Games

Searching for the Next Wii Sports

When Wii Sports was released 17 months ago, it set the standard for minigames, one that countless compilations since have never even approached. Can Hudson's latest attempt stand next to greatness?

Tomorrow's the 17-month birthday of the Wii and, in turn, Wii Sports! Should we bake a cake?

At this point, over 18 million people have plugged in their new little white box and taken their little brightly-colored no-armed sphere-handed people for a test drive in the five arenas offered by Wii Sports, and by most accounts, its popularity remains rampant. To date, no collection of minigames has been received nearly as well by both the critical community and the general public, and though its presence is quieter now than it was a year ago (we haven't seen it on any late-night talk shows recently), its impact looms large over the release of any collection of minigames, particularly sports-related ones, that dare to stake a claim to its legion of fans.

This is motocross, which is fun, but...

The latest group of developers to attempt to stake a claim to the Wii Sports constituency is over at Hudson, where they're putting something together called Deca Sports.

Hudson was nice enough to send a preview of Deca Sports with four of the ten games playable. Regrettably, they did not include the curling (because, hey, who doesn't love curling?), but we did get to try out beach volleyball, figure skating, motocross, and badminton.

For the most part, Hudson is sticking to the formula that made Wii Sports so popular, in that playing the games is generally a piece of cake. Of the four games included in the demo, three are played using only the Wiimote, with the only exception being figure skating. Figure skating is probably the most difficult of the games for the non-gamer to master, simply because it requires agile manipulation of the thumbstick on the nunchuck, combined with flicks of the Wiimote to perform jumps, which isn't hard in theory, but comes off a bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Badminton and volleyball follow the Wii Tennis formula of not actually moving your players to the ball/birdie; you just hit it the way you want when you have a clear shot at it. Finally, there's motocross, which was actually really fun, mostly because it's like playing Excitebike in rudimentary 3D. Think Wii Play's cow racing with more hills and less cows and you're most of the way to Deca Sports' motocross.

...this is what I\'m waiting for.

Playing these games with family and friends around is fun, but a couple of things are off when the inevitable comparisons start happening. For one, the mechanics of the "hit the thing over the net" games seem a little off, because now you can wave the remote in the direction that you want things to go, which makes the games an awful lot less twitchy than they could be. This is actually to their disadvantage, as the primary audience for these games is simply going to want to pick them up and play them the way they could when they first unpacked their Wii. Depth of gameplay should not come from more advanced game mechanics, it should be found in difficulty scaling based on some very, very simple mechanics. The lack of Mii integration is also unfortunate, as is the lack of online multiplayer, though limitations on these things have come to be expected of Nintendo, which seems to dole out its technology on a case-by-case basis.

What we also didn't get a sense of was the way in which these games were going to be packaged and supplemented. What are the single-player modes like? Are they going to give out medals or implement some sort of achievement system for high scores? Are there going to be fun little training games? All of these things were an important part of Wii Sports' success, and without some incentive to play beyond picking up a couple of controllers and competing with buddies, these kinds of games can get old, and fast.

What do you think? Can any minigame compilation ever truly live up to Wii Sports? I don't think so, as it's a perfect case of right-place-right-time combined with some of the most well-implemented waggle yet seen on the Wii, even a year and a half after its release. Maybe you think differently -- give us the what-for in the comments. We like that sort of thing.

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