The shooting game in Wii Play gets a Hyrulian makeover. Check out what we thought of the game and the Zapper, too.
If you bought Wii Play for the extra controller, you may have found the target shooting challenge in the game to be one of the more alluring distractions. Link's Crossbow Training, the game to be included with the Wii Zapper accessory, is essentially a grand expansion of the Wii Play shooting game that's set in the Zelda: Twilight Princess universe. It does have some more interesting things to do, though.
The demo at on the E For All show floor had nine different shooting games, broken up into three levels with three stages each. Some game types were common among the early levels that Nintendo was allowing people to try out.
Target practice is just what it sounds like, with targets popping up in a variety of locations. You'll travel through locales like Ordon Village, Kakariko Village, and Goron Mountain on a pre-determined path. Points are awarded with every hit, and a multiplier value increases with each successive target hit. Being a Zelda game, the areas are filled with secrets. For instance, the doors to houses in Ordon and Kakariko, when shot, will eventually produce balloons that are worth big points. Pots and crates are also worth some points, as are scarecrows, pumpkins, and just about anything else that's not nailed down. Cuccos are also shootable, but they'll cost you 100 points. (Lame!) However, if you want to get a huge score and win a gold or platinum medal, you should just shoot only the targets and not miss, since you lose your multiplier if you hit a non-target item.
The target shooting games look nice, but ultimately it's the same game as the one found in Wii Play. Even though targets can appear far in the background, making them harder to hit quickly, the Z Button on the nunchuk zooms in on distant targets which make them just as easy to hit. The fruit balloon challenge (set in front of Hyrule Castle at night) and the skull shooting game (think skeet shooting, set in Hyrule Field) are two more modes that are similar to the basic target shooting, already making five out of the nine first games very similar to Wii Play. The fact that you are playing as Link and you are in Hyrule does a good job of hiding this from you, but I suspect that after multiple plays and high scores all around, you'll start to get tired of it pretty quickly.
And so, the Wii Play comparisons will now end. Although the two other major game types I've seen in the game up to this point are still point-'n-shoot competitions, they have a greater emphasis on action.
Defender brings the camera to the behind-the-back position of Link (target practice games are in first-person), where you can see him in his green hero garb holding his crossbow—a crossbow that looks suspiciously like the Wii Zapper. As you move the targeting reticule around the screen with the Wii Remote pointer, Link will tilt and shift his position to follow.
The areas I got to try out in this mode were Zora's River and The Great Bridge of Hylia. The two were quite different in setup: Zora's River saw Link being automatically piloted down the river in a raft, needing to shoot at fish before they got close enough to hit Link, and the bridge setting had Link stationary, looking to pick off birds as they swooped in from afar. They'd shoot rocks toward you if you weren't quick to shoot them first. In both of these modes, the idea is to score a maximum number of points in a limited amount of time. You'll be penalized points if you are hit, so you also need to stay safe.
While I was shooting birds down like a pro on the bridge stage, I started to understand why Nintendo designed the Zapper in the way that it did. I still think it's not the best piece of engineering in the world. However, you do get superior stability. The two-pronged Zapper housing lets you aim at places quickly. If you butt it up against your body, you can zap with accuracy even faster. This made it extremely easy for me to get a platinum medal on my first or second try through most of the stages. This will also make it easy for inexperienced gamers to do well in the game, which is what I think Nintendo is going for.
The third game mode I got to play, however, made me think twice about that. Ranger stages put you in more direct control of Link. In stalfos defender, Link is surrounded by a charging horde of skeletal warriors. A radar display shows where enemies are, and you can spin the camera view around by pointing the Zapper at the edges of the screen. Occasionally, a green-tinted stalfos will appear; if you shoot it a few times, you'll be granted automatic rapid-fire capabilities. With a crossbow. That's a bit of a stretch, if you ask me.
The most interesting game mode of them all, though, is the Arbiter's Grounds Ranger stage. Here, you'll be able to use the control stick on the Nunchuk to move and strafe around the very same level from Twilight Princess. Aiming and turning duties are handled with the pointer functions of the Wii Remote. The goal of the stage is to take out all the bublins before time expires, getting as high a score as possible in the process.
This is where it doesn't make a lick of sense to have the remote and nunchuk locked together. Move/strafe and look/turn are on separate control mechanisms, like they should be in a proper shooter, but since your hands are lined up on a single device, it's easy to confuse what does what. The result is a clunky, tank-like feel to Link's movement and shooting. I really wanted to try this game mode without the Zapper, but the Nintendo booth people would have none of that. I'm convinced that this mode would be more fun without the Zapper, where I would be free to move around and shoot at the screen while holding the controller in the position that would be more comfortable for me.
It was here that I had another realization. Casual gamers are going to love the Zapper and Link's Crossbow Training. The hardcore set, on the other hand, will see little point in getting either. All Zapper games don't require the Zapper at all. You can just use the Remote and Nunchuk by themselves. And Link's Crossbow training, despite the allure of being a Zelda game (sort of), will probably become boring like Wii Play did when you bought it for the "free" controller. At least, that's what I think based on what I've played at E For All. If you want to get a gun peripheral for real shooting games like Ghost Squad or Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, you may want to strongly consider third-party options.
However, Nintendo is staying ahead of that curve by making Link's Crossbow Training and the Wii Zapper only $20. At that price, I'll probably wind up buying it anyway. Chances are, you will too. I just feel like I'm going to wish I had put that money toward another game during this busy holiday season.