Wii Sports Hands-On Preview

After unveiling the Wii at E3 2005 – and its controller a few months later at the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) – there was an information blackout concerning the console. TGS gave us a quick look at the novel possibilities the (then coined) Revolution could open, leaving us pondering about the implications this new Nintendo console would bring. But with no actual gameplay footage to back up that potential, the momentum started to fade.

This veil was lifted shortly before this year’s E3, when a TIME Magazine article appeared where the author was raving about a tennis game he had played. At their E3 conference at the Kodak Center, Nintendo presented the game to the world when they invited a lucky competition winner up on stage to have a little Wii Tennis match with Nintendo’s key figures, to show how the game worked. The crowd seemed quite impressed, and it soon became apparent that Nintendo had found the perfect title to spearhead their console’s "pick up and play" philosophy – Wii Sports. Wii Sports is a collection of smaller sport games for the Wii, ranging from tennis to baseball. However, don’t expect a new Tiger Woods or Virtua Tennis – the game is primarily meant to showcase the ability of using the Wiimote in play.

Wii Tennis

Nintendo recently tried to repeat their E3 stunt at Game Convention in Leipzig, where a small girl and some more elderly types awkwardly failed at hitting a third of the balls. To add to the embarrassment, we heard the old lady exclaim she had no idea which character she was. This caused some people to panic, thinking the controller’s not all what it’s cracked up to be after all, and that Nintendo’s strategy of making a console which could be played by people of all ages may not be working very well.

Having played the game myself at an earlier event, I can vouch that you can most likely cast those worries aside. While I too initially flailed about, after 5-6 minutes of playing I started getting more into it. As I got more used to the idea of using the Wiimote as a tennis racket, the game became a lot easier, intuitive, and more importantly…fun. While it won’t make you a better tennis player in real life (where physical abilities come into play), I can imagine a tennis player would have an advantage over someone who has never played the game, since the entire concept revolves around swinging the Wiimote like a tennis racket, and timing each hit.

Your on-screen character(s) move automatically, leaving you only to worry about the timing and aiming of your swing. In the two-player mode, the game plays as a doubles match, meaning each player has two characters at his disposal. While the automatic running does make the game more user-friendly, I’m still quietly hoping there will be a way to turn it off and lets you use the analog stick. Sadly enough, a recent interview has confirmed this most likely will not be the case.

Wii Golf

Of course, Wii Tennis is but a fifth of the Wii Sports game; Wii Golf is another one. As you might expect, Wii Golf lets the player use the Wiimote as a golf club. The D-pad is used to aim the club, and after you’re happy with its position, just hold the A or B button and swing away. The harder you swing the remote, the faster the ball will soar. Wii Golf has a bar which gauges the strength of your swing, at about 3/4 of its length lies a little mark that indicates the perfect strength.

The controller seemed to emulate the whole golf experience, though my personal experience with the sport only stretches to minigolf. There were a few rare occasions where my swing was registered somewhat incorrectly, though. At one point, the guy in front of me looked like he was charging quite a swing, but ended up barely propelling the ball for some reason. His next swing was spot on, though, so I reckon it only happens every once in a while, or will be fixed in the final version.

The putting game followed virtually the same formula as the one I just described, but I noticed it was a bit more precise, in that you had to make much smaller swings for accurate results. Generally speaking, both huge swings and smaller ones worked. However, the smaller motions may end up having about the same power behind them as the bigger ones if you quickly snap your wrist, rather than use a broad swinging movement. Despite most courses being rather basic, the game was quite amusing.

Wii Baseball

The last portion I got my hands on was Wii Baseball. Sadly, there wasn’t really much to this game. After three practice swings, the game took the shape of a homerun derby. I was somewhat impressed by the way the on-screen character’s bat position matched mine. For example, twirling the Wiimote around caused your character to do the same with his bat. Sadly enough, I only tried holding the controller as an actual bat, and paid no mind to what would happen if I held the control differently. As a makeshift bat, however, it worked rather well. After playing it for a while, it quickly became apparent to me that the game just forces you to repeat the same timing all over again. It didn’t appear as if swinging was influenced much by the angle of your follow-through, so hopefully that’s something we’ll see in the final version. Otherwise it will just be a matter of swinging the Wiimote when the ball comes.

In the multiplayer mode, the second player gets to pitch the balls to the other player, who acts as the batter. Through a combination of pressing buttons and moving the Wiimote, you have the possibility to throw fast balls, slow balls, curve balls, and more. In the version I played, though, the AI kept throwing the same pitch each time, quickly making it repetitive. It’s almost certain that this will be fixed in the retail version of the game, however.

The Whole Package

Now that I’ve covered the three components I’ve played separately, it’s time to talk about the whole package. Besides the already described three, Nintendo has recently confirmed the existence of Wii Boxing and Wii Bowling – at the time of writing the details around these two are pretty scarce. Despite being incredibly fun, the game is also almost equally basic. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on the audience that’s playing it. Nintendo is designing this game with a specific goal in mind: broadening the gaming audience by removing certain barriers such as complexity, so that even your non-gaming parents can have a go at it.

As a result, the graphics have been kept simplistic, as they have swapped realism for a highly stylized look. In the build I played, I noticed that there was no background music, apart from the sound effects that came out of the Wiimote’s speaker (which is a nice touch) and some ambient noise. We’ll have to wait and see if the game will remain quiet, if the early version just doesn’t have music, or if the game just isn’t being made with background music in mind.

The gameplay – especially the tennis segment – is certainly entertaining, though you need to keep in mind that if you would strip the game from its unique controls, you would probably end up with a watered down version of the Mario Tennis or Mario Golf franchise, which will only keep you occupied for so long without any of the extra features in that series of games.

Bundling it with the Wii would probably be the smartest thing to do, as judging from what I’ve seen, this game does not warrant a 40-60 dollar price tag. Luckily we now know that they have indeed chosen to release it bundled with the Wii in the U.S., which means it may just prove to be a highly potent trojan for Nintendo’s expanding the market philosophy, and give yet another reason besides the price for gamers to pick up the Wii this Christmas.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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