Reviewing Wii Sports Resort is not only a privilege, but is also a daunting responsibility. On one hand Wii Sports Resort will most likely be the biggest game this year by both sales volume and consumer awareness. So the onus is on me not to disappoint the readers. On the other hand this game is the first true test of ability for the Wii Motion Plus peripheral. Sure Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (which is a great game) precedes it, but that game only showcased two functions, while Wii Sports Resort showcases several new control concepts for the first time. So I am treading into largely-unexplored waters. And then, on the figurative third hand, I must consider who Nintendo made this game for; social and casual gamers. So I am discussing one of the most polarizing titles of this year. You could imagine that while I was juggling all these different considerations around, my anxiety began to rise. It was at that point that something amazing happened. I turned off my paranoia and just played the game with my wife and friends, and what I found was the casual experience I’ve been looking for since the Wii first launched.
Wii Sports starts off with a charming introduction, Sky Diving. This mini-game is designed specifically to acquaint a new player to the differences between the original Wii Remote and the Wii Motion Plus enhanced Wii Remote. The Sky Diving game never becomes more than a simple introduction (you can opt to play it again as an Air Sport but there is little reason to do so) but it is a very polished and well-crafted introduction. In mere seconds and without any words, Nintendo teaches you all you need to know to be ready to play with this new control scheme. The Wii Motion Plus can sense nuances in tilt, velocity, and motion along all spatial axis’s and also accurately render its position in 3-D space on screen. There is no perceivable lag and in almost all cases your actions are shown on screen in the coveted 1:1 ratio. The new accuracy found with Wii Motion Plus is truly amazing and adds depth to the experience you only imagined existed when Wii Sports first released.
Before breaking each sporting event down one by one, I’d like to take a moment and mention a much welcome improvement over Wii Sports. In the original Wii Sports, there was only one mode of play for each mode (ie. only one type of Tennis game or one kind of Boxing match). In Wii Sports Resort, each gametype has two or three ways to play. Swordplay comes to mind as an example. Instead of using the sword swinging mechanic in just one way, the developers designed three different game styles. This gives Wii Sports Resort a replay value and depth that easily outclasses it predecessor.
The first game in the line-up is also arguably the best; Swordplay. To play this game all that you need to do is hold the Wii Remote like a sword and swing in a Kendo style (fencing would work too, but not as well). This is the type of game that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a toddler and the Wii Motion Plus control mimics sword swinging in close 1:1 proximity. This mode uses the sword swinging mechanic in three different game types. The first is the Duel which pits two players against each other in a grueling match of king of the hill. Each player attempts to knock the other off the platform in an offensive and defensive match of Kendo sword fighting. This game is extremely fun - unless I’m playing against my wife, who gets some kind of sadistic enjoyment out of knocking me off the platform and flailing to a watery grave (then it‘s awesome).
The other two modes in swordplay include speed slice and showdown. Speed slice challenges two players to a round of cutting up various items in predetermined ways. The fastest draw winds the match. Showdown is an amazing single player challenge that pits one player against a horde of armor-clad Miis all intent on slicing you to bits with a dull-edge sword baton. All three modes are really fun, but also suffer from the same problem – calibration. This is a minor issue, but the Wii Motion Plus can lose track of its location and the user will have to manually recalibrate. However, to make it more seamless Nintendo added a mid-match calibration system that is easy to use; point at the screen and press down on the d-pad, that’s it.
Frisbee Dog is played by throwing a Frisbee for your Mii dog to run out and catch. Everything about this mode is super cute and immediately offensive, but underneath the hood is very well designed control scheme and fun game. The Frisbees are thrown by holding the Wii Remote as if it was an actual Frisbee and mimicking a toss (you can choose if the frisbee is released automatically or by letting go of the trigger) which translates on-screen with stunning accuracy. The goal of the game is to throw the Frisbee close to the target area and receive points based on precision. In addition, balloons are added with point modifiers. The balloons are challenging to hit because you always need to throw towards them but add enough spin to hook the Frisbee back towards the target area. This mode also has single and multiplayer options.
Frisbee Golf is also included in this game. It is largely identical to Disc Golf in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 with a few tweaks for polish. Fair warning however, this game is really addictive and the better you get at throwing Frisbees the deeper Frisbee Golf gets.
Archery is a very simple game. The Wii Remote is held like it is the handle of a bow and the Nunchuck mimics the arrow. The object of the game is to hit the bullseye on the target and scores are determined by precision. The controls are intuitive as pressing “A” grabs the bow handle and pressing “Z” grabs the arrow. Moving the Wii Remote aims and releasing “Z” sends your arrow flying. The system does falter in one area, the Nunchuck doesn’t sense position like Wii Motion Plus does so pulling back the arrow is not 1:1 like everything else and it is very noticeable. The game does have some depth albeit not much - the harder modes add challenge and each stage has a secret target to hit which also proves very challenging. All in all, Archery is a strong addition to Wii Sports Resort.
