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Joystiq hands-on: Link's Crossbow Training (Wii)

Zack Stern

Reaching back to the glory days of light guns, the Wii Zapper steals the name of Nintendo's classic NES controller, but the two are fundamentally different. The previous light gun used a mechanic to essentially see what was on-screen, so the gun sight actually corresponded with the action. The Wii Zapper instead is just a plastic shell to hold a Wii Remote and Nunchuk. The Wiimote pointer continues to work through IR triangulation; players can't sight down the new attachment.

I recently played the Wii Zapper pack-in, Link's Crossbow Training, and was surprised at how good the Wii Zapper felt and how well the game responded. Shooting from the hip -- sometimes literally -- I maintained good control over the on-screen cross-hair. I still prefer the precision of a light gun's sight, but knocking down Zelda-themed bad guys in a series of game scenarios was still fun.

Gallery: Link's Crossbow Training | 7 Photos

Link's Crossbow Training
is divided into three shooting games. Target Practice, the simplest, gives a static shooting mode and various pop-up targets. My demo took me through several shooting stations in a Hyrule town. At each stopping point -- like a pumpkin patch or vista overlook -- a series of bull's-eye targets popped up for a few seconds before disappearing. I had to blast them apart with the B button, and each successive hit multiplied my score. After about a dozen targets, the game whisked me to another static shooting area, repeating that process several times.

Throughout Crossbow Training, I shot background objects for extra points. While there didn't seem to be a strict rule, most barrels and clay pots added to my score. A few things -- like chickens -- reduced my total. These hidden goodies added more depth to the linear modes.

A second game type, Defender, swarms players with waves of enemies. In a desert level, groups of skeletons zombie-walk in from all directions. The Nunchuk analog-stick spins around, but your character always stays in the same spot. An on-screen radar identifies the closest attackers. In this mode, I relied more on zooming to hit distant enemies, although the Z button scopes in at any time. After shooting an occasional, glowing green skeleton, the crossbow turned into a satisfying, rapid-fire machine gun to mow down the rest.

The final mode, Ranger, is closest to a traditional first-person shooter, resembling the Metroid Prime 3 controls. The Nunchuk analog-stick moves the player around, while the Remote still shoots. In one Ranger level, gamers trot through a Moblin village, trying to shoot them all before time runs out. Some sit in corners, unaware of your presence, while alerted tower guards fire flaming arrows in your general direction.

Each game mode seemed unique enough to be valuable. I stalked enemies in Ranger, taking cover from return fire. Defender swarmed me with constant foes. And Target Practice popped up quick patterns that rewarded rapid reflexes. I was also impressed with the control throughout these modes. Since I have experience with real guns -- although, not crossbows -- I still prefer the traditional light gun because I can sight down its barrel. But the IR cross-hair felt nimble, responding quickly to my movement.

The cross-hair was also forgiving; I was able to aim the edge of its circle over a target -- instead of its center point -- and still score hits. This assistance maintained the pace of the game, trading away a little realism. I also found an options menu that calibrates IR reception, shifting it a few inches in any direction relative to the Wiimote, o players can tune the game for closer aim.

Link's Crossbow Training will include turn-based, four-player games, although Nintendo didn't show those off. But even for solo gamers, the 27 stages should be fun. IR-gun fans will easily justify the $19.99 cost of the Zapper/Crossbow Training bundle. Look for it November 19.

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