With global sales approaching 50 million units, Wii Sports has comfortably overtaken Super Mario Bros. as the best-selling videogame of all time. Of course a great deal of that success can, as with the previous record-holder, be ascribed to the fact that the game comes bundled with the console upon which it plays in every country outside of Japan. But the link between Nintendo's Wii and its number one sports game runs far deeper than a physical tie at the point of sale.
Just as Super Mario Bros. defined the NES so Wii Sports exemplifies the Wii's functionality and appeal, along with its maker's current vision and ambition, better than any other. Arguably the principle success of this immediately irresistible sport-themed mini-game collection has been in revealing to non-gamers why gamers play videogames.
With a barrier to entry as low as swinging the controller like a racket or bowling ball, anyone can experience for themselves the joy of digital cause and effect. In this way Wii Sports has broadened gaming's boundaries and improved the mainstream cultural standing of the medium more significantly than almost any other title.
But who cares, right? The record-breaking stats and industry-redefining influence are irrelevant to players who felt let down by the brevity and shallowness of the Wii Sports experience. After extended play anyone can see that Nintendo's digital puppetry makes us believe we have more control than we really do; the subtlety of our shots during a tennis match, for example, is simplified almost beyond relevance in the short journey from Wii remote to sensor bar.
Without a fun or thoughtful context for the mini-games, which were instead plonked within an abstract hub as if they were dry options in an extended tech demo, it was easy to feel shortchanged. Even though the game had come for free, the Wii Sports promise cost our expectations dearly.
On almost every one of these counts, Wii Sports Resort seeks to answer its critics. Without doubt it's the flagship title for the Wii Motion Plus, the controller attachment that promises to upgrade the sensitivity of player movements on screen, allowing true nuance of hand movements to be replicated with an accuracy that's been maddeningly out of reach thus far.
Then there's the island resort itself, a context that's valuable for both providing an overarching theme to the activities on offer and a sense that the new Wii Sports offers a true gaming destination - not just another menu screen's worth of Wii Fit-style workouts.
Indeed, as you skydive in formation with your Mii buddies from 10,000 feet, a never-ending SEGA-blue sky stretching off into a watery horizon while chick-yellow beaches and bean-green forests jostle far below, there's a sense of being on holiday. A new summer of gaming has arrived and there's no need to bring a book.
As a place the Wii Sports Resort is the Silent Cartographer with the saturation filter turned up, a too-perfect recreation of a holiday destination built from honeymooners' recollections. As you wheel and dive over its waters in the air sports activities, or rip through them on a wakeboard, Mii chums cheering you on from the back of the speedboat, the environment becomes a character in its own right. It's the sort of sunlit paradise that defined the GameCube's Super Mario Sunshine or the Dreamcast's first Sonic Adventure.
The resort offers 12 core activities (swordplay, wakeboarding, archery, basketball, table tennis, golf, bowling power cruising, canoeing, cycling and air sports) all of which are broken down into subset activities. This effort to expand upon the core sports' rulesets, which was touched upon in the original game's training modes, greatly expands the package.
For example, Frisbee offers two ways to play. In the first you throw your disc across a beach towards a transparent bull's-eye target. If your throw lands close enough to the target, your dog will catch the Frisbee and bring it back you, points earned for your proximity to the central target.
Alternatively, you can engage in some Frisbee Golf, which has you choosing between three 'irons' - Frisbees with different distance capabilities - to reach the hole within the shortest number of throws. Bowling, updated from the original offers three modes: Standard, 100 Pin and Spin Control, while Air Sports offers Skydiving, an Island Flyover and Dog fighting.
Control across all of the games we played was tight, responsive and instantly rewarding, offering the kind of precision that, in all honesty, most people had hoped would be present on the console's launch. The Frisbee responds extraordinarily well to the slightest adjustments in throwing angle, changing the height and power as instructed while a slight tilt adds violent spin to the trajectory.
Likewise, the Swordplay Duel mode - which had us battling a opponent in an effort to be the first to push their opponent from the small platform upon which we stood into the water below - had the sword moving in exact accord with our own movements (something no doubt helped by the extra, though unobtrusive, calibration it received before each and every round).
The main menu, laid out like a patchwork quilt of square options, blinked with recommendations of what game to play next, although what this advice was based on was unclear. Most of the more traditional activities such as canoeing and cycling offered both a speed challenge as well as versus competition and almost every mini-game we played was available for up to four players to play either simultaneously or one after the other.
As such, Wii Sports Resort represents an evolution, not revolution of the template laid out by the original. Each event retains the elegant simplicity that made the first game popular with everyone from young children to octogenarians. But with a more rounded, coherent world and the hardware upgrade that the Wii Motion Plus seems to offer in this context, the improvement to the more demanding player is already discernible.
As such we hope that Wii Sports Resort represents Nintendo's renewed vision to continue serving its new customers, providing accessible experiences while extending their appeal to us old faithful.