Three games make a return from Wii Sports, but enhanced for the new Wii Motion Plus peripheral. The three games are Tennis (in the form of Table Tennis), Bowling, and Golf. The improvements on each game are remarkable. The controls are not only tighter and more accurate, but they are much harder to exploit like Wii Sports was. I have not found any wrist flick that nets instant Strikes in bowling or simple lazy motions that translate well in Table Tennis. In fact, of the three, Table Tennis marks the best improvement and in makes the original Tennis game unplayable in comparison, even sans the option for doubles.
Another three games are all water sports. They are Wakeboarding, Canoeing, and Power Cruising (it’s Wave Race!). Wakeboarding uses the Wii Remote as a tilt controller by allowing the player to control their Mii by tilting left and right. The idea is to build up momentum and jump high on each wave, do some tricks, and land flat on the water’s surface. Canoeing also uses the remote’s tilt sensors but adds the Wii Motion Plus’ ability to determine position similar to how it does in Swordplay. During a game of Canoeing, the Wii Remote is used like a canoe paddle and the player must alternate left and right.
Power Cruising is the best water sport. This game really makes me excited for a new Wave Race game, but it does stand on its own in Wii Sports Resort. The Wii Remote and Nunchuck come together as the Jet Ski handle bars. Steering is accomplished by tilting left and right. Twisting the Wii Remote will give a boost and pressing “A” or “B” will accelerate. Just like in Wave Race, the principal objective is to slalom through goal posts. Points are awarded by passing a goal post as fast as possible, in the single player mode. Power Racing also has Head to Head races for multiple players. The water and wave physics are just as great as the original Wave Race franchise and the locales are beautiful with plenty of secrets.
Another tease of a classic title is Air Sports, which feels a lot like Pilotwings. Air Sports allows players to take flight and explore Wuhu Island. Every other sport in this game takes place at a specific locale on Wuhu Island, and each can be visited by air. Also, Wuhu is host to tons of secrets and areas to explore. Two players can get together and dog fight, which is also very fun. Air Sports also gives players another chance to experience the Sky Diving from the title screen.
Basketball and Cycling are the last two games of the twelve, and are also the weakest. Basketball has two main modes; 3-Point Shot Challenge and Pick-up game. 3-point Challenge is fun, but flawed since the animations don’t actually match your shot. Whether you are a little off to one side or very far off to one side the onscreen animation will look the same, making correcting mistakes frustrating. Pick-Up Game is equally flawed due to the stringent rule set that is used. Every event, be it a steal or missed shot, calls for the defending team to take possession and throw the ball into play. These pauses in playing are terrible, unnecessary, and make the game annoying to play. Then Cycling is the most flawed game of the twelve. The Wii Remote and Nunchuck are moved up and down in rhythm as if they were pedals. Wait, What!? This is not how pedals work; in fact, “pedal” comes from the Latin word “ped” – meaning "feet", not hands.
From the strongest to the weakest of these games, Wii Sports Resort offers hours of fun and an overall great experience. The gameplay is fresh and innovative while at the same time being accessible. That’s a very small needle to thread, and Nintendo has done so well. All twelve games are fun, even Cycling, which I don’t like but my wife and sister-in-law go crazy over, showing that even it can be enjoyed by at least some people. Most social gamers will have an experience similar to mine; they will enjoy almost all of the games except one, maybe two. Which ones they don’t enjoy will vary by individual.
Wii Sports Resort has a super saccharine presentation that will either spark your interest or ignite your rancor. At first glance it is easy to dismiss the game as having no graphical quality worth discussing, but taking a deeper look reveals how wrong such a notion is. In reality, Nintendo took time to make everything look beautiful. The water and water effects are top notch. The lighting, sunsets, and nightscapes are breathtaking. Textures are not muddy, but appear clear and well designed. Even things that the Wii usually has problems with are polished, such as anti-aliasing and depth of field. Anti-aliasing very rarely fails on Wii Sports Resort, and the few instances it does fail are on cutscenes and pans, never during gameplay (except during Air Sports occasionally). Miis are also updated in presentation. Gone are the mono color shirts from Wii Sports. Instead, Miis will wear a shirt appropriate to the sport being played, which range from Polo-looking shirts to full fencing gear in Swordplay. The music in Wii Sports Resort is competent, but nothing remarkable. The tracks are all catchy and go along well with the sports being played. All the sounds seem designed to be relaxing, almost like Muzak, which kind of makes sense for the target audience.
Wii Sports Resort is an incredible value. For $49.99 in the United States, you get the game (which is packed with twelve sports) and a Wii Motion Plus peripheral (a $19.99 value on its own). The game also extends value by adding higher challenge levels, secrets to find, and stamps (read: achievements) to collect. Since Wii Sports Resort is by nature a very social experience, many will find value in the countless hours it will be played with other friends and family. Simply put, this game is the epitome of what casual and social gaming is about. All around, if you own a Wii, you should own Wii Sports Resort.