As both Microsoft and Sony were at the last E3 demonstrating their direct answers to Wii's motion-controlled empire, Nintendo was readying the second generation in Wii control for release. Though only time will tell, Microsoft's Project Natal may be truly evolutionary, and Sony's new motion control product for PS3 could be so accurate it makes SixAxis seem like a butter knife in a cardiac catheterization lab, but Nintendo's Wii MotionPlus is merely a subtle sort of revolutionary. That's not too damn with faint praise: The effect is demonstrable and influences Wii games, though it may take a while with Wii Sports Resort, even in a setup comparison, to notice the difference.
The easiest way to determine if you can tell you're using Wii MotionPlus is pop in the Wii Sports Resort disc and work out the new controller on a game similar enough to an original Wii Sports game. Bowling, golf and table tennis (as compared to the original's tennis) come immediately to mind. As I'm far more familiar with real-world racquet sports than golf or bowling, I selected table tennis. There's little difference between how you'd play full-court tennis and table tennis, at least in most video game versions. Although through Resort's table tennis I came to fully appreciate Wii MotionPlus, the effect was not immediately noticeable for me. It crept up on me. In fact, as it happened, I noticed the vast majority of poor returns I made were indeed poor returns and not lost points based on what was almost exactly the same as an immediately prior shot, which had actually nailed a fine return. Insofar as it works with Wii Sports Resort games, MotionPlus makes 90 percent of everything your fault.
Bear in mind that's still about a 10 percent "What the ... ?" rate, where you command one thing and the Wii does something completely of its own devising. Still, that's not at all bad, and, further, perception of the usefulness of MotionPlus will vary widely according to expectation. For my part, before I caught on, I spent a lot of time trying to quantify the difference between a Wiimote and a Wiimote with MotionPlus. On the other hand, one of the junior testers around here went straight after Resort's Swordplay, which has no analog in Wii Sports, and was thrusting and parrying AI Miis into the water long past the point I'd become frustrated with my Cro-Magnon batter and hack technique. See, he doesn't care technically what MotionPlus does; he just took straightaway to exploiting its enhancements.
Swordplay brings us to Wii Sports Resort, Nintendo's pack-in title you'll most likely acquire with your first Wii MotionPlus, although technically the MotionPlus hardware is the pack-in, and the device is also sold separately for the proliferation of old-style Wiimotes you may have lying around. At its core, Wii Sports Resort is nothing more than a collection of mini-games based on real-world activities that mostly fit the description "sport." It's the clear successor to darling Wii Sports and spotty Wii Play. However, Wii Sports Resort is by far the best presented, most delightful title of the three, and if properly exposed to the non-Wii population, could easily sell a few million more of the little white box that could. The opening sequence is a stellar example of semi-interactive game presentation. I'd tell you all about it, but I don't want to spoil it. It's based entirely on one of the mini-games, but, starting up automatically the first time you play Resort, it serves as perhaps the most engaging interactive opening scene I've ever played in a game.
The preceding, required three-minute video presentation on how to install and use the Wii MotionPlus is superfluous to the clearly written box insert, and it detracted a bit for me from the game's introduction, since you can't skip it the first time through. Of course Nintendo ships every MotionPlus with a longer and slightly redesigned version of its soft plastic Wiimote safety cozy. I actually prefer playing with the sleeve in place, though this may have something to do with the hope that should one of the local junior testers launch the Wiimote into the TV, I won't be out a large LCD panel. I know some people hate the sleeve, and rest assured the Wii MotionPlus doesn't come sealed into the kit: You can play without the sleeve, or use one of the innumerable third-party options that are all but predestined to hit shelves by the holiday shopping season. If you're using the sleeve and the wrist strap, the whole hard-hat-and-safety-glasses requirement, installation of the MotionPlus isn't difficult, but it's a little twisty — an at least cursory review of the printed documentation (or paying attention to that annoying video) is a good idea.
My greatest complaint with MotionPlus is that it seems every time I even look at the Wii, I have to hang onto my wallet. The Resort MotionPlus bundle sells for $50 in the U.S., including one MotionPlus. You'll need a MotionPlus for each controller to play the games, and in some cases, you'll need a Wiimote with MotionPlus and a Nunchuk. Don't let anyone kid you: The Wii is not cheap. In fact, a fully outfitted multiplayer Wii for family or friends numbering four may easily be the most expensive console set in the house — and, no, that doesn't include a Wii Fit. Since you'd expect a title like Wii Sports Resort to go for about $30 from a third-party publisher, Nintendo should have bumped the price $10 bucks and included two MotionPlus devices. You can expect a truckload of future games to support MotionPlus, but they'll also support the plain old Wiimote whereas Resort, of proven solid quality, doesn't. I played Wii Sports Resort with the included MotionPlus review unit and an additional device borrowed from the neighborhood games lab. I always had two other people wanting to play the mini-games allowing up to four players. For very few Wii gamers will Resort be a flat $50 investment. Assuming you already have Nunchuks all around, the real cost of Sports Resort can easily run to $110. That's well into Rock Band Special Edition territory — for a collection of party games. You'll have to judge how fast the novelty may wear off before making the investment.
If gaming habits are suited to it, Wii Sports Resort has a lot to offer. Besides the expected complete integration with all of the Wii's core features, there are 12 games included, most with multiple variants unlocked by continued play on the basic versions, and almost every game should find at least one fan in your household. Take Archery, for example. Archery under any circumstances should have been an unmitigated disaster, but I love it. The controls are tight, clean and easily learned with little or no frustration. Even some of the youngest gamers will catch on quickly and play Archery relatively well. Since I've nothing to compare Archery with, I can't tell you how much of this is MotionPlus magic and how much is just good gameplay mechanics — I suspect equal parts, leaning to solid game design — but the overall effect makes the sport fun, reasonably simulating the real deal without pulling your hair out. And if you've ever tried real archery, you know what I mean.
Cycling is also far more fun than it should be, with the simplistic motions of riding a bicycle translated to something in the virtual world as nicely uncomplicated as real cycling, without even that early-days business of failing to keep the bike upright. You'd figure that the Island Flyover game within the Air Sports category would put almost anyone to sleep in five minutes, since its control scheme is designed around launching a paper airplane, but it also works far better than you'll imagine. Swordplay is probably going to sit on at the top of the charts as a core gamer's favorite because the Wiimote control system begs for a good sword-fighting game, and so far, all Wii saber-rattling has been notably poor. Right now, Swordplay is the best that's out there, and it's a lot of fun fighting with a friend or the AI.
Wii Sports Resort includes lots of opportunities to collect points and stickers and improve your in-game rank, but the lasting power of Resort will depend almost entirely on how engaging the games are, and how much of a blast you and your family and friends continue to have getting together for extra rounds. Most of these mini-games fill the bill. Coming straight from Nintendo, the Wii Sports Resort presentation is overall only as good as you'd expect, but that doesn't detract from the actual quality. The MotionPlus does indeed make a favorable mark on the Wiimote control scheme. All you need now is a large, mostly empty room full of avid players — and a raft of those MotionPlus units.Score: 9.0/10
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