The Nintendo Wii holds an unique honour in my gaming lifetime. It’s the only console I’ve ever sold – twice – while its been in the middle of its life. There’s has been no other console that has left me feeling so totally angry and ambivalent about its core mission and design. The lack of HD, the foggy motion controls, the dry spells between Mario and Zelda games filled with tumbleweeds; it was something that I just new I wouldn’t able to connect with. I bought two Wiis and sold them both, head shaking harder the second time for believing that there might have been some redeeming long-term feature I’d missed.
However, the Wii may not have had the longevity I required but it did have one thing that was unbeatable. So good, in fact, that it was the prime reason for my purchase each time I threw money at it. Because, as it turned out, there really ain’t no party like a Wii Bowling party.
Forming part of Wii Sports, the fantastic collection of mini-games that came bundled with every Wii, Bowling was a typical Nintendo launch concept designed to show off the fantastic nature of their new machine. Remember, as ubiquitous as it may seem now, motioned-controlled gaming was far-fetched at the time. In fact, the reveal of the controller left heads scratching; a D-Pad and two buttons? Could that even work? The early demonstrations, though, were magical. The Wii matched its prerelease codename of Revolution and seemed to finally cross the divide between console accessibility and mouse-and keyboard preciseness.
In hindsight, we now know this was not the case, but we can also see how expertly Nintendo pulled this initial trick off. All of the sports in Wii Sports used cunning smoke-and-mirrors to make their one key action seem intuitive and freeing. Tennis‘ large timed slide swipe (with no need to worry about character movement), Golf‘s large swipe forward, Boxing‘s twin timed pushes (using the linked Remote and Nunchuck in tandem), Baseball‘s huge timed swing, Bowling‘s large underarm arc; wide-open timing windows and massive gestures being the order of the day. However, each is perfectly realised with the kind of simple design that Nintendo has become famous for.
None is greater evidence of this than Bowling. Using the Wii Remote’s trigger as a grip analogue for your virtual ball, it has you swinging directly into the screen and watching your ball then sliding its way down the lane to glory. Curve can be added with a twist of the wrist and each resulting spare and strike is met with congratulatory fireworks. What elevates it to the top of the Sports list is how fast each turn takes, making it the absolutely perfect pass-and-play multiplayer party game. Such is the accessibility of the title that, for a brief moment, the barriers between video games and the rest of your family is lifted ceremoniously to reveal the promise of total group interaction. Just like with real bowling, when you’re not playing you’re just as engaged with others’ techniques and your various methods of distraction to disrupt them. It’s a wonderful, beautiful moment when it all comes together. If only the rest of the Wii’s catalogue had focussed more on doing so much less.
But, no. As it turns out, the Wii’s launch title remained the best reason to buy the console up until its discontinuation earlier this year. In fact, as excited as I am to play Wind Waker HD and Super Mario 3D World on my shiny new Wii U on Christmas Day, I’ll also be sure to grab a Wiimote as Wii Sports has been resurrected as individual downloadable games for Nintendo’s new console. And at Christmas time, there isn’t a better game to have around than Bowling.