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Back in November 2006, no one expected how much of a phenomenon Wii Sports will become with the Wii’s launch. The pack-in game arguably became the killer app for the Wii being a great introduction to the Wiimote and also attracting a whole different audience. After Wii Sports Resort’s release with the Motion Plus attachment, it was unclear how Nintendo will take Wii Sports to the future on the Wii U. Turns out their solution is to release the original in parts as a digital download, but also include a big online component in the form of clubs. Wii Sports Club is a good return to the game that began the Wii phenomenon with online play despite minimal usage from the Wii U gamepad.
Nintendo’s digital plan with Wii Sports Club is interesting for their standards as there is a free one day trial pass to try out any sport while the other option is to play any sport unlimited for $10. Only two sports from the original game are available out of the gate, which are tennis and bowling, while the other three: golf, baseball, and boxing are coming at later times. Honestly, starting out with the more two popular sports from the Wii original is the smart choice by Nintendo as who knows how the other three will perform since they are not as good as these initial two.
Wii Sports Club’s iterations of tennis and bowling have a decent amount of modes to keep players busy. There are not only the standard local games with up to four players, but also training modes testing certain skills. Tennis for example has one mini-game where players can up rack points by hitting shots through a set of rings. On the bowling side, 100-pin bowling from Resort is back alongside regular 10-pin bowling, but there’s also mini-games that tests your spin control skills as well. Stamps and high score leaderboards are also similar from the previous games. While the extra modes are nice to have, these extra modes did not hold my attention for long since the major selling point of the game, the online play, is where is it at.
The online options break down to your standard game options for both tennis and bowling that are also up to four players. While waiting for opponents to show up for a match to start, the games lets you warm up taking shots in both sports. Performance-wise, the matches run smoothly, but as always if someone has a bad connection, the lag definitely shows during gameplay where everything slows down to the point it can affect your input motions. The big part of the online component, however is the inclusion of clubs. You can represent whichever your region you want and face off against other clubs for supremacy. Matchmaking can also be set up by club besides the anyone and friends options as well. Want to take someone from Europe or any other country in the world? It is that simple, but be prepared for some lag too pending on connections.
Since this is a Wii Sports game on the Wii U, how does the gamepad fit in? Well, the gamepad barely gets used at all as this is pretty much a Wii Remote only game, so better have some Wii Remote Pluses around especially if you have people over to play. Even the menus are not controlled by the gamepad as the only thing it is used for to change up phrases you can say during online matches. While there are a template of simple ones to use, you can also use Miiverse to come up your own way of praise or trash talk to your competition just as long as it is appropriate of course for Nintendo’s standards. It is not surprising the Wii U gamepad is not used much for this game, but I wish Nintendo can come up with some uses for it in future Wii Sports games however.
As for the Wii Remote Plus controls, both sports control fine and the same for now seven years. There were personal instances where my bowling throws end up going right, but that’s probably just me. The bowling shot styles also remain identical from previous games if you feel like having a more angled shot style than a straight one. Tennis, however, took a while for me to get back to the groove. I was losing matches constantly because of my shot selection, but good thing I change it up with the backhand and forehand motions depending where the ball is at now. My main gripe from the Wii Sports games still applies in Club that I’m not someone that can play these sports for long hour plus sessions, but they’re still great to play in short bursts, specifically one or two online matches for both sports.
The overall look for Wii Sports Club has not changed significantly as it is the same Wii Sports you looked at for seven years. The HD facelift to Wii U isn't much to grasp either, but you are not playing this game for the graphics obviously. The same thing can also be said for the sound too, which nothing special stands out in terms of new music to listen to while bowling or navigating the menus.
Seven years later, is Wii Sports still fun and worth your time? I would still say yes as Wii Sports Club is worth having around on the Wii U in case of having people over for local games. Sure, it is not as much of a phenomenon anymore as it was back in 2006, but both tennis and bowling still play fine and good to break out every now and then. I wouldn't recommend playing these in long sessions both locally and online as you’ll get tired of them, but they’re still good to pick up in short bursts. The lack of gamepad usage is not surprising and the online options with the inclusion of clubs is still bare bones compared to online games on the other consoles, but the online play does breathe new life for the franchise even though it shouldn't taken this long for Wii Sports to go online.
We’ll see how the other three sports pan out when they are released, but it is safe to assume they’ll play the same as their original iterations for the most part. Wii Sports Club on the Wii U is a small step in the right direction for the franchise with the inclusion of online modes, but hopefully there is more gamepad integration for future games.