Nintendo said spring from the start, but when the curtain fell on E3 last July, it was difficult to imagine going for nearly a year without Wii MotionPlus. Yet here we are, just over 24 hours away from Nintendo's 2009 conference, and we've only had WMP in the office for less than a week - and won't be able to buy it until next Friday. Even Nintendo - never a company to be rushed - usually acts quicker than this.
Whatever the reason for WMP's extended gestation, however, the bigger surprise is that it won't be backed from day one by a Nintendo game. Wii Sports Resort, a collection of mini-games designed to show the new accessory in its best light, just as Wii Sports did with the Wii Remote, is still over a month away, due out on 24th July.
That leaves Electronic Arts and SEGA to fly the flag with the first round of games. Grand Slam Tennis is due out next Friday, with Virtua Tennis 2009 arriving there or thereabouts, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 joining them on 3rd July. Although VT isn't available for review yet, we've been trying out our new WMP with full versions of both of the EA games over the weekend and, ahead of the reviews next week, thought it would be a good idea to jump in with some early impressions.
First though, the Wii MotionPlus set-up procedure, which takes less time to complete than this sentence. Clip it onto the Wiimote expansion port, turn it over and push up the locking switch, and you're done. A passthrough expansion port means you can hook up nunchuks or classic controllers just as you usually would, and you can even thread the strap connector through so it's safe on your wrist.
There's also an extended Wiimote jacket supplied, and overall the Wiimote with WMP attached - at just over an inch longer than otherwise - feels solid and natural within seconds, with WMP light enough not to have any impact on the balance of the controller in your hand. To remove WMP, pull the lock back and then pinch the grey plastic bulges on either side to yank it off. Games don't mind if you do this mid-session, either - Grand Slam and Tiger 10 instantly adjust to a Wiimote-only control scheme so you can continue playing.
Grand Slam makes a bigger show of WMP implementation than Tiger 10, using it to influence shot placement and shot type. Swinging high to low slices the ball, while going low to high adds topspin and a flat swing produces a flat shot. You can also direct the ball yourself, rather than having to rely on timing alone to determine direction as you would in Wii Sports, and have to do in Grand Slam if you're only playing with the Wiimote. Twisting the WMPed-up Wiimote on the followthrough adds even more spin.
The 1:1 mapping of movement is most evident on the practice court (as the game's producer illustrates in a recent demo video), with your character holding the racket high or low in accordance with your movements, and even spinning the racket in his or her hand if you do that, or twiddling it as a bit of a service psyche-out. If you think the game's getting it wrong, you can hold the Wiimote still for a couple of seconds and WMP recalibrates without the need to head out to a menu, although this hasn't been a noticeable problem so far.