these games sounds.
A fun game, no doubt. Even in single player mode, you will play doubles. Don't worry about the controls, this game is made as simple as possible. The characters automatically move laterally in the direction of the ball so that does not require any explicit input from you. Just get your Mii close to the ball and swing. There are no buttons that you have to worry about, just the motion of a swing effects a swing on screen. Furthermore, when a ball approaches your non-dominant side, your Mii will perform a backhand swing regardless of which direction your swing travels in real life.
When you return a ball, the angle that it flies off at depends on your swing. Duh, yes, but the idea hear is that the timing of your swing dictates the direction. Your Mii is effectively swinging with a straight arm and wrist, so you can't angle the shots quite like real life. The basic idea is that if you swing early, the ball goes left, assuming you play right handed (and you can change that). Dead on hits are returned straight across the net; late swings send your balls to the right. The intensity of your swing is considered in the distance the ball travels so don't go out there swinging like Serena.
The game is a lot of fun to play, particularly with multiplayer. For Tennis, each player need their own Wiimote. You can either play on same team or against each other. I recommend playing against each other, if only for the fact that watching two or more people hop around a living room swinging madly is a great spectator sport. Be warned that things can get serious very quickly depending on the players' skill levels and determination to win. Remember that tennis is a gentleman's sport and smack talking, while not expressly forbidden, is frowned upon.
Ah, the great American pastime, straight outta Japan. As far as gameplay mechanics, it pretty much sucks. You don't control any of the fielders or baserunners. All you do is bat and pitch. But that can be fun as hell too. There are no buttons required to bat, just the swinging action. Pitching requires simple button presses for different pitches. Of course how hard you throw and the spin you impart with your wrist effects on the on screen flight of the ball.
The games are actually only 3 innings, so go for broke with each swing or pitch. Similar to the Tennis hits, your timing effects the overall direction a ball will travel. Unlike Tennis, you can swing the bat at any reasonable height level, so you must factor that into how you handle your wood. Different pitches are achieved by pressing one or more of the A and B buttons on the Wiimote as you pitch.
Multiplayer is great because you actually have two people standing in a room and one will wind up and pitch the ball, whilst projecting a woosh from his Wiimote speaker and a second player, a fraction of a second later, draws back and swings with a satisfying crack! reporting from his Wiimote. You'll have to play it to understand, but I think this is the closest thing to a home virtual reality kit as we're going to get. Damn the graphics, let me play baseball if I'm playing baseball.
This is one of the great games that people seem to play most intuitively. Squeeze the B button, draw your arm back and throw the ball forward, releasing the ball when you release the B button. It's very simple, yeah? Spin can also be imparted to the ball based on the twisting of your wrist as you swing your arm.
If you're like me, you can't throw the ball in a straight line at speed. However, you can move laterally to position yourself before you start to approach the lane. You may also adjust your angle that you will aim the ball down the lane. However, my friend that plays with me has no problem throwing in straight lines down the lane, so it's just me. Multiplayer can use one Wiimote per player, or you can share a single Wiimote amongst all players. One of the amazing things about the Wiimote controller is the built in speaker. When you're play with your friends and you're yammering away talking about something very important and you forget to pay attention to the game, your Wiimote will chime at the beginning of your turn. Just a little reminder beep to let you know you're up. I was amazed at this the first time I played Bowling just because it's such an excellent use of new hardward, especially outside of gameplay mechanic.
Be forewarned though that old people are exceedingly good at this game! I know a couple other people whose mothers beat them at Bowling. Likewise, my friend and I stayed up until about 5 a.m. playing a Bowling challenge, vying for high score. We called it a night when I finally beat his score of 507 with a 508 after about an hour of trying. We showed the challenge to my dad the next day and asked if he wanted to try. My dad, who suffers from a debilitating neurological disease crushed our scores with a 520 on his first shot. As my friend and I denounced gaming forever, I couldn't help be marvel at a game controller that will enable someone without fine point discrimination to whoop the shit out of a couple regular gamers half their age.
Think of a game of golf, without the sun burn, greens fees, mosquito bites, stupid shoes, golf bags or slow ass golfers. Now throw the gentle breeze of a ceiling fan and a tall glass of lemonade and you have Wii Golf.
While there is only one course available, you can still have plenty of fun with the game. You can choose three hole Beginner, Intermediate or Expert quick games, which are just the first, second and third three hole sets from the main golf course anyway. Before you begin play on a particular hole, the camera passes over the entire course and shows you the green. Some of them are absolutely beautiful.
Gameplay is very straight forward and enjoyable. The game selects a club for you before each shot, based on distance to the pin. You can change the selection though, but you only have a driver, iron, wedge and putter. Again, wait for the real sports game developers to get a hold of this and it'll be awesome. You can take any number of practice swings that you like to see how your real world swing stacks up against the game's power meter. Then just hold A to step up to the ball and swing away. Your biggest enemy is the wind, which you have to combat by rotating a few degrees this way or that, assuming the wind is blowing that way or this. Of course, those stray shots into the rough, bunker or water hazard make life interesting as well. The game also packs the real headache of golf, considering you can miss putts by an inch and have to listen to the gloating of your friends for hours. Speaking of which, multiplayer allows you to share a controller between players or use a Wiimote for each player. I recommend using on Wiimote per person so you can clobber the shit out of them when they get their third birdie in a row and you're still hoping for a double bogey.
