Wii: How are the games?
Our columnist gets some hands-on time with Nintendo's next generation titles.
LOS ANGELES (CNNMoney.com) – Nintendo hopes its new controller will be intuitive for people who are new to gaming or returning after a long absence, but it takes a while to get used to it.
In advance of Tuesday's announcements, I was given the opportunity to play five Wii games that will likely be released around the same time the system is. This was my second time using the controller – and while my accuracy had improved somewhat, I still found myself occasionally waving wildly across the screen (though, in fairness, Nintendo will likely further optimize the Wii controller before the system launches at the end of this year).
The initial titles are a mix of familiar Nintendo franchises and gaming staples. Graphically, they're pretty much on par with the company's current generation GameCube, which can be disappointing after seeing the graphical power of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But while graphics are important, it's ultimately how fun a game is that counts.
So how did the games fare?
"Wii Sports Tennis" – Mimicking a tennis swing and backhand is a pretty easy thing to do, so it didn't take long to get the hang of this game. The focus is solely on hitting the ball, not chasing it down since your onscreen character will automatically head to where the ball is going to land. But it's up to you to swing at the right time and with the right force. The harder you swing, the faster the ball goes. Visually this game wasn't too appealing, to be honest, but it was fun to play – and I'm happy to say I achieved a tie after two sets with a Nintendo representative.
"Wario Ware: Smooth Moves" – I've always enjoyed the "Wario Ware" collection of five-second mini-games, so it was good to see this in the launch lineup. If you're not familiar with the series, a brief three or four word description of what you're supposed to do flashes on screen, then it's up to you to do it. If you fail, don't worry. Another mini-game starts five seconds later. "Smooth Moves" lets you get used to using the Wii controller in several ways – holding it sideways, resting it on the palm of your hand, and holding it as you would a pen. It would, in fact, be a perfect game to bundle with the system, so people get an idea of what it can do. (Don't count on that to happen.) Graphics, again, are the failing point. The game, visually, looks awful – though the series has never been about looks.
"Excite Truck" – Imagine holding your TV remote control by its ends and pretending it's a steering wheel. Substitute the Wii controller and you've got an idea of how to control "Excite Truck". Driving's pretty easy. The real fun comes when you hit a hill and go sailing into the air. The object is to land with all four wheels on the ground. To do that you'll have to tilt the controller back and forth away from you to stabilize the truck. It's frenetic and fast-paced – and seemed to be everyone's favorite game. I agreed.
"The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" – This version of the game, which will be sold separately from the GameCube version, uses both the controller and the 'nunchuck' secondary controller and suffered the most from the controller's optimization problems. I tried two different parts of the game – fishing and fighting. Fishing was a fun affair. To cast Link's line, you press one of the controller's buttons, hold your arm up and then fling your arm as if you were casting an actual rod and reel. Shaking your hand lets the lure juke through the water, attracting the fish's attentions. To reel your line in, you can either press a button and have it done or wind the secondary controller as if you were reeling in a line. It's easy and rather calming, though all of my casts hooked right, even when I deliberately threw towards the left.
Combat was more complicated – and where the biggest flaws were apparent. For some reason, Nintendo chose not to allow you use the controller when you were fighting with swords. That's done with button pushing – which takes some of the fun out of it. You simply use the controller to launch a whirling attack. When using your bow and arrow, you do use the controller, but it takes a very steady hand. The first few times I tried, my point of view whipped around the screen so fast I got dizzy. Again, optimization should help this problem.
"Metroid Prime 3: Corruption" – Having played a revamped "Metroid Prime 2" in January , I knew my way around this game. Using a thumbstick on the secondary controller to walk, I used the primary controller to look and shoot. Targeting is easy once you get the hang of it, and I actually did better with the Wii controller than I ever did using the standard one. That could be because I play most shooter games on the PC and the Wii controller (on this game, at least) was akin to using a mouse.
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Chris Morris is Director of Content Development for CNNMoney.com. Send him an email at Chris.Morris@turner.com