The original "Wii Sports" was likely the first experience many had with the Nintendo Wii. The game accompanied the original console and fully embodied the unique style of motion-sensing video gaming offered by the system at its release in 2006.
Now, almost eight years later, a revamped version — "Wii Sports Club" — has been launched for Nintendo's current console, the Wii U.
There's a lot to love about "Wii Sports Club." There's just not a whole lot that's new. Gamers, particularly families, can expect a little refreshing and a lot of the old classic. (And yes, I define "Wii Sports" as a classic based on its innovative and enduring gameplay.) That could be a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective and what type of shape your old copy of "Wii Sports" is in.
"Wii Sports Club" includes the same five sports as its predecessor: bowling, baseball, tennis, golf and boxing. The gameplay is essentially the same as before: original Wii remotes, which are fully compatible with the Wii U system, are used to swing, roll and punch.
The gamepad, the tablet-like controller that is unique to the Wii U and features its own screen, is employed in a limited but surprisingly effective way in two of the sports. In baseball, pitching migrates to the gamepad, which provides greater control but takes away the fun of the throwing motion. The real upgrade, though, comes when the ball is in the air. Fielders must actually catch the ball by raising up the gamepad screen, locating the ball and settling under it at the right time. It's a nice touch.
In golf, the gamepad essentially acts as the ball. When set on the ground (with the requisite warning not to step on it), the gamepad reflects the ball and club on its screen. Whether or not you believe keeping your head down is beneficial to a golf swing, this new feature allows for the option.
Both gamepad features inject a little bit more realism to the sports, but accuracy is not necessarily the aim of "Wii Sports Club." This is not Madden or NBA2K. The competitors are still Mii avatars — some of which can look downright bizarre — and some images remain quite cartoonish. This new version does provide sharper HD graphics, but it's debatable how much of an upgrade that is when the athletes still don't have any arms.
Online play and the concept of "clubs" are additional new features. Players are asked to join a club when they log on. These clubs, which are organized by states and nearby countries, are groups of players that create a platform for online competition, record keeping and interaction. Online gaming is certainly nothing new, but it's certainly a bonus to engage in a game of classic Wii bowling with competitors ranging from Alaska to Tennessee. (My experience with online tennis, though, was a little choppy, and I don't consider my Internet connection to be inadequate.)
From a family perspective, "Wii Sports Club" strikes a good balance. It's simple, intuitive and user-friendly enough that very young kids can play and have some success — even if it's by fluke. (My 4-year-old still has the most blazing tennis serve in the family.)
But it's also demanding. Home runs and birdies can't be achieved without some real skill and precision, and the sensor is not overly forgiving. This is most apparent in golf, where imprecise movements are punished with wicked slices.
Just like its predecessor, "Wii Sports Club" is an ideal family game that doesn't wear out easily. And that may be the key in deciding whether or not to invest in the new version. Those who still have access to and are enjoying the original version may find the upgrades to be minimal. But for those who appreciate some nice new touches or who are looking to add this title to their collection, "Wii Sports Club" won't disappoint.
Game: Wii Sports Club
Platform: Wii U
ESRB rating: E 10+ (mild violence)