Review by AWing Pilot
"Pass the Zapper pon de left hand side."
Nintendo is known for including some of the greatest games ever with new hardware to help move it off store shelves and into gamers hands. Here we have Nintendo's latest hardware innovation the Wii Zapper which includes the aforementioned game Link's Crossbow Training. While the title game is the main focus of the review; the Wii Zapper itself inevitably comes into the discussion due mostly to the fact that said title was designed for and around the plastic shell.
So, what exactly is Link's Crossbow Training? Well, put simply it's a glorified tech demo to showcase the use and operation of the Wii Zapper. However, if you look at it a little closer and with an open mind you'll find a capable game that can give more then it's 19.99USD MSRP in fun.
First off lets briefly look at the Wii Zapper and the way it lends itself to controlling this game. The Wii Zapper is a self contained shell for your Wiimote and Nunchuck attachment that when combined and built properly takes the shape and functionality of a two handed firearm type weapon. The Wiimote slides into the top of the shell to form what would be the barrel of the weapon; the sensor window is visible out a hole in the shell, all the top buttons are awkwardly accessible and the B button takes its role underneath the trigger on the shell. You press the trigger and it presses the B button. The Nunchuck camps in the back of the shell and offers not only a second hand grip but also access to the analog stick and both C and Z buttons for games that make use of them. The Wii Zapper has a compartment for storing the excess cord from the Nunchuck and helps give the unit an overall cleaner look. Just be prepared for a hassle talking it apart or do what I did and buy a dedicated Nunchuck for the Wii Zapper. At only 19.99 it's a small price to pay for a little easier time later on. The Wiimote comes out with a push of a button so a dedicated Wiimote isn't necessary unless you can afford it.
So yes the Wii Zapper is just a shell and yes it is in sort of a weird shape for a supposed firearm but it works .so does just playing the game with the normal setup but where would the fun be in that. As awkward as it is to hold at first it does help you stabilize your aim and even more importantly, acquire targets a lot faster. Now that we know what the Wii Zapper is and how it works
Link's Crossbow Training is for better or worse almost exactly like all the previous shooting gallery games we've seen over the years underneath a thick coat of The Legend of Zelda paint which isn't a bad thing by any means. On the contrary, it does exactly what it's supposed to do in getting its foot in the door and surprisingly the Zelda universe actually works quite well for this type of game. You control Link as he makes his way through all the familiar settings for his previous console adventure The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess shooting all sorts of targets ranging from wooden bull's-eyes to any number of the familiar enemies from the source game. Why? Well, a story explanation isn't ever given. In fact, the game has no story what so ever so those of you out there looking to get your canon fix need to look else where. The game is divided into nine stages which are further divided into three levels a piece. These levels come in a few variants. First there is the self descriptive First Person Target Shooting sections where Link rakes up as many points as possible by scoring as many direct hits on various wooden targets strewn about the level. Grazes are worth less then bull's-eyes, gain point multipliers by chaining hits together and keep your eye out for other obvious targets that can be blasted away.
The Defender levels are pretty similar to the Target Shooting stages however instead of a moving first person view the camera takes up residence behind Link standing stationary while enemies or other such targets come his way. Blast as many as you can and link those combos to score points. Finally we have the Ranger missions and unfortunately for a game that had very little leeway to begin with these sections knock the very foundation of the game with its clumsy controls. In these sections you get full control of Link using the Nunchucks analog stick while attempting to rid the current area of a set number of enemies. It's very disorientating to have to control link in a third person view while controlling his weapon in whats supposed to be a first person view. Notice I said disorientating not impossible. With enough time the player will get used to it and will be destroying Keese by the dozen in no time.
The game also features a multiplayer mode but don't expect deathmatches. It's simply a pass the Zapper pon the left hand side sort of deal and in both this mode and the practice you can only play in stages you have unlocked in the single player. Playing with friends helps encourage your competitive side but not enough to warrant you canceling your Xbox Live service or throwing Smash Bros away. however without a doubt this title is best when played with others. It succeeds in Nintendo's mantra of bringing people together in the same room to play without being boggled down with expensive services and additional hardware. One Wii Zapper and friend is all you need. It's worth mentioning that playing with friends actually helps you discover bigger better ideas and strategies for a single player run for the medals.
As mentioned before all this blasting action comes to us under the guise of a Zelda game. From the main character and title namesake Link to the very enemies you shoot its all tied in. This was done obviously to add appeal and grab a few sells simply from the Zelda nuts out there like I am but once you get past the blatant sales pitch well, it actually works. The biggest thing to mention is that the enemies take their defense straight from the other games and therefore add a sense of strategy to the game. For example, while the bat like Keese go down with one single shot the larger shield wielding enemies require multiple shots or one of Link's exploding arrows accessible by holding the trigger\B until the reticule indicates its ready. This simple addition changes this game from a mindless shooter to one with a little more depth. It's still not House of the Dead but a little effort goes a long way for a budget title.
Visually the game is very much on par with Twilight Princess meaning it shares its strengths and weaknesses. While the world of Hyrule remains a pleasing treat to the eyes the up front and in your face direction this game takes makes it easier to notice the ugly textures that plague Link or the many, many seams find in the landscapes. On the plus side Link animates beautifully and the enemies remain some of the creepiest looking out there with very detailed character models and attack effects. Ambiance is high in the environments; keep your eye out for the beautiful way the arrow leaves a wake through a waterfall or the blazing comets that streak over Hyrule Castle. Hmm, wonder if they can be shot .
I only wish that the audio front was on par with the visuals. True, there is nothing wrong with the sound or music. Each stage or level has an appropriate Zelda universe score, the enemies make their appropriate clatter and the crossbow itself makes a satisfying thump sound that emanates from that Wii Zapper that is totally satisfying the first few time. If you are like me you'll find yourself turning the Wiimote speaker down or even off and thanking Nintendo for the ability to so.. Not surprisingly there is zero in the way of voice acting behind Link's standard screams but since there is no story and Link has never spoken it comes as no surprise now.
Link's Crossbow Training isn't meant to be taken too serious. As a Zelda game it falls short of par but as a showcase to what the Wii Zapper can do it does its just more then well. For Zelda fans it's a no thought process at its asking price and for all others, well it's a free game that comes with a peripheral you will make use of in the future for more in depth and detailed games. You'll probably blast through this game in an hour or two and never give it much thought until the next time your buddies come over and feel like playing. If you want to get the party going consider looking past Mario Kart and grabbing this off the shelf. Until then avoid going to the movies with your significant other for one night, save that 20 bucks and pick this up. You won't be disappointed for the few hours it lasts.
Reviewers Note: The game comes in a cheap flimsy cardboard sleeve. Do yourself a favor and hop on ebay to grab a custom made case to match the rest of your loot for as low as a buck. You'll be glad you did.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 07/29/08
Game Release: Link's Crossbow Training (w/Zapper) (US, 11/19/07)
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