Getting a Wii on launch day was an adventure. Luckily, not a long, painful, cold and rainy adventure, but a 2-hour long, coffee drinking, moderately chilly one. I was lucky enough to be eighth in line without a pre-order at my local toy store.
When I got home and got my Wii set up, the very first thing I did was create a Mii character of myself. I wanted my Wii Sports experience to lack nothing, and I was not at all disappointed.
Mii creation is extraordinarily simple, and I found that it's possible to get a decent match for roughly 70% of the faces I tried to recreate. Perhaps with more fiddling, I'll be able to increase that number.
With my trusty Mii in hand, I was ready to tackle Wii Sports. I slid the disc in, taking a moment to figure out which way the shiny side is meant to be facing (on a vertical slot-loader, this is not as obvious as it should be). The load time is relatively short and the splash intro screen is nice to look at if you're into minimalist graphic design. However, throughout the game, there are a few too many dialogue boxes popping up, asking you to press buttons, it seems, for the sake of pressing buttons. This gets a titch annoying after a while.
Once you actually get into playing one of the five available sports (tennis, baseball, golf, bowling and boxing), the entire experience takes a turn for the better. The game presents itself well. It's not exactly a graphical marvel, compared to what else it available out there, but the characters and objects are all well-rendered and the textures aren't bad at all. When you consider that this was never meant to be a visually stunning game, but rather a fun, even cute, way to show off the Wii Remote, a glorified tech demo, if you will, you begin to appreciate the amount of work that did go into creating such things as the textured grass in the baseball diamond, and the extremely realistic physics of the bowling pins being knocked down. Also, I have yet to see a pixilated texture, even in the close-up shots.
One caveat: I was disappointed in the lack of spectators in certain sports. For example, the baseball crowd is a flat surface with circles on it.
On the other hand, perhaps the shortage of rendered spectators isn't so much of a bad thing. After all, what do fans do but distract the athlete? Athletes must concentrate, and so must a player of Wii Sports. Playing the game is not difficult – the mechanics of the controls are unspeakably easy, there are no complex button combos, no strategy boards, none of what usually complicates a sports video game. It's a simple matter of hit or miss, and while it's usually fairly easy to hit, hitting well takes serious finesse. The game features a handy training program to help you out in this department. There is also a fitness test available daily (much like the test in Brain Age). It takes you through a series of mini games and then spits out your "Fitness Age" based on balance, accuracy and things like that. Who knows how reliable it is, but it's a fun way to see how you're improving.
Tennis is the flagship sport of Wii Sports, and it shows. You can tell they spent more time on Tennis than any of the others. The courts are lovely, and there are even fully rendered spectators. The character animations are amusing too, especially when you make your front court Mii swing hard at a high lob. The jumping and twisting and ending up in the dirt are quite comical, and surprisingly realistic, even when performed by a stubby little cartoon of me, with disembodied hands.
Tennis and baseball are all about timing, swing too early, and you'll hit the ball out of bounds, same if you swing too late. Apparently you can control the spin of the ball in tennis by twisting the controller forward or back as you swing. I've not been able to see any noticeable difference in the ball's trajectory or bounce. Oh well, I'm sure I'll get it eventually.
For the most part, in each sport, your Mii does what you want it to do, when you want it to do it. There are a few exceptions, such as false serves in tennis, and early pitches in baseball. The worst offender seems to be boxing, which seems to be the only sport where you can't actually move your arms as if you were playing in real life. So far, boxing for me consists of wildly flinging my arms forward and hoping my Mii does the same. Perhaps more training is necessary.
Overall, Wii Sports is extremely fun to play, and is definitely a good "gateway" game for non-gamers. This is one you can feel confident about showing your family and friends who are normally saying things like "pish-tosh" when you bring up video games. Although it's not exactly a title to die for, don't make the mistake of discounting Wii Sports as just a cheap throw-in. It's a good, fun, different take on the way we play sports games. And it's great for showing off your spanky new Wii.