The Wii was a great console. Aside from being innovative and unique in an industry that was starting to maximize sameness, it also had a steady line of first-, second-, and third-party games in its library. It likewise introduced a lot of interesting expansions to its hardware, many of which would come bundled with a game or two. Yet despite the endless possibilities that these add-ons had, some of them were never really used to their fullest potential.
Now you’re zapping with power!
The Wii Zapper, for example, debuted in 2007. Meant to be used as the Wii’s “gun” accessory, this peripheral was even included with Link’s Crossbow Training. It was a cool idea that had lots of potential, and it made a rather silly-looking controller, the Wiimote, look awesome while being held like a shotgun! Think of the use that could’ve been gotten out of a future Metroid Prime game, or even another Resident Evil!
This add-on saw only a couple dozen compatible titles, but the Zapper never got much use in big-hit games, in spite of its fun arcade feel.
Start your engines!
Debuting alongside Mario Kart Wii in 2008, the Wii Wheel add-on allowed you to pop the Wiimote into a slot and use it like a steering wheel. For racing games, which tended to be kind of awkward to play with the Wiimote on its side, this was a dream come true. The Wii Wheel would go on to be used for any Wii racing game with a motion-based control scheme, like Excitebots: Trick Racing and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, so this one actually probably was pretty well appreciated.
Hold still, please!
Then there’s the Wii Balance Board. This was Nintendo’s official exercise peripheral, meant for Wii Fit. All you had to do was step on it with your feet, and the built-in sensor would calibrate your body movement. I remember getting this as an 18th birthday present to help me get into shape, but the board itself was actually pretty cool. What was cooler was that it’d end up being compatible with Punch-Out!! for Wii in 2009, albeit with much difficulty. (It wasn’t always so responsive.) Still, being able to play a boxing game with that Goliath of an add-on was something I’d have never thought of on my own. And it didn’t have to end there: The Balance Board could’ve made for a fun addition to many sports games.
Fortunately, unlike the Zapper and and Wii Wheel, the Balance Board saw a healthier slew of compatible releases. To date, 114 titles are playable with it, which is quite impressive considering what it started out as. That said, there were several Wii Fit knockoffs and mediocre titles in the mix, with only a few titles taking innovative advantage of it. It’s disappointing because the Balance Board was also not a cheap investment, so not having overly amazing games to go along with it could feel like a rip-off.
1:1 means lots of fun!
The real kicker of an underutilized add-on was Wii MotionPlus. Debuting in 2009, it allowed for true 1:1 interactivity with the controller, making those sword swings in Zelda and samurai games that much more precise. It almost felt like Nintendo was going to use it as the default add-on for every game from thereafter.
However, MotionPlus would only go on to receive support from around 40 titles. True, it made Red Steel 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword feel more cohesive, but it would have been nice if more big-name titles had taken advantage of it.
The disposable razor effect
The problem with several of these add-ons was that they were treated like add-ons, easy to discard and forget. The Wii was a breeding ground for innovation, but the line between “innovation” and “gimmick” blurred too often for consumers and developers alike. It was up to individuals to find the real value in the various Wii peripherals available.
Do you think the various Wii peripherals were underutilized? Did you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments.