Certain video games are simply critic-proof. Gamers snap up good games like God of War, The Legend of Zelda and Halo without reading any reviews simply based on the quality of past entries. Interestingly, the same can be said for games that critics thought were terrible or mediocre. Games like Just Dance and Dynasty Warriors, which critics have traditionally given low scores, consistently sell well and are often deemed wildly successful and receive multiple sequels.
Deca Sports is another series that continues to sell well despite the critical drubbing it receives. With two successful Wii games under its belt as well as a DS title and an upcoming Xbox 360 title using the Kinect, the series has decided to make another go at the Wii with Deca Sports 3. Will this entry finally win over critics?
Just like before, Deca Sports 3 features 10 different sports. Some of the sports are exciting to play, and others are absolutely dull. Before playing each sport, you have to choose a team of players, each one with members that specialize in finesse, power, speed, or are balanced in all three categories. If you wish, you can also create a team of characters, each with his or her stats and specialties. While there are many character creation options, you still can't use your Miis in the game; other titles of this nature have offered this feature for some time now. It remains one of the few fan complaints that still needs to be addressed.
Air race is the first sport, and it is one of the more interesting ones. It is a timed race where you pilot your airplane through a number of gates in the fastest possible time. For added challenge, the plane must have a specific orientation as it passes through the gate. For example, the plane must pass through one gate while perfectly level, but it must pass through another gate while completely turned on its side. It controls rather well as you hold the remote normally and tilt and twist it to change altitude and direction. With the various courses, Air race is a fun diversion that is worth revisiting from time to time.
By far, lacrosse is the best sport in the package. Without going into the technical details of the sport, newcomers just need to know that the sport is similar to hockey, but it's played on a field and the ball is held in a stick. The controls are quite simple; swinging the Wii Remote results in a pass or a block, and swinging the Wiimote while holding the B button results in a shot toward the goal. Like any good rendition of video game hockey, lacrosse is fast-paced and exciting, and because it doesn't employ many of the penalties or rules of the professional sport, it makes for an enjoyable game experience. Expect this to be the sport of choice whenever you play Deca Sports 3.
Slalom skiing plays rather well, thanks to the controls. Using your Wiimote and Nunchuk as virtual ski poles, you try to get the fastest time down the mountain while weaving the course and passing each gate. The controls are very responsive, as turning and tucking in for a speed boost are almost immediately read by the game when the move is performed. Even though the game is a timed race, the controls alone make it worth revisiting.
Springboard diving is interesting. This one is a scoring-based contest similar to what you'd see in the summer Olympics, but it's been broken up into three sections. The first has you timing your Wiimote swing upward in order to get the most height out of your jump. The second has you following on-screen arrows to swing your Wiimote in the desired direction for a more precise dive, and the final section has you timing your Wiimote swing downward in order to make the smallest possible splash when entering the water. The inclusion of the sport isn't bad, but your lack of selection is. You're never given the chance to pick out which dive you're going to perform; you must rely on the assigned dive and hope for the best. Having the ability to choose which dive you'll do and being graded on that would have made this sport more enjoyable.
Indoor volleyball is the other included team sport, and while it isn't as exciting as lacrosse, it works well enough. This is similar to beach volleyball featured on Deca Sports 2, except that the teams have expanded to six players on each side. While you can't control your players, you can control when you strike or pass and how hard you do so. You can also control the direction the ball is going toward during a spike or lob, making it more strategic than the volleyball offering in Kinect Sports. The only caveat to the game comes from the red circle that must be hit properly to make the shot or pass count, but once you overcome this, expect indoor volleyball to be one of the go-to games.
Racquetball, which should have been easy and enjoyable to implement, suffers from some control failures. The sport is essentially tennis, but this time around, both players are on the same side of the court and both players are hitting the ball against a large wall while encased in a Plexiglas cube. Like tennis, the sport lends itself well to the Wii control scheme, but it is this same control scheme that gets mangled. The controls are too sensitive to the point where simply moving your hand to get ready to strike the ball is read by the game as a valid swing, ruining your timing and preventing the game from reading your real swing in time. Even when you try to anticipate this and simply flick the Wiimote for a swing, there will be times when the sensitivity suddenly goes back to normal, registering nothing and making you miss the ball. It's frustrating enough that the game quickly goes from most anticipated to most disappointing.
