Wii MotionPlus Hands-On (Verdict: Melancholy Bliss)

Click to viewThe Nintendo Wii broke my heart. It wooed me with cute, clever marketing and the promise of unbelievable technology. But it was a scam, a hoax, a hoodwink. The Wii's main revolutionary component, the Wiimote, did not work nearly as well as a many of us expected (like when swinging a golf club in WiiSports or a sword in Red Steel). And that was a real blow, because there was no one more excited about the system than me.

So after trying out Wii MotionPlus today, an add-on that brings the Wiimote "more comprehensive tracking" and 1:1 response, I was left with mixed feelings. On one hand, Nintendo finally delivered everything I ever wanted in the Wiimote. On the other, it was two years late, and as Jason pointed out, not making the system any cheaper.


I tried Wii MotionPlus with Wii Sports Resort, the only game that currently supports (and requires) the add-on. Right away it was undeniable-MotionPlus does add true 1:1 movement support. But what's that actually mean though?

When playing the Frisbee minigame, the Wiimote essentially acts as the Frisbee. The slightest turn of the wrist is represented instantly on screen by one's avatar. That's neat...but how 1:1 was this really? I moved the Wiimote in odd positions, wrapping my arm around my body and over my head. And it captured every gesture. Any time I was able to fool the program-a trick that took some effort-it could probably just be blamed on lack of proper model animations, not the hardware itself.


The thrill I got from just watching my avatar hold the Frisbee like I did was greater than...maybe any experience I've had on the Wii aside from Super Mario Galaxy.

Sword fighting was much the same. Where the Wiimote alone has incredible difficulty registering something like a forward thrust, the MotionPlus Wiimote recognized the move with ease. And like a bad Conan impression, I swung the Wiimote with all my might to destroy Jason Chen. It was great, even though I lost.


The ironic thing is, with a motion controller that actually works, you quickly realize the limitations in a real motion controller. For instance, during a sword dual, there is nothing stopping my real remote in real life when my virtual sword is blocked in the virtual world. But these issues are small and, in most cases, technically unavoidable.

The important point is this: The Nintendo Wii can finally be the absolutely amazing machine that many of us thought would never materialize-its tacit promises delivered at last.


Yet I still can't celebrate. And maybe you shouldn't, either.


New titles designed for MotionPlus will not be playable with standard Wiimotes. While Nintendo isn't technically stopping third parties from making dual-compatible games, the fact that Nintendo's WiiSports Resort lacks such an option is a potential harbinger of a bad trend.

If developers support MotionPlus in mass, the peripheral will become a mandatory upgrade to Wii owners who just want to play new Wii games. And in the console market, that's an unprecedented requirement (update: yes, the PlayStation analog stick upgrade on the Dual Analog wasn't great, but Nintendo's upgrade may be a requirement so intrinsic to the system that it affects an overwhelming majority of titles.)


I respect Nintendo for fixing the shortcomings of their Wiimote. They didn't have to do so to win the console war and make boatloads of money. But I really wish it worked better in the first place and, even more so, that I didn't need to explain to my in-laws why their brand new console is already obsolete.

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