Wii MotionPlus, Wii Sports Resort Hands-on: Waggling Done Right?

A few months before the Wii's original launch, the limitations of the system and its motion-centric controls finally dawned on me: tethered to the controller's infrared sensor, there were distinct limits to how "aware" the system could be as to the Wii Remote's orientation. My dreams of one-to-one lightsaber combat were dashed.

When Nintendo revealed its plans for the Wii MotionPlus accessory yesterday morning— almost a full day before its E3 press conference proper—I was a little confused. If this was truly the improvement that it was billed to be, wouldn't it be better suited as the show-stopping announcement to close out the company's list of announcements?

The demonstration alongside Wii Sports Resort had piqued my interest, so I made my way to Nintendo's conference room this afternoon with weighty expectations. After a solid half-hour with the peripheral, I'm pleased—and somewhat surprised—to report that the device offers fidelity of motion unrivaled by any controller currently available on the market, so much so that I've got Jedi on the brain all over again.

Firing up a round of Wii Sports Resort's fencing game Sword Play, the Nintendo rep gave me ample time to become acquainted with the revamped motion control. Unlike what you might see in the original Wii Sports, the motion of my character's fencing foil on screen very precisely matched my own—I was encouraged to wield the Wii Remote with both hands to better get into the mood. I turned my weapon with slow and swift movements alike, manipulated it into odd angles and unusual gestures, and my character responded in kind. Solid start, but how 'bout some combat?

Prior to our match a series of wooden dummy targets were dropped in front of me for practice swings. I took them apart with ease, cutting from top to bottom, left to right, lopping off inch-thick slices off the top of a tall wooden pole. The match began and we were off, holding the B button on the Wii Remote and lifting our swords to block, making opportunistic slashes at one another when the moment was right.

There was a moment in our match when it occurred to me that Sword Play was nothing like Wii Boxing—the height and speed of my slashes were having a direct impact on my ability to successfully strike my opponent. I changed it up from overhead charges to horizontal slashes, kept my attacks loose and random, and managed to catch my opponent off guard more than once. Sure, I mean—I eventually lost, yes. But I didn't lose because of crappy controls, and that's a huge step.

Disc Dog, meanwhile, showcases a more easygoing experiences with the new peripheral. Once again, the position of the frisbee was very in tune with my movements, but the required actions were much simpler and slower—a light flick of the wrist to send the disc on its way. Nothing too spectacular—like Sword Play, after a fashion, in that tech demo sort of way. Same goes for the jet skiing game Power Crusing, which was fun, but the control seemed to have only that one application—unless anybody's keeping an eye out for motion-based motocross racing, of course.

Nintendo's press conference came and went without so much as a peep on their promised game for the hardcore gamer crowd, or rather nothing explicitly stated as such. But if I was to venture a guess, I'd say that Wii Sports Resort—odd though this may sound—is the best news out of Nintendo's E3 conference for the core gamers, not so much for the game itself, but for the possibilities promised by its accompanying MotionPlus peripheral.

Walking out of Nintendo's conference room, I imagined a slew of applications for the Wii MotionPlus—not just in terms of games which have yet to be made, but how much it could improve titles already on the market. Nintendo told me that the company currently has no plans to retroactively update any software to incorporate the device, which is a shame—there are several nigh-unplayable titles in the Wii's back catalog that could be revitalized by this little accessory, some of Nintendo's own first-party titles included.

What the MotionPlus offers is a chance to do everything you really wanted to do with the Wii when you first became aware of the system's existence—it's a reinvigoration of the hope deflated after ten minutes of Red Steel. Keep your eyes on this device.