Wii Complain

I’m worried about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

I love me some Zelda. It’s probably my second-favorite video game series ever, behind only Mario. The series has taken some heat in recent years for becoming too formulaic, but let’s be honest: Nintendo could keep cranking out Zelda games until the heat death of the universe and I’d still keep buying ’em, no matter how formulaic they get. Assuming Skyward Sword makes its targeted 2011 release date, it’s an easy favorite for my Game of the Year.

The problem is that Skyward Sword focuses more on the motion controls of the Wiimote more than any game I’ve ever seen. You use it for literally everything in the game short of walking, by the looks of things. And here’s my dirty little secret: I’m a Wii owner who doesn’t particularly care for motion control.

I’ve been a Nintendo fanboy for basically my whole life. Back in the day this was because I was suckered in by Nintendo Power’s propaganda (I was still convinced the PS1 had nothing to offer me as late as 2000), but more recently it’s because almost all my favorite series are part of Nintendo’s stable of properties, and if I want to play them, I have to remain loyal. It’s impossible to say whether I’d have switched my console allegiances by now if not for Mario and Pokemon, but you can’t play Super Mario Galaxy on Xbox 360, which means I won’t be getting an Xbox 360. So when Nintendo announced the Wii, I was on board with the system even if I wasn’t quite sure about its main gimmick.

I’ve been dancing around this for years, but I’m finally going to be honest: I don’t like motion controls. I can tolerate them, but there’s a big difference between putting up with them and actually liking them. Precious few of the Wii games in my collection would be worse if the Wii had a normal controller. This is because the Wiimote really only does one thing well:

  1. Mimicks a pointer (read: a mouse).

Almost all the other Wiimote gimmicks are dead ends, because they’re not precise enough. Drawing or painting (Okami)? Like trying to write with your toes. Wiimote as a proxy for a physical object, like a sword? No one-to-one movement. Waggle as button (Super Mario Galaxy, Donkey Kong Country Returns)? Why not just use a button?

One of the smoothest, most natural usages of the Wiimote I’ve seen thus far was in a game that was otherwise mediocre — Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. In that game, you use the Wiimote and nunchuk as a normal controller most of the time, but when you’re in dungeons you can use the Wiimote’s pointer functions to activate the Sorcerer’s Ring, which is the series’s trademark shapeshifting puzzle-solving tool. In any other Tales game, if you want to hit something with the Sorcerer’s Ring, you have to move your character up to the object in question, shift positions so that you’re pointing in the proper direction (surprisingly difficult in some situations), then press a button. With the Wiimote, you just point at whatever you want to hit and press a button to shoot. The Wiimote streamlines the process enormously — but it’s only really “there” for that part. You don’t have to shake it to attack in combat or whatever. The game doesn’t feel compelled to constantly remind you that you’re playing a game with motion control, a flaw that hinders many otherwise excellent games, particularly first-party ones.

That’s it right there, I’ve struck upon the problem. Motion control is the Wii’s main selling point, so Nintendo feels obligated to shoehorn it in at every opportunity in order to remind people that they couldn’t get this on the PS3. But motion control simply doesn’t belong in a lot of games, maybe most games. So I get worried when I see Nintendo trying to transform their most cherished and critically acclaimed franchise into a showcase of what motion control can do. My fear is that either it won’t work, or it will but still won’t be all that fun.

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