While Microsoft and Sony are exploring motion-based gaming for the first time this holiday season, Nintendo's already been there and done that for years. While the Wii debuted in 2006 with its iconic Wii Remote, an upgrade to the Wii Remote technology called Wii Motion Plus was unveiled last summer, adding true 1:1 mapping to Nintendo's motion controller via a $20 white dongle that plugged into existing remotes. The device came packed in with Wii Sports Resort and offered some promise for future Wii games, but it also added weight and length to the Wii Remote.
Nintendo's latest iteration of the Wii Remote is called the Wii Remote Plus, and it integrates the new technology as seamlessly as we always hoped it would. Third-party manufacturers have already taken a stab at their own controllers with integrated Motion Plus, including Nyko's Wand+, but their construction quality has varied compared with the relatively rock-solid first-party Nintendo hardware.
At first glance, the remote looks indistinguishable from a standard Wii Remote. Button placement and overall design are identical, except for a curved logo on the bottom identifying it differently. The weight's even exactly the same as a regular Wii Remote, at 0.3 pounds. Even after all these years, the Wii Remote's design remains both striking and effective, but we'd prefer a bit more ergonomic consideration for the tiny 1 and 2 buttons, which are used for an increasing number of games.
AA batteries load in the back the same way batteries did before; Nintendo hasn't made any other engineering improvements to the Wii Remote as we know it. That also means it's compatible with third-party charging accessories such as battery packs and docks, which is welcome news.
The Wii Remote Plus comes in two retail packages: on its own in four different colors for $39.99, or packed with the game FlingSmash for $49.99. Whether the game bundle's worth your extra consideration comes down to whether you feel like it's worth $10. In our opinion, it is. FlingSmash is a 2D, retro arcade-influenced hybrid of Super Mario, pinball, and Breakout, involving the smacking of adorable little puffball mascots into bricks across eight different worlds. A small icon on the bottom of the screen shows the position of your virtual paddle. Whacking in the air propels the furball creatures across the room. It's no Wii Sports Resort, but the game's production values and co-op play make it a more solidly produced pack-in than efforts such as Link's Crossbow Training or Wii Play. It's also a great game to show off the accuracy of the Remote Plus.
While the gyroscopic technology Motion Plus provides theoretically adds accuracy to the Wii controls, very few Wii games actually make use of it. Wii Sports Resort and Tiger Woods are among the very few notables, along with the forthcoming Zelda sequel in 2011. It's becoming ubiquitous in all Wii hardware currently sold, but older Wii owners can live without it unless they're playing one of the aforementioned games.
$40 amounts to the same cost that the Wii Remote and Motion Plus accessories used to be, and in its more compact form, the Remote Plus comes across as a relative win. Still, it's a lot to pay for anyone who already has a set of Wii Remotes with Motion Plus. The clearest advantages come down to the Wii Remote Plus' more compact size and weight. Nintendo has stated that the Remote Plus is the only Wii Remote that will be available going forward--it's also the pack-in controller in the new Nintendo Wii bundles available this holiday. So, in a sense, you have no choice anyway when it comes to selecting a first-party controller. That's what makes the Remote Plus a no-brainer for Wii owners: the good news is that it's also the perfect Wii Remote, at long last. This controller won't be one-upped anytime soon.