It’s amazing how ever-developing technology can easily change our perception of that which we deemed as "revolutionary” back in the day. Case in point: the original Wii Sports launch title. In my review, I declared to have never played anything similar before due to its “immersive” controls. That conclusion is as outdated as the very game, because over the past three years we’ve born witness to far superior motion-based offerings. Despite being an excellent showcase before, its flaws stick out like a sore thumb today. Moreover, sequels like Wii Sports Resort, bundled with the "latest technology”, serve as prime examples of the “out with the old and in with the new” mantra. To quote Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno persona, “Wii Sports is so 2006.”
Like most videogame sequels, Wii Sports Resort aims to deliver a deeper experience than its predecessor. In “videogame design 101” terms, that means we’re supposed to enjoy: a) more of everything, b) refined gameplay, and c) elements not possible in the prequel’s development lifecycle. Emphasizing the latter point, we notice that Wii Sports Resort has a weight on its figurative shoulder that sequels typically don't carry; proving that motion continues to be the next big thing, contrary to critics' and hardcore gamers' outcries. As Marty McFly would claim, “this is heavy.”
While not 100% immersive, the controls in Wii Sports Resort raise the bar way high. Three years have passed, but Nintendo finally catered to us rabid consumers with the decision to upgrade our experiences via the MotionPlus add-on. Now we can flail our Wii-motes the way they were meant in the first place! Using MotionPlus in Sports Resort, you notice that subtle motions are fully recognized and “margins of error” are practically nonexistent. Thus the "1:1 mapping" feel is more prevalent, addressing the "random motions cheaply replacing button presses" complaint. In turn, each of the 12 sporting events are represented as perfectly as possible. There are no “dud sports” per-se...because after all, what one gamer may hate, another could love. However, highlights are obviously present. Table Tennis is perhaps the strongest of the bunch and a true testament to MotionPlus's capabilities. Frisbee is also very stimulating because every motion counts, therefore having an extremely high learning curve. Archery is one of the most authentic offerings in this package due to nunchuck support and the need to keep your aim still. The two returning sports, Golf and Bowling, don’t feel like cheap rehashes because MotionPlus and certain gameplay modifications turn them into less jittery experiences.
With all that said, there are control problems in spite of MotionPlus. The add-on isn’t perfect, as it doesn't demonstrate the ability to keep up with quick and rapid movements (in this game at least). Even great events like Table Tennis suffer a bit because suddenly switching from forehand to backhand doesn’t translate well to the screen. As such, motion inaccuracies related to these incidences remain intact in some sports. Furthermore, the constant need to stop your game to recalibrate the MotionPlus/remote combo after extensive use can be tiresome.
Another control pitfall is all-around poor design. In other words, there are sporting events that could’ve benefited from MotionPlus or a different scheme altogether. Cycling, Canoeing, Wake-boarding, Power Cruising, Plane events in “Air Sports”, and Swordplay fall into this trap, though some more than others. While the latter is a considerably more refined version of Boxing [from the original Wii Sports], your offensive repertoire is limited to “slashing and stabbing”. You do have complete control over the direction of your maneuvers, but there’s practically no technique involved whatsoever. Cycling is sadly a “wagglefest” despite good gameplay ideas, Wake-boarding and Canoeing are repetitive and tiring, Power Cruising feels very awkward...and finally, Plane events could’ve used a more authentic Wii-mote/nunchuck cockpit-style scheme rather than the current “paper plane” controls. Couple these fundamental flaws with the limited appeal and simplistic concepts of some of these activities, and some Nintendo hardcore fans are sure to be left frustrated. You can't help but think of Nintendo's ignorance by not reviving Wave Race and Pilotwings after playing Power Cruising and Air Sports.
To compensate, the developers emphasized one of this sequel's biggest aspects; more of everything. In contrast to the original Wii Sports’ “demo-like” feel, Resort is a more complete game, blurring the line between casual and hardcore experiences. If you don’t like the default “play against the CPU” or "top the high score” modes, most of the sports feature more entertaining alternate modes. My personal favorites are “Frisbee Golf” and “Spin Control Bowling”, of which the former is the most creative blend of two different sports I’ve ever played. Additionally, Xbox 360-like achievements are present in the form of “stamps”. There's something to tickle the funny bones of single-player enthusiasts.
Yet I digress. Wii Sports Resort is a multiplayer title through and through, which the game mostly succeeds with. The general misconception is that you need more than one MotionPlus to fully enjoy multiplayer. In order to please everyone, Nintendo designed most of the sporting events around a “turn-based” formula rather than simultaneous. Therefore, most of the activities allow you to share one remote and MotionPlus. This was a very wise and logical move considering the add-on isn’t popular yet. The obvious downside is that the events that do support simultaneous multiplayer require you the purchase of more MotionPluses. The pricing [of $20US a pop] directly contradicts Nintendo’s own statement of the technology being cheap. Either way, you’re not missing much should you opt for the bundled add-on and nothing more. Of course, lack of online play is worth complaining about as well. A big 2009 party game with no online support is a sin to some gamers, and rightfully so.
Visually, you've likely noticed that games like Wii Sports don’t have to look the part. Luckily, much effort was put into this sequel as opposed to the original's rush job. While Miis still look incredibly simplistic, the environments are top-notch. Resort is obviously no Mario Galaxy, but Wuhu Island appears as a character on its own due to the articulate attention to detail. All the sports feel interconnected because of how distinguishable the sights are. Textures, effects and draw distances hold up well. As for the title's sonic appeal, the music isn’t as inspiring or “theme-based” as the original Wii Sports, but the soundscapes and effects are awfully impressive if you have a decent surround setup. The chirping of birds, howling of the wind, rustling of leaves, creaking of wood and machinery as your target moves back and forth, crowd cheers, the various Wii-mote speaker sounds — these examples and many more contribute to the engrossing atmosphere of these sporting events.
Wii Sports Resort nails the sequel formula, while also successfully showcasing the future of motion controls via MotionPlus. If you game with friends, you're sure to enjoy the multiplayer a lot, despite the lack of online support. Even solo players should check this out thanks to the growing 1:1 motion phenomenon. Don't let the "demo-like" aftertaste of some of the rushed sporting events turn you away.
PS: Be sure to check out our blog for more detailed play-by-play impressions of the game. More posts forthcoming.