Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 2007
Platform: Wii
Genre: Lightgun shooter
ESRB Rating: Teen

Read any review of Link's Crossbow Training, and you'll see the same phrase show up in all of them: "glorified tech demo". Perhaps justified, but somebody was paying attention when they put it together, because it's lots of fun. It's also a beautifully rendered 3-D world taken straight from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, with locations and enemies familiar to anyone who's played through the game.

Link's Crossbow Training comes bundled with the Wii Zapper for the low, low price of about $20 so you get something besides a bent plastic tube when you plunk down your money. Although it's little more than a vaguely submachine gun-shaped shell for the Wii Remote, it's well worth it for games such as Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and House of the Dead 2 & 3 which focus on point-and-shoot lightgun style mayhem.

The Wii Zapper

Several years ago I got into an argument with a roommate of mine over the Star Trek Type I phaser. You know the one, from The Next Generation, that looks like a Dustbuster. I thought it was another in a long series of impractical sci-fi weapons because it had no aiming sights and forced the user to hold his wrist at an uncomfortable angle. He said all you have to do is point your thumb at the thing you want to die. I wondered who points with their thumb.

The Wii Zapper belatedly proves my position on the matter. Holding the pistol-grip shape provides a much more stable platform to aim and keep a target in your sites than holding the Wii Remote without it, and a few minutes of Link's Crossbow Training will demonstrate this clearly. Otherwise, it's comfortable to hold, secures the Wii Remote solidly in place, and provides a handy compartment to tuck away the nunchuck cord.

The Wii Zapper isn't perfect. Some critics are disappointed by the lack of a spring return on the trigger (this doesn't bother me since the spring on the B button, which the trigger forms an extension of, works fine). Although the nunchuck controller, which fits on the back of the Zapper, provides convenient access to all its buttons, it's awkward to push any of the buttons on the Wii Remote save for the B button trigger. Most Wii Zapper compatible games take this into account and don't require them, but games such as Battalion Wars II that require quick access to the A button and D-pad won't work so well.

Link's Crossbow Training

Link's Crossbow Training itself is a fun set of short games intended to show off the Wii Zapper's advantages, and presumably give lightgun game developers a set of basic guidelines for user interface and controls. There are four kinds of games across 27 stages (nine three-stage levels), each with relatively short time limits.

  1. Target practice: Shoot at stationary or moving bullseye-style targets, but don't hit cucoos or Ooccoos.
  2. Defender: Stand in place and turn around as enemies attack from all directions
  3. Defender on rails: Ride a canoe or Epona while shooting at enemies
  4. Ranger: use the nunchuck's joystick to move around and the lightgun targeting reticle to turn and aim while hunting monsters

In all modes, you can use the nunchuck's Z button to zoom in, hold the B button to charge an explosive arrow, and hit other items such as pots or scarecrows for bonuses. The zoom feature is essential for sniping other archers from out of range and scoring headshots on enemies with shields, and the Z button is conveniently positioned to make this easy. The stages are all short and have time limits, you get a bonus if you hit all the targets within the time limit.

The key to the game is building up your score by stringing combos. Every consecutive hit without missing strings your combo longer and adds a multiplier to your target's score. For example your second hit has a multiplier of 2, your tenth hit has a multiplier of 10, and so forth, making this by far the most important method of increasing your score. If you miss, are hit by an enemy, or hit an innocent creature such as a cucoo, you will lose your combo. Hitting destroyable objects like pots neither breaks nor increases your combo. At the end of a level, you will receive a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum medal based on your scores from the three stages added together.

Aside from earning better medals or getting higher scores, there's really nothing more to the game, but I find it's enjoyable to play through these short stages in practice mode, especially the ranger stages, for a quick few minutes of fun. The Wii can save high scores for several players so you can compete for the record.

Bottom Line:

Link's Crossbow Training by itself is worth the $20, think of the Wii Zapper as a free bonus you can use with other games.

The Wii Zapper's only real competitor seems to be the Wii Perfect Shot by Nyko, which looks more like a traditional automatic pistol and only holds the Wii Remote, not the nunchuck. This leaves the other hand free to hold the nunchuck or push the Wii Remote buttons. The Perfect Shot also has a spring loaded trigger, which some players prefer. However, unlike the Wii Zapper, the Perfect Shot has received criticism for not supporting the wrist strap.

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