A great launch title for the Nintendo Wii has proven to be Wii Sports, not only because it's fun even among non-gamers, but it comes free packaged with the Wii (except in Japan). Wii Sports isn't the most complex game, but it isn't meant to be the detailed, highly realistic versions of the real life sports you love. The title provides easily accessible games to not only the hardcore gamer, but to those who have never picked up a video game controller in their life. Nintendo has made a great move by packaging Wii Sports with our Wii systems.
So what is it? Wii Sports is a collection of five sports: tennis, baseball, bowling, golf and boxing. Each of them utilizes the Wii remote's motion sensing abilities, making you feel as if you were actually playing the real life version of the game. The motions are logical and closely mirror the actions you would perform in the actual sport. However, each game is both simplistic and deep at the same time. Simplistic meaning that the games aren't totally accurate renditions of their real-life counterparts and that the games don't offer much in terms of customization, and deep meaning because the surprising depth of different moves you accomplish thanks to the motion sensing system of the Wii remote.
Tennis is an example of a game that accurately demonstrates the Wii's remote potential. You have to stand up and actually swing the Wii remote as if you were actually swinging a racket. Serves are also achieved by swinging overhead with your Wii remote. The timing and speed of your swing determines the speed and location of the tennis ball, so this isn't necessarily an easy game. There are also around 100 different swings including forehands and volleys, so that adds a surprising bit of depth to this game. Up to four different players can join in on the fun, so this can be an entertaining party game to possibly woo others to join the Nintendo camp.
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to the title. The game's AI controls your character entirely, and the only thing the player does is hit the ball. Of course this feature does make it easier for players, especially those non-gamers, but there are times you wished you could move the players (for example, a shot going to the far left and both of your characters are on the far right). And singles matches are impossible. Tennis is always played with four players, AI or not. Finally, there aren’t many settings with this game, allowing you to choose to play a single game, a best-out-of-3 series, or a best-out-of-5 series.
Probably the most lacking game of Wii Sports is Baseball. Not to say the sport is bad, but the Wii Sports version is too simplistic for its own good and the Wii remote seems to be extra sensitive in this title. The game consists of 3 innings of only pitching and batting since the base running and fielding is handled by the AI. The fielding is different from the actual sport because any hit within the infield that perhaps isn't a pop fly (haven't gotten one in the infield yet) will be an out and any hit in the outfield that isn't caught before it hits the ground will be ruled automatically as a single, double, or triple. There are rare moments where the ball will pop out of the infielders' gloves, allowing you to obtain a single to first.
To bat, hold the Wii remote behind your head like a real bat and simply swing when the ball comes. Timing and speed of the swing obviously matters, but it did not seem the location of the swing mattered. Speed didn't seem like a large factor either, since some of my friends swung it slowly and they were still able to get home runs. To pitch, pick the type of pitch and simply swing the Wii remote as if you were throwing an actual ball. You can aim the pitch with the D-Pad, but that’s about it.
My main gripes with this game are the oversimplification of the sport and the ridiculous sensitivity of the Wii remote. The lack of fielding and base running and proper baseball rules was an immediate setback, contributing to the lack of depth of the game. Also, during batting, a small even twitch can set off the bat off swinging (the bat is not 1:1 with your Wii remote; a swing is triggered by the initial motion of swinging and the game does the rest) which can really ruin the game for you or your opponent. Also, some more types of pitches would be a nice addition.
Bowling is definitely one of the best games out of the five, and perhaps the game with most depth. All you must do is hold the Wii remote vertically and hold B, then swing back the Wii remote as you are holding B and then release the B button as you come up. Twisting the Wii remote as you come up causes spin on the ball. The position on the bowling area and angle of the throw can be changed as well, letting you perform the moves you do when you actually bowl. The game itself is a full version of real-life bowling, with all 10 frames, strikes, and spares. I don’t really know the faults of this game, as it is probably the most fun I had while playing Wii Sports. My friends were able to perform rather crazy spins like they do in real life, so this can safely be the most realistic title.
Golf was pretty fun, although somewhat slow for a large group of people. You hold the Wii remote like a golf club and swing the club like a real club. The downfall of this is that the power of the golf club is determined by a power bar as seen in other golf games, and the power level of your swing determines the power of your in-game swing. So Golf isn't exactly a true rendition of the real-life sport, but it can still be fun. You can select from a few different clubs, but there's only one for each type (one iron, one driver, one putter, etc.). Too hard of a swing and your power bar will turn red, meaning your ball will randomly slice or hook in the air. You can change the direction of your ball before you swing, and there is wind present as well so you have to be careful. Golf only has nine different courses so the game will get repetitive after playing through multiple times.
The only Wii Sports game that requires the Nunchuk is Boxing. With the Nunchuk and Wii remote in each hand, they simulate the boxing gloves of your character. You can punch, dodge, and block with your "gloves". Due to the amount of motions you make (punching is performed by actually punching; blocking by holding the Wii remote and Nunchuk close to your face or inward near your torso; and dodging by moving your body left, back, or right), Boxing is easily the most exhausting title. The game is pretty deep because it requires you to punch high, low, and from the side, but also block and dodge. Unfortunately, boxing also feels like the most unpolished game and doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. But it is satisfying to beat someone in the end as it almost provides a workout as well.
Accompanying the five main sports are two other modes of play: Training and Fitness. Training is simply the five sports with different tasks to train you to play the actual game. An example for Tennis would be hitting the balls into a designated area of the court. These mini-games not only help you play the main games better, they can be a lot of fun (this is the area of the 91-pin strike trick). Fitness is similar to the Nintendo DS's Brain Age; after performing a series of sports tasks, the game will give you a Fitness Age, with the best rating being 20. You can only play this mode with a specific Mii once per day, but you can track your progress for up to 3 months at a time. These two modes add a lot of extra depth to the game, something Wii Sports desperately needed.
Speaking of Mii's, Wii Sports is the first Wii title to utilize the Mii Channel and its creations. A Mii is a digital version of anyone you'd like to create to use in games. They make up every character in Wii Sports, from your own players to the opponents to the crowd. You can make one of yourself in the Mii Channel to use in games, and even your friends' Mii's show up occasionally in the game. It's an amusing feature that adds to the experience.
Immediately you'll notice the graphics aren't amazing. They don't have the complexity of Red Steel or The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The simplicity of the character models and background settings is apparent, and although this style was intentional to give a warm, welcome feeling to anyone that plays the game, Nintendo could have done a lot better with this title. Some characters don't even have legs or arms, and the backgrounds in some of the game look pretty bad (cardboard-like fans in Boxing, no real background crowd in Baseball except thousands of circles, etc.). The game does at least run in 16:9 widescreen and 480p, so don't dismiss Wii Sports as the worst looking launch title.
In the end, Wii Sports is an excellent title to play by yourself, to play with friends, or to show off the technical capabilities of the Nintendo Wii. It provides hours of fun and will even lure non-gamers into playing the system. The graphics, although simple, are very clean and easy to look at, and the sounds in the game are pretty decent with the casual background music. The interface is clean and simple, so no one will have trouble navigating through the title. Wii Sports boasts replay value with the Training Mode and the Fitness Mode. It's understandable the sacrifices Nintendo made in developing this title, and it's just meant to be a fun, easy-to-pick-up experience that eases players into using the Wii remote, nothing more.
It's simply a fun game that is somewhat plagued by the simplicity and a few other errors, but offers a refreshing and satisfying experience.