Go on, try it. You know you want to.
Wii Sports Resort was announced at E3 in 2008 in conjunction with its accessory, Wii MotionPlus. It was also one of Nintendo’s focuses at E3 2009. Now that it’s finally available, is Wii Sports Resort worth the wait? It most certainly is. Though it could be seen as a high-quality tech demo for the Wii MotionPlus, such a mindset is missing the point. Wii Sports Resort is just plain fun, whether alone or in a group.
The game begins with a surprisingly lengthy video on how to attach the MotionPlus. To me, this was overkill, but to my in-laws (who helped me review the game), the tutorial may be more necessary. After that, your Mii jumps out of an airplane and straight into the action: skydiving! The Remote represents your Mii’s body, and moving the controller in turn moves your Mii in mid-air. You can pitch toward other skydivers and try to link up with them, but after a few minutes, you land on Wuhu Island, where the action really starts. Resort has twelve distinct kinds of games, and each one can be played many ways.
Swordplay best represents the more accurate control afforded by the MotionPlus. You hold the Remote like a sword and go about slicing and dicing your opponent. Press B to enter a defensive stance and move your sword around to block your opponent’s blows. Correctly blocking an attack makes your opponent stumble for a second, during which time you can combo him to death. There are three variations: duel, in which two players try to push each other off a platform; speed slicing, where players compete to see who can slice objects the fastest in the correct direction; and showdown, where you battle dozens of enemy Miis but can only be hit three times. Showdown is by far the most fun, and winning unlocks different locations.
Frisbee is by far my favorite sport in the bunch (probably because I play a lot of Ultimate Frisbee). While it initially takes some getting used to, tossing a virtual Frisbee to a virtual dog quickly becomes second nature, and tilting the Remote this way or that adds slice and fade to your throw. Lifting or lowering the tip of the Remote determines how high and far your Frisbee goes. The goal of the game is to throw your disk at a target, and scoring is based on how close it lands. Popping balloons adds still more points. Frisbee may be the most technical game in the package, with its heavy reliance on tilt and pitch, as well as a horizontal throwing arm, to achieve success. You’ll quickly unlock the other mode, Frisbee Golf (Frolf). In real life, you would toss a Frisbee of varying size toward and into a metal basket. Here, you need only throw your Frisbee through a target zone. Somewhat disappointingly, the Frolf courses are the same as the Golf courses, and they’re not really designed for Frisbee in the first place. Still, it’s a fun mode, and an experienced player can toss a lot of holes-in-one.
Table Tennis succeeds Wii Sport’s original Tennis game, and by and large, it’s the same game. Now, however, you have greater control over the ball’s spin. You can put some really wild spin on the ball, though you still can’t control your character’s movement. As Rockstar’s Table Tennis demonstrated, that might be a good thing. The game’s secondary mode is a contest to see how many balls you can return in a row—knocking down the ball canister earns bonus points. Whacking the server in the face is amusing, too.
Archery may be the most surprising inclusion, but it works beautifully and should be implemented in every Wii Zelda game down the road. You hold the Remote as you would a bow (vertically), and press A to center your view. Hold Z and pull back on the Nunchuk to ready your arrow, then take distance and wind speed into account, and release Z to fire your arrow at the target. Archery is basic, in that the sub-modes only add hazards like wind and moving targets, but these variations prove to be challenging. Archery may require the most practice to become proficient, but it’s very fun and rewarding once you get the hang of it.
There are three water sports, Wakeboarding, Canoeing, and Jet Skiing, and all of them feel more like work than fun. Wakeboarding is not as fun as it could’ve been. You steer by tilting the horizontal Remote left and right, try to get big air over a wave, then pop the Wii Remote upwards to do an automated trick. Make sure the Remote is totally level when you land or you'll crash. Additional difficulties require dodging obstacles. It’s not rocket science, and its simplistic premise didn’t engage me. Canoeing is the most fun of three, but it’s slow-paced and more fun with more people. You hold the Remote in front of you and mime paddle motions to paddle your canoe. Left, right, left, right. The goal is to go an ever-increasing distance in a certain amount of time. Jet Skiing is the most disappointing, but I can see how it could turn into a Wave Race game with some tweaking. You hold the Remote and the Nunchuk in front of you, pointing toward each other. You tilt them both to steer and twist the Remote to get a speed boost. The goal here is to steer through a series of rings within a time limit; smaller rings are worth more points. It’s fun, but the tilting feels off compared to other games—not quite as refined as, say, Wakeboarding. I blame the addition of the Nunchuk, which does not have a gyroscope.
