Wii U: The Second Coming of Wii MotionPlus

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The original Wii Remote was touted as a Revolution – or, at least, that was the initial codename for the platform that would eventually become known as “Wii” – and its motion control capabilities took center stage. When Nintendo showed off the first games for the system, the message was simple: Wii will give you all the gaming experiences you’ve enjoyed on other Nintendo platforms – Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and others – only now they’ll be enhanced with a unique new controller that gives you a more intuitive level of control over your character. The first Wii gameplay montage was very clear about Nintendo’s promise that the Wii Remote was about to change everything.

Some of those promises couldn’t be delivered with the initial Wii Remote tech, but then a new Wii Remote came along: the Wii MotionPlus (and later Wii Remote Plus), designed to handle a much more accurate level of motion control. But with Wii MotionPlus not seeing the light of day until midway through the system’s life, the Little Peripheral that Could only had limited chances to shine: Wii Sports Resort, Wii Play: Motion, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Surely that limited palette of true blue motion titles suggests that Nintendo’s motion control revolution didn’t quite go as planned, right?

With Wii U, however, motion control – specifically enhanced Wii MotionPlus control – is about to see a kind of second life.

And that’s because Nintendo’s taking full advantage of the fact that Wii MotionPlus is already out in the wild from the launch of Wii U. The two big motion-controlled multiplayer attractions in Nintendo Land – Metroid Blast and The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest – both require Wii MotionPlus-enhanced Remotes. Battle Quest specifically banks on the kinds of omni-directional input seen in Skyward Sword – except this time, Nintendo must surely hope, it’ll be enjoyed by a much wider audience.

Pikmin 3 will also make use of the technology, as will Ubisoft’s Sports Connection and presumably the inevitable Wii U Wii Sports sequel as well.

Given the amount of support Wii MotionPlus is getting just at the Wii U launch – so far, more games than the peripheral had at its own summer 2009 launch – it seems to me that Nintendo’s trying to push MotionPlus as soon as possible to put the enhanced controller in the hands of as many people as possible early on in the Wii U life cycle. What does that tell me? It tells me that Nintendo wants to give MotionPlus gaming another try.

Do I think we’re going to see a ton of MotionPlus games? Probably not. Developers are going to focus more on getting the most out of the Wii U GamePad. But I think that if anyone wants to see a new Wii Sports, a successor to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, or any other kind of continuation of the path that MotionPlus started, they’re going to at least see their wishes addressed on Wii U.

So far, the results seem pretty promising. Battle Quest gives me hope for another Zelda that at least allows for MotionPlus-enhanced control. Even such a simple gesture as upgrading the pointer controls for games like Metroid Blast and Pikmin by making them less reliant on the Sensor Bar has done wonders. And Nintendo isn’t just slapping a MotionPlus framework in and calling it a day – they’re still thinking about ways to make the whole motion control experience better.

From what I played of Battle Quest, it offers a much quicker, simpler, snappier version of the sword control I already loved in Skyward Sword. Similarly, Pikmin 3‘s pointer interface offers much more clarity in terms of what you’re actually pointing at than its predecessors’ Wii incarnations. Now the pointer reticle shows up over enemies and objects instead of under them and whatever you’re currently targeting will be highlighted on-screen.

If this is what Nintendo has to offer just for its initial round of Wii U MotionPlus-controlled titles, then I’m extra-excited about what the future might hold. At the same time, because the Wii Remote isn’t the focal controller this time around, I’m also cautiously skeptical about just how many games we’ll see that take full advantage. If Nintendo can offer two or three games a year that make good use of MotionPlus, I’ll be happy. If they can somehow transform Wii U into a true continuation of the Wii Revolution, I think everyone who felt let down by MotionPlus’s relative obscurity on Wii will be happy.

But until we know what the future will hold, I think it’s a question worth asking: Could Wii U bring about the Second Coming of Wii MotionPlus?

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