I’ve never understood why Wii pack-in titles get such a bad wrap. Link’s Crossbow Training – bundled with the light gun Wii Zapper mold — sits in this soup of peripheral pack-ins and like all of Nintendo’s other bundled titles (Wii Play, Mario Kart, Sports and Sports Resort) it achieves what it sets out to do wonderfully, and then some – offering more than it’s worth to the consumer. Still, I suppose people can’t help but complain about a good deal, at least from my point of view.
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Release date: November 19, 2007 (North America), December 7, 2007 (Europe)
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Crossbow Training is a routine light gun shooter wrapped in the Legend of Zelda skin. You play as Link, hitting bull’s eyes and clearing enemies in a series of short, scripted sequences with assets borrowed — and slightly spruced up — from Zelda: Twilight Princess. There are three key game modes: score attack, multiplayer and practice all offering slightly different approaches to the same content. Within either game mode are nine stages consisting of a set of three individual challenges. The order of challenges is consistent among the nine levels, beginning with ‘Target Shooting’ which is as it sounds; a fixed-view target shoot-out. This is followed by ‘Defender’ where the camera pulls back a little, revealing Link in 3rd person, providing the means for the player to scope left and right as enemies flank Link in the surrounding circle. Lastly there’s ‘Ranger’ where the player has full control over movement with the control stick. In this mode, Link’s mobility is akin to a first person shooter, where general movement is in eight directions and the pointer (ie. mouse) skews viewing position. The only problem is that the camera is positioned behind Link which makes control feel unusual at times. The alternative: a first person viewpoint – would clash with the arcade shooter arrangement, further it’d narrow the viewpoint, making it harder to spot off-positioned targets. 3rd person is ultimately the best, if a little ill-fitting, choice then.
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Each of the three components provides a different slice of arcade-styled shooting, becoming increasingly more elaborate as each progression mounts an axis or two in aiming and movement.
This video, although in Japanese, should give a clearer depiction of the several stage variants. More videos on movement control with the Wii Zapper can be found on Nintendo.com.
‘Target Shooting’s stationary movement allows the player to concentrate on the hit or miss targets that briefly flash on screen, zapping them while able. ‘Defender’ is less about quick, on-cue precision and more about coverage of a wider area – the now circular playing area stresses movement along the horizontal axis. ‘Ranger’ is the most methodical of the three as the player – with full control over Link — must move themselves towards and seek out the targets, rather than wait for the automation and fire accordingly. What you’ll notice is how the three modes progressively open up more axes to the player, shifting the play styles each successive time and demanding the player adapt their skills to each change in a logical manner of progression. Crossbow Training’s level design is a much more segregated approach to my onion metaphor ascribed to Metal Gear Solid 4’s camera perspective system. It’s this organic progression of Link’s Crossbow Training which makes the title engaging to the player.
This engagement is kept at a high due to the no-nonsense scoring system and masterfully designed levels. The point system is really straightforward; standard points for hitting a target, extra points for hitting a bulls eye, outlying fodder (pots, boxes, scarecrows, chickens) have their respective points and the more targets you successively combo, the greater you’re multiplier. Mastering Link’s Crossbow Training is almost completely reliant on the combo system which unreservedly rewards consistent accuracy and care over spam tactics. So long as you adhere to this philosophy then you’ll be on track for smooth progression.
There’s perhaps less to say about the levels. Mainly because they’re as you would expect; expertly calculated, systematic streams of targets. The placement and mobility of targets are very much attuned to the sensibilities of the genre, ensuring they’re tricky but never out of reach. Within the different stages Nintendo draw on tropes from the franchise to diversify the shoot out. Enemy creatures (which act as targets) bring their own movement and attack patterns from the series, which are suitably realized in the shooter format. This system is sincerely fair to the player and never demeans but always challenges. It goes a long way to prove Nintendo’s efficiency at covering a wide base of genres.
The actual shooting itself is great, very visceral. The shape of the Wii Zapper matches accordingly to Link’s Crossbow. The vibrations and noises from the Wii-mote do a wonderful job at conveying information to the player’s conscious state without being distracting, it also adds to the satisfying feeling of landing shots.
While the assets are ripped from Zelda Twilight Princess, Nintendo have managed to inject a fair amount of individualism into this title. This comes through most distinctively with the adaption of scenarios from Twilight Princess to the arcade shooter format. Nintendo effectively take the source material and derive their own mini-narratives to colour the scenario-driven sub-plots of each stage. It’s nothing spectacular but it gives the game additional weight as it feels like a series of distilled slithers from Twilight Princess, rather than pacing behind the forebearer’s shadow.
The length is rather good too, particularly if you’re driven to obtain all the platinum medals which I heartedly recommend. Most high scores can be toppled (in some cases I tripled the platinum medal requisite) if you apply yourself. It’s well worth the effort as the journey getting there is satisfying due to the tough-but-fair nature of the game, plus it’s got old school sensibilities. Respect.
If you’re willing, Crossbow Training would take above 8 hours of play to fully complete. Or so I guess – but who’s really counting? It’s great value for money, particularly at the current discount rates.
Protip: In the ‘Target Shooting’ levels fire at the body of the scarecrow until he’s full, then pop his head off – complete twice in the first two scenes and a special scene opens up with lots of extra goodies.
FUN FACTOR: 8
Well thought out arcade shooter action. Don’t be fooled by the bridge game attire, Link’s Crossbow Training hits the spot for those with sentiments towards the genre. The Wii Zapper adds to the arcade-y feel, great addition.
Zelda: Twilight Princess redux, this time the bloom lighting is better controlled. Overall polished production, straddles the line between a Zelda and Wii Sports wonderfully. Either audience should be pleased.
Audio is similarly lifted from Twilight Princess. Music sounds less flat which makes me suspect some of it (the theme music?) was done with an orchestra rather than digitized, but don’t take that inclination too seriously, I’m not very musically-minded. Either way it captures the European vibe from TP very well. Wii-mote noises for the speaker are very effective.
The segregation of exercises is the key innovation here and it works wonderfully. Otherwise the rest are just staples of the genre, hardly a criticism though.
Replay Value: 8
Length-wise Link’s Crossbow Training is similar to many good downloadable titles these days. I played it for about 10 hours, give or take, add more for multiplayer and it’s rather substantial. Well worth the investment.