Another interesting tale is that of Mr. Cotter, my neighbor. After playing a quick beginner round, my dad called up Mr. Cotter and told him to come check out this new fangled gamering box. So he and his wife showed up to have a look at it. I gave him a quick run down and turned him lose. He scored comparable to my first play through. I felt like writing letters to Sony and Microsoft right then and there telling them that if a 70 year old man, who probably last played the original Frogger, can play a new system as well as someone who's been at it for 15 years, they need to stop making consoles and go home. They lost the fucking war, it's over.
But then it was my turn, so I just kept playing.
Boxing is the most exciting game on Wii Sports, hands down. It is the only game to use the Nunchuk, so you control the action with both hands. Grab a friend, load up your Miis and sock the crap out of each other.
As you can imagine, throwing punches with your right hand makes your Mii swing with his right arm. /msg me if you can't figure out what punching with your left hand does. You can lean left, right and backward if you simultaneously tilt the controllers in the same direction. Unfortunately, there is no control to make your Mii step in particular direction, only the leaning motion. But if you lean out of the way just before a punch lands, the game goes into slow motion. You have an excellent chance to deliver an unblocked shot against your opponent, so fire away. Overall, the controls aren't particularly lacking. The motion detection is outstanding and where you hold your hands in relation to your body is where you Mii will guard. Punches come in the form of jabs, hooks and uppercuts.
I had one friend repeatedly assert that he would play any game but boxing, mainly because it was stupid. After I talked him into playing one round, he wouldn't let go of the controllers. It is a lot of fun because it is the most immersive game in the lot--your arms, hands and body motions all contribute to the gameplay. I'll go ahead and tell you now that it's the most painful game to play. I played one challenge where you continually attack punching bags and I woke up later that night with a pain that would not let me sleep. Because I was swinging very hard, the repeated motion of jabbing and then abruptly stopping my arm I gave myself hellacious tendinitis. I have given myself tendinitis with weightlifting before and I've had my face smashed twice with septoplasties but I have never had a pain that would not let me sleep until I played a few hours of Boxing. Fuck Wiiitis.
The individual Wii sports will all net you Skill Points in that sport as long as you play well. If you begin to perform poorly, compared to your previous rounds, you will begin to lose points. If you manage to make it up to 1000 Skill Points in a particular sport, you get a little reward and Pro status. For instance, my Pro status in bowling awarded me a bowling ball covered in golden stars, as opposed to a plain solid color ball. Heart stopping, I know.
Each sport has three Challenges with Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels. The challenges normally focus on honing one facet of each sport, so if you find yourself lacking at a specific skill, check out the Challenges. All of the first tier Challenges are unlocked but you must complete the first Challenges to unlock subsequent events. That is not particularly difficult since you need only best your previous score. So if you get a score of zero the first time around and manage to scrape together a score of one for your next round, you unlock the subsequent event. Challenge may be a misnomer.
Some of the more remarkable Challenges would be the 2nd Bowling Challenge, 1st Boxing Challenge, 3rd Golf Challenge and 1st Baseball Challenge.
- Bowling Challenge #2: Power Throws
In this Challenge, you try to knock down as many pins as possible. Sounds like normal bowling, no? No, it isn't. There are 10 "frames" in the game with the main differences being 1) you only get one throw per frame and 2) at the end of each frame, another row is added to the back of the pins. You begin the game throwing against a standard spread of 10 pins and on the last frame you're throwing against 91 pins! So you need to swing your balls with a lot of force because you have a lot of pins to knock down. Very addictive when playing with friends.
- Boxing Challenge #1: Working the Bag
You have 60 seconds to destroy as many punching bags as possible. Black bags take the most damage to destroy, white bags take a moderate amount and the patched, brown bags take the least. If you get good at it, you can destroy a brown bag in one punch. The event is based on a points scored, with a different value assigned for each type of bag. So just because you get six brown bags in a row doesn't mean you'll score more than if you managed to destroy two black bags. I found this challenge to be great fun just trying for personal bests. Until I woke up with incredible pain in my elbows--don't over do it.
- Golf Challenge #3: Target Practice
There are two large bullseyes on the course, both within a swing's range of the tee. The goal is to land the ball as close to the center as possible for the most points. Note that the idea is to land the ball on the bullseye--where it touches down determines score, not where it stops rolling. The first two shots never have wind, but afterwards you must contend with randomly generated wind speed and direction for your last eight shots.
- Baseball Challenge #1: Hitting Homeruns
Knock them out of the park. As many as you can in 10 pitches, that's all there is to it. Sounds simple, but again play this game with friends for the full effect. The distance, in feet, of each hit is displayed on screen so you can smack talk about who is the better Babe Ruth.
Wii Sports is free with a new Wii, but even if it wasn't, it's worth a buy. The multiplayer is amazing on many different levels. It can be a competitive exercise between two casual gamers or an all out brawl when seasoned gamers take things to seriously (see Closed Head Trauma: When Wii Boxing Goes Bad). It's a great tool to get multi-generational groups of people laughing and having or a good time, sometimes to the detriment of the younger generation's pride. Hell, even spectators have a good time watching or yelling at the screen. It's many times more effective than yelling at the little people running about the screen during a pro football game.
Even if you think the game isn't that impressive, remember it's a tech demo. These are rudimentary demonstrations of a brand new, untested technology. It's an amazing accomplishment of human computer interaction that will wow any first time spectator. If you don't have a Wii, consider picking one up. If you don't have that much money, find someone who has a Wii, but them a good six-pack or stout fifth and show up for a night of gaming.