Wii Motion Plus was announced about two-and-a-half years ago and had most of us pretty freakin’ excited. The often-sketchy motion-sensing and tracking capabilities of the Wii Remote were finally going to receive a much-needed upgrade. Surely this would allow for, as Nintendo puts it, “a level of realism that you never thought imaginable” that would elevate Wii gaming far above the competition.
It’s been a year-and-a-half since the peripheral debuted, a couple months since a remote with built-in Motion Plus functionality hit the market, and what has Nintendo brought to the table to show off these revolutionary capabilities? The list, as it turns out, is painfully short – in fact, it’s not really a list at all. To date, Nintendo has developed one – count ‘em – one game that’s optimized to use Wii Motion Plus: Wii Sports Resort.
Sure, the game did extremely well, Skyward Sword‘ll be coming soon, Ubisoft recently released Red Steel 2 (see: almost a year ago), and there have been a few titles in between that have Motion Plus options, but if this device is such a big “revolution” for the gaming world, why haven’t we seen more (and much more at that) from the Big N?
I’ll cut straight to the chase: I really don’t see any reason for there to be such a shortage of good Motion Plus titles, especially not when Nintendo R&D is thinking at all about a Vitality Sensor. With all the time and money that undoubtedly must have gone into its creation, I can’t fathom why Nintendo wouldn’t give the device more support. Sure, Wii Sports Resort is probably making bank all by its lonesome, but I don’t find the ratio of games produced to the amount of time Motion Plus has been on the market to be a very comfortable one.
I didn’t just buy the Wii because of the Nintendo brand (although that was probably the biggest driving factor) – I was terribly excited for it because it promised to revolutionize the way we play games. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata once famously said of the Wii’s impact on the industry: “The game has changed… and the way the game is played has to be changed.”
But with most of the Wii’s library consisting of games that aren’t very distinct from those of previous generations aside from technical specs and occasionally online play, Nintendo needs to release solid software that makes good use of Motion Plus, otherwise this will have been an empty promise. What do I think Nintendo needs to do in order to live up to the expectations it has set for Wii?
Skyward Sword Must Unequivocally Succeed
Of course, as a Zelda site we’re bound to say this anyway, but if Nintendo’s investment into Motion Plus and their praise for its capacity to change the face of gaming have any merit, Skyward Sword is going to have to outperform most of the other titles in the series. I’m pretty confident that this can happen, since if Twilight Princess can sell upwards of 5.75 million copies on Wii despite its comparatively weaker use of Remote functionality and its multiplatform release, a Wii-exclusive Zelda title should theoretically fare better. The sequel curse isn’t exactly working in its favor, but I expect Skyward Sword to perform well both critically and in terms of sales numbers.
Despite being a small-scale spin-off, Link’s Crossbow Training pulled pretty impressive (not to mention unexpected) sales figures due to its association with the Wii Zapper peripheral. If Skyward Sword comes with a Wii Remote Plus pack-in, it should hopefully enjoy comparable success (and being a full-blown Zelda title will help even more). Too bad the game couldn’t have released back when Motion Plus first debuted.
Now, Nintendo’s by no means sunk if Skyward Sword doesn’t reach this goal, or even if it flops altogether. After all, Wii systems are still selling like hotcakes, and although there are a few ups and downs in its performance, it still shows no sign of stopping. But if Motion Plus technology is to earn its keep in the future of gaming, Nintendo’s going to have to show that it can deliver a solid experience, and if they can’t do that with the series that’s practically made for the device, then I can’t see it going anywhere else.
Motion Plus Controls Must Become Synonymous with Zelda
In an Iwata Asks session back during last year’s E3, Miyamoto described their realization of the Motion Plus-based gameplay as “something that can only be done on Wii. So, I see it as a chance – it’s worth the effort. We have to have the confidence that, if we do it right, people will see that this way is better. It’s a better way to play. Once we decided to focus on the sword, we found it fun.” A later Gamespot interview had Aonuma go on record with high hopes for the gameplay framework in Skyward Sword as the standard for future installments of the series.
Bearing this confidence in Skyward Sword‘s use of Motion Plus in mind, the game really can’t succeed unless its controls win out as the superior way to play Zelda. But the only way this can actually come to fruition is if the same style of gameplay carries over to later games. Skyward Sword could win every gaming award under the sun, but if it turns out to be Nintendo’s one-shot Motion Plus Zelda game, it won’t have been a revolution, it will have been an experiment, and skeptics of the future of motion controls such as John Riccitiello, CEO of EA Games, along with the countless others who demand a return to “traditional” controls with each new touch- or motion-based game, will have been right all along.
Fortunately this objective more or less logically follows from the last, and so far the controls have gotten great reviews, which is heartening. If the game delivers at least a bit ahead of par compared to the rest of the series, then meeting this goal should be no problem.
Nintendo Must Carry Over Motion Plus Functionality Into Other Brands
This is where things get tricky. Sure, working Motion Plus into Zelda was a no-brainer, but how can Nintendo make the device work for its other franchises? After all, Mario’s games don’t exactly call for fine-tuned remote swinging, precision aiming, or “3D mouse” functions. Creating a “revolutionary” peripheral with applications for only a couple software brands, however, just seems counter-intuitive.
I unfortunately don’t have the answer to this question (that’s why I write about Nintendo instead of developing software), but if Nintendo’s long history has taught us anything, it’s that there’s always a new surprise up their sleeve. Whether that’ll prove to be a good thing or a disaster (Wii Music comes to mind) remains to be seen.