The Waggle Manifesto

Is there such a thing as “good waggle” in Wii games? My Wii collection might be a good place to start. It’s small-ish, only ten games, so it would only take a few moments to analyze. But it’s also representative, by which I mean I own games pretty much every Wii player will be familiar with. Mostly Nintendo first-party titles, come to think of it. Let’s take a quick look.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Zelda has some great wiimote functions, considering this game wasn’t originally slated as a Wii title. Aiming your bow could not be more intuitive; you point your crosshair and the arrow goes where you want to send it. Less impressive are the various combat controls: waggle to swing your sword, shove nunchuck foward to shield bash, etc. These only work on the most basic level, and the reason they don’t get in your way much has more to do with the small amount of combat in the game than anything else.

Shake-to-slash is especially egregious since it’s not a move-equivalent action. Slash your wiimote left, and Link swings left. Slash it right, and Link swings left. Shake it violently, and Link swings left. Doesn’t this seem like a missed opportunity? Why not differentiate between inward, outward and overhead slashing, and use a different motion for each? Left to slash left, right to slash right, down to slash overhead… maybe left-then-right quickly for a spin slash. Given how clumsy most of the other advanced combat moves are, maybe this wouldn’t have worked.

Mario Kart Wii
Every waggle control, including the stupid pack-in steering wheel, has a button option. I prefer to play this with a Gamecube controller, but if you don’t have one the wiimote/nunchuck setup works fine; your only waggle action is mid-air tricks, which don’t require any precision. This is a great example of how waggle should work: an option for players that want it, but a workaround for players who know better and just want to play the game.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Does this game even have a waggle control anywhere in it? You can play it with like four different control configurations, but I don’t think any involve shaking a wiimote. Here’s an example of a game they knew they couldn’t shoehorn a waggle into, so they didn’t try. I suppose you could grumble that it doesn’t use the Wii’s features to their fullest extent, but my counter to that would be: why include something the game doesn’t need?

Super Mario Galaxy / Super Mario Galaxy 2
I’ve spent all week complaining about these games. Moving on!

Metal Slug Anthology
Perfect example of a third-party game trying to include waggle for no reason other than to have it. Worse, you can’t turn it off and you can’t substitute a more traditional controller. In this game you have to shake to throw a grenade, which is an action that requires precision and often has to be done on reaction. I play Metal Slug with infinite continues turned on, so I don’t care how often I die, which means I’m always running around with as many grenades as I care to throw. To an expert player who counts credits, though, this version of the game would be utterly unplayable.

Punch Out!!
I tried the waggle controls for a few minutes. Punch with your left hand to make Mac throw a left, punch with your right to make him throw a right. Not bad, but I was tired of it after a few minutes, so I retreated to the button controls I was used to from the NES version. If those button controls hadn’t been included, I would not have bought this game.

Super Paper Mario
You play this game with the wiimote held sideways, and that works pretty well. You can’t substitute a Classic or Gamecube controller because there is a point-at-screen mechanic: you use your cursor to get information about objects in the game world. At first I hated this, because the “look” action involves shifting the controller into an unusable state. After a while, though, I warmed up to it quite a bit. The “look” action is actually closer to a “scan” action from whatever your favorite RPG is, and it makes sense that there’s a cost. In this case the cost is that you need a second or two of reasonable safety to use it. A little annoying? Maybe, but the button equivalent would involve slowly scanning the screen with a control stick or, worse, pausing the action and selecting your target with a d-pad. The cursor is smoothly integrated into the gameplay and you have to make reasonably good decisions to use it properly. The game has other issues, sure, but that’s another post…

Metroid Prime Trilogy
I haven’t played the first two MP games with the Wii controls yet, but Metroid Prime 3 worked excellently: point to aim, click to shoot. It doesn’t get more intuitive than that. All of the problems I had with MP3 involve game design and not input… I imagine it will be much the same with the first two titles. (Which is to say, I’ll probably love Metroid Prime but dislike Metroid Prime 2.)

Wii Sports
The quintessential waggle game! The thing about Wii Sports is that every waggle movement tries to be a move-equivalent action; you’re really swinging a golf club or loosing a bowling ball, see? It’s not perfect — with a real golf club I’d be able to feel when I hit the ball, and with a real bowling ball I’d be able to feel when the weight of it wants to leave my fingers, and release. These games are mostly fluff, but they’re fun fluff, and everyone still gets their copy out when new Wii players come over to hang out.

Let’s be honest, though: Wii Sports isn’t a game so much as it’s a tech demo designed to show how the wiimote is used to control games. Which is to say there are no “shake-to-____” actions anywhere in any of the sports. If the motion your arm is making can’t be reasonably translated into the motion your onscreen avatar is making, the technique is being misused!

“Good” waggle involves pointing at stuff or moving your arm in a manner analogous to what’s happening onscreen. “Bad” waggle involves shaking the controller to make some arbitrary action happen. I’m sure this isn’t new information for anyone, but with Super Mario Galaxy 2 being so fresh still the apologists are out in full-force. Guys, it’s okay to admit a game you love has something stupid in it. Haven’t you been reading my Final Fantasy posts these past weeks?

1 comment to The Waggle Manifesto

  • I don’t see why the spin jump in Mario Galaxy 2 couldn’t have been mapped to the A button while in mid-air. It does nothing when you’re not on the ground, so why not let us press a physical button rather than press an invisible one with a random shake? THe move could have been easily mapped to another button while on the ground, like down on the d-pad, since the camera is often fussy and refuses to let you steer.

    I think Mario Kart Wii has some of the best, if not a little uncreative, motion control on the Wii. It just feels right playing with the Wii Wheel. The only motion control problem is having to shake to do tricks in the air, occasionally throwing you off when you land if you got too carried away.

    Another notable example is Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. I really enjoyed the way the remote functioned as the flash light. Even the simple first person sections where you had to locate or use a key were oddly involving and fun.

    I think you nailed it though that motion control fails when it’s used to replace a solid button press.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>