Nintendo likes to sell games packaged with accessories.
If you don't count Wii Sports (which comes packaged with the Wii in every region but Japan), Wii Play is the best selling Wii game to date. As you can see by our reviews, the game itself wasn't that great. It's no secret that the extra Wii remote has a lot to do with the continued sales. Link's Crossbow Training is the product of a similar approach by Nintendo. It comes packaged with the next generation Zapper, a piece of hardware designed to hold the Wii remote and Nunchuk in a gun like configuration.
Crossbow Training consists of 27 levels that span most of the environments found in Twilight Princess, allowing the developers to take advantage of already created assets. Each level is based around the concept of simply shooting as many of the targets as possible. A variety of different targets will pop up and must be shot using a targeting reticule that is controlled by the pointing device in the Wii Remote. While misses have no immediate penalty, they do terminate your chain, which will greatly affect scores. For every successful target that is destroyed in a row, your multiplier is increased by one. This multiplier has no cap at all. It doesn't take a math genius to figure out how large the score difference will be between a run that chains every target and one that misses 1 out of every 10. Don't be surprised if a pretty good run on a certain level nets you 10,000 points, while a great run nets you 40,000. It's pretty nerve wracking when your multiplier gets up to 40 or 50 and you try to maintain it.
Chaining every target isn't the only key to victory though. Even when two scores from perfect chain runs are compared, they may differ by as much as 300%. This is because hitting the center of a target nets three times the points of the outer edge. Chains are still maintained by hitting this outer edge, but scores will not be as high. This is a cool dynamic, because hitting bull's-eyes is difficult enough that scores should rarely, if ever, be maxed out. On top of that difference, several objects, like skulls and pots, can be shot for small amounts of bonus points during a level. These items may also reveal floating coins that are worth big bonuses.
While the target based levels are an interesting test of reflexes, some stages go away from that concept and have Link fighting several different bad guys from Twilight Princess. Some of these levels even allow Link to be moved around using the control stick on the Nunchuk. This break from target shooting is entertaining and frustrating at the same time. While it's nice to break away from the monotony of shooting targets, the mechanics of combo multipliers are affected. Given that many enemies take more than one shot to kill, ranging anywhere from two to fifteen, it's hard to maintain any sort of combo without memorizing required kill shots for every possible enemy. For example, a Stalfos may take ten shots to kill. You don't know this for sure, but time is of the essence. As soon as you realize he isn't dying right away, you just start tapping the trigger until he does. I don't care how good your reflexes are, it's pretty much guaranteed that you will shoot at least one more arrow before you realize your target is dead, ending your combo as a result.
The 27 levels of the game can be played through in the main single player mode in about two hours. There are nine stages that consist of three levels each. You receive one cumulative score at the end of the three levels, and a medal is rewarded for every 20,000 points (bronze, silver, gold, etc.). Before any one stage is started, a Mii is registered to keep track of your performance. Up to eight can be registered, and each person is ranked on a high score list. This high score mentality attempts to add to the lastability of an otherwise short game. Per level high scores are kept in a similar fashion in the practice mode of the game, where any one level can be chosen instead of playing them in groups of three.
The game also features a multiplayer mode that misses on almost every level. Up to four players can be chosen, and then any one level can be chosen (in a similar fashion to the practice mode). Players then pass the Zapper around as they each play the stage alone. This passive multiplayer would make sense if they were doing it to maintain the integrity of high scores, but high scores aren't even recorded when playing in this mode. You will get more from the experience by simply alternating in practice mode and backing out between runs to change the player. Overall, just don't expect the game to be a huge party hit, as most of the people will be sitting and watching, awaiting their turns.
The value price of Link's Crossbow Training will overcome most of the shortcomings for fans of the Zelda series and/or the shooter genre. It's nice to revisit some of those wonderful Twilight Princess environments, but don't expect the disc to live in your Wii for very long.