Review by Phange
"A great showcase of the Move's potential"
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and if the Playstation Move and its showpiece title Sports Champions are any indication, Nintendo must feel highly praised. Sports Champions serves, to put it bluntly, the exact same purpose that Wii Sports did back in 2006: as a showcase of the motion controller's potential. However, the two diverge in one very critical area: while many were impressed with Wii Sports and the Wii Remote back in 2006, most gamers agreed that there were some flaws inherent in the Wii Remote's design that ultimately resulted in the games being more about how to best "waggle" the controller and less about precision. Sports Champions, however, very clearly emphasizes the higher fidelity of motion recognition; as if to say "the promise of motion controls has finally been realized!"
It works, to an extent. After a few hours of play, however, nearly all of the non-control gripes of Wii Sports come into play with Sports Champions as well, and in some ways are all the more grievous.
It's certainly not fair to compare the Wii's graphics to the Playstation 3, but it is worth mentioning that Sports Champions is far more a showcase of the PS3's hardware than Wii Sports was for the Wii. Overall, the graphics in Sports Champions aren't exactly stellar but they are very good, and the environments in particular are extremely well rendered. Characters are a bit plain and very uninspired, but few expected Sony to copy Nintendo's clever and creative "Mii" system. Of course, the game is in HD and the framerate is more than serviceable, though it rarely exceeds 30 frames per second.
Sports Champions has an uncharacteristically epic, orchestrated soundtrack. Unfortunately, this is coupled with a grating, garbled mess of voice acting that would've been best served to simply be absent altogether.
The meat of Sports Champions is highly similar to Wii Sports and Wii Play, with mostly-similar games to play. Table Tennis is certainly analogous to Tennis, Archery is similar to the Duck Hunt-ish game in Wii Play (and even more similar to Link's Crossbow Training), Disc Golf might as well be Golf, etc. In general, the games in Sports Champions are simply better than their Wii counterparts, though the generic look and feel of Sports Champions tends to take some of the cheeky excitement out. Like Wii Sports, there are plenty of reasons to keep playing sports, such as higher difficulties, challenge modes, and multiplayer. The lack of bowling, however, is nothing short of cardinal sin.
As always with minigame compilations, some sports are better than others. On paper, Bocce probably sounded more enjoyable than it is in virtual form. It's still fun with two people, but against the CPU it's clunky and slow. Although Gladiator Duel is leaps and bounds superior to any motion-based swordfighting game released previously, it's still not perfect (simply from the impossible-to-rectify lack of feedback). Disc Golf, Archery, and Table Tennis are the three that definitely shine the most, and Archery in particular is a highly convincing argument for the future of first-person shooters on the PS3.
Overall, it's a more satisfying package than Wii Sports, but that was to be expected given that the game is not free and was intentionally designed to point out the technical advantages of the Playstation Move.
Sports Champions does a lot of things right; it successfully shows the stronger hardware of the Playstation Move over the Wii Remote, and it even manages to surpass Wii Sports in many ways.
However, Sports Champions is simply not enough "game" for something that isn't free with the hardware itself. Wii Sports was the perfect pack-in for the Wii, and was well-received because it did nearly everything it could to sell the system while still being a fun game in its own right. Bowling in particular avoided the pitfalls of the Wii's somewhat sketchy accelerometer and instead relied more on the tilt sensor, which allowed it a great deal of genuine replay value. The lack of bowling in Sports Champions, a full-priced game, is unacceptable.
Though it isn't particularly devastating, Sports Champions is so utterly generic-looking that it sucks away a lot of the cheeky "family fun" atmosphere that made Wii Sports work. Nevertheless, anyone investing in a Playstation Move should obtain a copy of Sports Champions.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 09/27/10
Game Release: Sports Champions (US, 09/07/10)
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