Basketball is fun but could use some refinement. The main game is a 3-point contest where you grab a ball and try to sink it as quickly as you can. It feels like those arcade games where you grab a miniature basketball and toss it into a little basket. It definitely takes a lot of practice to become consistently good at this, and I’m still at a loss as to recommend the best path to success. It’s fun as a multiplayer bout, as is the 3-on-3 mode, where you pass the ball (with A or D-pad) to the A.I. teammates and mimic dribbling to get under the net, then press B and do that overhead toss to try a dunk (yes, your Mii can dunk). There’s very little strategy, aside from knowing when to block a shot attempt, but it’s fun overall.
Air Sports are the most interesting games on the disk, and they will instantly remind you of Pilotwings. They all involve holding the Wii Remote like a paper airplane. We’ve already gone over Skydiving—the goal is to link up with other skydivers and stay in the center of the screen while a camera takes your picture. You are awarded points based on how many skydivers you were able to link up with. Island Flyover puts you in a cockpit and lets you casually fly around the island, trying to find bubbles to unlock new island features. Dogfight sounds cool, but it’s very limited. Two players (and only two players) fly around trying to shoot each other. This would be more fun if the planes were faster and more players were allowed to join in.
Cycling is the worst of the bunch. You move the Remote and Nunchuk alternatively like drum sticks to pedal, leaning them left or right to steer. Pedaling faster makes your Mii go faster, but doing so tires him out; stop pedaling and cruise to recharge your energy, or draft behind another cyclist to recover faster. The leaning doesn’t work as well as it should, so accidental sharp turns are inevitable and annoying. Various courses are available, but with 30 other Miis taking up space on the road, it’s hard to win when you’re juggling your energy level, drafting, and overcorrecting. Cycling just lacks polish and, frankly, a real fun factor. It belongs in Wii Fit instead of Resort.
Golf and Bowling are virtually identical to their Wii Sports counterparts. In fact, Golf recycles much of the original 18-hole course. The new hotness, of course, is that you can very easily add fade/slice to your golf ball and spin to your bowling ball. Bowling is largely unaffected by the changes and remains one of my favorite Wii Sports sports. Golf, however, has taken a hit: fading and slicing are too easily activated by the MotionPlus. One golf problem I was hoping would be corrected is the short putting: gentle motions with the Remote too often result in either a far too strong putt or no response at all. This is a problem with the sensitivity of the accelerometer more than anything else, though.
As a package, Resort's only real annoyance is that it’s constantly recalibrating the MotionPlus accessory. Before almost every game, you’ll be asked to lay down the Remote on a flat surface to calibrate. During games, if you ever find yourself needing to recalibrate (this happens sometimes in Golf and Swordplay), you press Down on the D-pad to go through the recalibration process again. I was surprised how often I had to recalibrate, which was kind of annoying, but in no way game-breaking. If anything, I’m glad the game calibrates itself more often than not enough.
Resort’s production values are right in line with Wii Sports/Play/Fit: bright and colorful, with simple structures and geometry. The water effects are nice, and characters seem to have some ragdoll physics (especially during the Swordplay games). And I love the Frisbee dog. He’s so cute! As always, you gain/lose experience based on how you play, eventually rising to "Pro" status once you hit 1000 points. Stamps are a new addition to the series; in a clear reference to Achievements and Trophies, you are awarded Stamps by doing certain things, like making a 100-pin strike in Bowling or a hole-in-one in Frolf. Unfortunately, the practicality of Stamps is nebulous: they show up on your Wii Message Board and are not communicated to your friends or anywhere else on the Internet. You can’t even forward them to your friends. Thus, their impact is dulled.
I can’t complain too much, though, because Stamps are a throwaway feature of what’s otherwise a very robust and enjoyable collection of games made possible by Wii MotionPlus. It’s my hope that developers take these basic ideas and run with them. We may see a new Wave Race or Pilotwings yet, and maybe LucasArts, after studying Swordplay, will give us a lightsaber Star Wars game worth talking about. As always, more people means more fun—bring your friends over for a party game that’s just as enjoyable, if not more so (for more kinds of people), than Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I was lucky enough to review the game while my in-laws, who are not gamers, were visiting. We played every night, and they loved it. Nintendo is trying to reach the non-gamer audience, and Wii Sports Resort is just the prescription.