Skate It Wii, DS Hands-on

At the EA Spring Break press event in San Francisco, we had a chance to give EA Black Box's motion-centric Skate It a test run in both its Wii and Nintendo DS incarnations.

While we were grinding our faces into the pavement, we also managed to chat up the designers on bringing the Skate franchise to Nintendo's systems and the development of the new control schemes.

"It took between a month and a half to two months to reach that 'really, this is the game we want to make' kind of point," said designer Dana Fortier. "Up until that point, we really weren't even sure we wanted to pursue it. Once we hit that point where we were rolling, the plans to get going on it shaped up quickly."

Wii Impressions
By Nick Breckon

The trick to Skate It Wii is thinking of the Wii Remote as a skateboard. "We made an effort to make sure that, yes, we had a good metaphor for the controls, that being the Wii remote as a skateboard," explained Fortier. "Until we hit that epiphany, a lot of people weren't quite getting it, but once we nailed that, everyone on the development team was like 'Oh, I get it.'"

I got it, too. The mechanics that drove the original Skate were essentially flick-based, a system of quick analog swipes that translated into surprisingly natural skateboarding control. A Wii version of the game makes sense in this context, the motion-sensitive remote simply taking over for the analog stick. Registered users can use the HD Stream.

Holding the remote level in your hand, your skater stands immobile. Tilting the controller left or right steers the skater in either direction, and leaning it forward or backward sees your on-screen skater riding the nose or tail. Pressing the "A" button kicks off for a momentum burst, while the "B" trigger activates a grab.

More impressive tricks are pulled off through a full set of gestures. A simple jump is achieved by quickly lifting the remote up in the air. A 360 ollie-fakie whatever is pulled off by twirling the remote in circles. I may not know my skateboarding terminology, but I know my games, and Skate It seems just as natural in execution as its next-gen partner. And if it doesn't seem that way to you, the nunchuk will work as an optional steering scheme, relegating the remote to trick control.

Of course, the Wii hardware being what it is, the designers have come up with a convenient concept for Skate It: a series of disasters has rendered the town utterly vacant. Though clearly a design born out of necessity, it also affords the developers a certain amount of creative freedom. Crumbled buildings and other ruinous environments will serve as the new San Vanelona. And for the first time in the series, skaters will be able to travel to other places in the world to compete in various competitions.

Probably the one aspect of Skate It with the most potential is the planned Wii balance board support. Only demonstrated briefly on stage, the balance board control is in a very early state. As it stands, the board takes the place of the remote for everything but tricks, with players steering and leaning forward or backward. It looked more than a little difficult.

While not at all confirmed as a feature, Fortier mentioned to us that the team is investigating the possibility of somehow incorporating the balance board into the trick mechanism. He noted that the team definitely can't have people jumping up and down on the thing, but wouldn't go into detail on any other possibilities they're cooking up.

Either way, it seems like there will be more than enough control options available to Wii gamers. Senior Skate developers are on the project, and so far, it feels as fluid and fun as the original.

Read on for Aaron Linde's impressions of Skate It on Nintendo DS

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Nintendo DS Impressions
By Aaaron Linde

Though not quite as easy to pick up and play as its Wii cousin, the Nintendo DS version of Skate

It carries on with EA Black Box's commitment to sensible control metaphors, though in a somewhat more indirect way than with the Wii Remote.

Utilizing the touch screen, the player need only draw a line or shape across or around the surface of the skateboard as represented on the screen to perform a variety of moves. For the most part, these motions make sense in context of the tricks -- an ollie is as simple as a straight line along the length of the board, while nollies work by going in the opposite direction. Registered users can use the HD Stream.

In the brief demonstration we were shown how to work kickflips, manuals, and a slew of other tricks, but true to the nature of Skate, it's not something that can be mastered in a matter of minutes, no matter how intuitive the controls are.

It will likely take players time to become accustomed with keeping an eye on the DS's top screen while churning out tricks below, without losing track of direction or missing a grind rail by a good stretch of distance. But it definitely hints at one of the most fluid skating experiences on the DS yet, and should be watched closely by those players who prefer to do their shredding on the go.

While you're here, don't forget to check out the whole of Shacknews' EA Spring Break coverage.