First of all, let me apologise for the lateness with which this article is being uploaded. Due to my own stupidity, I left the house this morning without keys, and only just got let back in. On with the writing, I suppose.
Without giving too much away about Sian’s UPCOMING SKYWARD SWORD REVIEW! (dramatic voice optional), I feel that, after playing it, I’ve got some issues to talk through regarding motion control – specifically a very odd gripe against Wii MotionPlus. Interested? Read on.
Through most of my early childhood, my only experiences with motion control in gaming was with the EyeToy, Sony’s add-on camera for the PS2 which could translate your actions in real life into actions in game. All I remember of it was washing windows in the bundled EyeToy Play and smashing chocolate frogs in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so it can’t have been that memorable. In fact, sifting through articles now leads me to believe that the general perception was that it was functional and interesting, but incredibly limited and dull.
So what was it that really brought motion-controlled gaming to such media attention? The obvious answer is the Wii, Nintendo’s seventh generation system that’s firing out quality games like Xenoblade Chronicles (screw you America), Pandora’s Tower (see prior comment) and The Last Story (There’s the hat-trick) after about a year and a half of floundering around in the awful territory of ‘Nothing good except Mario’ which seems to plague Nintendo consoles.
When it was released in the winter of 2006, the Wii met with immense popularity and by its second birthday had sold as many units as the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube combined (for maths nerds, that’s an average figure of 2,000,000 per month). Part of the appeal was the fact that unlike EyeToy, the Wii could emulate motion in actual games rather than glorified tech demos, which we saw wonderfully demonstrated with titles such as Metroid Prime 3, Kororinpa and the re-released New Play Control series, which took Gamecube games and re-jigged the control system to make Mario Tennis that bit more fun.
Where the Wii Remote was useful was that you had actual buttons to press as well as waving your arms about, something that already makes it far superior to Kinect in almost every way. You could play an arm-flapping casual game, sure, but you could also sit and play a serious RPG or platformer – at least that was the idea.
Still, this apparently wasn’t enough for some people, so in 2008 Nintendo released the Wii MotionPlus add-on, a weird little cuboid device that plugged into your remote and gave the controller 1:1 movement tracking. Here’s where the problem lies.
You see, had Nintendo released that sensor as part of the Wii package from the beginning, we would never have encountered the problems I did while playing Zelda: Skyward Sword. While playing Twilight Princess, with its token waggles and pointer control, and Mario Galaxy, where the Wii Remote might as well have been an optional extra, we became complacent. Lazily flicking our wrists while hammering various buttons was all that we needed. MotionPlus changed all that.
In Skyward Sword, you control your sword using ‘inch-perfect precision’, to paraphrase the box blurb. From my brief experience, this means that your movements have to be far more exaggerated and precise that they were previously – this would be all well and good if it didn’t feel so strange to my Twilight Princess molded hands. To simulate my experience, head to your Control Panel, Apple System Preferences, whatever, and turn your mouse sensitivity all the way down. Then use your computer for ten minutes. I’m serious, do it.
Did you feel like you were dragging your hand through cement? That’s not the fault of the mouse, it’s you being so used to making slight movements that any marginal change feels like too much, you petty person you. And this is what this early prototype of motion control has done to us – even with something supposed to make us more active, we became lazy and let ourselves make the minimal effort required. Have motion control or don’t, but don’t get lazy, guys!
Here’s a tip I think we can all follow. If you’ve never played a MotionPlus or PlayStation Move game before, try to un-learn everything about these control systems. Spend a while with a few traditional controller-based games – some particular Wii recommendations are Resident Evil 4 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl as well as Gamecube classics like Super Mario Sunshine. Once you’ve been away for a couple of weeks, your muscle memory might be back to a state where you can comfortably play these things and have a mind-blowing time.