We all remember how cool it was the first time we tried the Wii. It was so incredible to be able to wield a virtual sword or a tennis racket just by waving around the Wii remote. It was neat to be able to use the remote like a computer mouse to select objects. It was something new and exciting.
But we also remember that moment of disappointment and frustration when we realized the Wii was not quite what we expected. The remote was finicky, often misreading our movements. We would struggle with it, moving it faster or slower, angling it this way or that, trying to find the magic spot that would make it do what it was supposed to do.
The problem was that the remote had a fairly limited ability to broadcast where it was in space. And so Nintendo has created the MotionPlus, an attachable add-on for the Wii remote that gives the Wii more information on the remote’s movements.
The Basics: What It Does
I don’t understand the technology, but apparently the MotionPlus contains a gyroscope that sends out rotational information, and this combined with the Wii remote’s accelerometer (which indicates direction and speed) tells the console almost exactly what the remote is doing.
The results can be seen most clearly in Wii Sports Resort, a mini-game collection which Nintendo designed specifically to show off the capabilities of the MotionPlus. Resort can tell the exact angle of a virtual ping pong paddle and can use the remote to accurately aim an arrow from a virtual bow. This means the small, somewhat random movements that will work in other Wii games aren’t good enough; the need to move realistically has finally forced me to use the remote’s wrist strap, because I need to move forcefully to get the same force out of my avatar.
A few non-Nintendo games are also MotionPlus compatible. The most notable is Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. Because you can play that game with or without the MotionPlus it allows for a direct comparison of the two, and the difference is striking. With the MotionPlus, the game registers every small movement, sees exactly how far you move your virtual club and takes into account the exact angle of that club.
Accuracy doesn’t necessarily make games more fun, since swinging your remote to hit the ball was already fun, but it does something just as important: it makes the game less frustrating. You no longer feel that you are battling the remote for supremacy over your game.
Unfortunately you will still have to battle with the remote for games that aren’t MotionPlus enabled, like the games that have been coming out since the Wii’s release. Tenchu: Shadow Assassins’ refusal to recognize a forward thrust will never change, because the game was made before the advent of this new technology. And at least for now, it seems likely that most games will make no use of the MotionPlus, since there are plenty of Wii owners who don’t have one.
There is also no guarantee that the MotionPlus will actually make much difference; Grand Slam Tennis played just as well for me without it.
My biggest complaint about the MotionPlus is it cannot be used with some third-party add-ons. Wireless nunchuks, for example, communicate with the remote via a device that plugs into the nunchuk port. The MotionPlus plugs into that port as well. While the device has a port of its own into which you can plug the nunchuk, that port is positioned differently than on the remote, which makes it incompatible with some devices. It might be possible to plug some dongles into the MotionPlus anyway if not for these weird, seemingly extraneous plastic knobs on its bottom.
Conclusion: Yes, You Really Do Need This
But these are quibbles. At its best, the MotionPlus can be seen as the thing that completes the Wii revolution, allowing players the level of control they erroneously expected from the beginning.
Why wasn’t this technology in place when the Wii launched? According to Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, the technology simply wasn’t in place at the time to create a reasonably sized, reasonably priced gyroscope-equipped remote.
The MotionPlus does what it’s supposed to do, which leads to the question of, what now? Only a handful of upcoming MotionPlus-capable games have been announced, including Red Steel 2 and the next Legend of Zelda game, but brisk sales of Wii Sports Resort are filling homes with the MotionPlus, so publishers are likely to start adding support for it to more and more games. At first, much of this support will probably be minimal, offering useless features dropped in simply to allow publishers to put “MotionPlus” on their game’s covers, but within a year there should be some interesting uses for the new technology.
So, should you buy the MotionPlus? That depends on what you think of the current MotionPlus games. If you like sports mini-games then Wii Sports Resort is well worth buying, and if you’re a golf fan you’ll want the latest Tiger Woods game bundled with the MotionPlus. If neither of these appeals to you, then there is no need to rush out and get a MotionPlus. But it is something you will need sooner or later, because it is the future of the Wii.