Kayaking is another interesting inclusion, and it's also the most tiring. Holding the Wiimote horizontally, you paddle the kayak left and right as you go through the man-made river obstacle course in a time that's faster than your opponents. The paddling mechanic is well done, and the various courses give you plenty of reasons to return to it, but the length of the courses is daunting for all but the most fit or energetic. Because the courses are long and there is a need to constantly paddle to navigate the winding courses and get the best time, players will get worn out after just one round. It is still a fun sport, but expect to go with some cool-down activities after playing this.
Logging is an odd choice. You and a partner team up to saw through two logs before the opposing team can do the same. The game relies heavily on teamwork and communication, as both players must be able to do the opposite of what the partner is doing in order to successfully saw the log. For example, if one person is pushing the saw, the other must be pulling the saw, and vice versa. The issue comes with the controls, which aren't always sensitive enough to determine what you're doing. As you hold the Wiimote upright in your hand, there are times when pushes aren't being registered or when pulls are being read as pushes, forcing the game to stall your progress for a few seconds. Even if the controls were spot-on, this is possibly the shortest game in the package. While it may not be conventional, tighter controls for this would have made it a little more enjoyable.
Half-pipe snowboarding should have been more fun, but this distilled version feels bland. Your snowboarder automatically traverses the half-pipe, and while you can't control the angle he or she approaches the lip, you can control the speed through Wiimote twists. Timing your Wiimote flicks just right allows you to accomplish a trick while missing the timing window means that you can't pull off any tricks. By the end of the run, the winner is determined by who has scored the most points. Like springboard diving, the event feels restricted. Though you can control which tricks are done, the trick book feels limited to the point where you'll see the same trick a few times before the run is done. Just like diving, you won't find yourself coming back to this sport too often.
Finally, there's fencing, which is undoubtedly the worst game in the set. This is a Wiimote-only affair where you have to gain 10 hits on your opponent to claim the round, and the winner is the person who wins two rounds. The controls are awkward, as you have to use the A or B button to move forward or backward, respectively, and swing the Wiimote to get a hit. It never feels like you register a hit on your opponent. Most of the time, it looks like your shots are going through the opponent instead of making contact, and even then, the game is finicky about giving you the point. The experience feels broken, making this a sport that people will try only once.
Players might notice that there is an option to play each sport with two different difficulty levels: normal and master. The change doesn't signify a difference in the opponent's difficulty level but a change in control scheme, as some Wiimote-only games, like racquetball, now employ the use of the Nunchuk. All 10 of the sports also use the MotionPlus add-on with this setting, and while it doesn't makes any of the sports more fun to play, it feels like there is a slight improvement in the way some of the sports are controlled.
Deca Sports 3 features online multiplayer, but it is very limited. Of the 10 available sports, only four of them (fencing, lacrosse, racquetball and volleyball) are eligible for online play. They can only be played with teams you've created instead of just using any of the default teams. Though only 40 percent of the game can be used for direct online play with and without the need for Friend Codes, none of it matters since I couldn't find an online opponent during the review period to see if there was any lag during matches. Luckily, some form of online competition is available in ranked matches. Players can try any one of the 10 available sports on the disc and have their scores posted to an online leaderboard for global competition. The leaderboard isn't accessible from the game, though, so unless you always have your PC beside the Wii to check your standings, the endeavor ends up being rather clumsy in execution.
The graphics haven't really changed much from the previous entries. The environments remain brightly colored but void of a great amount of detail. The water looks great in levels, but everything else looks rather generic, especially when you see the pixelated crowd with only two frames of animation. The character models look and animate fine, especially when you look at their facial expressions. However, when you get to the diving game, you can see that the head and joints for the characters don't appear to be seamlessly connected to each other. It's bothersome, and even though you only see this occur in that single sport, it solidifies the argument that using Miis would have been a better choice.
Like the graphics, the sound hasn't changed, either. The music is still peppy but forgettable fare. It makes for good background music, but it is also nearly indistinguishable from the score of any other minigame compilation. There are no voices, but the sound effects play out well. Splashes of water are crisp, and the ball hits are solid. Overall, there's nothing wrong with the sound, but it hasn't improved, either.
Deca Sports 3 is an improvement over the previous games in the series, but not by much. A relatively low number of the included games are enjoyable, and the rest either fall below expectations or are simply unappealing. With the graphics, sound and lack of an online community, the only real change comes from the ability to use MotionPlus on the higher difficulty levels. All of this amounts to a game that is more of an expansion pack than a new entry in the series. Fans will want to pick up this game despite the score and criticisms, but gamers who haven't experienced the series before will probably want to wait until the game has made some major improvements to its current formula.
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