Release Date: May 13, 2008
Nintendo made a lot of ingenious marketing moves when releasing the Wii. From positioning it as a console with appeal to non-traditional gamers, to maintaining a constant scarcity and "rareness" of consoles over a year and a half after launch, nearly everything has gone right for the box that loves to waggle. Perhaps the smartest idea for the Wii, however, was the decision to include Wii Sports, a fun, well-made title with the console. This simple collection of sporting games allowed new owners to get a feel for what the Wii was all about, all while enjoying some terrific digital recreations of their favorite activities.
Ever since the success of Wii Sports, many other companies have come forth with their own interpretations of sporting games on the Wii. Sadly, nearly all of these efforts have been resounding failures, and that trend isn't about to stop here. Hudson Soft's Deca Sports is yet another weak entry in the sports genre, emphasizing quantity over quality at every turn.
As the title implies, the game features 10 different events (Archery, Badminton, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Curling, Figure Skating, Kart Racing, Snowboard Cross, Soccer and Supercross), each of which contains its own rules, objectives and control schemes. A few of the games manage to be somewhat addictive, giving you the false impression that this title might just be a worthy successor to the Wii Sports throne. Archery, for example, requires you to press the B button, pull the Wiimote back (as if you are drawing the bow), aim at the on-screen target, and then fire, all while compensating for wind and distance. Figure skating is also quite fun, combining elements of precision control with timed control flicks and careful maneuvering.
Sadly, these few bright spots are not enough to pierce the dark pallor that pervades the rest of the game. Events like badminton and beach volleyball are watered down to the point of absurdity, made so ridiculously simple that you are not even required to move your own characters, but rather you must simply wave the Wiimote at the proper moments. The racing events also suffer due to clunky controls and terrible collision physics. In nearly every event, strategy and challenge has been eliminated for the sake of accessibility, ultimately leaving behind a game that anyone can pick up and play but almost no one will enjoy.
While it is plain to see that Deca Sports was intended to be a multiplayer title, just like the game that inspired it, you'll likely have a tough time finding anyone who wants to play with you. It is almost a guaranteed that once you run through a few events, your friends will be begging you to put something, anything, else in so you can escape this seriously tiresome experience. Really, the only multiplayer market the title will likely appeal to is families with young children, since it creates an experience that anyone can jump into and play. If Hudson is planning on building a sports empire out of soccer moms and seven-year-olds, then they will likely find it to be a long, hard slog up the mountain.
In lieu of playing with friends, you may find yourself trying out Deca Sports' single-player offerings, but there isn't much amusement to be found there, either. Aside from the pat single event setup, gamers can also set up a single-sport tournament, participate in a league game, or take on the Deca Challenge. The league mode allows you to select a team and run through all 10 events in one of three difficulties. The better you perform, the more points you earn, with the obvious goal of having the most points at the end of all events. Unfortunately, the AI opponents are so easy throughout, that you'll likely find any resistance no matter what difficulty level you choose. I like winning as much as the next guy, but in Deca Sports, the victory feels pretty hollow.
While the league is too easy, Deca Challenge is far too difficult. In this mode, you select one event, and then try to beat the high score that has been laid out for you by the developers. This may involve anything from hitting a shuttlecock or volleyball into specific sections of the court in a set amount of time, to consecutively nailing an ever-shrinking archery target from greater and greater distances. In most cases, the bar is set too high for you to ever come close to beating these challenges, and you'll likely quit from boredom long before you even sniff the record. Also, since there's absolutely no discernable reward for completing these tasks, the motivation to conquer them just isn't there.
To complement the lackluster gameplay, Deca Sports also features substandard technical aspects. Since there is no Mii support, you are instead forced to choose teams of characters just as, if not more, generic than Miis, and then take them forth onto bland fields full of boring colors and a severe lack of texture. In a rare presentation of graphical incompetence, the kart racing event features a kart that actually stays in the exact same place on the screen as the track moves around it. If you are thinking right now that the last time that trick was used was for the Mario Kart on the SNES, then you would be correct. Even though the Wii isn't a graphical powerhouse, the visuals here convey a sense of sloppy and lazy design rather than being constrained by the hardware.
Lackadaisical graphics would be nothing without utterly forgettable sound, and Deca Sports provides that as well. The mute characters, coupled with the cheesy music, will quickly remind you that you're playing is a budget title that has no pretensions of being the next great thing in gaming. To mute this game would be no crime, and it might slightly increase your enjoyment.
Topping it all off is a constantly shifting control scheme that never quite seems to make sense at any turn. When going through events, you'll constantly shuffle from Wiimote only, Wiimote held sideways, and a Wiimote/Nunchuk combo. Not only does the game try and do too much by throwing these different controls at you, but in some events, the things you are asked to do don't make sense. Why would wildly waving the controller translate into kicking a soccer ball? How on Earth am I supposed to consistently aim my shots in badminton and volleyball? It's blatantly obvious that the game wanted to cram in all the motion controls it could in order to appeal to casual gamers, while leaving everyone else shaking their heads and wondering how it could all go so wrong.
Speaking of casual gamers, that's really the only audience in whichDeca Sports will find appeal. The title is overtly geared toward families with small children who will see the box with all the cute characters playing in all sorts of events and then falsely believe they are getting quite a bang for their buck. This is a game solely for those who want to waggle controllers for an hour and giggle; all other self-respecting gamers should just stay away.
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